Ever had an area on your body that you wish you could “blast away”? We’ve all seen those blog posts “Stomach Blasting Diet”, right? Of course. So, is fat spot reduction a myth? Can you actually ‘blast’ fat away in one specific spot? Is fat spot reduction obtainable?
Short answer? No. Long answer? Keep reading…
Let’s start at the top, shall we?
There are certain areas on our bodies, especially for women, that tend to be “trouble areas”. These are the areas at the hips (not so affectionately called the ‘love handles’), the stomach, and our bums.
These problem areas typically stem from un-balanced hormones. Women and our dang hormones, amIright? It is what it is, but we need to realize that fat loss comes from a wholistic approach.
You can’t do 800 crunches and expect to get abs. It’s just not going to happen.
Fat loss will come with a holistic approach and when done properly, will come off of all of the areas of your body.
Real fat loss that is maintainable doesn’t just come from going on a crash diet.
We’ve all been there, right? Where we think, oh gosh, I need to lose a quick ten pounds. I’ll go on 30 day cleanse and then I’ll be set.
Well, 30 days after your 30 day cleanse, your 10 pounds will be back, if you lost the 10 pounds at all. Plus, chances are, the area in your middle that you wanted to spot reduce is exactly the same size.
My dear sister and friend, I am not trying to be rude. These are simple facts that are rooted in science, not my opinion.
So let’s dig into the science a bit, shall we?
Targeting a Weak Area vs. Targeting for Fat Loss
I think it’s time for a quick disclaimer. You gals are smart, so I know that you will take this information and use it properly. I’m a trainer and not a doc, plus, I didn’t conduct the study that will be mentioned, I’m simply providing you with information from the study and with info, what I have learned and applied with my clients over my time as a trainer.
First, let’s chat about targeting weak areas of your body to strengthen them, vs. targeting areas for fat loss.
Simply put, you cannot say “I’m going to just lose weight in my stomach”. The brain does not subconsciously think that way.
The body will burn unneeded fat on a proper holistic diet and workout regimen over a period of time. There is absolutely no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to true sustainable fat loss.
It’s a lifestyle of learning to eat good foods and a proper workout routine. All of which does not have to be boring.
On the flip side of that, we can undeniably target areas to gain strength. Which I absolutely recommend and encourage!
For instance, our core muscles tend to be weak because of underuse. This means that you can do workouts to tighten up and strengthen those muscles and to make them stronger and more useful to you and your everyday life!
This does not mean that you are “spot reducing fat”. It simply doesn’t work that way.
Isolated vs. Compound/Complex Movements
Let’s dig a little bit deeper into targeting these weaker areas.
There are two main types of exercises – compound (sometimes referred to as complex) and isolation movements.
- Compound Movements are movements that require multiple muscles to complete the movement. Examples would be a squat, a bench press, a push press, a lunge, etc.
- Isolated movements are exactly what they sound like – movements that are isolated to a certain muscle group. Examples would be bicep curls, leg extensions, tricep extensions, hamstring curls.
For my beginner girls,
I recommend more isolated movements as you learn what your body feels like and how it reacts to your workout regimens.
My intermediate to advanced girls,
I do a mix of compound and isolated movements.
The compound movements help burn more calories and create better body awareness and coordination. While on the other hands, the isolated movements make those weaker areas stronger and tighter.
Again, when targeting a certain area, will make it stronger, but it will not increase the speed of fat loss ONLY in that area. But don’t take my word for it…
Targeted Fat Loss Study
There is a study that was done which you can check out the full study here where it was attempted to disprove spot reduction.
I’m not going to go into a crazy amount of detail because I know that you can read the study for yourself but I’m going to summarize it for you.
With an average age of 23, seven men and four women training their nondominant leg for 12 weeks at 3 times per week. These workout sessions included using the leg press for 960-1,200 reps!
Holy Moses that is a crazy amount of reps, amIright?
