Spot Reduction in Exercise – Fact or Fallacy?

Spot reduction has been a term thrown around in the fitness industry for years.  The idea of being able to reduce fat in a specific region of your body by doing additional exercise for that particular area.  Everyone wants to be able to accomplish it, but we’ve been told that it is not possible.  If you Google “spot reduction”, you get a variety of websites talking about the myth involved with it.  ExRx.net states that “Contrary to what the infomercials suggest, there is no such thing as spot reduction. Fat is lost throughout the body in a pattern dependent upon genetics, sex (hormones), and age. Overall body fat must be reduced to lose fat in any particular area. Although fat is lost or gained throughout the body, it seems the first area to get fat, or the last area to become lean, is the midsection (in men and some women, especially after menopause) and hips and thighs (in women and few men)”.  Wikipedia has a similar take on the matter stating that “Spot reduction refers to the fallacy that fat can be targeted for reduction from a specific area of the body and that it can be achieved through exercise of specific muscles in the desired area, such as exercising the abdominal muscles in an effort to lose weight in or around one’s midsection”.  This may well be the case with traditional exercise, but what if I told you that there might be another way!

A research study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2012 focused on this matter, although the big difference is that traditional exercise was not utilized in the study but rather isometric contractions.  The study utilized a group of non-obese, non-smoking, younger sedentary women and focused on a knee extension exercise involving muscles throughout your thigh (quadriceps and surrounding muscles).  The interesting part comes when you look at the results of the study.  Using positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Heinonen et al found that adipose tissue blood flow adjacent to the active muscles increased by almost 700% during continuous isometric exercise at a higher intensity.

Now, what does this mean for you?  Adipose tissue blood flow is directly related to metabolizing fats for the use of energy.  If you are able to increase the amount of blood flow through your fat cells, you will inherently burn away more of that fat.  The research study did show that the increased blood flow was adjacent to the active muscles, so when doing the knee extension and working your quadriceps, you can expect to see increased adipose tissue blood flow within the vicinity of the working muscles.  If we extrapolate what the results are showing, we can apply this to any other muscles throughout your body.  If you are carrying around excess abdominal fat, it is possible to help decrease the amount of fat in that area by performing higher intensity isometric contractions for your abdominals.

Here’s the best part – Matrix of Motion Fitness Studios puts a lot of emphasis on isometric strength training utilizing the Isophit!  If you are still unsure about what the Isophit is or how it can really benefit you, come in to the studio and experience it first hand!  With this new research that is out there, I’m excited to see what kind of changes we can make with isometric training and I hope that you are too!

Sources:
Regulation of Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue Blood Flow During Exercise In Humans.  Journal of Applied Physiology 112(6): 1059-63, March 2012
http://www.exrx.net/WeightTraining/Myths.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spot_reduction

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