Before you try to shrink your stomach with sit ups, please read this...

It fascinates me just how many fitness tools exist, that claim to 'tone' your arms/thighs/abs by specifically targeting them. Many public gyms also contain machines that isolate a specific muscle - a very attractive concept particularly to ladies, who want to tone and tighten 'wobbly bits'.

I've decided to share a few home truths that will hopefully save you a lot of time (and potential injury) when it comes to spot reduction.

1) You CANNOT spot reduce fat from specific parts of your body
This misguided idea, perpetuated by these machines (and sometimes even fitness professionals) implies you can target body fat by giving those body parts special attention. The reality is that exercise DOES burn fat, but our bodies cannot select exactly where from. Muscle contraction sends a message to the brain of a demand for energy. The heart rate increases, hormones kick in and fat is sourced from ALL OVER the body.

2) It starts with Nutrition
No matter how much correct, safe functional fat-burning exercise you do, unless you have sorted your nutrition you may as well have not bothered. Harsh as that sounds (and yes, you may have experienced some initial results from increasing your activity) the fact is you will plateau very quickly. This is because the body is rather efficient at adapting itself. If you're not sure what you should be eating and why, that's what people like me are here for.

3) Compound movements create the best results
Compound exercises use multiple muscles for maximum fat-burn. For example squats (when performed properly!) use your thigh muscles (hamstrings and quads), your gluts and most importantly, your abdominals the way they were designed to be used.

Isolation exercises (eg bicep curls) by contrast burn way fewer calories. Remember, public gyms' vast range of resistance machines that only target single body parts don't have to be used just because they are there...

As well as strength training, I highly recommend functional conditioning exercise such as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or circuit training. Here muscle mass is maintained, while fat is burnt. My clients have also got some fantastic results with pre-breakfast morning cardio interval training; great for overall fitness and productivity for the day.

I hope this article has now shed some light on the misguided idea of spot-reduction - and I wish you every success in your new, functional and sensible training approach to fat burning!

Southampton Personal Trainer Gen Preece Boot camp

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