Can you really target problem areas with your workout?

We hope you’ve been enjoying our Fitness Myth Busting series with our resident personal trainer and fitness expert Dr. Hunter Vincent this summer! In today’s installment, Hunter will be discussing another common fitness fallacy: the concept of “spot reduction.” Let’s first discuss what this actually means.

Hey everyone! Hunter here. There is a common belief in the fitness world that by working a specific area of the body or specific muscle, we can in fact decrease body fat in only that specific region. So, as I’m sure you have seen, many gym goers and exercise aficionados spend hours working on their “trouble spots” in an attempt to reduce the fat in specific areas. It’s not uncommon to hear people talk about their “love handles” or “muffin tops” and ask about the best way to get rid of them. So, our quick answer to the question of Is there such a thing as spot reduction? Is… NO. Below we’ll discuss some reasons why. Warning: I’m about to get all science-y on you here…

So, for quite a long time, research has examined the possibility of spot reduction, and a large amount of research has disproved this concept. However, some of the early research suggested that spot reduction was in fact a possibility! However, much of the research was extremely variable and many of the studies were performed on just a few subjects. More recent studies have used advanced imaging techniques, such as MRI, to evaluate actual fat loss in specific areas. These studies did in fact show that there was no spot reduction in adipose tissue with a 12-week isolated resistance training program, regardless of gender. But just because research disproves the concept of literal spot reduction, that doesn’t mean you can’t make changes. It just happens in a slightly different way.

No matter what you think, you are going to have some fat (aka adipose tissue). In fact, gender alone determines much of your predisposition for fat. Women have significantly larger fat percentages than men, and the different sex hormones between men and women are correlated with differing distribution of fat throughout the body. To a certain extent, it can actually be healthier for women to maintain higher levels of fat in their bodies, for hormonal balance and overall health. Even the most ripped body builder guys you have ever seen will have at least 3-4% body fat. So keep in mind that some fat is actually healthy and needed for optimal functioning.

“If you want “ripped arms” or “toned legs,” you have got to start using those muscles and decreasing the fatty layer over the top.”

But it’s also important to remember that fat isn’t necessarily confined to just one area of your body. We can have fat anywhere, including our muscles and organs. However, the fat that we usually think of in regards to our outward appearance is actually the subcutaneous layer just underneath the skin. So when we reduce our fat stores, by means of proper nutrition and exercise, we don’t lose it in just one spot—we lose it on a total body scale. That being said, as we lose our total body fat, and in turn decreasing this subcutaneous fatty layer, it allows us to better see the muscular layer underneath the surface. This means that all those hours of side crunches and planks aren’t completely for nothing. By working your muscles via resistance training and maintaining a healthy nutrition plan, you can, in a sense, “spot reduce,” but it just reveals the strong foundation that’s underneath the surface. In short, if you want “ripped arms” or “toned legs,” you have got to start using those muscles and decreasing the fatty layer over the top.

“By decreasing our adipose tissue on a holistic level, we also decrease the fat that surrounds our muscles and organs, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, diabetes and even certain cancers.”

While looking good is fine and all, but let’s not forget about the most important part: Feeling healthy and living life to the fullest.  By decreasing our adipose tissue on a holistic level, we also decrease the fat that surrounds our muscles and organs, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, diabetes and even certain cancers. We totally understand that there may be some parts of your body that you aren’t the biggest fan of, but when it comes down to it, we believe that the goal of any exercise and nutrition plan is to create a happy and healthy body that keeps you ready to take on the world! So keep focusing on balanced nutrition and keeping your body strong, and you are well on your way to creating the best YOU possible.

Did you learn something new about targeting problem areas?

We sure did. Thanks again to our favorite personal trainer and resident LaurenConrad.com fitness expert, Dr. Hunter Vincent, for all of this information! Now, time to hit the gym…

XO Team LC

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Photos: Jessi Burrone for LaurenConrad.com
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