[Episode 62] Busting The Myth of Spot Training For Fat Loss

by | May 28, 2021

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In this episode we will be looking at busting a pretty common training myth, which is that you can spot train fat off your body.

This is something I’ve heard so many people talk about. Usually in relation to getting a 6 pack.

And this belief that spot training is possible is totally fed by misinformation spread by the fitness industry, particularly blogs and articles with titles like:

  • 8 best ways to get 6 pack abs fast
  • 6 pack abs in 30 days
  • Abs workout to get that 6 pack
example of misinformation image, a person with a six pack abs with title

An example out of hundreds I found on Google!

 

I could go on, but to be honest these titles just don’t get any better at all!

What titles like this are all suggesting, is that doing exercises in a certain area is going to influence your physique in that area. And while I can’t deny that it will likely strengthen those muscles in the area of focus, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna lose body fat in the area.

 


 

What is Spot Training?

Spot Training is the idea that you can cause weight loss or muscle definition in one area without affecting other parts of the body.

The reason why the idea of spot training is so persistent is because people WANT it to be true.

And without understanding the science behind how our bodies and training works, it’s easy to believe that we can grow a six-pack of abs by doing a hundred sit ups a day!

 


 

Why doesn’t spot training work?

Jackie Chan meme making a confused face holding hands up, text:

 

This is because our body stores energy as fat all over it and the source of energy during a movement doesn’t necessarily come from the fat in that area being worked.

Fat storage in our body is based on the location and density of fat receptors that we have in particular areas.

This is why our body accumulates more fat in certain areas of the body than in other areas.

Usually energy is used up first from the supply we store in our muscles and liver.

So those 100 crunches that a fitness mag is suggesting you do will most likely use the energy stored in your muscles and liver and not use what is stored on your stomach.

Our body does not have the capacity to pick and choose its energy source. It functions on what is most efficient for it to survive.

 

So if you’re looking to lose weight in certain areas, it can be done. But it’ll take a full body approach and even then there’s no guarantee that you’ll reduce fat in all the areas you want.

 

Especially if that’s where your body has the most fat receptors. Which for many AFAB folks is around the hips, thighs and but and in most AMAB folks is gonna be on the abdomen.

Now this is not always the case and there will be people around where this is not the case. It’s all so individual.

This fat accumulation is also linked to our sex hormones too. Which is often why folks who start affirming hormone therapies experience a shift in the fat deposits on their bodies.

 


 

How to get the 6 pack abs then?

So if you’re someone that wants to gain more muscle tone and definition in certain areas, it’s gonna take some consistent full body training to make that happen.

And this is a good thing. Because training our whole bodies helps improve overall functional abilities and muscle symmetry.  Which helps our bodies move easier, become more stable and keeps our joints safe.

There are plenty of ways to gain more muscle mass and tone. Most commonly it gets done with isolation exercises.

Isolation training is a style of training that’s usually weight based and focuses on singling out specific muscles groups to target. An example of this would be a movement like a bicep curl or tricep extension. Sit ups or crunches are also another good example.

But, as I’ve mentioned, this type of training is not going to target the fat stored in that particular area. And on top of that, this style of training can also lead to imbalances in muscle development.

 

meme - Willy Wonka smiling, text:

 

Have you ever seen gym fails of people who are all big muscles in the arms and shoulders with underdeveloped legs? That’s exactly what I mean. If not, a quick google search about “missing leg day memes” will give you a pretty good picture.

A person at the gym with huge upper body and skinny legs. Text:

This is because it can be easy to want to work more on specific areas particularly if you have a goal like making your arms bigger for example. When particular regions of your body become your focus, it can lead to those areas getting more training, leaving other areas less developed.

 


 

Where you can start training for definition and tone

Full Body Training

So if you are keen to look more defined in a particular area, remember that training in that specific area is not going to train away fat tissue.

What I recommend you do is work on full body movements or training sessions. These are sessions that target multiple muscle groups at the same time.

