Short answer

Sorry, you can't dictate where on your body you'd like to lose fat from, or how much, or in what order.

Long(er) answer

904ad44732e96bbf417f2cc35aa7156f

Triceps kickbacks for batwings.

Bicycle crunches for love handles.

Thigh squeeze thing-a-ma-jigs for slimmer legs.

Nope.

Nope.

Nope.

You can't control where on your body you'd like to lose fat from, or in what order you'd like to lose fat, or the particular amount of fat you'd like to lose.

And attempting to do so with a million body part specific targeted exercises is a futile effort. Quite frankly, you've got better uses of your time (and other things to be prioritizing).


There are two ways to change your body composition (how your body looks):

  1. Through fat loss
  2. Through muscle gain

Fat loss, as much as we'd like to be, isn't site specific.

But, muscle gain is.

Want to change how your body looks? The key is to combine both. Lose fat AND build muscle. And when it comes to building muscle, strength training is one of the very best tools to help you do it.

Strength training in general, can noticeably change your physique  over time though, as increasing your level of physical activity (and your muscle mass) can have you looking leaner overall. This could happen even if you aren't putting a strong focus on fat loss.

Your new spot reduction formula

Lose body fat + add lean muscle = spot reduction.

Think spot enhancement, not spot reduction

By focusing on and building certain muscles and muscle groups it's possible to work some "magic" and create the illusion of spot reduction. A comparatively wider back, for example, creates the appearance of a smaller waist.

female-pull-up

And adding in some more targeted exercises for specific muscles or areas can help to "bring up" lagging body parts both in terms of strength and how they look.

Think: a set of bulging biceps, or a juicier booty.

(Don't try to add tons of extra work for every single body part all the time though, you'll be much better off picking one or two -seriously, no more -areas to focus on during a 4-6ish week period.)

 Tomato, Tomahto

I'm just going to say it.

Ready?

Most people, when hoping spot reduction isn't a myth, are looking for a... "toned [insert body part here]".

Eek, I said it.

Toned.

The fitness industry is torn on the  word "toned".

On the positive front, it's traditionally been used as a more "friendly" way to introduce strength training. To make it less intimidating. More palatable. To persuade those (particularly anyone who identifies as female) to join the gym.

On the negative front, it's used to encourage and support everyone in becoming slimmer, smaller, leaner, somehow less than what they are now. To equate skinny with sexiness and strength with bulkiness.

As if things need to be either or. As if losing weight and being leaner is the only goal to be had.

It's not, of course. You might have those goals. You might not.

But, I'm 100% okay with toned.

I won't scoff at you for using it.

I won't judge you for using it to describe your goals.

Yes, it's kind of a nonsense term. But, it's terminology people know and feel comfortable using.

What's important is going deeper than just toned. What does the person saying it really mean?

When people tell me they want to be toned I never automatically assume what body type they're referring to.

A "toned" look is completely subjective. Same goes for "muscular", "skinny", "big", "bulky" or "lean".

One person's toned might be another's skinny. One person's big might be another's muscular.

Most of the time however, after digging a little bit deeper, what they're after is a body with lower body fat and muscle definition, i.e., spot reduction.

The phrase - I don't want to build muscle, just tone up - is one you know now the real truth behind.

In order to tone, you need to lower your body fat and build muscle definition.

Whatever you want to call it, here's how to do it:

1. Strength train.You have to build muscle in order to have some to expose! Lifting weights will not only boost your health, increase your confidence, help keep you injury free and get you amazingly strong (just to name a few things) but it's a huge factor in changing your body composition.

fitness-594143_960_720

Losing weight without strength training is 100% doable, but won't produce the muscle building and definition you're looking for. Things like Zumba, Barre classes, spinning, yoga and Pilates, all have physical and mental health benefits, especially if you enjoy them, but they don't take the place of strength training.

2. Spend some time in a caloric surplus. Combining strength training with eating more calories is the best way to build more muscle mass and is optimal for muscle growth.

3. Spend some time in a caloric deficit Lowering body fat % is key in highlighting lean muscle. You can't be in fat loss mode indefinitely, however. Although it's different for everyone focusing on dedicated fat loss for 8-16 weeks at a time is a general time frame.

TL;DR: You can't predict or choose exactly where on your body you want to lose fat from, or in what order. Fat loss isn't site specific, but muscle building is. By focusing on building certain muscles & muscle groups it's possible to create the illusion of spot reduction.