THERE are all kinds of training and fitness “myths” doing the rounds at gyms. Take “spot reduction” for example. This
THERE are all kinds of training and fitness “myths” doing the rounds at gyms. Take “spot reduction” for example. This is the idea that if you work a specific muscle group you will decrease the amount of fat in that area. The most common example of this is people focusing on abdominal exercises in an effort to lose weight in their stomach area.
In reality, there is no such thing as spot reduction. You will never get a flat stomach just by performing a thousand sit-ups. The reason for this is simple: a muscle does not own the fat that surrounds it.
Sit-ups will definitely strengthen your abdominal muscles, but sit-ups alone will not get rid of the layer of fat that is covering the muscles.
To lose fat anywhere on your body you need to burn calories by following a programme that involves both cardiovascular training and weight training. In doing so, you will decrease fat stores throughout your entire body — including the areas you want to get rid of.
You may notice that you sometimes lose fat in some areas more quickly than others. This is simply due to a genetic selective pattern rather than a particular type of exercise.
It is a well-known fact that men tend to gain weight in their abdominal region, whereas women tend to gain weight in their buttocks. If fat was mobilised, or used from the stores near the exercising muscle, then you would expect both men and women to lose weight in the same areas when following a similar programme.However, losing weight in the lower region is much more difficult for women than it is for men. This is because women need this important support during pregnancy.
Another common myth is that muscle gained during a strength-training programme will turn to fat once you stop strength training.
Again, muscle and fat are two different tissues which are completely independent of one another. If you stop weight training, your muscles will shrink because the stimulus to increase or maintain their size is no longer there but by no means can they, or will they, turn into fat.
If you feel your body is becoming less toned or, for lack of a better word, “softer” it is simply because your proportion of fat to muscle has changed. You may not have gained any more fat but it is now dominant simply because you have lost muscle.
Another possible reason for the change is a common problem that exists with many people, primarily athletes. They stop exercising, but maintain their eating habits, and thus slowly begin to put on weight. If you were exercising but have stopped, be sure to make dietary changes to compensate for the decrease in daily energy expenditure.
So be sure tkeep active and keep lifting — and watch those calories on the lead-up to Christmas!
* Richard Hawkins is a personal trainer at Expert Fitness Studio on Bell Street. Contact (01491) 413416 or go to www.expertfitnessstudio.com
A 2006 study published in the American Journal Of Physiology seemed to indicate that spot reduction may be possible, although the measured results were trivial. In the study, conducted at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), scientists had male subjects perform single-leg exercises with a light weight for 30 consecutive minutes. The researchers then measured the amount of blood flow to the subjects’ subcutaneous fat cells in both the exercising and resting thighs, as well as the amount of lipolysis(the breakdown of fat) from those fat cells. The scientists observed increases in blood flow and lipolysis in the exercising leg when compared to the resting leg. The study suggested that during exercise, body fat is preferentially used from the area being trained, but at a magnitude that has little to no practical significance.