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Okay, so first things first — spot reduction is a myth. (Now repeat that until it sticks permanently to your gray matter.) Time and time again it has been proven that you can’t physiologically channel all your weight-loss efforts into melting away a specific area of excess body fat.
Think of it this way: You can’t scoop one cup of water out of the center of a lake and expect a divot to remain. The overall water level will go down, but no one certain area will have less water than another. Your body works in the same way, and the signals that increase the breakdown of fat during exercise are hormonal; hormones have a total-body effect — they don’t care that your belly pooch is annoying.
Case in point: A study done at the University of Connecticut found that when subjects exercised just one arm, the amount of fat loss in both arms was the same. And another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that after 12 weeks of training only their lower body on a leg-press machine, participants saw a reduction of fat in their upper bodies.
If you simply want to lose “weight,” then this article won’t matter much to you because all you have to do to accomplish that goal is to reduce your caloric intake and increase your activity level. But if you want to change your body composition and specifically lose fat — no matter where you want to lose it — you have to take a different track.
The upshot is that you can reshape your body — as long as you think of your training as targeted building rather than targeted reduction. Because, in essence, the more you sculpt an area you hate, the more it will turn into a shape you love. It might take some time, though, so be patient. “Usually the area that a person is most concerned about is the last place that they’re going to see results,” says Kira Stokes, NASM-CPT, creator of Kira Stokes Method on Demand. “But if you put in the work and effort throughout your entire body, there will come a point where that particular area will respond.” (Remember the lake analogy?)
Stokes and Nathalia Melo, founder of the Mother Strong League — an online postnatal coaching program for busy athletic moms — revealed their favorite moves to work the muscles that lie directly beneath your most abhorrent trouble spots, helping you shape and build your body from the inside out. Arranging these moves in a circuit format — doing each for 12 to 15 reps — will up their caloric ante, helping burn off the body fat that makes an area “troublesome” while building sleek, smooth muscle underneath. Do the calorie-torching cardio finisher at the end of your strength workout to incinerate even more fat and soon your trouble spots will be so 2019.
While the majority of the science indicates that there is no such thing as spot reduction, a few small studies argue otherwise, and researchers came to some interesting conclusions that may or may not be factual. Either way, their suggestions and strategies won’t hurt you any in your efforts, so try them if you like.
Heat up your irksome area. If you touch an area where you have a lot of fat, you might notice that it’s colder. This is because fat deposits have very low blood flow. One study hypothesized that by making a fatty area physically warmer, therefore increasing blood flow to the surrounding tissues, the fat in that area was more likely to be broken down and used to fuel local working muscles
Do high reps. Is the burn you feel when you do high reps more than just lactic acid? Back in the day, Arnold Schwarzenegger did thousands of crunches in order to lean out for a bodybuilding competition, and though it was more likely his diet than his crunches that helped him strip fat from his core, if you use high reps and heat up an area over and over (see previous tip), you’ll continually increase blood flow to that area and might increase fat breakdown. At the very least, you’ll get in your core work
Try intermittent fasting, or do cardio on an empty stomach. Some research indicates that fatty acids have a traffic pattern, traveling into cells after you eat for storage and coming out of cells when you’re fasting for fuel. Either of these techniques may work to your advantage when it comes to fat burning, so go ahead and give it
If your upper arms keep on waving long after you’ve stopped saying “hi,” it might be time to hit your triceps. Here, Stokes recommends moves like skullcrushers and close-grip bench presses to do the trick.
Try superseding these moves — doing one after another with no rest in between — to make them more metabolic.
That unsightly bubble of flesh that peeks out from underneath your bra could be due to slack or weak back muscles. Melo’s prescription for bra-strap bulge are any sort of row or pulldown that works the latissimus dorsi, the muscles responsible for creating that flattering V-taper.
Tip: Try doing rows at different angles using different equipment to keep things fresh and incite progress.
Aside from getting bigger jeans, some concentrated core work that engages the transverse abdominis — the innermost ab muscles that act like a corset — could help rein in that waistband once and for all. And even though it can be argued that you constantly work your core with moves like squats and deadlifts, it still needs some dedicated time under tension if you want to get stronger, Stokes says.
Tip: Do these moves slowly and with focus, exhaling on exertion and inhaling on release.
New mom with ab woes? Melo suggests checking in with a doctor or pelvic floor physical therapist. “The issue might be an abdominal separation and not just a ‘muffin top,’” Melo says. “A separation may require rehabilitation work instead of going straight into regular core exercises.”
When it comes to building a well-defined rear, the hamstrings are just as important as the glutes, according to Stokes. “Think of your butt as the roof of the house and the hamstrings as the walls,” she says. “You can’t have a roof without solid walls to hold it up.”
Doing one-legged moves challenges your balance and further engages the gluteus medius, which helps build that bubble butt.
Tip: Keep your feet flat on the floor and drive straight down through your heels for the most power.
Love ’em or hate ’em, your thighs are a powerful body-part, and chances are you do plenty of squats and lunges to keep them in shape. But those moves don’t directly work the inner or outer part of your thighs, which — no matter how awesome your quads are — steal the spotlight when you look in the mirror. But fear not, you don’t have to resort to the “good girl/bad girl” machine at the gym — these two moves work your thighs 360 degrees around while also building core and glute strength.
Tip: Challenge yourself — lift your leg and hold it in the raised position as long as you can on both sides.
Tip: Push your knees apart continually to engage your outer thighs.
For a next-level physique, some dedicated cardio is in order. This 18-minute jump rope/bodyweight high-intensity interval training circuit is perfect after a strength workout, or on days when you’re pressed for time and want to get in and out quickly.
Complete three rounds of the below workout. Do each move for one minute and rest one minute between rounds.