Targeted Fat Loss: Spot Reduction

It's not possible to spot reduce through exercise. There are ways to emphasize and isolate certain parts of the body, but the idea of spot reduction can only be done through cosmetic surgery.

Over the years, there has been no shortage of devices that claim to help with what some call “problem areas” of their bodies. There have been exercises that will give you a six-pack, roller contraptions for a flatter belly, gadgets to promote shapely thighs, and even a weight you can shake to tone your arms!

Consumers have been sold the notion that by training certain areas of their bodies more, they can lose the fat in those areas. This idea is known as “spot reduction” or “targeted fat loss,” and science says it’s not possible to spot reduce through exercise… 

There are ways to emphasize and isolate certain parts of the body, but the idea of spot reduction can only be done through cosmetic surgery.

Fat-Loss Physiology

Fat loss occurs when your body uses substances in fat cells for energy. Triglycerides in fat cells are broken down into simpler substances that enter the bloodstream. When exercising, your body draws these substances from all the body’s fat cells, not just those around the area you are exercising.

So while all those sit-ups or crunches you’re doing will likely build strength in your abdominal muscles, they are not aiding in fat loss from your abdominal area. The muscle you build might be instrumental in getting that six-pack you’re after, but you’ll have to uncover that muscle by losing the fat that’s hiding it. And that fat loss will come from all over your body.

Problem Areas and Genetics

Have you heard anyone say something like: “If I eat that cupcake, it’ll go straight to my hips?” Unfortunately, there might be more truth to that than to targeted fat loss.

That’s because exercise scientists also believe that where you first accumulate fat is largely a function of genetics. Men tend to pack on fat around their abdomen, while women tend to carry more fat around their hips and thighs. But this can vary depending on an individual’s genetic makeup.

If you’ve seen an overweight person with a lean face, or someone with bigger legs but a slim torso, you’ve seen genetics at work. Not everyone carries fat the same way. And that’s ok! Maybe the world is obsessed with certain models or actresses, but don’t let yourself get sucked into these unrealistic expectations.

Lift to sculpt ‘your’ body, not to look like someone else! Setting unrealistic expectations will only limit your fitness potential. Weight training can’t change your God-given body type, but it can maximize your own genetics and help define and sculpt your shape.

That doesn’t mean you can’t become the healthiest, most functional, best version of yourself. A healthy and functional body is beautiful. However, certain body types are physically impossible for most of us to achieve. Pick a realistic role model or a realistic fitness goal to inspire you along the way. Sure, there will be ups and downs, but hard work, dedication, and consistency will win out in the end. Embrace the body you have!

So, how do you lose body fat in targeted areas? My answer….

  • Focus on nutrition, diet accounts for at least 80% of all fat loss goals
  • Keep your strength training sessions between 30 – 45 minutes
  • Don’t run so long! Replace longer distance running with high-intensity interval training for greater fat-loss effect
  • Mix-in some cardio during rest periods between sets to keep up the intensity and increase caloric expenditure
  • Maybe the world is obsessed with certain models or actresses, but don’t let yourself get sucked into these unrealistic expectations. Lift to sculpt ‘your’ body, not to look like someone else!