There are ads, commercials, books, magazines and videos galore that make promises to get rid of your love handles, slim your inner thighs, boost your booty and get rid of that upper arm jiggle. It is normal to find exercise regimens that target the legs or the abs or tone other specific parts of your body. How true are these claims though?
Spot reduction has been a hot topic for a long time and often times controversial. If you plan to adopt a spot reducing exercise plan or buy the latest exercise gadget to target your legs or abs, you might want to reconsider.
What Is Spot Reduction?
Spot reduction is a term used to describe using exercise to target a specific area of the body. For example, doing a certain leg exercise in an effort to slim your thighs. Sometime spot reduction is very specific, slimming the back of your upper arms for example, or more vague, such as toning your butt.
Spot reduction might seem plausible since certain exercises will give you a burn in the spot you want toned, but the truth is this technique just doesn’t work. At least not to the extent some “experts” want you to believe. When it comes down to it, our bodies burn fat in a very specific way. While we can alter the effects of fat burning, you can’t change the way the fat on your body is burned and where.
The truth is that much of the reduction in size or appearance of toning is due to muscle development more than fat loss. Also, genetics play a major role in what areas of the body release fat and when. Ask anyone who’s lost a lot of weight and they can tell you what areas of the body released weight first. If you come from a family of hip heavy women, you may lose weight in your arms and waist first. If you carry weight around your midsection, you might lose weight on your legs and arms first. We are all different and no one can predict how your body will release weight.
How the Body Burns Fat
There are 5 main steps your body goes through when you burn fat:
- Your liver releases glucose to fuel your body’s energy requirements
- The glucose begins to run out so your body taps into stored fat cells
- Hormones in your body “tell” your body to release the fat cell’s triglycerides
- Your liver takes some triglycerides and converts them to energy while others go directly to your muscle
- Fat cells are depleted and shrink
Unfortunately it isn’t possible to tell your body which fat storage cells you want used when you are exercising. This is simply why spot reduction isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you are focusing on slimming your inner thighs, the fat cells on your inner thighs that you want diminished may not be the cells your hormones deliver the message to.
Spot Reduction Doesn’t Work
There is a study that went to the extreme to show this theory. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study in which participants trained only one leg, their non-dominant leg, using leg press exercises. This training went on for 12 weeks. You would think that it would be impossible to exercise only one leg and not have drastic results compared to the other leg. Well, the results in all participants showed a huge decrease in fat….in their upper bodies.
Despite using an extreme spot reduction technique there was no significant change in the legs of the participants but all of them had a very significant improvement in the torso. The participants also had an improved BMI from the weight loss. This study is an excellent example of why targeting one part of your body doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the results you are trying to achieve.
How to Address Problem Areas on Your Body
If you have specific areas of your body that you are unhappy with, you should focus on exercise and eating healthy meals that will support fat loss and toning. Focus on overall fitness and exercising your entire body. One of these most effective ways of shrinking fats cells is high-intensity workouts (HIIT). Strength training is also important, so don’t rely solely on cardio. Muscle burns fat at rest and is more compact than fat so it can help the metabolism along with helping you look more toned. It also needs to be stressed that you have to give your body ample time to restore and rest the muscles after a strength workout. Be sure that you are also eating enough protein and watching your overall food intake so that you don’t overeat and make your exercise efforts null.
Another thing to consider is that the study mentioned above is excellent proof that if you do choose to focus on certain areas of your body you can still get results elsewhere. This is helpful for those of you who may have an injury or for some reason are unable to exercise certain areas of your body.
Though spot fat reduction isn’t really possible, you will be better able to target parts of your body as you get fit. The shape of your body can be affected in a major way, just look at bodybuilders. Sure, you could develop a six pack and have a flat stomach. You can do a lot of squats and build you booty. You can transform your body with healthy eating habit and regular exercise.