Understanding spot reduction

Why is spot reduction so difficult?

Many of us are generally happy with our bodies but we sometimes wish for a flatter stomach or chiselled arms. Unfortunately, there’s no magic fix to target these areas.   
Abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups and crunches, can help strengthen abdominal muscles and improve posture. But you can't spot reduce areas of excess body fat with certain exercises.

So if you have excess fat in your abdomen, don't count on crunches for six-pack abs. To lose weight and body fat, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn by adjusting your diet and exercise habits.

Have a look at the spot reduction exercises that are often portrayed as being effective by magazines and the TV. The movements are quite small and burn very minimal calories when being performed. 

Simple fact, if you aren’t burning many calories you aren’t going to lose much body fat from anywhere.

It just so happens that you are more likely to melt the love handles away by running on a treadmill than you are doing all the abdominal twisting exercises that you can fit in to your daily routine.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is effective not only for the larger movements it often has associated with it, but the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption that can cause your body to continue to burn extra calories for recovery from as many as eight hours to 72 hours post exercise. The key is to combine this HIIT in such a way that it has both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training included.

The resistance training is of most importance, as we can get your heart rate to a high level similar to that of the cardiovascular component, but it is a must to maintain muscle mass. If you are going for a toned look, then we must ensure there is muscle when that fat disappears.

Lastly, none of the above will be effective without nutrition being on point. If you were to eat at a calorie deficit (approximately 500 calories lower than your Basal Metabolic Rate multiplied by your activity level – see the Harris-Benedict equation) you will start shedding the unwanted fat at a rate of half a kilogram per week.

The bottom line is this, if we wish to reduce fat from a specific area, we must actually lose body fat and gain muscle mass across the entire body.

In order to do this, we must follow three simple guidelines:

  1. Overload – Muscle mass and strength will increase if your workouts are progressively more intense. This will also likely result in a greater amount of fat utilisation.
  2. Body fat reduction – Reducing calorie intake will decrease your body fat while resistance training will increase your lean muscle mass.
  3. Training program planning and progression – Each muscle group or your full body workouts must go through what is called periodisation. Muscle groups should be trained no more than two to three times per week. Ample recovery is needed for performance, and muscle growth. By also increasing the intensity, and allowing for enough recovery, you will be able to keep an upward trend in performance that will ensure that your fat burning, muscle building, tone creating workouts help you reach your body fat reduction goals.