Every single day – without fail – someone will email me, or leave a comment on this website, or send me a message on Facebook, or a tweet on Twitter, or make some form of communication with me where they ask me the following question:
How do I lose [insert some body part here] fat?
Every. Single. Day.
- How do I lose stomach fat?
- How do I lose arm fat?
- How do I lose back fat?
- How do I lose thigh fat?
- How do I lose chest, neck, face, belly, butt, hip, lower back, lower stomach, lower chest, inner thigh and back-of-the-arm fat?
Every single day of my life, for over a decade now, I’ve been asked some version of this question. Often more than once. Often A LOT more than once.
So, I’ve decided it’s time to write an article that answers it once and for all, which I will then direct all future askers-of-this-question to in an effort to save myself some time and sanity.
The best part? It’s only going to take a simple 3-step process.
Are you ready? I sure as hell am.
Step 1: Identify The Problem
Let me know when this sounds familiar.
You have some fat you want to lose from a specific area of your body.
Many people have the goal of what I’m going to refer to as “overall fat loss.” Meaning, they want to lose fat from their entire body as a whole rather than from one particular spot. This, of course, is something I’ve covered in detail before: How To Lose Fat and The Best Way To Lose Weight Fast
But, this definitely isn’t that.
The goal here is much more targeted. You DO want to lose fat from one particular part of your body rather than from everywhere on your body as a whole. There IS one specific body part that you want to direct all of your fat loss efforts towards.
Sound about right?
In my experience, the most commonly targeted body parts for women tend to be the thighs, stomach, arms and back, and for guys it tends to be the stomach and chest. But, it could really be ANY single part of the body for men or women, including the neck and face.
Regardless of which area of the body it is, though, the simple fact is that there is one particular spot that you want to lose fat from.
This is your problem.
Step 2: Kill The Assumed Solution
Now how do we solve this problem?
Well, if you’re like the vast majority of the population, you assume that the solution lies in the way that you workout the specific area of your body that you’re trying to lose fat from.
So if it’s stomach fat, you put your time, effort and focus on exercises like crunches, sit-ups, leg raises and various other ab exercises.
If it’s chest fat, you put your time, effort and focus on exercises like bench presses, dumbbell flyes, push-ups and various other chest exercises.
If it’s thigh fat… it’s usually the inner-thigh machine, outer-thigh machine, squats, lunges, leg presses, leg extensions and leg curls.
If it’s arm fat… it’s usually triceps kickbacks, overhead dumbbell extensions and cable pushdowns.
If it’s back fat… it’s usually various rows and lat pull-downs.
Basically, think of any part of your body. Then, think of the most common exercises for that body part. Got them? Cool. THAT’S what most people will turn to when they want to lose fat from that specific part of their body.
From there, people will typically do multiple sets of multiple exercises, and those sets will almost always be higher in reps (anywhere from 10-20 reps seems most common, although it can go as high as 50 or even 100 reps per set when it comes to ab exercises).
Sound about right?
I had a feeling it would.
There’s just one teeny, tiny problem with it all.
The Spot Reduction Myth
“Spot reduction” is a term used to describe the concept of targeted fat loss. That you can magically “reduce” fat from a specific “spot” on your body by simply doing exercises that target that body part.
You know, like thinking ab exercises burn stomach fat, back exercises burn back fat, chest exercises burn chest fat, arm exercises burn arm fat, thigh exercises burn thigh fat, etc. etc. etc.
As obvious as this concept seems, it’s not actually true. Spot reduction is one of the biggest time-wasting fitness myths of all time.
The truth is…
The human body is only capable of losing fat from the entire body as a whole.
Exactly where on your body you lose fat from the most, or what part of your body you lose fat from first, second, third, etc. is all predetermined by your genetics and cannot be changed whether we like it or not.
No workout or exercise, type of workout or exercise, form of workout or exercise, type of equipment, amount of reps, amount of sets, amount of advanced methods or anything similar can change this and somehow allow you to burn fat from the exact spot you want to burn it from.
Sorry, but it’s true.
What’s that you say?
“But what about the people I see at the gym doing 100 sets of 100 reps of every ab exercise there is?!?”
Those people are wasting their time.
“But a few of those people actually have flat stomachs and six pack abs?!?”
