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by on Aug 19, 2014 in Fat Loss, Fitness Myths that NEED to Die, For Personal Trainers, Nutrition, Products, Supplements | 10 comments

Fitness Myths that NEED to Die, Volume 01 of Infinity: SPOT REDUCTION

spot reductionA 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.

Spot Reduction

spot reductionWhat 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.

spot reduction

According to this “belly burner” belt, it burns belly fat by consistently vibrating while wrapped firmly around your stomach.

Similarly, some exercises are touted as – among other things – “thinning,” or “fat burning,” based on the body parts they [appear to] target. 

spot reductionOf 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

Spot Reduction: Does It Work?

Haha.

No.

Plain and simple, you can’t pick and choose where you want to lose fat.

Period.

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.

the baby maker

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?

Consider this study which 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.

Not sure how much you’re supposed to eat?

Start here: Creating an Effective Fat Loss Program

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. 

I promise.

spot reductionIn fact, proper strength training will actually help you lose fat by increasing your metabolism which will help you achieve and maintain a leaner physique. 

Not sure where to begin with strength training?

Start here: The Beginners Guide to Strength Training

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?

The answer?

Absolutely not.

If quick-fix pills, exercise equipment, etc truly worked we wouldn’t have a world-wide obesity epidemic.

Your takeaway?

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.

My bet?

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:

1) Get your diet in check

2) Start strength training

3) Do both 1 & 2 consistently for an extended period of time.

Granted, these aren’t “sexy” or “magical” guidelines but they work and they’ve been proven to work time and time again.

Keep this in mind the next time someone tries to sell you the “next best supplement that’s so good your personal trainer doesn’t want you to know about it!

They’re probably full of shit.

Wrapping Up

That’s it for the first edition of Fitness Myths that NEED to Die.

I hope you enjoyed it and, if you want to be personally notified when the next installment goes live, make sure to sign up for your free Syatt Fitness newsletter below.

And remember, I’m always on the lookout for new topics and ideas so feel free to shoot any and all of your recommendations my way.

Never Minimal. Never Maximal. Always Optimal.

-J






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  • Nicola Burgess

    Hi Jordan. Could you possibly write an article about whether cardio is necessary alongside strength training, if a woman is happy with their weight and just wants to develop a more streamlined, muscular and curvaceous body.

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      Hey Nicola,

      Absolutely! Phenomenal topic for an article. I’ll add that to the list immediately :)

      -J

  • Jacque

    Great article. I’ve been in the fitness biz since the early 80s and the fact that this myth won’t go away is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’ve written to well known mags calling them on their BS headlines that create the impression that doing particular exercises will “blast belly fat”. Dr. Mercola has posted spot reduction nonsense, as well as another Internet doc with a newsletter.

    I’ve even heard things come out of the mouths of some of my colleagues that sends a message to members that they are spot reducing. Ugh. When I called one person on it, she gave me a puzzled look. What I’m beginning to realize is that even among educated folks who “know” spot reduction doesn’t exist, on another level they believe it does.

    So here’s another myth for you to blast: the idea that some exercise methods will produce “long & lean” muscles. LOL

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      Haha I’ve actually received several requests to bust that myth in the past few days, Jacque. Looks like I’ll have to do a piece on it.

  • Shane Mclean

    Sorry Jordan but how do i get rid of my chicken wings? :) Ha ha. Good post mate.

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      Lol thanks, Shane.

      • Shane Mclean

        Congrats on being in the PTDC articles of the week. Love your common sense approach.

        • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

          Thanks so much, Shane!

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  • Rob

    Nice read! So losing weight isn’t for you to choose. But when you gain fat, is that also just genetically determined? I know people who are skinny in the face, but have much fat on their belly, so with clothes they look lean. Myself, I gain fat at my face a lot when I am in a calorie-surplus on the long term. Can this be influenced by hormones or macro’s of food in general?

    Thx in advance!

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      Where you gain/lose fat is uncontrollable. When you eat in a caloric surplus for an extended period of time your body decides where it stores fat and in what order. It is influenced by hormones but, to my knowledge, this can’t be manipulated or influenced.