Friday, September 7, 2012

Articles that imply spot reduction

So, you've probably read a million times by now that you can't spot reduce fat.  Fat is stored by the body wherever it darn well feels and there's nothing you can do about it (other than forcing the body to store less fat overall).  If you want to reduce the fat in your arms, doing only arm exercises won't have a direct impact.

None of this is new to you, right?  So, why does this myth live on?  Is anyone actually trying to claim spot reduction is true?  Well, no, not really.  But, there are a lot of instances that imply spot reduction without being quite as obvious.  To help you spot these, here are some examples.

How to get hot abs

Here's one of the more obvious ones.  You want hot abs?  Then, you do these exercises.  In reality, these exercises do a great job of strengthening the muscles in the stomach area.  But, if you have 30 pounds of fat covering those muscles, they'll never ever be seen.  The problem that the vast majority of the people out there have is excess body fat, so most people reading this stuff won't see any visual benefit from these exercises.

Health Magazines

In writing this, I went searching for bad examples in mass media.  Thankfully, there aren't as many articles from respected sources that directly feed this myth as I would have thought.  That doesn't mean you won't see stuff that's misleading, though.  Here are two examples that don't explicitly fly in the face of good fitness logic, but can still be misleading if you pick up the article without that basic understanding of fat loss. 

So, when the basic midsection exercises fail to change the way your midsection looks, you are supposed to try these more creative and effective ones...  Right??  Well, no.  The logic still fails.  If you still have 30 pounds of fat covering your stomach, you still won't be able to see those core muscles no matter how effective the exercises are.



Even more confused

So, here is the result from all this confusion.  This item was posted to Tumblr in July and has been shared or "liked" over 3000 times since then.  The headline reads "Best Waist Exercises to Get a Sexy, Sculpted Waistline!". Unless the exercises are actually healthy eating, intervals, and weight training, we know they aren't going to work thanks to what we know about fat storage.  But, let's dig in anyway.

Here's one segment of the post:
Love handles are a traditionally tough area to target. Unless you play tennis, the obliques are not used often in daily life. Fortunately, working the obliques with obliques exercises slims the waist and trims love handles.
Okay, so by now you are seeing the trouble in the idea that working the muscles reduces those love handles -- remember the love handles are fat storage.  That's just incorrect.  But, why does she see these muscles as difficult target?  They really aren't.  A tennis swing is a great example of oblique activity, but so are walking a strong dog, picking up a heavy briefcase, wrestling with a heavy car door, and carrying a child in one arm.  These muscles are used everyday and really aren't that tough for a trainer to target.
Remember though, you also have to eat a sensible diet in order to shed excess cushioning. All the oblique exercises in the world won’t do a thing if you eat foods high in fats and refined carbohydrates, or if you don’t engage in daily cardio exercise.
In other words, there is no such thing as spot training. You have to burn fat with a sensible diet, and cardio activity, period. As well as strength training, which will speed up your metabolism to burn more fat!
This should illustrate just how pervasive this myth is and how difficult it is to kill.  The author mentions the myth of spot reduction specifically right after reinforcing it.

Why won't the myth die?  

Why won't the myth go away?  Well, for one, it seems to make sense.  You have a problem area so you work on that problem area, right?  Well, for fat loss, no, not at all!  Here's the problem, that approach does work for building muscle.  In the effort of conveying the difference, I often say:

Muscle is built specifically while fat is stored generally.

If you want to reduce the fat in your arms, doing only arm exercises won't have a direct impact.  On the flip side, muscle is trained and built very specifically.  If you want to have stronger arms, you do arm exercises -- leg exercises are no help.

So, as you continue to learn about fitness and apply what you've learned to your own workouts, keep an eye out for this distinction.  Then, you'll know how to apply what you've read, and what to ignore.

1 comment:

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