Is "Spot Reduction is a Myth" Actually a Myth?

19 November 2013, Comments 0

image from fox news

Well another one of my statements have been probably refuted by science. Thanks science, jeesh. Some researches have shown that people who have been claiming that spot reduction is a myth (read = me) might have it wrong. Hmmmm. Let’s look at the science first shall we?

For years, ever since the mid 80s really, when a paper came out that refuted it, spot reduction has been considered a myth. Spot reduction, for those who are new to the lingo, is the reduction of fat in a specific part of the body by performing exercises for that specific part of the body. Science has shown that this can’t be done and that you will only see muscular adaptations on those body parts. This has been seen in tennis players (they had the same body fat in their arms even if one did considerably more than the other), young men and women, and healthy adults herehere, and here.

But science, being a fickle bastard, and a recent post on T-nation.com by Christian Thibaudeau and Chris Shugart is saying that indeed, spot reduction can be achieved with a specific formula and of course, proper dieting (should go without saying). You can read the T-nation article later but the gist of it says that spot reduction or “targeted fat mobilisation” is possible through a combination of a specific exercise on a targeted body part (usually the abdominals or the hips) followed by a bout of high intensity cardio like sprints, battle ropes, farmers walk, sled work, etc.

Here’s the science: by increasing blood flow to the working muscles, you increase lipolysis or the breakdown of fat. Then by properly timing cardio exercises to go before and after the abdominal exercises (if you wanted to work on the midsection), you will be maximising fat loss to those specific body parts. The original proponent of this idea, also from T-nation, Doctor Lonnie Lowery, actually uses low intensity cardio in a fasted state (meaning he hasn’t eaten for a while, and by a while I mean around 14-18 hours) to get his results.

So, having read that, am I ready to jump off the “spot reduction is a myth”bandwagon? Not just yet.

First of all, the proponents of this method don’t recommend it for overweight and obese people, and I agree. The routine is just a little to intense and besides, total body fat loss is much more needed for these people than focusing on a specific site. This routine is much more designed for those who already have moderately low body fat percentages (below 15-18%) who want to work on a specific part. The proponents are also big fans of crunches and are all body builders. No offense, but I’m not a big fan of crunches or people who like crunches and body builders, although impressive to look at, are just on a whole different level of training. I try to promote stuff that is doable for the greater population of people who don’t have careers in fitness, and can’t or won’t spend 2 hours in the gym. Again, no disrespect to those who do.

Also, there’s the issue of functionality which I am of course a big fan of. Having low body fat can be functional and is of course healthier but is this a safe way to do it or are we putting our spine through too much stress with the amount of abdominal work? Do the risks outweigh the rewards too much that it shouldn’t be done. It’s apparently been done before by some of the greatest body builders but again, these people spend half their lives in the gym, most people can not and will not,

But the bottom line is, can it work? Well there’s only one way to find out, time for me to play the human trial again and see if this stuff can actually work. If you want to try it with me, here’s what I plan to do:

1. Go on a low-carb diet for 4 weeks, with cheat meals twice a week. Yes, by now you should know that nutrition is a big part of weight loss. I do this already so it shouldn’t be too big of a difference that it will be the greater factor than the routine.

2. Continue with my current workout but add a finisher in the end that will pattern the routine created by the proponents.  My finisher will look something like this:

  1. 1 minute plank
  2. 30 sec battle ropes
  3. 1 minute side plank right
  4. 30 sec battle ropes
  5. 1 min side plank left
  6. 30 sec battle ropes

Repeat for 3-4 sets

or this:

  1. 1 minute suspended pikes or atomic push ups
  2. 1 minute farmers walk

Repeat for 6-8 times

or this:

  1. 1 min kettle bell swings
  2. 1 minute sled work

Repeat for 6-8 times

I’m sure I’ll come up with a lot more, but I hope you get the picture. Are you with me?

Let’s see what happens after 4 weeks, I’ll post my before stats again tomorrow.

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