Spot Reduction: Busting a Myth

We’ve all seen the ads and programs promising to shed fat off those problem areas. They promise to show off your abs, thighs, arms, and just about every other part of your body. Many even come with money back guarantees – so they must be true, right? Sorry to tell you, but you can pop those pills and feel the burn for endless hours – but those problem areas are likely going to remain problem areas.

So what is the spot reduction myth?

The concept of spot reduction follows the myth that by working a particular muscle group to an extreme level, or in a different manner, you can reduce the fat around that area. While focusing exercises on a particular body part may result in reshaping that area by developing the associated muscles, those exercises are not going to burn fat solely from that area.

First, let’s understand the caloric impact of focusing on specific muscle groups rather than large muscle groups, and compound movements. Working only specific muscles, such as your abs or thighs is not going to burn as many calories as when you utilize large muscle groups in compound movements. Or, simply put, you will burn more calories performing squats, which work thighs, hips, buttocks, quadriceps, hamstrings, in addition to your core, than with an exercise that uses solely your abs – which is a smaller muscle group.

But you say wait, I am still burning calories – so I lose fat in those areas, yes? Not really. Your body burns fat from all sources, not just specific zones. So while people will find that they gain and lose fat in certain areas more than others, in general, your body will burn fat from the whole, not a specific zone.

So if you are trying these spot reduction methods and programs, you are most likely going to achieve frustration rather than results.

If you want to shed fat, first, understand that your diet is going to account for about 80% of your goal. Second, you need to take that time to derive your nutrient requirements, to ensure that you are both taking in healthy food options to fuel your fitness efforts and create a calorie deficit that will enable you to burn fat, and lastly, engage in a fitness program that is designed to put as much of your body to work as possible, to maximize your fat burning muscle potential.

Will it take time – yes, if done properly. But the results will be worth it. You will have lean muscle and lower body fat to show off your work. In the end, save your money, and stay away from the programs promising spot reduction. Remember, it’s a myth. And while anything is always possible, you are unlikely to find yourself the exception the general rules of human physiology.

Be smart, and…

Train Hard!

Dress for the weather

Cold Weather Exercise

Exercise should be enjoyed year round. The colder winter months should not stop your efforts to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. However, with the onset of colder and wetter days, you need to be aware of steps to take to ensure you are protecting your body from risks associated from cold weather. With a few simple steps or changes to your exercise routine, you can be sure to continue your fitness goals through the winter. Moreover, exercise in the winter can offset the feelings of boredom or depression known to be associated with shorter days, and increasing amounts of time inside.

So here are some ways to stay safe, so you can exercise through those colder days:

  1. Dress in lose layers. Tight clothes can restrict blood flow, making it harder for your body to regulate its temperature. Moreover, loose layers offer the advantage of trapping pockets of air that act as natural insulation against cold weather and enable you to quickly make small adjustments to your insulation (by removing layers) should you find yourself overheating.
  2. Wear an outer waterproof layer on wet days. Winter is not like the summer, when wet days can feel good against rising temperatures. In contrast, wet clothes in winter months or cold weather can work to speed up the process by which your body loses heat, and increases your risk of hypothermia.
  3. Wear reflective elements. Colder months are known for shorter days. If you are out during darker hours, be sure to stay safe by wearing either reflective clothing or items.
  4. Wear a hat, scarf, and gloves. Be sure to insulate all the areas where your body can lose heat. There are several brands of outdoor exercise clothing lines that offer insulated gloves, hats, and scarves for exercise that are both light weight and easy to carry if you over heat and need to take them off.
  5. Take adequate fluids prior to exercise. You may not realize it, but even in colder weather your body loses moisture in sweat. To avoid the risk of dehydration, be sure to consume adequate fluids prior to and during exercise. You may not feel like you need fluids in colder weather, but you do.
  6. Check the weather conditions. Last thing you want in colder weather is to be colder or wetter than you planned. Always check the weather conditions for your intended exercise time, and plan appropriately. And accept that there are some conditions that will make it smarter to remain inside.
  7. Warm up prior to exercising. Unlike warmer weather, your body can be stiffer with less blood flow in colder weather. Stretch out your muscles, do some low intensity jumping jacks, or high knees – just get the blood going, and thus warming your body, prior to hitting the cold weather. This does not mean work up a sweat – just spend a few minutes loosening and warming up.