However, they only did about 10% of their one rep max, so the weight was not very much.
After they did this for 12 weeks, which believe me, after that, I would probably never look at a leg press again. I need some variety in my workouts, know what I mean?
Anywho, after it was all said and done, the conclusion was that the fat mass reduction in the upper body was significantly greater than that in the lower extremities.
Didn’t they just blast the crap out of their lower extremities?
Yep, they sure did.
Here is their quoted conclusion
“In conclusion, the training program was effective in reducing fat mass, but this reduction was not achieved in the trained body segment.”
Well there ya go. Science does it again. You can’t target only one area and reduce fat only in one area. Nope. Can’t do it!
Why Should You Care?
Should you even give a crap?
Yep, you should actually and here’s why..
The internet is absolutely saturated with this fad or that diet or this workout, or this diet pill or “celebrity approved” fitness nonsense.
I’m stepping on my soap box so buckle up
What the heck do celebrities know about diets and fitness routines, anyway? They aren’t the experts. They are the ones that have hired experts that give them their targeted calories and workouts and… yeah, if you see “celebrity approved”, run away.
Anway! Back to why you should care. You should care, because it is your health and your body, and knowing what is proven by science and what is not will be what gets you to your health goals.
The science of fitness and strength is simple.
Fuel your body with good food, stay within your target calorie range specific to YOUR body, have a plan of action in your workouts that hits all areas of your body, stay consistent, and the results will take care of themselves.
Keep it simple.
How to Know When to Target Specific Areas
If you have an area on your body that you simply don’t like, my suggestion would be to dig a little bit deeper into that.
Why don’t you like that part of your body? Is it a body image thing? I’ve struggled with that in the past, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Or is it because that part of your body is weaker and you need to strengthen it because it effects everyday living?
Or is it because you would like to reach a certain workout goal (ie a pull-up) and the muscles that require that movement are weak?
Just remember, that working a specific area does not mean that there will be fat loss in that area.
Work your whole body and eat good food. Again, the rest will take care of itself.
A Quick Blah Blah on Calorie Deficits
Yes, I said blah blah.
Anywho, just a quick little blurb on weight loss and calorie deficits. You simply cannot lose weight without being in a calorie deficit.
While this in itself is an entirely different post, remember that crash dieting does NOT help with weight loss.
Being in a proper calorie deficit for a period of time then building your calories back to baseline is what help you lose weight properly.
Again, a completely different post, but that is the basics.
I have a free Facebook group just for women where I post all things fitness, weight loss, healthy foods, and a bit of humor to keep things interesting.
It’s a smaller group of women, all with similar goals and ideas in mind and the group is run by me. I post things in there that I do not post anywehre else. Come join us!
Spot reduction? Just don’t try it. It’s not worth your time.
Again, for the love of dumbbells, do not go on a crazy crash diet for just trying to lose weight in your belly or on your thighs, or whatever the case is.
If you do have extra weight around your middle and you’ve been eating good foods at a healthy level of calories and you’ve been consistent in your workouts, I would recommend getting your hormone levels checked by your MD.
For more on that, here’s a great article written by Dr. Sara Gottfried where she talks about hormones and weight loss in the belly. Simply put, hormones CAN have effect an on your weight in your trunk. We’re women and it’s totally not fair, but hey, it is what it is and knowledge is power.
So when you’re out and about on the lovely interweb and you see “Celebrity approved diet pill!” or “10 day belly blast juice fast” run away as quickly as you can. No matter how good it sounds, it’s not worth it.
Nope, you can’t fat spot reduce. The body simply doesn’t work that way. Your body is a unit that works together as a whole.
Meeting fitness goals for your overall health is a daily process over the course of your life. It helps you live your best life. Not some crazy juice cleanse.
There is no magic pill. YOU are the magic pill. Hard work, consistency, a plan, and eating real food.
Yes, it really is that simple.