Sure, 95% of them don’t, but there is a legit 5% or so that does. You’re right. What’s wrong however is the idea that their hilariously pointless never-ending ab workout is what got them those results. It didn’t. It had absolutely nothing to do with it.
The same goes for the girls doing infinite sets on the inner and outer thigh machines to lose their thigh fat, the guys doing 100 chest exercises to hit every part (especially the lower chest) from every angle to lose their man boobs, the women doing 20-rep sets of triceps kickbacks and dumbbell rows with a 2lb pink dumbbell to lose their back-of-the-arm and bra-strap fat, and on and on and on.
The one and only thing any of these people are doing is training the muscles under the fat they are trying to target. (And even for that purpose, this sort of training is horribly ineffective. And laughable.)
Which means, not a single one of them is accomplishing anything whatsoever in terms of burning any of the fat they’re trying to burn. It’s all just a huge waste of their time and effort, all thanks to their misinformed belief in the possibility of spot reduction.
“But I’ve seen people, products and programs that claim this is possible?!?”
Those people, products and programs are all horseshit, and you can tell them I said so.
“But I thought there were certain ‘toning exercises‘ that made this possible?!?”
“But I thought higher reps and lighter weight made this possible?!?”
“But how can you be so sure?”
Because it’s physiologically impossible to target specific areas of body fat. It just can’t happen.
WHAT CAN and DOES happen, is that the muscles underneath the fat get trained. This is what exercises do. In fact, this is the only thing exercises do. They train muscles. Not the fat that’s covering those muscles. They have no meaningful effect on that fat at all. Not even a little.
So ab exercises will target your abdominal muscles just fine, but not the stomach fat that happens to be sitting on top of them. The same goes for your back fat, arm fat, chest fat, thigh fat and on and on and on.
Every single exercise for each of these body parts will only ever train the muscles of those body parts. They will do nothing to the fat on those body parts.
Need some proof?
There are a few studies that come to mind (like this one and this one, both of which looked directly at the effect ab exercises have on stomach fat and found that effect to be nonexistent), but the one I’ve referenced most over the years involves the arms of tennis players (this one).
Why tennis players? Because they spend the majority of their time using only one of their arms to hold and swing a tennis racket, which means that this one arm gets hours upon hours of additional usage compared to their non-racket arm. Which means, if spot reduction was real, surely the arm getting a ton of additional exercise activity would be leaner than the other arm. Right?!?!
There was, however, no significant difference in the thickness of subcutaneous fat over the muscles of the arm receiving more exercise as compared to the arm receiving less exercise. These studies provide direct evidence against the validity of the concept of “spot reduction.”
Need some more proof?
The easiest way is to do a little experiment. Keep your diet the same and your activity level virtually unchanged, and then spend the next few weeks, months, years or decades doing all of the crunches, sit-ups and leg raises you can and use every fancy ab machine your gym has for dozens of sets of hundreds of reps… and see what happens to your stomach fat.
Feel free to do the same with your thighs, arms, back, face or whatever the hell else… and see what happens to the fat on those body parts.
Spoiler Alert: Nothing whatsoever is going to happen to any of that fat.
For additional proof, feel free to check out the millions of other men and women working out at home or in gyms all around the world who are doing the exact same thing in an attempt to spot reduce body fat and are getting exactly the same nonexistent results.
As someone who was a part of that group back in the day (I even owned a contraption called the “Ab Rocker” or some shit), I have the wonderful first-hand experience of seeing exactly how nonexistent those results are. Fun times.
Step 3: Provide The Actual Solution
So if spot reduction is just a stupid myth, and you can’t target specific areas of body fat… what in the holy hell are you supposed to do to lose fat from the area you want to lose fat from?!?
You lose fat from your entire body as a whole… BECAUSE THAT’S THE ONLY WAY FAT LOSS IS CAPABLE OF HAPPENING.
At some point, the fat you lose will begin to come off from that one particular body part you wanted to lose it from the most.
Like it or not, there’s not a single thing you or anyone else can do to change the order or pattern in which this “overall fat loss” occurs.
How do you actually cause this overall fat loss, you ask?
By eating a little less calories, burning a little more calories, or some combination of the two so that the sole cause and requirement of fat loss – a caloric deficit – is created.
How do you do that?
By doing what I explain here: How To Lose Fat
And here: The Best Way To Lose Weight Fast
And here: The Best Diet Plan