BodybuildingPro.com Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written by Matt Canning Spot Reducing is a Myth
I get questions like these all the time. People are interested in losing fat in specific areas of their bodies, but it isn't always so simple...Read on...
I'm really starting to get tired of the way my hips look (no, seriously, don't laugh! ). I have a relatively small waist, and while my abdominal region could certainly benefit from a few sit-ups every day, it's not a big concern of mine right now. However, the waist to hip ratio is getting on my nerves. Now, granted, my bone structure is such that I will never fit into a size 2 dress (not that I'd want to anyway!), but losing a bit of weight from the hips would be nice. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, with my crazy schedule, there is no way that I will be seeing the inside of a gym for any consistent period of time until at least next January. So, can you recommend a little exercise program that I can do at home. Like 10 minutes or something that I can do before going to bed, and which would target that specific area? Or is it really a matter of just losing weight over all?"
Spot training (or "spot reducing") is a myth. Since you can isolate a muscle and develop it, it's natural to assume that you could manipulate any tissue in a specific area in any way, but it isn't the case. You can't gain fat in one specific area - compare it to filling a gas tank with gasoline in only one specific area. You also can't lose muscle or fat in one specific area - compare it to attempting to drain a gas tank of gasoline in solely one specific area. The reason you can gain muscle mass in one specific area is similar to how you can repair a damaged area of a gas tank (say, remove a dent). It essentially comes down to tissue repair in the real case of muscle. Everything else won't work, though.
That said, a lot of women would like to lose the fat stores around their thighs and their hips. The saddest part is that a lot of fad exercise programs and aids "guarantee" weight loss from that specific area. Really, this is false advertising and shouldn't be allowed. They are essentially guaranteeing spot reduction. Again, it's pretty simple to understand what spot reduction tries to say - involve localized exercise and reduce fat stores in the active areas. But from our current knowledge of energy supply there is no indication that energy for exercise is derived from fat stores in the localized area being exercised - but derived from stores throughout the entire body.
This really complicates things, especially for lean women who will lose upper body muscle with further dieting just to eliminate the stubborn fat stores. Keep in mind the fat stores in women are there for a reason: to help support a pregnancy. In fact, a pronounced hip to waist ratio is one of the things males are more attracted to for exactly that reason, it is an indication of fertility (one of my professors actually did her Ph.D thesis on that topic). I think the "ideal" ratio is 0.7. Child bearing requires a lot - extra energy and this is sort of why the hormonal and biochemical makeup of a woman allow for higher amounts of fat to be stored compared to men, and it also explains the localization of the stores. This is unfortunate for the woman seeking an athletic physique because the extra fat is normally stored in the hip and glute areas. How can you lose these stores?
1. Hormonal manipulation.
2. Exteme dieting.
3. Exteme amounts of aerobic exercise.
The first is not practical at all, and the last will result in muscle loss throughout the entire body. All of these can have an effect on the menstrual cycle by attempting to reduce the bodyfat.
So, the best you can do is find a balance, which is incredibly important. Spot reducing won't work, but you can incorporate aerobics, which will reduce bodyfat levels and incorporate weight training which will maintain or increase upper body mass.
You can even do this in 10 minutes before going to bed, in which case just apply your common sense regarding exercise - you know what's good and what isn't, and even though the vast amount of information available can become overwhelming, it isn't all required unless you are at the upper echelon of competition; it would be important for professional athletes to have all this down to a science. For regular people like you and me, just apply sensible guidelines to your everyday life. Try your best and be pleased. If you can go for a 20 minute jog every day or have an exericse bike at home - use it. Sit ups, push ups, crunches - these things are all good. I'm sure you are way to busy to incorporate a more formal program so I won't suggest any. I think it's very admirable you're even attempting, given your schedule.
I wish it were easier than that but I know it isn't.
I think I've come across as pretty negative, but I'm just trying to say that it's important to work within your limitations and not set unrealistic goals. I have everything working against my progress from a genetic standpoint, but I would rather just carry on despite that, because I know I'll be happie that way.
For the full discussion, be sure to check out the original post on our interactive forums by clicking HERE.