Many, many people have asked a fitness coach if it is possible to lose fat “right here”.
When they ask, they always point to a specific body part. It could be the abdomen or perhaps the legs, while others point to the area underneath the arm, or some point to the neck.
All are asking if “spot reduction” works; i.e., can you choose exactly where you lose fat?
The answer: No, you cannot specify which fat you lose.
Doing exercises specifically for your area of concern will not create changes in body fat at that location. For example, you will not get rippling abs if you do 1,000 sit-ups a day. The body just does not work like that. It will not “take fat” from beside a working muscle. It will provide fuel to the muscle by using all the sources and systems available to it (there are many).
Further, genetic factors influence exactly where people carry body fat, and many find it easier to lose fat in some areas, but not others. You can read more about this in the Washington Post.
Good News: A trained coach can help you change your overall body composition, which will likely result in changes to your area of focus, too.
Training the Whole Body
While you cannot drop fat from a specific location in the body, you can train to alter body composition. To do so, you will want to work with a coach to create an exercise regimen and nutrition plan to reduce overall body fat. In some cases, that is a person’s sole goal, but in other cases people want to add some muscle, too. It is possible—but it takes hard work.
Notice we mentioned exercise and nutrition? They are inseparable when you want to change body composition. It is just not possible to “exercise away a bad diet.”
In the kitchen, you will need to ensure you are eating enough calories to support activity, but not body fat.
In the gym, your plan should include full-body exercises performed at moderate to high intensity levels like we do every day. Focus on the intensity level that is appropriate for you—it will depend on many factors, including your training history, age and so on.
Full-body exercises use large muscle groups and require lots of energy—which means you will burn more calories. These exercises—squats, deadlifts, lunges, snatches—are also great for building muscle and increasing core strength.
Remember, we are not talking about bodybuilding exercises or sculpting specific muscles. Bodybuilders generally do “isolation movements” to grow as much lean tissue as they can, and their training regimes are often supported by lots of supplements and sometimes steroids. Instead, we are talking about “compound, functional movements” that use many joints at once and allow you to do a lot of work quickly.
When you train the entire body with appropriate intensity and eat to support that activity, the result is increased general physical fitness and a “fit” appearance characterized by reduced body fat.
It is not uncommon for people who train like this to have body-fat percentages of 14-24 (women) and 6-17 (men). That puts them in the realm of “athlete” and “fitness.” “Acceptable” levels, according to WebMD.com, are 25-31 (women) and 18-25 (men).
It is also important to remember that some people perform better in the gym with a little more body fat, and very low levels of body fat do not always support athletic goals.
So how do you know what level of body fat is right for you? Work with a coach to 1. Identify your body fat percentage and 2. Develop a plan for success.