You can’t ‘spot reduce’ body fat. Here’s why.

I want to get rid of  my spare tire. Can I “target” my abs with exercises to make it go away?

I hear this question a lot in my practice.  People are often unhappy with their spare tires, love handles, saddle bags or arm “flaps” and are hoping to “target” these areas with specific exercises. But doing a lot of biceps and triceps exercises – otherwise known as targeted exercises – won’t speed up fat loss around your arm.

Of course, we don’t have the choice of where our body deposits fat. Some people tend to carry extra weight in their legs, others in their midsection or arms, and some distribute the weight evenly throughout the body. You can thank your parents for those trouble areas as it’s our genes that tell our bodies where to put our fat.

Let’s look at the research.

A 2007 study performed at the University of Connecticut showed that, you cannot perform exercises for a specific part of the body to “target” weight loss. Researchers looked at tennis players who use one arm more than the other to play. They took measurements for thickness of fat in each arm before a 12-week strength training program and after.  Their results showed that the same amount of fat was lost in each arm even though they used one arm more frequently than the other. Here’s why:

Your fat cells are a form of fat called Triglycerides but muscles can not use them for energy.  They must first be broken down into glycerol and free fatty acids which then enter the bloodstream and get transported to the muscles needing energy.  These broken down Triglycerides come from all over the body, not just the area being targeted.

Having said that, there is a way to get rid of fat in those pesky areas.

If you have begun your weight loss journey, continue exercising to burn calories and therefore start the breakdown of Triglycerides.  You will eventually reduce the fat in areas throughout the entire body.  Choosing which types of exercises to do is really up to you. I would recommend interval training as research has shown it is one of the best ways to burn calories. Use small bursts of high intensity movements mixed into periods of low intensity. As always, make sure you talk to you doctor before beginning any type of exercise program.

Marc Legere is a Chiropractic physician specializing in athletic injuries and physical pain. He is a published author, medical consultant to professional athletes and musicians and the creator of PATCH Technique which is a conservative approach to help people dealing with muscular or soft tissue injuries. More information on Dr. Legere can be found at patchchiro.com.