When people ask me how to get rid of belly fat, I say: Blast your legs! Who would have ever thought?

But the reason is clear: Leg muscles, being the largest muscles in the body, require the most energy to exercise, and to recover from exercise.

Where are they going to get that energy from? Where it’s stored in your body in the form of fat!

Belly fat, or “love handles,” is a fuel source. Slam your legs (and the major muscles of the upper body as well) hard with weights and “HIIT” training, and these muscle groups will raid the fat in your abdominal area (and anywhere else you have surplus fat) for performance and recuperative energy.

Ab exercises do not shave off belly fat because these muscles are naturally small and weak, and thus, require much less energy.

Here are four routines that increase resting metabolic rate and force muscles to soak up stored body fat for energy.

1. Barbell squats. The safest way is with the Smith machine. Barbell squats work multiple muscle groups at once, which means this is a major calorie burner-both during and after the routine.

However, these must be done intensely to help shear off abdominal fat. Form must be exquisite; consult with a certified personal trainer.

Once you have developed base conditioning in your lower back and knees, use a weight heavy enough to blast your legs within 8-12 reps.

If you can do more, then increase weight. However, a nice variation is to find your 20-rep max, but each return to the standing position should be as quick a thrust as possible.

2. Leg extension descending-sets. A common mistake is for people to let the weight quickly drop upon lowering. You are literally performing only half the routine this way.

Take 2-3 seconds to lower weights, and never let the weight stack touch the rest of the stack in between reps.

Set weight to an 8-rep max (be honest about this!). Upon completion, immediately lower by 30 pounds and do eight more.

This will scorch your thighs. When done, immediately lower another 30 pounds and go for 12 reps. (No rest between these triplicate sets.) Take a two-minute rest.

Repeat four more times. (How much you lower weight will also depend on how much you lifted on your first set; but the principle should be clear.)

3. Hamstring curls. Prone: When you curl the pad up, squeeze it against your butt for three seconds before lowering it.

Most people only “bounce” it toward the buttocks. Hold it there tightly, then lower on a 5-count. Set weight heavy enough so that you absolutely cannot do more than 6-8 reps.

Do six sets, 90- to 120-second rest in between. This same principle can be applied to seated hamstring curls; bend legs toward you as much as possible and squeeze there for three seconds.

4. HIIT training. High intensity interval training can be applied to all cardio equipment. The work interval lasts 30-60 seconds and is so intense, you can’t go one second longer.

These are alternated with 1-2 minutes of recovery intervals, which require the effort of a casual-paced walk.

Do these alternations for 25-30 minutes, excluding warm-up and cool-down. The end of each work interval should leave you too winded to talk.

Another way to measure intensity is with perceived exertion on a scale of 1 to 10. Level 1 feels like relaxing in a recliner.

Level 10 feels like trying to sprint 100 meters up a hill with a mad dog in pursuit. A HIIT interval should rate 9-10 for experienced exercisers; and 7-8 for novices.

Elliptical machine (keep back straight; try not to hold on): Two minutes: low resistance, 70-100 RPMs; one minute: medium to high resistance, 150-250 RPMs. Repeat for 25-30 minutes.

Treadmill (do not hold on):

1 minute: 7 mph

1 minute: 3 mph

1 minute: 9 mph

1 minute: 3 mph

1 minute: 11 mph

2 minutes: 2.5 mph

1 minute: 12 mph

2 minutes: 2.5 mph

1 minute: 12 mph

2 minutes: 2.5 mph

1 minute: 4 mph, 1 percent incline

2 minutes: 1.8 mph, 15 percent

30 seconds: 5 mph, 15 percent

2 minutes: 1.8 mph, 15 percent

30 seconds: 6 mph, 15 percent

2 minutes: 2.5 mph, level

1 minute 10 mph, 1 percent

2 minutes: 2.5 mph, 1 percent

1 minute: 8 mph, level

The sample settings above are only a guideline. Find the settings that generate your own level 7-10 of perceived exertion. A shocked body requires significantly more energy to recuperate. It will pull this energy from fat reserves throughout your body, including your waistline. But if you are overeating, your body will get the energy from food and leave the fat reserves untouched.