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Spot Reducing is for the Laundry

By: Dianne Villano, CPFI,

  • Can you give me an exercise that will get rid of the fat on my stomach?
  • What exercises an I do to tone my thighs?
  • Can you recommend some exercises to make my arms, thighs, and stomach smaller and also speed up my weight loss?

I hear questions such as this on a daily basis, both from our clients and from people standing in the grocery line with me who want to know what exercises I do for such “toned” arms.

Spot reduction works only in the laundry room. There is simply no such thing as localized fat loss. The reality: muscles that are stimulated with exercise will increase in size, regardless of  what type of exercise gadget is used to “tone” an area.

While resistance training is vital to overall fat loss and sculpting the body that you want, “overtraining” an area with the hopes of “toning” it will lead to muscle being added disproportionately and the area getting larger. If you build muscle more quickly than you strip fat in any area , it will get bigger.

Many people focus on exercising a particular body part that is hidden by fatty tissue in an effort to "burn away" the localized fat and expose toned muscles. No amount of dips, lunges or abdominal work will “burn” the fat off in a particular area. Unfortunately, most people cannot see their beautiful toned muscles because they are covered by a layer of body fat. 

That said, here are the facts regarding “spot reducing, toning and “firming”

  1. Body areas that are not “toned” simply contain excess body fat.
  2. Physiologically, muscle is always firm.
  3. Our bodies are genetically preprogrammed to carry a certain amount in a particular body area.
  4. The area of the body that first notices a decrease in body fat will vary from person to person. It is genetically predetermined
  5. To lose fat from your body, an energy “deficit” must occur (e.g.,you must burn more calories than you consume).
  6. It is impossible to “firm” fat , nor can you “tone” muscle.
  7. No one can predict which area of his or her body will lose fat first.
  8. Eventually, you will experience fat loss in the more difficult areas if you lose overall body fat.

Tips for a toned, firm you.

Note: These tips provide one approach. Some experts say to do less cardio and more muscle training. For a beginner, the approach shown in the first two tips here produces good results.

  1. Perform a well rounded resistance program at least 2 days a week to add lean body mass (muscle) to your frame, sculpt and shape your body. This will increase your ability to burn fat and food calories as well as your ability to sculpt your body just as you would like it. (Each pound of muscle burns about 40 calories metabolically, each pound of fat about 3).
  2. Perform a minimum of three 30 minute sessions of cardiovascular training each week to stimulate fat loss.
  3. Watch your serving sizes and portions. Eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The American Heart Association recommends a general guideline of 60% of your calories from carbohydrates, 20% from fats, and 20 % from protein. That's not optimum, but it's far better than the mix most people try to use.
  4. Remember that calories count. If you eat more than you burn, you will add fat regardless of the source.
  5. Avoid refined sugars, sodas, and processed foods.
  6. Drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water each day.

Article edited by

Copyright © Custom Bodies, Inc. 2005

Article written by Dianne Villano, President of Custom Bodies. Custom Bodies has been serving the bay area since 1996 with weight loss & fitness programs for every fitness level. Dianne is a personal fitness instructor certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a frequent speaker on health and fitness related topics with articles published in over 20 media outlets including Weight Loss & Obesity Resource Center, Women’s Exercise Network, Self Growth , Gateway to Beauty & Life tools for Women.

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