The term ‘spot reduction’ has been heard often in the health and fitness world. It’s a concept that suggests targeted exercise could burn fat in specific areas of the body — for example, doing endless sit-ups to get rid of that stubborn belly fat. The theory quickly gained popularity, leading people to focus only on troublesome areas, instead of exercising their entire body.
However, as tempting as the idea is, there isn’t much evidence to support spot reduction. While exercise does help someone lose weight, it doesn’t do so in a manner that would allow spot reduction of fat.
So, what’s the truth behind spot reduction?
When an excess of calories is consumed, they are stored as subcutaneous fat by the body. When, conversely, the body takes in fewer calories than it burns, the stored fat is metabolized into energy for the muscles, resulting in fat loss. However, when a muscle is forced to draw upon fat stores for energy, the fat used is drawn from the entire body. This means that
while exercise will certainly strengthen the muscles involved, it won’t do anything specifically about the fat stored in the surrounding area.
Working a certain muscle group might be wonderful to strengthen and tone the area, but it will never lead to any localized fat loss.
The fact is, where a person will lose fat depends primarily on genetics.
Some will lose fat in one area, others from another. The general rule is that the first place a person gains weight will be the last place they lose it. And remember, all bodies are unique, there’s no one ideal shape and we need to embrace that.
While, unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done about such biological tendencies exercise will play a major role in burning fat and dropping those excess pounds. And, one must target losing overall fat which eventually will help in losing fat in desired body parts.
In other words, if someone wants to lose weight in a specific location, they are going to have to lose weight everywhere else as well.
So what’s the purpose of area-specific workouts anyway?
It’s simple — when a person takes part in resistance exercises such as weight training, their muscle tissue is placed under stress. This causes micro-tears in the muscle fibres. The body responds by repairing the muscle fibres and making them stronger or bigger depending on the training program.
The idea is that intense exercise causes damage to muscle fibers, which are then repaired during rest. The muscle is then adapted to better tolerate future exposure to stress. Different body parts get their own rest days so the muscle can get stronger than it was before. If you break down your workout days by body parts, you can allow those muscles to recover for 48 hours while still being active and training a different muscle group the next day. However,
to lose fat, we need to establish a negative energy balance
— burning more calories than we consume — while exercising regularly to boost calorie burn. Incorporate a variety of workouts such as resistance training, running, cardio, dance, yoga, etc to mix things up and burn those calories.
Other ways to lose fat
Opting for multi-joint exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, shoulder presses, etc. over single-joint ones. The former recruits a greater number of muscle groups, giving your metabolism a better boost. Plus, they trigger a cascade of favorable anabolic hormones that affect muscle growth and fat burning.
Prioritizing free weight such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, etc over machines. Since free-weight workouts mean working to support the weight and control wobbling your larger muscles, stabilizer muscles, and core all work together to control your movements. So with every rep, you’re strengthening multiple muscles, and burning more calories.
Increasing the intensity, not the length of your workouts. The idea isn’t to simply extend the length of your workouts. The goal here should be to do more work in less time, increasing the intensity of your workout to improve your conditioning and elevate excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). That simply means you burn an increased number of calories long after your workout as your metabolism slowly returns to equilibrium. This process can take up to 24 hours.
Finally, don’t always believe the scale
That number isn’t the best way to measure progress, as this can be affected by factors such as a large salty meal, an intense training session, when you last went to the bathroom, and where a woman is in her menstrual cycle. Muscle can weigh more than fat because it’s denser, since dense muscle tissue takes up less space than fat, it’s possible you may weigh the same (or even more) yet appear slimmer than another person with the same weight, a similar height and frame because of the difference in your body composition.
Instead, you can keep a track on how your clothes fit you as you begin to exercise. If your pants start to become loose and you have to keep them on with a belt, then you are on the right track. Using a measuring tape to measure the changes in your body also gives you a rough estimate of the weight you have lost and from where.
Lastly, a clear indication of a successful workout is feeling energized through the day.
You will obviously feel more empowered and happier — effects that a weighing machine cannot measure. While your workout helps you lose weight and get in shape, it does much more for your body and mind, things for which we have no metrics. The aim then should be overall wellbeing, not simply dropping kilos.
Credits – Rani Sadasivappa