The Myth of Spot Reduction

Posted August 1, 2009 in Healthy Lifestyle 4 Comments »

Mary Ward is a blogger and enjoys writing about medical career topics, such as how to obtain a Master of Health Administration degree, job and education tips, and more.

The Myth of Spot Reduction: Why Crunches Don’t Work

So many of us are on a constant quest to lose weight, it’s just a natural part of life. We tend to put on the weight without realizing it and before we know it, we’re clinging to any diet or fitness regimen that we can find.

Female and Male Abs
Six pack abs can’t be obtained by spot reduction.

This holds especially true when it comes to certain body parts, namely the abdomen.

When men gain weight they tend to gain it all in the abdomen.

When we see a woman go through a pregnancy, the hardest weight to take off is definitely in the abdomen as the area gets so stretched out along the way.

It is because of these very reasons that we see a lot of people spending extra time and attention in their workout efforts to focus in on the abdomen. This is where the idea of spot reduction came about and why people kill themselves at the gym doing crunches until they can’t move.

The Ugly Truth Of Spot Reduction

The ugly truth is this – spot reduction does not work!

You can do crunches until you fall over and you will not be able to flatten or remove the fat around your mid-section. Spot reduction doesn’t work, no matter what the area of your body that you are trying to focus in on. It is one of the biggest myths in the fitness world and there’s a very simple reason why.

The reality is that you simply can’t lose weight from just one area of the body, it doesn’t work that way. If you focus your work out efforts on a specific part of your body such as the abdomen, you won’t see spot reduction at work – but you just might injure the area you are trying to whittle down.

Fat is lost throughout the body in a pattern, and there’s not much you can do to fight this natural phenomenon. The pattern by which you lose the weight is dependent on genetics, hormones, gender, and age. So you can’t fight these things and therefore you will lose weight at the rate for which your body intends for you to.

You really can’t lose weight in a specific area, it just doesn’t work that way. You have to drop overall weight to see it start to take shape in any specific area. So if you are hoping to lose weight in the abs for example, you need to focus your eating and fitness regimen on minimizing your overall weight rather than in that one specific area.

Who Owns Your Fat?

Most simply put – the muscle does not own the fat that surrounds it. So as you hope to keep doing crunches in an effort to get a flatter stomach or lose the unwanted weight around it, you are wasting your time.

To lose the weight around your abs or in any one area, you have to look at the big picture and lose weight overall. Eventually this will spread to the area that you are hoping to shrink but spot reduction can’t and won’t take the place of an overall weight loss plan.

A comment from Project Swole:

Mary is right! Contrary to another popular misconception, muscle does not turn to fat and fat does not turn to muscle. They can replace each other if you lose fat and then gain muscle, but there is no such thing as body tissue transmogrification.

See my piece on the top 10 best ab exercises for more info.

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4 Responses to “The Myth of Spot Reduction”

  1. I agree with you on spot reduction, but have seen men put a broom handle over their shoulders, twist side to side a good number of times, and lose inches off their waist. No fitness regimen or diet change accompanied what he did. Can you explain why this is so? I don’t want to use this as a means to remove my love handles, as I work my entire body and control my diet in a manner consistent with your recommendations. Thanks for the web site. You have great information and I have learned a lot from it. I’m still at the same weight as when I started, yet my muscle mass is much greater.

    • Craig, your friend didn’t lose fat off his midsection. He made that muscle tissue more dense. It’s sort of like holding your transverse abdominus in tight all day will lead to a flatter stomach because the muscles are being training to contract. I doubt he lost much fat though.

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