It's not uncommon for people to fixate on one body part and begin a quest to reshape the area with targeted training. Whether you want to whittle your middle, tone flabby arms or obliterate "cankles," you may have to climb an uphill battle.
Modifying just one body part requires significant time and effort. In some cases, it just isn't possible. But you can lose fat and increase muscle tone in an overall attempt to get fit.
Spot Reduction Basics
The most common body parts folks want to tone or reshape include the hips, thighs, buttocks, arms and waist. You can find "spot reduction" workouts on the Internet that target each of these areas.
Unfortunately, there's no way to target fat loss. Doing a ton of crunches isn't going to get you 6-pack abs, and 100 tricep dips every day won’t obliterate arm fat. But there are a few things you can do to build strength and help tone your trouble zones. My top three:
- Eat a clean diet. No amount of bicep curls or lunges can compensate for a crummy diet. Your best bet to lose fat and build muscle: Eat a wholesome diet boasting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Ditch the processed foods and high-calorie snacks. Then throw in nuts, seeds and even chocolate milk after a workout to enhance muscle repair and recovery.
- Exercise. If you want to lose fat in a particular area, you have to exercise regularly. Strength training is important, but to lose fat you also need to incorporate vigorous cardiovascular workouts into your exercise regimen.
- Switch things up. Your body performs best when it's constantly challenged. So instead of sticking with your standard 30-minute run, try interval training or plyometrics. Then pay attention to how your body feels afterward. Sometimes switching up your workouts is the quickest way to lose inches.
Most important, resist the urge to adopt a "quick fix" method for toning and shaping your most stubborn body parts. While there are plenty of advertisements and testimonials touting the perks of these approaches, they simply won't work until you address the underlying issue.
Tone Up Your Trouble Zones
Fat buildup in certain areas usually results from a combination of genetics, age and lifestyle factors. Maybe you carry extra weight in your belly, hips or thighs. Or maybe you're toting around excess fat in the back of your arms. If you want to slim down or tone up those areas, start with diet and exercise, not a spot-reducing workout.
Hormonal changes for both men and women can contribute to weight gain in specific areas. But if you start unexpectedly gaining weight in specific areas, it makes sense to check in with a healthcare provider. Gastrointestinal issues can cause bloating around the waist. Thyroid conditions can affect your weight. And a number of health conditions can cause wasting and an inability to build muscle.
Nick Parkinson, M.Ed., AT, ATC, TSAC-F Supervisor of Athletic Training with Henry Ford Sports Medicine, also leads Sports Performance training at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine. He is a regular contributor to Henry Ford LiveWell. Learn more about Nick.