Training woman pinching spot

Published on August 22nd, 2013 | by Joe Starks


Athletic Science: Spot Reduction Myth

It is a common misconception that if you train a specific area of your body that you will lose more fat from that area. For instance many people believe that crunches reduce belly fat. This myth is not totally unfounded, of course, and often you’d think that specific training helps specific weight loss. However, correlation does not equal causation! This means that just because something happens when a factor is present, this factor is not always the cause. For instance bathing suits are not a cause for drowning, even though many drowned people wore bathing suits. So just because specific exercise and specific weight loss might coexist sometimes they are not cause and effect.

How do we lose girth?

So how do we really reduce fat in certain areas? The answer is quite complicated. Most of it comes down to genetics. Men for instance are designed to be able to run even if they gain some weight, this is why they gain belly fat easier than leg fat, which would hinder their movement. Women store fat usually in their lower areas, like the buttocks and legs, because that made sure they could survive pregnancy during times when food was scarce. When men and women lose weight it is the same chemical reaction that turns fat into energy, but genetics has it so that not the same fat areas are targeted first.

Aside from gender differences, there is also a finer genetic difference between body types. Human body types vary a lot. There are those who always gain abdominal weight and are called “apples”, those who have large buttocks but small upper bodies called “pears”, the desired “hourglass” figure with large breasts, a small waist and a large bottom and many, many more. Depending on your body type you will have fat lingering for longer in some areas. Training can’t change your body type. It is something you have to love and live with,

What all people have in common is that when we do lose fat we lose it generally all over our body. So if you work out your legs a lot, you will still lose arm fat and tummy fat if there is fat to lose there. Your body takes its energy from everywhere no matter where it needs it.

Something very important to remember is that muscle mass changes our appearance too. Having strong muscles can make some parts of our body look very different, so training does actually improve your appearance, even though it did not take specific fat away. You will after all lose fat from everywhere and at some time you’ll lose that part you don’t appreciate too.

Remember that people carry their fat differently depending on their age too. Younger people usually have much tighter skin, making their excess weight look less “big”. People who exercise a lot despite being overweight also carry their excess baggage differently, usually in a more visually appealing manner. With old people it is quite the opposite, as weaker skin and more health conditions make the fat more obvious and even less appealing. Extreme excess body fat can actually cause tears in the skin and terrible other conditions that cause your appearance to be damaged. Overall exercise and a good eating plan can change all that in most situations. Specific exercises won’t do a specific change though.

So, what’s the truth?

Training can’t remove a specific piece of fat from your body; because our bodies take energy from everywhere they can at once, no matter where the body needs to burn it. Fitness nonetheless reduces your fat all over your body and thus can help you lose that part you don’t like too. The best way to lose a specific fatty part is to do whole body exercise, which tires you more and makes your muscles look better all over.

The feeling of revealing a well built musculature after losing some fat is unique and very pleasant. So, make sure you do your full body exercise, eat right and you will eventually lose that fat you don’t like on you. It doesn’t matter which exercise you choose, just get moving!

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