Can I target body fat in certain areas through exercise?

“I really want to lose some body fat from (insert cliché areas of abdominals, bum, hips, arms etc.), how do we do that?” This is a question that gets asked a lot around gyms, as everyone has that one spot in which they feel body fat just will not budge from.

Targeting a specific area of fat with an exercise is what is known as spot reduction. Spot reduction is the idea that through working a muscle you are directly stimulating increased fat loss from the surrounding area. This is very likely the reason so many people insist on devoting entire workouts to “abs”. After all who doesn’t want to have a flat stomach (females )/ a “six pack” (males).

Sounds like a great idea doesn’t it? But does this theory have any credibility or are you completely wasting your time?

To answer that, firstly we need to look at the way fat is burned.

In order for us to use fat as a fuel source when we exercise our body must first break down triglycerides (fat), convert it into glycerol and free fatty acids, which are then sent via the bloodstream to the muscles. The body however is not too fussy where it goes for this process, it has no idea what your silhouette looks like and will access fat for energy from the most readily available source.

Unfortunately there is little or no correlation when it comes to increased fat loss in areas, which you train more frequently.

Here is a study that was performed on tennis players looking at the levels of fat directly under the skin on each arm. The dominant or playing arms obviously did more work and carried more muscle, however there was no difference in body fat carried from arm to arm.

Where individuals store body fat is largely genetic and hormonal. Males will generally tend to carry more fat around their mid section, females will generally carry more fat around their upper legs and bum.

In the long run it’s far better to target fat loss as a whole by working hard and using exercises that use a number of muscles, rather than just the ones underneath the fat that you want to lose. Combine that with eating to improve your health and you can worry about the stubborn final areas when you get there.

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