Health Curiosities

The Truth about Spot-Reducing

Use Strength Training to Firm Your Problem Spots.

We've heard it a million times -- there is no way to spot-reduce your trouble areas. You've been told time and time again that 100 leg lifts a day won't eliminate your dreaded saddlebags and that no amount of abdominal strengthening will decrease those love handles. But that's not entirely true.

It is true that you cannot direct your body to lose weight in one specific area. If you are someone who puts on weight in your midsection and you're carrying around an extra 20 pounds, no amount of crunches will flatten it. Why? The crunches will strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles; however, you won't be able to see the results because they'll be hidden under the extra weight. You will need to lose the extra pounds in order to reveal your newly toned muscles.

That's the bad news. The good news is that as you continue to incorporate strengthening exercises into your routine, you will build more muscle mass in your body. Every extra pound of muscle you develop will burn an extra 30 to 50 calories per day, even at rest. This explains why people with a higher percentage of muscle in their body have higher metabolisms. As you tone and strengthen your muscles, and if your food intake does not increase, you will start to lose weight. If you are someone who carries weight in your midsection, you will begin to watch it melt away, revealing those washboard abs you have worked so hard for.

Many people abandon strength-training exercises, assuming that a cardio routine is what they need in order to eliminate their trouble spots. Cardiovascular exercise does burn calories and can be useful when you want to kick-start weight loss. However, this type of training does not provide you with a long-term increase in your metabolism the way strength training does. Studies show that weight loss increases by 56 per cent when cardiovascular and strength exercises are combined.

An additional bonus of strength training is that when the excess superficial fat is eliminated, the skin that lies over a toned muscle will appear tighter and smoother than it would if you lost weight but never toned or strengthened.

Many women are concerned that targeted strengthening exercises will build muscle mass, resulting in that area looking bulkier, not slimmer. But strength training involving several sets of multiple repetitions with moderate weights will not result in huge muscles. This type of training tones muscles, making the area look firmer and the skin look tighter.

The next time someone tells you that spot-training doesn't work, remember that what they are really saying is that if you have 25 pounds to lose and you carry most of it on your thighs, leg lifts alone aren't the solution you're looking for. However, when combined with proper diet and regular cardio, strengthening the muscles in your problem areas is definitely not a waste of time. Your newly toned muscles won't just help you lose weight and reach your fitness goals - they'll make you proud to show off the body that was hiding underneath.

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