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Busted: The Myth of “Spot Reducing”

Posted Apr 27 2012 1:31pm

We’ve all heard it, seen it, or even practiced it. The term spot reducing refers to the idea of lowering body fat percentage in a specific area of the body like the abdominals, inner thighs or butt, typically through certain strength training or cardiovascular exercises. The only problem with this idea is that it cannot be done without surgical procedure.

It’s through magazines, TV commercials and popular media that we’ve all come to believe that spot reducing exists. Turn on the TV in the wee morning hours and flip though the commercials of products that claim to help their clients lose weight in their hips, thighs and buttocks! Gyms are littered with machines that claim they have the capacity to “firm” specific body parts. A combination of hundreds of product advertisements, and a general ignorance about the human body have allowed us to believe that a quick fix method might be the key to a perfect body.

The Answer:

While performing weight-training activities the body reaches into its glycogen (carbohydrate) stores for the energy to complete the task at hand. During cardiovascular activity, the body uses both glycogen and fat stores.

We are genetically programmed to carry fat in certain areas of our bodies. This is why people come in all shapes and sizes and it is not uncommon to see someone who appears to have more fat in their upper body than lower body or visa versa.

In order to lose fat from any area of the body, more calories (units of energy) need to be used up than taken in.

Fat loss is very individualized and depends greatly on genetic makeup. We cannot yet predict which area of the body will lose fat first for a given person. Specific exercises will not increase fat loss in a specific area, the body loses fat where it wants, and when it wants.

The only proven method for fat loss is proper nutrition and exercise. A loss of total body fat will allow us to see the tone and growth of the muscles that we’ve been working during our exercise routines, but it is not necessary to perform specific exercises for fat loss.

Works Cited

1. Kostek MA, Pescatello LS, Seip RL, Angelopoulos TJ, Clarkson PM, Gordon PM, Moyna NM, Visich PS, Zoeller RF, Thompson PD, Hoffman EP, Price TB.  Subcutaneous fat alterations resulting from an upper-body resistance training program.  Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Jul;39(7):1177-85. PubMed PMID: 17596787.

2. “Consumers Should Exercise Caution on Fitness Machine Claims, Expert Says.”American College of Sports Medicine. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <>.



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