“With the right exercise, you can target fat loss”

Misconception: “With the right exercise, you can target fat loss.”  Sadly, an extra set of triceps press-downs won’t magically tone up “teacher’s arm,” (the tricep muscle that effortlessly shivers back in forth while we write on the white board).

Nobody knows the trouble (spots) I’ve seen…

It’s a misconception that we can get rid of “trouble spots” by training specific sites on the body.  It is well-established that there is a site-specific response in bone density with both upper and lower body training.(1)  This means, doing biceps curls or squats will strengthen the bone in those areas.  Au contraire, when it comes to our fat tissue…

You cannot target fat loss

Fat deposition (and loss) is dictated by total changes in weight and body composition.(2)  Even with decreases in body fat percentage, genetic make-up is still a major determinant of where fat loss will ultimately occur on the body.  For example, many people might lose fat in their faces or arms before other areas.

Not to fret!

There is no reason to stop training triceps or perform abdominal exercises.  Those exercises will still tone muscle in those areas.  Targeting muscle strength is different than targeting fat loss.  Targeting muscle does not automatically melt away the surrounding fat, but it does create a better toned, stronger muscle.  The extra work to do this will help accomplish the initial fat-burning goal by:

(a) Burning more calories overall and,

(b) Raising metabolism (muscle is necessary to keep up a high metabolic rate).

Recall, working out more and eating a tad less helps keep “trouble spots” at bay.  When we expend more energy, we can count on having burned more calories for the day – fat can then be used for energy processes versus storage, alone.

Build my program

Make sure your training program has a combination of cardiovascular exercises with weight-bearing ones.  What this will look like: get in the gym at least 4-5 days per week.  Two of those days should be strength days, the other three should be cardio-focused.  Here’s an example:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
30 minute walk or run 30 minute bike or elliptical 45 minutes total body strength training Off 30 minute run, bike or elliptical 45 minutes total body strength training Off


(1) Winters-Stone KM. Snow CM. Site-specific response of bone to exercise in premenopausal women. Bone. 39(6):1203-9, 2006 Dec.

(2) Kyle UG. Melzer K. Kayser B. Picard-Kossovsky M. Gremion G. Pichard C. Eight-year longitudinal changes in body composition in healthy Swiss adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 25(6):493-501, 2006 Dec.


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