Spot reduction or spot fat reduction is one of those topics that’s pretty much universally known to be bullshit but yet still manages to cling on and give people hope.
In fact the principle has been called out and bashed so much that even Wikipedia has an article that calls the idea of spot fat reduction a “fallacy”.
So what is spot reduction?
Spot reduction refers to the idea that fat can be “burnt” or “eradicated” from specific areas of the body through exercise.
Let’s take Smithy Smithson (yes that’s his real name) as an example. Smithy Smithson enjoys a pint or five down the pub on most evenings after work. As a result he’s developed quite a bit of fat around his midsection (we’ll talk more about WHERE and WHY fat accrues in certain places later in this article)
Smithy Smithson’s wife has had enough and is now refusing to “put out” until he loses some weight! Poor Smithy Smithson foolishly told his tale of woe to his buddies down the pub and now he’s getting a LOT of stick. His new nickname is “blue balls Smithson”
He decides enough is enough and sets about trying to lose some weight. Now he can see that most of his fat is around his mid section and so he deduces that if he performs a number of sit ups on a daily basis he will start to burn fat from his stomach and eventually he’ll even get a six pack. He starts to envision himself with an Arnold Shwarzanegger type of physique and spends large chunks of his day fantasising about sweeping his wife off her feet and……you get the idea.
Spurred on by his lack of action in the bedroom and his new found motivation, Blue Balls Smithson sets about trying to lose some weight.
So as I briefly mentioned earlier Blue Balls Smithson assumes that by doing sit ups on a daily basis will result in the fat loss around his midsection. After coming home late one evening after a session down the pub Blue Balls Smithson settled down on the couch with an entire pack of biscuits. As he’s flicking through the channels he stops at a late night shopping channel selling ab crunching machines.
You know the ones I mean….they look like this…
He remembers that he actually bought his wife one these over a decade ago and that it’s collecting dust in the loft. The shopping channel is also selling “bingo wing bashers” which are weights that can be used to target the triceps.
6 weeks later and Blue Balls Smithson has all but given up on his dreams of a 6 pack. It’s been over 2 weeks since he last did any crunches and his wife is nagging him to move the stupid ab cruncher out of the front room. He had about as much success with it as his wife did 10 years ago.
He eventually relents and goes to pack away the abs cruncher. Whilst trying to manipulate it back through the loft hatch Smithy Smithson reflects on why his mission to reduce stomach fat failed. After all he DID stay consistent for a good month but saw no results. It suddenly occurred to him perhaps he had been misguided by the media. As a salesman himself Smithy Smithson is only too familiar with manipulating and embellishing the truth in order to make sales. He concludes that he must change his approach and seek out verified and trusted information regarding health and fitness.
2 weeks later and Smithy Smithson has got himself clued up regarding spot reduction. A bit part of the issue, as he had suspected, is the main stream media essentially making false claims about how to burn fat. He thinks back to the late night shopping channel and remembers the toned models using the abs cruncher. Every time they crunched forwards their abs tightened and became even more defined. What’s more, they always had a huge grin on their face when they were doing it. Smithy Smithson also cast his eye across the numerous health and fitness magazines that he has purchased over the last couple of weeks. He notes that every single one of them has some type headline that reads along the lines of:
“best exercises to develop a 6 pack”
“Get a 6 pack in just 4 weeks with this abs routine”
Smithy Smithson vowes not to fall for these bold claims any more. He comes to realise that the main stream media plays a huge part in misinformation and that the mighty buck is behind the campaigns and headlines. He realises first hand, that exercising a specific part of the body will not result in fat loss in that specific area.
Whist sat with his wife one evening a few days later a conversation arose regarding his failed attempt to reduce his stomach fat and get a 6 pack. His wife pointed out that it’s totally logical for fat to be burnt off in the places we exercise more. It just kind of, inherently makes sense. Smithy Smithson realised this was another huge piece of the puzzle and a massive factor into why spot reduction is so widely believed. He calmly explaines to his wife that spot reduction most definitely does not work but he can understand why so many people believe it. Of course, only a few weeks ago, he believed it himself. “Where people often get tripped up regarding this”, He explains, “is the fact that whilst we can’t spot reduce fat we CAN spot increase muscle.
His wife looks on apparently quite impressed with this revelation.
Smithy Smithson goes on to explain that we can pick and choose exercises that will build muscle tissue where we want it and it’s this fact that leads to so much confusion and misguided belief regarding spot fat reduction.
To further prove his point Smithy Smithson refers to a well known study conducted by a university in California in 1971 involving tennis players.
“The study shows that despite the tennis players using their racket arm to train on a daily basis their fat percentages across both arms remained the same. If there was any truth behind spot fat reduction then the racket arms should have had far less fat on them.”
Mrs Smithson was getting quite aroused by her husbands new found knowledge.
“Orite then, So how DO I get rid of the fat around my thighs?” She asks.
Smithy Smithson took a deep breath and says:
“It’s quite simple my dear….you need to be eating in a calorie deficit”
With these words Mrs Smithson pushes her plate of sticky toffee pudding away from her, grabs Smithy Smithson’s hand and leads him away upstairs!!!
The next day in the pub whilst Smithy Smithson details the events of the previous night to his mates he vows to find out exactly what a calorie deficit is and how he could implement it himself!