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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spot Reduction: Myth or Reality?

You have more than likely heard of the old classic Spot Reduction right? Say I want my love handles to slim down, so I do 5000 reps of side bends or I want a flat stomach so I do 5000 crunches a day and of course you can't get slim and toned without 8 hours of cardio a day - sounds legit?

The reality of it is kinda weird. The book answer is that spot reduction doesn't work because your body burns fat across it's entire spectrum overall, not in one spot.

While that is true, I have seen many strange cases over the years where people have made it happen. 
There are a few reasons as to why it can actually work. Your body is like a segmented or compartmentalized machine. 

Normally, your body operates in the whole body spectrum. But when you work harder in specific spots, more blood circulation, heat and sweat are released from that area, than in other parts of your body. And as you develop the specific area's muscles, more work and energy are expended in that specific location. 

Your body is still operating in the whole body spectrum but a little more action is going on in those specific areas. So that area by default gets a little more attention. 

Then you have things called andrenoreceptors. These receptors either help or hinder fat loss. It's very complicated science type stuff so we will skip the details. You can google it, if you want the exciting details. But the important thing to know is that different parts of your body have more of one type of receptors than others. There is a bunch of related bio-chemical actions and physiological stuff going on in conjunction with these receptors but we will keep it super simple.

The type of receptor and the amount of localized work done on a particular body part can cause things to respond faster or slower. Every person and body type is a little different. So what works for one person may not work for another. 

If you have the right type of receptor at your trouble spot, you may have an even better chance of making a big change there. Of course, the opposite is true as well. If you have the receptor that is resistant to fat loss at your trouble spot, your chances of pulling off the fabled "spot reduction" are very slim.

And then there is blood flow (circulation) and it's impact on fat loss. The areas where you store most of your excess storage fat (belly, hips, thighs, butt etc..) have a poor blood circulation ratio when compared to leaner parts of your body. The less circulation means that fatty acids from the fat cells can't get into the blood stream and make it to the muscles where it is oxidized or burned off as fuel. So the areas with poorer circulation retain more fat.

These areas usually tie in with the type of receptors you have there. See there are numerous factors that contribute to all of this. Much more than I can write about, as it goes on and on like hormonal impact and such. 

If the stars line up physiologically, a person who does 10 billions reps of ab work and hours of cardio while wearing a belly wrap may actually be able to accomplish some ridiculous stuff. 

I saw a girl one time, who had killer abs, 6 pack and all, while the rest of her body looked much less fit and lean. She was an example of this weird combination of variables which allowed it to work. She was always doing ab/core stuff and doing cardio. I mean a lot, every day. The rest of her body didn't look that great.

She worked one area more than the rest dramatically so that body area burned more calories, produced more heat and sweat and the muscles contracted more. There was much more concentrated blood flow to the over worked area so the fat mobilization increased dramatically.

It has been proven that subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin, on top of the muscle) gets more of a fat burning result because of the muscle working so much. Kinda like if I did arm curls all day, everyday, I wouldn't have too much fat on my arms.

The bottom line is heat, blood flow and work in the area of concern is critical if you want to even have a chance at spot reduction. So there actually is an amount of truth to the "1000 crunches a day for 6 pack abs" concept. 

So can it happen -yes, spot reduction can happen. Is it the norm for everyone? -NO. Most people can't pull it off.

If you want to experiment with the concept of spot reduction, here is a test technique for the belly that I recently read about and may try soon. 1. Do about an hour of fasted cardio, 2. warmup with a belly wrap or something around your belly to make it really warm. 3. about half way through the cardio session, stop and do a couple sets of AB and core exercises with high reps. 4. finish the cardio session and then do more AB/Core work like before. Say two exercises of 30-50 reps each.

Try it for a couple weeks and see what happens. Track how clothes fit, numbers and measurements, take pics etc.. It might work, it might not. But if nothing else, it's still good training and something good will happen if you are eating right. 

If it doesn't magically spot reduce your belly, then I wouldn't recommend continuing to try to figure out if you are one of the few, with a weird physiological ability to make it happen. Your time would be better spent doing it the smart, healthy way. Total body training and good nutrition. Stick to big multi-joint compound movements - preferably with weights, high intensity interval training & metabolic conditioning and a killer, dialed in nutrition program to turn your whole body into a lean sculpted work of art instead of just your love handles. 

If you have questions about how to do this effectively, contact me and I can help you get there.


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