Breaking down the barriers to fitness, one myth at a time

There is one myth in the health and fitness industry that refuses to die. Every time it fades from the public eye it soon resurfaces to help sell the latest quick fix or fitness fad.

As a fitness professional I feel it is time to silence this myth once and for all.

Not only is it misleading, it’s confusing and it drives people to train ineffectively and in downright stupid ways. I’m sure you’ve seen people who have fallen victim to this myth, they’re the ones who spend an hour in the gym training their abs from every angle with every piece of equipment and then wonder why they don’t have a six pack. I mean if you are working your abs that hard you should be able to see them, right?

Wrong!

So what is this myth that causes people to training ineffectively and quite frankly waste their time?

Using targeted training you can spot reduce body fat in specific areas of the body.

What this means is that by training a particular part of the body you can reduce your level of body fat in that specific area. Simply put… train one body part and you lose fat directly from that place.

Sadly, this is one of those ‘if it’s too good to be true it probably is’ situations. It does not work. The truth is that you will lose fat from across your body as a whole and can’t influence which part you lose it from directly. Even then you have to be eating at a sensible calorie deficit and be training to preserve muscle mass. If you could simple lose fat in a targeted fashion then everyone would have washboard abs regardless of their body fat percentage.

This was proven in a 1971 study conducted by the University of California which tested tennis players subcutaneous arm fat to see if there was a measurable difference between their dominant playing hand and the non-dominant and therefore relatively inactive arm. The results showed there was no statistical difference between levels of fat in any of the players’ arms.

It's also important to note that as you lose fat, you will lose it from different areas at different rates with the lower abs and back the stubborn areas for men and the upper thighs and obliques (love handles) the stubborn bits for women.

If you are still not convinced, a 2007 study led by the University of Connecticut may sway you. They studied more than 100 participants for a 12-week period. During this time the participants performed a supervised resistance training programme in which their non-dominant arm was trained selectively. The results measured by MRI showed no discernible subcutaneous fat loss difference between arms, and in fact showed any fat loss trends to be from across the whole body.

So what does this mean for us and how do we lose unwanted body fat?

It really is simple. The key to achieving sustainable and effective fat loss is a combination of a well-structured training programme to maintain muscle mass combined with a smart nutrition plan that uses a safe calorie deficit to reduce body fat over time.

By Theo Brenner-Roach