Spot training is one of the most persistent fitness myths out there yet perhaps the hardest to break down. Women continually ask me for exercises that will firm up their inner thighs, get rid of that extra belly fat or “sculpt” their butts and triceps. It’s no wonder the message won’t die when gyms feature group fitness classes with names like “All Abs” and “Butts ‘n Gutts” and infomercials guarantee results with equipment like the “Ab Coaster” and the “Thigh Blaster.” Almost every elliptical machine now features a way to “tone your arms” while you get your cardio in and people are walking around in sweat belts – sold on the promise that belly sweat will melt fat right off their gut.
The simple truth is this: Fat makes up the layer between your muscles and your skin and no matter how much muscle you build, if you don’t address the excess fat, those muscles will be obscured. You don’t get to pick the area from which fat leaves your body. When you exercise a particular muscle, your body doesn’t burn the fat closest to that muscle – it pulls from fat stores all over your body.
True muscle definition requires both fat loss and muscle growth. The most effective way to build muscle is with heavier, compound movements like squats and deadlifts two to three times per week. Cardio is also necessary as it burns excess calories. Nutrition is perhaps the most critical barrier standing between you and your desired body composition. Without it, even the most loyal exercisers will be hard-pressed to reach their goals. Finally, sleep keeps your hormones in balance which plays a significant role in your ability to lose weight and build muscle.
I think that the most important “spot” to train is the one right between your ears – your MIND. Being fit requires a commitment to a lifestyle that is not based on convenience. There are no shortcuts – you need to put in the time at the gym, in the kitchen and on your pillow. You need to continually juggle priorities in your life to fit the ones critical to your health at the top. You need to stay motivated to make good decisions in a culture that sells you every option NOT to. Training your mind to take this on every day is one spot that I would spend some extra reps on.