 

Use Free Weights

Movements that use free weights like barbells or dumbbells for deadlifts, goblet squats and front squats. Or pretty much anything kettlebell related like swings, cleans, presses, snatches, turkish get ups and bent presses to name a few.

 

Moderate Intensity Cardio Sessions

Alternate sessions like this with some moderate intensity steady state cardio. There are folks out there who will say high intensity interval training is the best for burning energy, and they might be right. But when it comes to cardio based sessions, I think that starting a sustainable and enjoyable practice from the beginning is far more realistic long term.

 

No Quick Fixes

Don’t try for quick fixes here. Anything that promises you a 6 pack in 30 days, or a beach body in 12 weeks is not going to be offering you something that you could follow or sustain long term.

And chances are, if you did try a quick shred routine, you’d likely end up losing the fat tissue but then gaining it back with probably even more, once you stopped that program.

Because these styles of programs are based heavily on calorie restrictions.

So just keep in mind that if you are wanting to change how your body looks by reducing the amount of fat you have in certain areas, it’s gonna take time if you want to do it sustainably.

To put it into perspective, I’ve helped a lot of folks lose weight. But it has been gradual and spread over a minimum of 12 months.

 

No Calorie Counting or Dieting

I don’t use calorie counting with anyone I train. I think it’s far too restrictive and puts too much focus on food as a number, that’s good or bad. And I don’t think that’s helpful at all.

But, what you eat will also influence any changes your body may experience. But there are definitely ways to do it without dieting.

Instead, focus on how the foods you eat make you feel. Regardless of what the food is. Because what we eat influences our moods, energy levels and how our body functions.

Once we start tuning into that, it is easy to decide what you want to eat, based on how you want to be feeling. No restrictions necessary.

I’ve actually done a couple podcast episodes specifically about it in Episode 31 (You Don’t Need To Diet) and way back in Episode 2 (Eating Made Simple).

 


 

Still want results fast?

Now even after everything I’ve just shared, you may still want to do whatever it takes to change your body as fast as you can, friend, that is totally ok.

You do what you’ve gotta do for you. Just be mindful that our bodies won’t always respond a certain way to things, just because we want them to.

Following a highly restrictive diet and practicing HIIT sessions will very likely give you some quick changes. And you may even be able to keep up practices for short to mid term.

But long term, you are likely gonna find that these practices aren’t as great for you as you thought. Looking a certain way isn’t necessarily going to make you feel any more like the person you know you are inside.

 

There is so much more to you than your body. So please, whatever you decide to practice, do it in the most informed way possible. Learn more about safe dieting before you begin to practice it. If you’ve had a challenging relationship with eating, calorie counting and restrictions could be really risky.

 

And understand your physical limitations if you are practicing HIIT training. Pain is not in fact going to gain you anything, contrary to the popular slogan. You don’t have to always push yourself to your limits to achieve your goals.

 


 

Closing Recap

We’ve touched on a lot today.

We’ve busted the myth that spot training creates definition in certain areas of your body. Because that’s just not how bodies work.

Then we had a look over training full body combined with moderate intensity steady state cardio.

Before finally highlighting the importance of being informed in your decisions, whatever practice you decide to begin.

If you’re enjoying the show and know other folks that may find some benefit in having a listen, I’d be so grateful if you shared it with them or anywhere else where you think that it could help someone.

Until next week friend remember, you are more than your body. And while we may not always be where we want to be, your body does not make you any less you, regardless of how it looks to you or anyone else.

Bowie Stover Thinking Pose

Bowie Stover

Pronouns: they/them

My passion to help others through developing an active and healthy lifestyle, along with my desire to contribute as much as I can back to our queer community, has led me to co-found Fearless Movement Collective. To be a small part of your day that makes a HUGE impact on your life would be one of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences that I could hope to have.

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Bowie Stover
(they/them)
Kettlebell and Movement Coach

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