Spot Reduction: Knowledge Or Nonsense?


For those of you who are not familiar with the term, spot reduction refers to the attempt to remove subcutaneous (below the skin) fat from specific areas of the body, using exercises that target those areas.

Spot reduction generally comes to mind when thinking of how to get rid of stubborn body fat. For women, stubborn body fat generally resides in the hip and thigh area. For men, abdominal fat probably tops the list. Let’s take a look at why stubborn body fat is so difficult to get rid of!

The biggest issues with stubborn body fat being so damn stubborn has to do with:

  • Blood flow to fat cells is typically very low. This makes it difficult for your body to transport out free fatty acids for breakdown. Chances are your rear end is cold to the touch compared to other parts of your body.

  • Stubborn fat areas have more hormone receptors (alpha receptors) that promote fat storage than fat mobilization.

So what can be done to remedy this issue? Simply performing specific exercises that target your most unsightly spots will not do the trick. The body does not work as straight forward as we would like it to. Rather, weight loss is a whole body approach.

While exercising, blood flow increases, helping our body’s mobilize free fatty acids and transporting them to the working muscles. The problem is, the above process is contingent on multiple factors including; type of exercise, duration, macronutrients consumed, etc. It's impossible for our body's to pinpoint a specific area of high fat. Instead, the body functions as a unit.

Multiple studies have shown that while exercising, fat is broken down all over the body making it virtually impossible to target a specific area for fat loss. Now hope isn’t lost, even though we’re not able to target areas, this doesn’t mean those are won’t lose fat. Factors that come into play when striving to lose body fat include; genetics, nutrition and exercise.

My guess is that you didn’t accumulate body from eating lean protein, veggies and fruits. Body fat comes from poor dieting and a lack of exercise in most cases. In order to get the ball rolling we need to create a calorie deficit (less calories in and more calories out) and increase our energy output through resistance training.

Genetics come into play because they can determine where you’ll lose weight first and also where you’ll gain it first. Our body’s will first drop non-essential fat (face & neck), after that you will probably begin to lose weight in the areas where you see weight gain the most.

Many of us start a nutritional and exercise program in an effort to lose weight in the areas that bother us the most. However, this sets you up for failure! The object should be to make life sustaining habits and be healthy all over, not to just look for a quick fix. Be patient, habit and routine are more effective and powerful than motivation. Develop habits in the skills (training & nutrition) that are not so glamorous and you’ll achieve success.