How to Fight That Stubborn Fat
There are always parts of your body that seem more "resistant" to losing fat
than others. For women it tends to be their hips, thighs, belly or arms. For men
it's usually the chest, belly or lower back.
Most people approach the problem in the same way, which is to exercise the area
of the body where the fat is located.
You’ll see men attempting to “burn off” the stubborn fat from their stomach with
hundreds of sit-ups, or trying to lose their “man boobs” with dozens of sets on
the bench press and cable crossover machine. To get slimmer hips and thighs,
many women seem prepared to spend what seems like hours on the inner and outer
There is, however, a better way. And it’s one that actually works.
First, let’s take a look at a study that reveals why the conventional approach
to toning up those “problem areas” doesn’t work as well as most people think...
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, tracked a group of 31
women during a 6-month training program . At the beginning and end of the study,
body fat levels were measured using a sophisticated technique known as
dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA for short).
Eleven of the women, selected at random, also underwent MRI scans of the thigh.
This allowed the research team to establish precisely WHERE any lost fat was
The training program consisted of 90 minutes of training, five days each week.
The routine was designed to enhance the performance of military-specific tasks,
much of the program involved various military drills, running, and multi-joint
exercises (such as the squat, bench press, and barbell press).
All training sessions were directly supervised by NSCA Strength and Conditioning
Specialists who oversaw the entire program, monitored subject progress, and
modified the workouts as needed.
And the results?
The first thing I should point out is that the women lost an average of just 5.7
pounds of fat, dropping from 24.7% to 22.1% body fat. That’s a pretty poor
return, especially when you consider the fact that they were exercising for over
7 hours each week for 6 months.
Why such a slow rate of fat loss?
The main reason is that the women weren’t following any kind of structured
nutrition plan. No amount of exercise is going to make up for a poor diet. For
optimal results, you need good nutrition and exercise.
But here’s where it gets interesting...
As I mentioned earlier, the researchers used DEXA and MRI to track WHERE the
lost fat was coming from.
The women were doing a LOT of exercises for their legs — running, squats, leg
curls, and so on.
If doing hundreds of exercises for a particular body part was the best way to
strip away fat from that area, then the women would have lost most of the fat
from their thighs. But they didn’t. In fact, of the 5.7 pounds of fat lost, NONE
of it came from their legs. What’s more, almost half (2.4 pounds) of the lost
fat came from the arms. That’s despite the fact that the women did NO arm
isolation exercises until week 20 of the 24-week program.
Trying to lose fat from specific parts of your body by performing hundreds of
repetitions for that area simply doesn't work. If it did, the women in this
study would have lost the majority of fat from their thighs.
But they didn’t. Instead, average fat loss was greatest in the arms and trunk.
Based on these findings, along with data from a similar study of men , there is
a "hierarchy" of fat loss that differs according to gender.
Of course, this is just a generalization, and there are going to be variations
from person to person. But this research does illustrate the important point
that you don't have a great deal of control over where lost fat comes from.
- Men lose fat first from their trunk, then their arms, followed by their legs.
- Women lose fat first from their arms, followed by their trunk, then their
So, if you want to lose fat from your belly, chest, thighs or arms, what should
Firstly, you will need to exercise. It’s true that 30 or 40 minutes of cardio in
your so-called "fat-burning zone" a few times a week won’t produce much in the
way of meaningful results. But that doesn’t mean that exercise is a waste of
time. You just need to make sure you pick the right program. Forget about doing
hundreds of pushups or sit-ups to strip away the fat from your chest or stomach.
On their own, these exercises simply don't burn enough calories to have a
significant impact on body composition. Abdominal exercises do NOT burn fat away
from your abs! This can only be accomplished through a much more effective
full-body training routine that maximizes both your metabolic response and your
hormonal response to your workouts.
You'll also need to eat the right foods. If you want to drop fat at a decent
rate, you need to get your diet right.
No matter how much you exercise, you can't lose weight if you eat yourself into
a calorie surplus. Just because you start an exercise program doesn't mean you
have free license to abandon all restraint and freely indulge in eating anything
The most important principle to keep in mind when it comes to nutrition and
weight loss is losing fat requires that you take in fewer calories than you
burn. Don't be seduced into following an overly complicated diet masquerading
under the guise of a "new and revolutionary" approach to weight loss.
Finally, you'll need to be consistent. Eating right and exercising regularly
will need to become a habit, not just something you do when you can be bothered
or when you "have the time." There are no quick fixes or easy answers. The only
effective way to lose that "stubborn" fat is a combination of hard training,
good nutrition, and a decent dose of persistence.
- Christian Finn
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