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Spot Reduction: The Legend; The Reality

You may have heard that Spot Reduction is a myth. That spot reduction is not possible and anybody claiming it to be such is incorrect.

This question came from an observant reader who asks…

QUESTION:

Marc,Why is EVERYBODY saying that spot-reduction is a myth? One of the other blogs I read from another fitness expert says that spot reduction is possible!

Spot Reduction: Fact or Fiction?

He said “Current research is now finding that when you work a specific muscle, the intramuscular fat and the fat in that general area is where the body derives fuel for that exercise.

In other words, if you work your abdomen – you’re working those muscles in the area – the body turns to your belly fat for the most help in long-term fuel for that exercise.”

His exact words are that “if you do ab exercises (sit-ups, etc.), your body will use abdominal fat as fuel (glycogen) for that exercise, thereby burning it.”

In other words, the shedding of fat is not uniform all over your body!

To what extent is this true?

Thanks, and I look forward to your replies and analysis, Mike

ANSWER:

Your fitness expert above is correct. Spot reduction at the very basic level has been proven to be true in a single study done in 2007. But before you run off and try the routine listed above you need to know a few more things.

After reading the comments on the news story above, it appears the only study I found was the same one referred to in the story.

One study does not make something a fact. 2007 isn’t exactly current either. 4 years after the single study, no other studies have been done to further the findings. My guess?

Not because it wasn’t proven to be true in theory but for the actual real-world usage of such a scenario.

Another expert and author in the field, Lyle McDonald at Bodyrecomposition.com, took this same study in 2007 and wrote about it in detail in 2009. ( McDonald is the author of The Ketogenic Diet, The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook, The Guide to Flexible Dieting and several other nutritional books.)

Lyle said, “Yes, there appears to be an effect whereby working a given muscle impacts on local fat cell metabolism but the effect is completely and utterly irrelevant in quantatitive terms. The amount of fat mobilized due to increased hormones or blood flow is simply insignificant to anything in the real world.”

The amount of fat mobilized due to increased hormones or blood flow is simply insignificant to anything in the real world.

Additionally, the news story mentions picking different abdominal exercises and recommends “perform and reach muscular failure.”

Another ab expert, David Grisaffi, C.H.E.K., CFT, PN, and author of the book Firm and Flatten Your Abs… said in regards to training your abdomainals and core to failure…

“One of the biggest problems with training the core and abs to failure is that the more fatigued you become, the more your form begins to break down. When your form breaks down, that is when injuries are most likely to occur. This is true for any exercise, but it may be truer for abs and core than any other type of exercise due to the susceptibility of the lower back.

Research by Dr. Laurence Morehouse of University of California at Los Angles found that when doing abdominal exercises, especially sit-ups, you over-work your hip flexor muscles – the psoas and the iliacus. When the exercises are performed quickly (form breaks) or all the way to failure (form breaks), the hip flexor’s pull on the lower back is increased.

When performing your core exercises, always be conscious about form, especially as you begin to get tired toward the end of a set. You should terminate your set at or before the point where you notice that your form breaks in the slightest, and that is usually a couple of repetitions before reaching muscular failure.”

So let me summarize and review ….

Spot reduction based upon a single 2007, peer reviewed, published article appears to be valid. However, based upon the results of the study in question, the benefits are not significant to real-world usage.

Furthermore, based upon David Grisaffi’s recommendation of abdominal training, do not train your abdominals or core to muscular failure. Stop short and keep your form intact.

I stronly enourage you to read the references listed and come to your own conclusions.