“Give me abdominal exercises to lose fat around my stomach! Can I do triceps exercises to get rid of my granny arms? These are statements or questions I have heard more times than I can count. It is a question steeped in marketing, wishful thinking and a desire for that society driven “six-pack” and or “buns of steel.” The “spot reduction” theory is based around the act of selectively reducing fatty deposits in targeted areas by exercising the specific area. It seems logical to an extent. If a client works a muscle, then the fat around the area is used to produce the energy needed for the movement.
Unfortunately this is not the way it works!
If only it was that simple!!
Let’s briefly look at why we burn fat from the whole body:
When we need to complete a movement… say climbing a set of stairs
— We use glucose (carbohydrate) as our first pick to create/fuel a muscular contraction/movement.
— This glucose is either floating in blood stream or the liver (which stores glucose) gradually releases it into the blood stream.
— Once the glucose runs out, we tap into our fat source by way of a signal from the brain. This results in a release of triglycerides.
— This literally breaks up the fat cell (triglyceride) into a fatty acid and a glycerol molecule. The fatty acid the travels through the circulatory system, to the heart, liver and /or lungs (if blood has time to be oxygenated).
— From there it heads to the working muscles where it goes through a process to release the energy to make movement
— No matter which muscle needs the fuel, the molecules (fats, carbohydrates or proteins) travel around the circulatory system.
So all in all, it is not as easy as grabbing a fat cell from the specific muscle and using it’s energy. It is essentially easier and more efficient to steal those fatty acids from everywhere. We can’t choose where we lose our fat from. Sorry guys!
There is research to back up this idea.
In 1984, a study found that a sit-up program does not preferentially reduce fat cell size or fat thickness in the abdominal region in comparison to other body sites. In 2007, another study determined that an upper-body program resulted in a generalized loss of fat mass rather than specifically the upper-body. Finally in 2013, it was found that training a single leg was effective in reducing fat mass but not specifically in the trained limb. This was determined using a whole body DEXA scan, which is the current gold standard for determining fat mass.
So what helps reduce waist circumference (fat mass)?
From that exact research gives us a clue. Each of those studies looked at a different body part (arms, abdominals and legs) and all had an effect on the bodies fat mass. So, if we completed a whole-body strength program we would see an effect over the whole body. Whilst getting stronger overall in the process.
It is a win-win!
Furthermore, from an energy balance perspective, completing exercises incorporating large muscle groups in big compound exercises creates greater energy deficit. These are exercises such as the squat, deadlift, bench press and rows. Why?
The more muscles used in one movement, the more fuel (fat/glucose) it needs. Just doing a sit-up, which works abdominals, look at a squat which can use legs, glutes, abdominals etc. You will also produce less fatigue and therefore complete more exercises by looking at a whole body approach. So rather than looking at 1-2 abdominal exercises to lose weight, try variety. We encourage clients to complete aerobic exercise, some resistance training and any incidental activity your heart desires. Plus think about the quality and quantity of food and drink you consume (but that’s another story).
Most importantly, stop getting fooled by those marketing departments. Also throw out that ab-cruncher that is collecting dust under your bed! Please!
Adelaide is arguably Australia’s best city to be a cyclist in, and at the moment, with the Tour Down Under (TDU) in full flight, this is particularly the case! It is so good to see so many cyclists enjoying our beautiful roads, and in particular, the number of interstate riders that are here on organised tours.
I’m sure that with this activity going on, cycling apps like Strava would be seeing lots of kilometres adding up! For myself, and my ‘Leukaemia Foundation – Ride As One’ team members, starting to accumulate more kilometres on the bike is very important, as we have our 7-day 1000km ride in about 3 months!
One great way to beef up these kilometres can be achieved by commuting to work!
