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Anthony Wall

Anthony Wall: Fitness expert

Anthony is the National Personal Training Manager at Les Mills. For more information about Les Mills, home of the world's best fitness classes, visit lesmills.co.nz or phone 0800 LES MILLS. ASK ME A QUESTION

Confused about spot training

Monday, January 18, 2010
Spot training. Image: Getty

Question
I'm confused about spot training. Is it possible to target one specific area on your body and tone it up and lose weight?

Answer
If you are in a rush and don't have time to read on — the answer is NO.

Spot reduction is definitely one of those areas that while not only confusing, is misleading. The myth probably comes from the statement that doing lots of sit ups will give you a flat stomach. While there is a correlation with doing lots of sit ups and a stronger stomach, it isn't going to reduce the size of your waist.

Let's have a look at what spot reduction is and why it doesn't work. Spot reduction is the concept that by exercising a specific muscle or area you can 'target' fat loss in just that area. The rationale being that fat is reduced only in that area because that muscle is doing more work than another muscle. So here we see how someone could think if they wanted to lose the fat from their stomach or thighs they could do a large amount of sit ups or thigh exercises thereby reducing their fat only in that area.

Exercise starts a process in the body that uses fat as a fuel from lots of stores around the body at the same time. Over time as one's body fat levels decrease you can expect to see a relative difference in the reduction in different areas. This is simply because your body has larger stores in certain sites and so can use more from those as the other sites become depleted. Again working the local muscles under that site more won't increase the usage from that area.

The other issue with spot training that is not as commonly addressed is the type of training someone is doing. For your body to effectively lose fat, aside from a healthy nutritional plan we need to do cardio exercise to elicit an appropriate heart rate response.

The reality is that the targeted training people do (i.e. sit ups, squats, tricep extensions etc) isn't going to elicit the required heart response anyway. Cardio training includes both the traditional running, swimming and typical aerobic programmes and the circuit styles of training that involve longer bouts of exercise or combinations of exercises to keep the heart rate elevated. If you want to lose weight (fat), increase your heart rate into your training zone. If you want stronger muscles then targeting a specific area will help achieve that side.

Enjoy your training.

Les MillsAnthony is the National Personal Training Manager at Les Mills. For more information about Les Mills, home of the world's best fitness classes, visit lesmills.co.nz or phone 0800 LES MILLS.


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