Myth Busted: You Can Spot Correct “Problem” Areas
Ahh yes, this is another classic. As a trainer, people come into the gym constantly, grab on to a part of their body they don’t like, and say, “I want to get rid of this.” Okay. So often, I wish that I had the superpower to be able to show someone else as others see them! But, we are our own worst critics and that is the unfortunate truth. My job isn’t only about gaining strength or losing weight. I want to make every woman (or man!) feel confident in their own bodies and, if I do that, I’ve succeeded! Many times, what it boils down to is a conversation about what a client really wants. Add muscle? Get stronger? Be healthier? Those are things that we can correct.
“But I hate this area of my body…”
The idea that you could simply correct any old area that you want with a magic wand is exactly that, magic. Here’s the thing: Fat doesn’t know where it lives. Your body isn’t aware that there is more fat on your hips, thighs, or belly area. Do you want to lose “belly fat”? Then lose weight. Want to “trim inches off your waist?” Lose weight.
(I’m trying to think of other asinine things that I’ve heard recently, but nothing seems to be coming to mind.)
Wraps, tummy toners, and random other so-called “beauty products” do nothing to help you lose weight or “tone up” a specific area. Is it possible that they are dehydrating you and, therefore, giving your stomach/arms/butt a tighter, smoother appearance? Sure. But, spending hours in a sauna or eating the latest diet pill will not change the pure and simple fact: If you want to get rid of “stubborn, unsightly body fat” (that’s another good one), there is no way to do it selectively outside of liposuction (and that’s because doctors are physically removing the fat cells from that area) or new technology, such as CoolSculpting, which actually freezes the fat cells, causing them to die and become metabolized by the body as waste. I have no experience with either of those methods, so I’m unable to tell you if they work, but there have been studies that show that liposuction is not a permanent solution and fat cells may migrate back from other areas of the body. I also think there is no “shortcut” to healthy living.
Doing additional exercises (specifically: abs!) to try to “whittle a shredded core” (thanks late night TV for that one) is just as ridiculous. The saying “Abs are made in the kitchen” is a cliche I both love and hate, but in this instance, it’s entirely true. If I only had 30 minutes to spend in the gym each day, and I spent that 30 minutes doing crunches and sit ups until I couldn’t breathe, the likelihood that my core would be any more “shredded” than the girl next to me with a better diet is slim. You cannot and will not see the muscle underneath the subcutaneous fat. In fact, this brings me to my next point.
Here’s how you can address those areas you hate
We can spot build. Do you want a bigger butt? Let’s get to working on some glute-centric exercises. We can focus on the specific muscle groups that we want to build up. I think most people know this, at least partially. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have internet memes of guys at the gym with spindly legs that say, “Don’t skip leg day.” You can selectively build the body.
But, the better question is: Do you want to? Let me again address the guy who skipped leg day. Why do we want that? Do you want to look like a real-life version of Johnny Bravo? I think that most people would agree with me that we want a well-rounded physique. If you had 30 minutes to spend in the gym, would you rather use your time working on “glamour” muscles? Or would you rather have a program that gives you compound exercises to target more than one area at a time?
If you’re looking to correct “problem” areas, the best place to start is by strength training. And, more importantly, finding a well-rounded program that includes some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to get your heart rate up between sets of weight training. This gives you the added calorie burn of cardio, but also the “metabolic after burn” that everyone loves about strength training. Finding a program that you can stick to, as well as get stronger with, will be the key to building muscle and losing weight, in a healthy way. I’ve said this several times before but, a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same. But a pound of muscle is much more dense, which means it takes up less room. And, ultimately, the scale does not matter. You can make big changes in your body composition and see very little change on the scale. The key to having a “shredded, chiseled rock-hard sexy core” (that hurt to say, informercial) is not about doing ab exercises until the cows come home. It’s about reducing total body fat, increasing your lean body mass, and having a well-rounded diet. These three things together, not separately, will help you to correct your “problem areas.”
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