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What Exercises Work for Cellulite?


Exercise is one of the most effective actions you can take to help postpone and even reduce the effects of cellulite, a condition that affects millions of Americans and additional millions worldwide. Both women and men are affected, though women are more prone to it. While there is no guaranteed cure, despite claims to the contrary, exercise is the best defense.

How Exercise Helps

Cellulite comprises fatty tissue deposits under the skin. Those deposits create the familiar dimpled or “popcorn” appearance and are most commonly found in the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks, as well as on the torso.

Three contributing risk factors are the structure and condition of muscles and connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) in the affected areas and the individual’s weight-or more specifically, body fat–and the condition of the skin. Exercise helps tone muscles, increases circulation, and burn fat instead of muscle tissue when the body needs energy. Toning muscles, improving skin condition, and especially reducing body fat all lower the risk of cellulite forming.

Types of Exercises

In order to be an effective weight loss exercise program, The American Academy of Sports Medicine recommends that both cardiovascular and conditioning exercises be part of a weekly routine. While they both assist in overall conditioning, cardiovascular exercises intend to improve the efficiency of oxygen use and strengthen the heart muscle. Conditioning exercises improve tone, strength, and condition of muscles all over the body, depending on target areas.  The Academy recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week to have a positive impact on weight loss and overall health.  Daily cardio exercises should be combined with two to three strength-training sessions per week.

How to Target for Cellulite

Exercises that target those areas at high risk for cellulite depositing, will help to reduce those fatty deposits and assist the muscles, connective tissue, and skin better withstand the fat depositing.

Example exercises for specific target areas:

Quadriceps: (Front of thigh) Leg extensions, leg press, barbell squats, dumbbell squats

Hamstrings: (Back of thigh) dumbbell lunges, standing leg curls, lying leg curls, straight-leg deadlifts

Calves: Seated calf raises, standing calf raises, one-leg calf raises, angled calf raises

Abdominals: floor crunches, twist crunches, decline sit-ups, bent-knee leg raises

Latissimus Dorsi: (Back) wide-grip pulldowns, one-arm dumbbell rows, reverse-grip pulldowns, bent-over raises

Cautionary Notes

Overtaxing any muscle, regardless of fitness level, can not only be stiff from overuse, but also can strain and damage the muscles and tissues the person intends to improve and can be very painful. Slow, consistent exercise with gradually increased weight, repetition, and set numbers is important.

As always, be sure to consult a physician before beginning a new exercise program.



“Cellulite Causes, Creams, Liposuction and Nonsurgical Treatments on” MedicineNet – Health and Medical Information Produced by Doctors. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2010.

“Exercise and Cellulite.” American Council on Exercise. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2010.

Jakicic PhD FACSM, John M, Kristine Clark PhD RD FACSM, Ellen Coleman RD MA MPH, Joseph E Donnelly, Ed.D., FACSM, John Foreyt, Ph.D, and Edward Melanson Ph.D. “Appropriate Intervention Strategies for Weight Loss and Prevention of Weight Regain for Adults.” American College of Sports Medicine. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2010.

“Exercise Glossary – Health Information Library – Penn State Hershey.” Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. Penn State Hershey, n.d. Web. 8 June 2010.

D’Orso, Michael, and Bill Phillips. Body for Life: 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strength. First ed. London: Collins, 1999. Print.

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