At the early stages of creating a personalised program for any client eager to shed pounds, I ask several questions in an attempt to learn their specific goals for health, performance and appearance. In general, most people express that they want to lose weight off their mid sections and sometimes off the hips and thighs as well. For others, shrinking their rear or getting rid of their bingo arms are of the utmost importance. So when I was asked this week, “why am I working my shoulders, when I want to lose weight off my tummy?” I thought it the perfect opportunity to address the question here.
My answer was simple. Spot training problem areas will only get you so far. Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose where you want to lose the weight. Genes and body type play a major role in where the weight comes off first, and often, the places where you wouldn’t mind keeping the fat are the first to go, such as on your face and cheeks, and often the breasts for women. However, with healthy, natural weight loss, body fat decreases in a rather uniform way throughout the body. With that being said, the focus shouldn’t be on fixing only the problem areas, but what has caused them in the first place, your metabolism! By working the large muscle groups of the body (quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, chest, back and shoulders) you are demanding that the body burn more calories during exercise and even during moments of rest too. When strengthening large muscle groups, these large areas of the body demand more energy for survival. Not only do large muscle groups consume more calories while working, but often require that you perform compound exercises to do them. Compound movements require motion in more than one joint, such as hips and knees simultaneously, or shoulders and elbows. This demands much more movement of the body and ultimately burns more calories in the long run. For example, if flabby arms are your weakness, a squat may be far more effective than a single-joint tricep kickback, even though the tricep movement is being performed directly where you have accumulated undesired fat. A squat burns more calories as it works the large muscles of the rear and legs. It also requires that two joints, the hips and knees, move simultaneously. In other words, working the big muscles in your legs and rear will actually trigger fat loss in your arms, perhaps faster than arm exercises alone, simply due to muscle size and the caloric needs of those working muscles.
So instead of obsessing over the trouble spots, work on increasing your metabolism overall and burning the maximum amount of calories possible in the amount of time you’ve allotted for exercise. Do this by focusing on the big muscles of the body.