As you can see from the image above, my travel distance from home to work is a short 5.7km, which would by cycling standards, hardly count as a worthwhile effort to pull the bike out of the garage. But even such a short distance can add up to something significant! Using my stats as an example, if I commute to and from work over a week, each day contributes 11.4 kms and about 140m of elevation. Over the week, this is 57km and 700m of elevation! That’s a decent enough ride if you were to do it in one go, and contributes a solid base to the rest of my weekly distances! Not too bad at all!
Other than the kilometres on the saddle, I think commuting can provide a number of benefits:
- Easy roll of the legs – You know that heavy leg feeling you get the day after a big ride? I find that my morning commute works wonders to get the system moving again, increase blood flow to those heavy muscles, increasing delivery of nutrients, healing agents, etc, and clearing up the inflammatory waste products!
- Frequency of rolling the legs, including multiple rides in a day! As a flow-on from the point above, as we are increasing the kilometres, and especially when preparing for a multi-day event such as the Melbourne-to-Adelaide ‘Ride as One’, the capacity to back up ride after ride is very important! While the commuting distances may be short, they help to getting used to getting on the saddle and turning the legs after shorter than usual recovery periods.
- Specific training outcomes there are days when I’m pretty exhausted from the overall load of my regular riding + work, etc, so the commute home is an ‘easy’ ride. There are days when I want to hit some higher intensities, especially after some shorter but steeper hills, so I’ll take a little detour on my way home, and really the heart rate and lactate production up, to teach my system to deal with those stresses better; or it may be practicing some acceleration and faster work on flatter stretches of road… whatever it may be, knowing that you are not in the middle of a 3 hour ride, and that home is not too far away, may encourage you to open things up a bit more than you may normally do!
- Improved productivity at work! – There’s nothing better than getting to work wide awake, having gotten your heart and breathing rates up a bit, and benefiting from the physiological and hormonal benefits that this brings! There is strong research showing that a short bout of aerobic exercise increases your cognitive capacity (creativity, capacity to learn, etc) by up to 20%.
- Switch off from work before getting home to the family – one thing I have learnt, is that when I get home, my beautiful wife and kids don’t necessarily want me to be ‘there’, they want me to be ‘present’. My ride home gives me 10-15 mins of time to transition from work mode to family mode… hopefully making me a better husband and dad!
So there you have it friends. Don’t under value those short kms between home and work!
Couple stretching in Park – Moving well to Move more!
If I could wave a magic wand, and make exercise feel easy for you; if you knew you were going to feel light, agile, nimble – would you want to do more of it??
60% of our population (an average figure across many ‘western’ countries) is inactive… I don’t think that this is because people intrinsically dislike movement! I think we lose our joy of movement at some stage, maybe it’s not a clearly defined line in the sand, but that change certainly happens… after all, we can all see the faces of kids when they are in the full blown joy of movement, right? when they are running after a ball, or jumping into a pool… so what happens? why do we stop to enjoy that movement, that used to give us so much happiness once upon a time?
I think the answer is that it has become hard to move.
One way or the other, it just doesn’t flow anymore does it?! There’s less time for it; it just seems like hard work. Maybe there’s fear of pain, or fear of an injury. Perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that we may stink after sweating (!) and the process of being ‘presentable’ again is too hard…
We all know the benefits of exercise right? So information is not the answer either… so can I challenge you to explore the FUN you used to have when you allowed your body to gain full flight?
I strongly believe that one of the keys to wanting to move more is being able to move better! It’s about putting it in the right order. Think about it for a sec… if you move well, then movement is all of a sudden easier. Things ‘connect better’. There’s less pain; less effort. There’s more power! More strength! More agility! More CAPACITY.
The key to moving more, what ever your motivation, is to move better. From there we can start to set new goals! Such as being able to re-join that sporting club you loved; being able to run around with the (grand)kids without fear of not being able to move tomorrow! or perhaps you want to run your first marathon, or climb a high peak… Or do a tumble turn again!! what ever that goal, let us help you put things in the right order, set up the right process for you to move better – so you can move more!!