“How can I get rid of this?”
A frustrated woman asks me as she raises her arm and shakes the bottom half to show me the bodyfat she’s extremely eager to get rid of.
“Can you help me lose this?”
A guy with extra weight in his midsection gripes to me as he uses both hands to grab his stomach. He insists he wants to work his abs more in our training so that he can “get rid of his gut.”
After seven years as a fitness coach, these are variations on the same question I get asked more than any other:
“How do I get rid of the fat on this part of my body?”
If you ever asked that question, I feel your pain and I will give you the answer here, but let’s start with the myth that underlies that question:
These well-intentioned folks have been sold a myth in the weight loss/fitness industry that if you train a bodypart with weights, it will lose fat faster than if you had targeted some other bodypart.
The name for this myth is often called “spot reduction.”
Example #1: Do a bunch of bicep curls and tricep extensions and then your arms will look lean, firm, and ready for waving to friends without that painful tinge of self-consciousness.
Not unless you're already very lean.
Example #2: Do 20 minutes of ab exercises everyday and you’ll no longer have to suck in the gut when the pretty woman walks by. (Cue the Roy Orbison song!)
Nope. Won't happen.
Alas, human bodies don’t work that way.
Your body does not strip extra fat from a bodypart simply because you worked it’s muscle.
No matter how many endless squats, bicep curls, or planks you do, your body will ALWAYS reduce bodyfat in pre-determined proportions.
Want a hot ass or sexy arms?
Or even just have them look a little better?
Below is the broad-based formula. Now, unless you are already super lean (and, don’t worry, almost no one is), you need to do TWO things.
1. Burn Bodyfat. You must burn more calories than your body presently needs so that you start reducing your total bodyfat.
Hands down, the fastest way to do this is through better eating, but combining some extra movement or exercise will accelerate the process, too.
In other words, you can’t just rely on endless tricep extensions to make those arms look amazing.
2. Build the Muscle/Bodypart Through Strength Training. Include movements in your exercise routine that will build the muscle of the bodypart you want to improve.
Want great arms? Kettlebell presses & crawling will help.
Want a better ass and legs? Heavy squats will help (but learn how to squats safely first!)
Just know that when it comes to exercise for bodypart improvement, not just anything will do. (Read: the elliptical won’t suffice!)
You need to do strength training with a relatively heavy weight, low reps (4-8 is a good range), and good technique.
BONUS TIP: because people generally want their entire body to look good, not just one section, I recommend beginning with full-body movements that work nearly every muscle, like deadlifts and squats.
By the way, here’s what happens if you only do ONE of those things, but ignore the other:
MISTAKE #1: Eating Better But No Strength Training: If you only eat better, but don’t do any strength training to improve your physique, you’ll lose bodyfat – which is half the equation – but the shape of your body may still not be what you hoped, meaning it could still look and feel soft.
MISTAKE #2: Training Specific Bodyparts, But Diet Not Improved: If you only do strength training - working those glutes and arms hard - but fail to lose any bodyfat because, for example, ice cream and chocolate are regularly stocked in your fridge (which I totally get!), you will improve the muscle but it will feel like you are just getting “bulkier.”
That’s because you’re not losing any bodyfat in this equation. If that happens, you’ll likely become frustrated and curse the whole exercise thing.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, you can start with my FREE 5 Healthy Habits Guide to eat better.
Hopefully, you now have a better sense of the TWO-PART formula for making awesome improvement on a part of your body J
Comment below with your questions or thoughts!