Myth Busting Series – Part Three: Spot Reduction
By now you have probably read parts one and two of our myth busting blog series, but if you haven’t, be sure to check them out here and here!
Today is the third and final segment and I am going to address spot reduction! Spot reduction is the idea that you can do certain exercises in order to lose fat or “tone up” in specific areas of your body. Now, if you know me at all, you know that it takes a whole lotto make me angry. I just really don’t have any angry bones in my body and it’s rare that I’m ever actually mad. But when I see magazine covers and hear trainers on TV promise that crunches will get you 6-pack abs or triceps kick-backs will get rid of your under-arm jiggle,
my blood starts to boil! Of all the things in the world to be angry about, it seems like a pretty minor issue, I know! But when I see people preying on women’s insecurities when those women are just trying to get fit and do what’s right, only to end up more frustrated and confused than before, I just get so MAD!
As you can see, these magazines feature “moves” to help you “flatten your abs” and “firm up every trouble zone.” While these are desirable outcomes for many women, the notion that you can do a few simple exercises in the gym to burn fat in these areas is just blasphemy. These are downright lies, and as a fitness professional who cares about helping both men and women understand the truth about fitness and fat loss, I can’t take it anymore!
Maybe I’m just upset because I fell victim to these lies in the past. I used to subscribe to Self and Fitness and Cosmo magazines and I took their suggestions to heart because I didn’t know who else to turn to for advice. These were the most accessible resources for fitness tips and I figured they must contain the best information out there. Well boy was I wrong. And after many failed attempts at crunching my way toward abs, I finally decided to look elsewhere for my information – and I’m so glad I did! I discovered women such as Rachel Cosgrove, Cassandra Forsythe, and Molly Galbraith who became the resources I went to for the truth about fat loss.
Now I want to share with you the truths that I’ve learned over the years when it comes to fat loss and “spot reduction,” so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did!
1. Fat loss is systemic.
This means that when you lose fat, the fat loss happens throughout your entire body – not in one area at a time. If you have a problem area and you want to lose fat there, you have to lose fat everywhere. Even studies on liposuction (surgical spot reduction) show that patients see a redistribution and balancing of body fat after the surgery.
2. You can increase muscle mass in specific areas, but you can’t decrease fat in specific areas.
Doing abdominal exercises will make your abs stronger and will build muscle in your abdominal region, but it will not decrease the amount of fat that you have in your midsection. The same thing goes for your arms and legs. You can build up your biceps by doing biceps curls all day, but that doesn’t mean you will burn fat in your upper arm. If you are not taking the appropriate steps to lose fat throughout your body (through proper diet and training) you won’t ever see these small muscles that you are working so hard to build. Unless you are a body builder on a very specific and regimented diet, you are wasting your time focusing on exercises that work just one particular body part at a time. These exercises do not promote fat loss the way that compound exercises can (see point #4!)
3. Fat storage patterns vary from person to person.
We’ve all heard of the “apple” and “pear” shapes often used to describe where someone stores their fat. There are many things that factor in to where a person stores fat including hormone levels and genetic predispositions. Just because your friend lost weight in her midsection, doesn’t necessarily mean that the same regimen she used will help you lose weight in your midsection too. You may have completely different body types and hormonal makeup. Finding what works for you – not what works for other people – is extremely important! Any good coach or trainer will be sure to make adjustments to your program based on your individual results rather than following a one-size-fits all program for everyone.
4. The more muscles you recruit, the more calories you burn, and the more fat you will lose.
Rather than tirelessly focusing on one body part at a time, your efforts will be much better spent focusing on movements that recruit lots of muscles at once! Compound exercises are movements that use your entire body. A good example of a compound exercise is a deadlift.
Isolation exercises such as biceps curls focus on one little muscle group at a time, whereas compound exercises such as deadlifts recruit lots of muscle groups – in the case of a deadlift, your hamstrings, glutes, upper back, abs, triceps, forearms, etc. All of these muscle groups come in to play, which means more energy needs to be expended in order to complete the exercise. Increased energy expenditure means more calories are burned, and fat loss is more easily attained.
5. Diet is by far the biggest factor in fat loss!!!
This probably should have been point #1 since it is so crucially important, but I’m going to save it for another post since this one is already getting long! Long story short, if you workout hard but your diet stinks, you aren’t going to get the results you’re looking for! Whether you’re doing isolation exercises or compound exercises, if your diet is not in check, you just aren’t likely to achieve any fat loss goals!
I hope that this myth busting series shed some light on some of the misinformation that is out there for women when it comes to training! We want you to know that cardio isn’t necessarily the best method for fat loss, you aren’t going to get bulky from lifting weights, and spot reduction is a bold faced lie!!
Did you enjoy this series? What other topics would you like us to cover? We’d love to hear your thoughts!!