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The never-ending battle with bra flab

February 14th, 2011 12 Comments

A reader wrote to me last week asking about exercises she could do to get rid of that pesky flab that hangs over her bra and strapless dresses.

The answer here is the same one I gave to the reader who has trouble losing her love handles.

Unwanted flab can only be reduced with


If you’re serious about getting lean, you need to cut down on processed foods, carbs, and sugar.  A good rule of thumb is to eat food that doesn’t come from a bag or a box.  Cook up fresh veggies, grains, and meats using oil and herbs instead of sauces.

To tone these areas,you need to do

low weight, high rep exercises.

My trainer Bob and I came up with these three movements you can do with 5-10 pound weights, 20 reps each side.

Single-Sided Chest Press – instead of lowering both weights at the same time, do one arm at a time, switching off for 20 reps.

Single-Sided Flies – turn your hands facing each other, bend your elbows, and lower your arm parallel to the floor.  Keep your abs engaged to keep you flat.  Switch off arms for 20 reps.

Overhead Pulls – Grip one weight with both hands between your tumbs and pointer fingers.  With elbows slightly bent and abs engaged, lower weight behind your head.  Go as low as you can!  Pull slowly back up 20 times.

Now take an ab or cardio break (jumping jacks, berpies, treadmill), and then repeat these three in row one more time.

Finish with push ups on your knees until you fall flat on your face :)  All done!

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  • For a lot of people, bra/back flab can be solved by getting a bra fitting. If you’re wearing the wrong size, it can make you look lumpy.

    • Very good point Emma. Thanks for taking on this problem from a different angle!

  • Jill

    Why low weight high rep?

    • The Low weight and high rep method in any area will tone and strengthen the muscle without enlarging it. Using heavier weight builds bulk and we certainly don’t want bulging pecs!

  • Joy

    Thank you! I’ll try these out.

  • Stacey J.

    I have never given any thought to “bra flab” or love handles before reading your blog. Sure … I am a woman and I am a little curvy and soft around those areas, but who the heck cares? I’d rather have some softness than deny myself a delicious dessert with friends or an extra glass of beer. It seems like a lot of the “problems” you solve on your blog are superficial and shallow and not something that the majority of your readers spend time worrying about. And if they do spend the majority of their time worrying about love handles … I feel sorry for them.

    • Everyone’s insecurities are different. And usually there are a couple of physical traits on that list.

      However, just because someone asks the question doesn’t mean they lose sleep about it.

      Fitness is one of the blog’s most popular themes so I get a lot of questions in that area. People want to look and feel good – fitness is a great way to achieve that. And more natural than other alternatives, wouldn’t you agree? So let’s not judge those we don’t know who have common concerns.

  • brooke

    Mary, this isn’t 100% accurate. I was a size 8 and got down to a size 4 by not doing any cardio. Instead, I did BodyPump and weight lifting classes. And, like Stacey, I did not deny myself any desserts. I didn’t change my eating habits, either. (I’ve always eaten lots of carbs.) I’ve kept the weight off for 3 years now.

  • brooke

    Oh and one more thing…I did it with 7.5-9 lb hand weights and 20-25 lb dumbells! Not exactly “small.”

  • Roy

    The last exercise, AKA the Dumbbell Pullover, is a favorite. I prefer lying with shoulders across the bench as it promotes better control, and easier bailout at fatigue.


  • Lonnie

    I see having a little bit of body fat as a good thing. Your own fat is the most natural “filler” available and having a little fullness in your cheeks fills out facial wrinkles and makes you look more youthful than any injection ever could. Just look at celebrities who diet excessively … they look prematurely aged because their facial features are sunken in. Sometimes a bit of fat is a good thing, Mary.

    • I don’t disagree with you. Where did you read that? These questions of unwanted flab have been coming in recently, and so I’ve provided an answer.

      Readers who have been with me for a couple years would tell you that I have more body fat now than I did while living in NYC. I think it’s been a lifestyle change more than anything. And I work out considerably less because I’m not teaching spin 5 times a week. Whatever the case, I agree with you. Not only do I look better, but I feel better too. Beating yourself up with diet and exercise is no way to live, but finding a health-conscious routine that suits you has a lot of benefits.

      On the other hand, a lot of women are looking to slim down. This doesn’t mean they are insecure, it just means they have a desire to be more comfortable with their appearance.