Targeting This, Toning That…

Friday Aug 5, 2011

The reality is that most people are not satisfied with their physical appearance, mostly due to weight issues.  Overall body fat or especially local fat distribution is typically the main concern.

When consulting with nutrition or fitness specialists, people ask how to reduce the amount of fat in a certain area/part of their body.  For example, an overweight woman might ask how she can get her arms firmer with more muscle definition/tone, or a man asking how to get rid of the “beer belly”.  These kinds of people usually assume (or prefer to assume for the sake of ease) that activating the specific muscle under the adipose tissue (fat) will decrease the amount of fat in the desired area. People often will work out a certain part of their body with the intention of decreasing the amount of fat in the area (bicep curls to decrease arm fat or crunches to decrease belly fat).  This is a very big mistake that so many make, which leads to frustration and basically no results.

A human body has a certain amount of fat cells.  When fat is stored in these cells the body decides where to store it as well as where to dispose of it (fat loss).  This fat distribution is affected by factors such as age, genetics, and gender (hormones). It is basically impossible (or at least very tough) to target the loss of adipose tissue in a desired area.  When the body is losing fat, the fat is basically removed uniformly throughout the body.  Usually, the toughest part to get rid of that fat will be the abdominal area (It’s most practical to carry fat in that area; due to human anatomy, it is the center of the body).

Therefore, if you want to lower the amount of fat in a certain part of your body, you will have to make a caloric deficit as well as increase in energy expenditure (physical activity).  Cardiovascular activity lasting about 60 minutes, about 5 times a week is best.  Your body will dictate where you will lose the fat (usually uniformly).

When you do not have excess fat weight on your body, you may use the basic principles of strength/weight training to target a specific muscle group in your body or tone certain areas.  Specificity is basically the main principle you would want to apply in this situation; in which you apply or perform exercises that target the desired outcome or perform particular movements to train for a certain sport or athletic event.  For example, for hockey players – targeting the inner and outer thighs is best, basketball players – should target the shoulders, etc.

It’s important to remember that there is no easy way out when it comes to your physical appearance and health.  To feel your best you should: aspire to live a healthy lifestyle, eat right, and exercise at least 30 minutes a day preferably all days of the week.  When you rich the healthy body fat, you may start working on specific areas of the body for toning and muscle definition.


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