The belief that you can spot reduce fat is a common one because it is a logical one: since you train specific muscles, why wouldn’t the fat closest to those muscles be the one most effected by the effort they’re making?
This idea of spot fat reduction is one which is cleverly used, often in an indirect manner, by many marketers of fitness machines and devices. It is this incessant stream of new products and commercials for them that perpetuates the notion that you can somehow burn fat from a specific body part simply by doing exercises that target that area in your body.
Unfortunately, this is a myth. You don’t burn fat from the specific body parts which you train. For instance, crunches don’t burn belly fat primarily and squats don’t melt away the flab from your thighs.
Tennis Players and the Spot Fat Reduction Myth
An interesting study which looked at the question of whether spot reducing fat is possible with targeted exercises examined tennis players. This was an ingenious choice since tennis players are athletes in whom one body part is stimulated far more than a comparable other part.
In tennis players, the arm which is holding the racket works much harder than the other arm. In many professional players, the “hitting arm” is much more muscular and larger in width than the other arm. If spot reduction were real, it would stand to reason that the fat in the hitting arm would be lower than the fat in the other.
Not so. The study found that both arms contained a similar amount of fat. While the muscles in one arm were more developed, there was no influence on the fat stored in that arm.
Conclusion: our body doesn’t burn more fat from the areas which we train.
Why Do Some People Have More Fat Here Than There
The whole fat spot reduction concept and why so many fitness products are sold based on it is that a lot of people are frustrated with how fat is positioned on their body. Some people can have thin arms and abs but wide, flaring hips. Others have slim legs but can’t seem to shake off a layer of fat from their abs and waistline. The list of grievences goes on and on.
Why do you have more fat in one body part than other people seem to?
Part of the reason is the same as the one which causes one person to have blue eyes and the other green. Your genetics determine, to a great degree, how fat is proportioned across your body. There’s little that you can do about it.
For the most part, men tend to store more fat in their belly and women in their hips, thighs, and buttocks. This is not always the case but it is a good generalization.
How can I get rid of this fat
The goal is to simply burn more and more body fat. The less fat you have, the lower it will be in those problem areas as well. However, it should be noted that these are called problem areas for a reason: the fat there will be the hardest to budge. You may need to get really lean in order to see the kind of results you’re looking for.
To burn fat is simple: follow a sensible and balanced diet plan, do lots of intense cardio workouts and rigorous resistance training sessions. The right combination of enhanced physical activity and good nutrition will force your body to use more of its stored fat as a source of energy and will make you leaner.
How long will it take to get to your ultimate body shape? This changes from one person to the next but you should see results within weeks and they will gradually improve.
Spot Reduction Products Don’t Work
Something needs to be said about the multitude of fitness products that are based on the concept of spot reduction. I’m talking about electric ab belts and other vibrating gadgets that supposedly help you lose inches off your waist or thighs. I say supposedly because these ads will likely not say anything of the sort explicitly. They can’t. They may get in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission if they do.
The same goes for any ab product that only works the belly and doesn’t really give you a total body workout solution. These devices may help you tone the abs but they’re not a way to spot reduce stomach fat.
One Way to Achieve Spot Reduction
Finally, there is a positive side to all this. You can influence how your body loses fat. This is due to the effect that hormones have on the way your body stores fat. For instance, Cortisol encourages abdominal fat storage while estrogen encourages lower body fat and chest fat accumulation.
The way to combat the effect of these and other hormones is through proper nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle. For instance, cortisol is known as the stress hormone so taking steps to reduce stress will help you avoid storing more belly fat. A good fitness plan which provides workouts to counteract the effect of various hormones is the Final Phase Fat Loss plan by John Romaniello.
An interesting study which was brought to my attention by Craig Ballantyne showed that doing interval workouts actually burns more stomach fat. This is also due to how this type of workout influences your hormones.
The actual effect of these measures is still unclear. The main thing you need to do is to workout more and harder and to eat properly.
The bottom line is that spot reduction is a myth. Training a specific body part will not yield fat loss in that particular body part. Your body will burn fat according to your genetic makeup for the most part and due to your current hormonal balance (to a smaller degree). Don’t fall for any product that claims otherwise.