Spot Training Is A Fitness Myth That Won't Get You The Workout You Want

Over the past decade, we have all witnessed the rapid evolution of the body positivity movement. And while we as a society have progressed to build a more accepting, inclusive view of a diverse range of body shapes and sizes, the world is still chock full of ridiculous beauty standards. For instance, many women idealize the curvy figure of a large, toned butt and a full chest. Meanwhile, they are simultaneously expected to have slim waists and minimal body fat in every other area.

Taylor Swift described this exact dilemma in her documentary "Miss Americana," "If you're thin enough, then you don't have that a** that everybody wants. But if you have enough weight on you to have an a**, your stomach isn't flat enough." Yet, millions of people are constantly still trying to achieve that impossible goal through fad diets and exercise methods like spot training. Unfortunately, trying to target specific parts of your body with spot training is one of the common summer weight loss mistakes a lot of people make.

Why spot training does not work

Say you want to lose fat on your thighs, so you start doing an excessive amount of clamshells and bridges. This would be considered an attempt at "spot training" or "spot reduction." Unfortunately, a study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that this effort isn't practical. The report stated, "Our results show that when a muscle group is trained, changes in fat mass may take place in body areas not necessarily adjacent to the trained muscle group."

While the study showed that training could lead to an overall decrease in body fat, there was no significant impact on the isolated areas the subjects paid particular attention to. Professor of nutrition and exercise science at George Washington University Todd Miller explained this concept bluntly to The Washington Post. "Fat in your body is like gas in your gas tank. Thinking you can reduce fat from your stomach alone is like saying you want to use gas only from the right side of your gas tank," Miller remarked.

What methods can minimize body fat

We all store body fat differently. Some people hold onto these deposits in their stomachs, while others may hold them in their thighs or arms. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness, told The Washington Post, "Genetics is the most important determinant for where fat is stored," along with gender and age. So, again, whatever your natural fat distribution looks like has nothing to do with how many crunches or squats you have in your workout routine.

If you do want to lose fat, you can work towards whole body fat reduction. Per Very Well Fit, this comes down to burning more calories than you consume, which can be accomplished through regular exercise and a healthy diet. And while you can't hand-pick where you'd like the fat to fall off, you can select specific muscles you'd like to build in strength and tone. Healthline reports that this training method is referred to as "spot toning" and is considered an effective practice.