Fitness Myths that NEED to Die, Volume 01 of Infinity: SPOT REDUCTION
by Jordan Syatt August 19, 2014
A Brief Announcement
As mentioned in the latest installment of The Week in Review, I’m excited to announce that I’m beginning a new weekly column here on SF.
Specifically, this series – Fitness Myths that NEED to Die – will [obviously] be dedicated to addressing and de-bunking common fitness myths that are relentlessly propagated throughout the mainstream and…well…never seem to die.
As always, these articles will be backed by the most relevant, up-to-date, and well-performed research. Of equal importance, I’ll also be drawing from my personal and professional experiences in the field to ensure that you get the best of both experimental and anecdotal research.
Covering a variety of fitness-related subjects, I’m always on the lookout for new topics so if you have anything in mind that you’d like me to cover, leave a comment below or shoot me an e-mail (jordanATsyattfitnessDOTcom) with your ideas.
So, without further ado, let’s get to the first installment of Fitness Myths that NEED to Die.
What is it?
Spot reduction is, very simply, the idea that fat loss is site-specific.
In other words, proponents of spot reduction believe you can target specific spots on your body to lose fat. More often than not, the methods claimed to increase the effectiveness of spot reduction are exercise (not nutrition) based and focus on targeting certain muscle groups by way of isolation exercises.
Take, for example, the fat on the backside of your upper arm (tricep).
Advocates of spot reduction often claim targeted exercises such as tricep kickbacks will help to burn fat in that specific area.
The notion that ab exercises (crunches, sit-ups, planks, etc) burn fat specifically around the abdominals falls into the exact same category of spot reduction.
Who advocates it?
Spot reduction is almost exclusively advocated by companies or individuals aiming to sell a product or service.
Abdominal vibration belts, for example, are among the most common products based around the concept of spot reduction.
Similarly, some exercises are touted as – among other things – “thinning,” or “fat burning,” based on the body parts they [appear to] target.
Of course, this section would be remiss were it not to mention that many industry professionals claim certain foods are better than others at burning belly fat.
Spot Reduction: Does It Work?
Plain and simple, you can’t pick and choose where you want to lose fat.
Want to lose fat in your upper arms?
Tricep extensions ain’t gonna cut it.
Want your thighs to lean out?
The baby maker machine isn’t gonna do very much.
Need concrete evidence?
Take a look at this study which found performing abdominal exercises alone (i.e. without paying attention to overall energy balance) will not decrease abdominal-based fat.
Still not convinced?
Considerthis studywhich found training a specific body segment did not result in greater site-specific fat loss.
Granted, some will cite research saying topical creams like aminophylline have been shown to effectively spot reduce fat in women’s thighs.
And while these results are certainly very interesting and warrant further examination, the reality of the matter is if fat loss were as simple as topical cream application, we wouldn’t have a world-wide obesity epidemic.
Well…WTF!? Then How Do I Get More Toned?
If you want to lose fat and get that lean, toned look, you need to understand several things.
1) You can’t pick & choose where you lose fat. Assuming your training and nutrition are in check, your body (re: genetics) will decide where you lose fat and in what order.
Don’t like it?
Sorry…that’s just how the body works.
2)You need to maintain a caloric deficit. If you want to lose fat then, plain and simple, you need to get your nutrition in check and make sure you’re in a caloric deficit. In other words, you need to make sure you’re eating appropriate amounts that actually facilitate fat loss.
3)You need to strength train. You know that toned look everyone’s after nowadays? Welp…if you don’t do at least some type of strength training, odds are you aren’t going to achieve it (assuming that’s important to you).
Also important to note, contrary to popular dogma, strength training will not make you big and bulky.
In fact, proper strength training will actually help you lose fat by increasing your metabolism which will help you achieve and maintain a leaner physique.
4)There is No Quick-Fix. Quit wasting your time and money on useless supplements, pills, vibration belts, etc.
They don’t work.
I know, I know…the label on the bottle promises a sexy, leaner, toned, beautiful, lovely, *insert marketing term here* physique in 7-hours or less.
And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t like the sound of that?
But the question isn’t, “does it sound good?“
The question is, “does it really work?“
If quick-fix pills, exercise equipment, etc truly worked we wouldn’t have a world-wide obesity epidemic.
Get your diet in check and start strength training; do both of these consistently for an extended period of time (not just 1-2 weeks) and then re-evaluate.
If you stick to a well deigned program for 12-weeks or more…you’ll see extraordinary results.
The Final Verdict
Spot reduction is a hoax.
It’s. Not. Real.
Granted, if new and emerging research comes out saying otherwise I’ll be the first to change my opinion. But based on the current body of evidence, both experimental and anecdotal, it’s a marketing scam.
If you really want to lose fat and get leaner, you need to: