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Can You Target Fat Loss?

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As a follow up to my last post, “How Our Bodies Burn Fat”, a lot of people ask if it’s possible to target fat loss by working out specific areas (abdominals, anyone?). It’s a legitimate question. Certainly TV commercials for the latest abdominal workout gizmo would lead you to believe it’s possible to lose belly fat by working your abs so many minutes per day.  The truth is, however, you really can’t.

In a twelve week study conducted by The Physical Activity Sciences Department, Los Lagos University, Osorno, Chile, participants exercised one leg on the leg press for 1 set of 960-1,200 repetitions using 10%-30% of a 1 rep maximum 3 times per week. While body fat was reduced by 5.1% in the upper extremities and trunk, no significant body fat reduction was noticed between the trained leg and the untrained leg.

If spot reduction of fat were a valid theory, you would think that tennis players’ dominant arm would have thinner layers of subcutaneous fat compared to their non-dominant arm. However, this is not the case. In another study in 2007 by University of Connecticut, 104 tennis players participated in a twelve week resistance training program of the non-dominant arm. Subcutaneous fat on both arms were measured before and after, however, no significant difference was found afterwards between the two arms.

While you can draw generalizations across numbers of people, every body is different. Chances are that when you gain unwanted weight you gain it in the same area every time. Likewise, when you lose unwanted weight, you lose it first in the same area every time.  For this reason, it makes much more sense to focus on generalize fat loss across the entire body using a combination of weight training, HIIT cardio and a healthy diet. My book, “Fat Burning Secrets” goes into detail on all three of these areas.

As always, I encourage you to participate in the conversation by commenting on this blog post.



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  1. Regional Fat Changes Induced by Local Muscle Endurance Resistance Training, US National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health
  2. Targeting Fat Loss: Myth or Reality? Yale Scientific

Richard Webb is an entrepreneur, fitness author of Fat Burning Secrets, bodybuilder, blogger of fitness & technology, and a digital nomad working mainly from Mexico and travels frequently to Texas and California. He has 25 years experience working in software technology, so he truly considers himself as an unusual combination of bodybuilder-tech nerd.

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