Can you Target Fat Loss?
Updated: Feb 16
There are common myths about fat loss that don't seem to go away. Spot reduction - the belief you can target fat loss in a specific area of the body by exercising the muscles (in the higher rep ranges) that surround them - is one of them.
Unfortunately, you're not going to get a tighter booty by doing glute bridges. Or a washboard stomach by repping out on crunches. Fat loss doesn't work like that, but don't take my word for it. There's even research to prove it.
In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers had seven men and four women perform single-leg leg press three times a week for 12 weeks using only their non-dominant leg. So only one leg (the non-dominant one) was exercised during this entire time.
Each workout was basically one set... one insanely long set. The set required subjects to perform about 960-1200 reps using 10-30% of their one-rep max. Not surprisingly, this took a while. Around 80 minutes.
At the start and end of the 12 weeks, the researchers scanned the subject's body to measure their fat levels. They also performed a dietary recall to get an idea of how many calories the subjects consumed during the day.
So, at the point, I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat wondering what happened after the 12 weeks and saying, "Dammit Nathan! Get to the results!" Well, they lost a significant amount of fat! However, there was no significant difference in fat loss between the trained (non-dominant) leg and the non-trained (dominant) leg. They also found that there wasn't a significant difference in daily food intake during the study.
Therefore, just to put the final nail in the coffin for spot reduction, if it were possible then the people in this group would have had greater fat loss in their non-dominant leg. So, it's simply not possible.
And now you know. :-)
For more information:
Ramírez-Campillo, R. et al. Regional fat changes induced by localized muscle endurance resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2013. Aug;27(8):2219-24.