By Brian Calkins, Cincinnati Ohio Personal Fitness Trainer
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by clients, friends and people looking to improve their bodies is… "How do I get rid of this?" And “this” might be the excess body fat around the middle, the back of the arms, the glutes, inner or outer thighs, etc.
I'll let you in on a secret: The answer is the same for any body part, but no one seems to know that you simply cannot reduce an area by doing more and more exercise for that area.
In an attempt to clear up the myth of spot reduction, here are the keys to strengthening and shaping your muscles, enhancing your heart and lung function and burning off excess stubborn body fat, including your trouble spots.
You need a regular routine of resistance training and aerobic exercise. Your program should be progressively challenging, and changed on a frequent basis, like every 3 – 4 weeks. The challenging part simply means that you must exercise at an intensity that takes you just beyond what your muscles (and heart and lungs) are capable of doing today. When you ask your muscles to do more than they are capable, they in turn respond by becoming stronger and more efficient, leading to a leaner, healthier physique.
What does a challenging workout feel like? It can be as simple as performing one more repetition on a resistance training exercise. You never want to stop your strength training movement until the target muscles reach momentary failure while maintaining proper form (no cheating to allow for additional reps!). I watch so many well-intentioned exercise enthusiasts, working out 3-5 times every week, who just go through the motions. Remember, our body as a whole and our muscles specifically, only respond to the effort and stimulus that we provide. Little stimulus equals little results. Always workout in a safe manner, but make sure you challenge your muscles sufficiently.
Another vital factor to stimulate changes in your body, and thus the reduction in your trouble spots, is to change your routine frequently. Ideally you’ll dedicate 3-4 weeks cycling the focus of your exercise between adding lean muscle tissue (lower reps), shaping those muscles (higher reps) and then burning the fat stores around the muscles (emphases on supersets, functional training and fast pace circuit training exercise). The key is this: Before the body adapts to any given routine you’ll introduce a new stimulus to bring about additional positive change while preventing you from reaching the plateau.
From a cardiovascular exercise standpoint, we’ll make it simple. You need to elevate your heart rate into YOUR appropriate target heart zone. Everybody’s exercise heart rate is different and based on your age and existing fitness level. If you’re performing at too low or high an intensity level, you end up frustrated with your results. To have your target heart rate zones determined for you, visit the target heart rate formula on my site here: www.briancalkins.com/HeartRate.htm.
And the final piece of the puzzle to target and rid yourself, once and for all, of your stubborn areas, is to eat right!
And of course, we’ve heard the words “eat right” or some version thereof about one hundred times this week alone! Eat right simply means to put the right fuel and building material into the body at regular intervals allowing your body to optimally use the macronutrient substrates . . . and then . . . to refuel again.
Translated into English - eat frequently, and in every meal get a mix of natural complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and essential fats. These are meals that raise your metabolic thermostat to allow for optimal body fat reduction.
Even more simply, strive to eat a lean protein (chicken breast), a starchy complex natural carbohydrate (whole grains), and a fibrous carbohydrate (whole fruits and vegetables) every 3 - 4 hours, or as close to that as is comfortably possible. Avoid or minimize simple sugars, saturated and hydrogenated fats, and get your meals from a variety of sources all found in the perimeter of your favorite grocery store.
And remember, there isn't anything in a bottle that will make up for the absence of supportive meals. If you can't get to a meal, you can use a meal replacement powder that contains those components mentioned above.
So, in summary, when you apply appropriate resistance and cardiovascular training, your body will make changes. It will reduce body fat stores, increase muscle tone, and get better at delivering oxygen to your tissues – all in an effort to make you look, perform and feel better than you probably have in years!
If your workouts have gotten a little boring, mix them up. Add some resistance; increase your speed of cardio. Do SOMETHING different. Join a fitness boot camp program, the latest Gravity Group fitness program, commit to the Total Fitness Makeover, learn new exercises, try something fitness related that looks like fun. Most importantly, give your body a reason to change and it will. The rules are the same for any trouble spot you want to work off.