Hypothermia Risks and Detection

As with any exposure to cold weather, even if properly prepared, you need to be aware of the risks of hypothermia. Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature, usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. The risk of cold exposure increases as the winter months arrive. However, you should be aware that any time you are exposed to cold temperatures, such as a mountain hike in spring or cold wet winds during a summer ocean sailing trip, you can also be at risk of hypothermia.

Normal body temperature averages 98.6 degrees. With hypothermia, core temperature drops below 95 degrees. In severe hypothermia, core body temperature can drop to 82 degrees or lower.

Hypothermia symptoms for adults include:

  • Shivering, which may stop as hypothermia progresses (shivering is actually a good sign that a person’s heat regulation systems are still active. )
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Drowsiness or exhaustion
  • Slurred or mumbled speech
  • Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps
  • A slow, weak pulse
  • In severe hypothermia, a person may be unconscious without obvious signs of breathing or a pulse

Hypothermia is a potentially life-threatening condition that needs emergency medical attention.

If medical care isn’t immediately available:

  • Remove any wet clothes, hats, gloves, shoes, and socks
  • Protect the person against wind, drafts, and further heat loss with warm, dry clothes and blankets
  • Move gently to a warm, dry shelter as soon as possible
  • Begin rewarming the person with extra clothing. Use warm blankets. Other helpful items for warming are: an electric blanket to the torso area and hot packs and heating pad on the torso, armpits, neck, and groin; however, these can cause burns to the skin. Use your own body heat if nothing else is available
  • Take the person’s temperature if a thermometer is available
  • Offer warm liquids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine, which speed up heat loss. Don’t try to give fluids to an unconscious person

In the end, cold weather should be anything but a barrier to your fitness efforts. Plan, adjust, and be smart. And most importantly, know the risks. So throw on your shoes, layer up properly, hydrate, warm up, and…

-Train Hard!

Proper Exercise Form

Good form is critical to both safe exercise and properly developing efficient movement mechanics and conditioning. Whether you are performing exercise consisting of running, resistance training, yoga, cross-fit, swimming, or any sport – developing and maintaining good form is essential.

When you perform movement with good form, your body is working as an effective unit. By using proper techniques, you will feel control of your body and motion, and reduce wasted motions that decrease physical effectiveness and increase the chances of injury.

Achieving Good Form

First, there is no one “perfect” or “absolute” way to move. There are several factors that come into play – the level of difficulty of the motion, level of resistance, and specific body mechanics of the individual performing the movement.

Take the basic bench press for example – while there are some constants in what defines good form for a bench press – level grip, evenly raising the bar, keeping your torso on the bench, not over arching your back, etc – there are specifics such as hand width, angle of arm to torso, exact position on chest to lower the bar, etc that will depend on the individual –  both physically and their goals.

What you are looking for in your motion is steady, controlled movements that work with the mechanics of your body – not against them. If you have to arch your body, swing to build momentum, cannot hold your arms or legs in stable positions in resistance training; or, use uneven strides, excessively swing your arms, make quick directional changes without proper feet planting, etc in cardio or sports activities, you are not demonstrating good form.

Here are three things to introduce into your training to maintain good form:

  1. Reduce the level. This could mean decreasing speed, repetitions, or the weight load – of a combination. Continuing to practice or exercise with poor form is only going to reduce your progress and increase your risk of injury. Get rid of your ego, and reduce what you are doing. The numbers, whatever they are, will come back over time, and with better form.
  2. Accept frustration. Good form, in any physical activity, means taking the time to master the motion. This is not going to come overnight – and not without mistakes. Be willing to make mistakes, and be patient.
  3. Consider a trainer or coach. Find someone who can assess your skills, and give you honest feedback on how to improve your form. And sorry, but this coach is not YouTube. Find someone who is trained in your exercise element, and have them assess YOU (something YouTube cannot do). And be willing to accept their views. No matter how long you may have been doing the activity, they may see something you cannot feel.

Above all, remember that changing and improving your form takes time. Bad habits are hard to overcome. But your efforts will pay off, you will move more efficiently, lift more, move faster, and increase your body’s resistance to injury. Stick with it – good form is worth the effort.

-Train Hard!


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