“I want to get rid of my muffin top” or “lose my wobbly arms” and “cut back the beer belly” are all phrases we hear regularly in the clinic and I’m sure we’ve all thought at some point. Unfortunately, I’m here to bust that myth and let you know that no matter how hard you try, you can’t target where on your body fat loss occurs. Often these goals or obsessions with a particular aspect of your body can actually be preventing you from being more effective with your training and achieving a range of health and fitness goals, rather than just one.
It has been a long-time belief for many people that by training a specific muscle or muscle group, fat loss will also occur in this same area. This is not the case and yet many popular workouts on social media and in magazines will have you believe otherwise, promising to “tone those trouble areas.” Often what these people are selling is a quick fix and not providing you with a holistic approach to your overall health and fitness goals.
To reduce fat mass, we must have a greater energy expenditure than input into our bodies. We gain energy through consuming food and we burn energy in 3 ways. Firstly, while at rest to maintain our bodies essential functions like breathing, blood circulation and organ function. Secondly the process of turning food into energy and lastly by moving our bodies. Put simply when our body needs energy, it uses a range of resources within the body, one being fat which is then released from fat calls to help produce said energy. Unfortunately, regardless of which body parts we are moving our body removes fat from cells based on your gender, genetics, body shape and a range of other factors.
Often the exercises prescribed in these “spot targeting” workouts are focused around working very small muscles that don’t contribute a lot to improving your overall fitness, strength or energy expenditure. If your goal is to “get lean” meaning to build muscle and decrease fat mass, then targeting small muscles will likely leave you feeling frustrated and unsuccessful. Alternatively focusing on large muscle groups when training will not only improve your overall fitness and strength but also the amount of energy you burn, increasing your energy expenditure for the day, promoting an increase in fat loss overall.
To increase your overall fat loss try focusing on activities that expend more energy and eventually your “target areas” will reduce too. If you find that you really enjoy training the smaller muscles, leave those exercises for the end of your workouts if you have the time and energy!