Yesterday I attended the Spectra Wellness open house and it was great. Lots of good vendors with worthwhile products and services. Most notably Dr George Springer, who is an applied kinesiologist and chiropractor among many other titles who does some serious work with muscle testing, a subject best left for another article. There was also designs for health, which has some quality protein supplements, bars and other goodies.
I do some consulting for this office and had a discussion with a nurse and vendor there concerning some different training techniques. Specifically I was asked about a few things I want to address here. This nurse is a petite woman who is planning to attend a family vacation in the near future in a warm climate where clothes will likely be minimal and has done some great work with her boyfriend to reduce her body fat percentage and increase her overall fitness. She asked me what I would recommend to really target the outside of her thighs. This is a question I hear quite often from woman and is a loaded question for a few reasons:
- Targeting muscles is mainly used to increase symmetry for bodybuilders or strength goals in dedicated lifters but serves little purpose in a training session for overall strength or lean mass especially for those just beginning a work out program.
- You can not “spot reduce” fat in any part of your body.
So the gist of my explanation was that, in all due respect, you have to “unfatten” yourself. Now this is a great lady and in a discussion about fitness and weight loss there is no ill will in telling someone who is attempting to reach a goal that they are fat in a certain area. We aren’t breaking a client down like a college sorority. Some clients will take offense if it is presented in this manner but most people already training understand and accept this conversation because after all they have recognized they are overweight and are already in the process of doing something about it.
With that said there are only two ways a muscle can go. It either increases or decreases in size with training or lack there off. This does little to remove the body fat surrounding any area of the body. This is why you see the guy in the gym crunching with a 45lb weight, then doing hanging leg raises, then side crunches, then decline situps, etc ad nauseum that still has a massive stomach. For some reason this guy thinks he is going to lose his gut and have a rippling 6 pack by wasting hours each week targeting his abs with crazy fad ab work outs. Sure they have their place in functional training but if the goal is to really define a muscle that is covered under fat then the solution is, drum roll please… weight loss! Many people do not have a way to diet properly that allows them to continue to do so for the long haul. A diet has to be sustainable and is more accurately referred to as a meal plan than dieting because its how you are going to eat from here on out. Regardless of what you call it, weight loss is only attained through a calorie deficit and most people have no idea on how to go about this properly or for more than a few months if lucky. Luckily, I do consultations for training programs and meal plans in person or via email.
I explained this briefly and the nurse was receptive and might pursue other changes in her workout or diet. What she is currently doing seems to be working for her and since there is no one size fits all approach I agreed that continuing is better than switching it up. If she plateaus and is seeing little improvement for a period of more than 4 weeks then a change would be necessary. She has already made tremendous gains based on what she indicated her starting point was and this is consistent with newbie training, significant gains being made in the first 8 weeks due to neurological adaptations to training and basic monitoring of her diet. The hard to hit regions of fat loss for woman happen to be the buttocks and thigh areas where she indicated she was having the most trouble and reducing this fat is a slow process.
Do not confuse what I am saying here. I have many programs targeted to specific body goals and one of the main goals for woman is to tighten the glutes and reduce fat in the thighs. Consider that if you run on a treadmill and burn approximately 300 calories but increase your appetite due to ongoing cardio and eat an additional 300 calories you are not going to be losing weight, its simple math. I encourage all my clients to track their eating, it is the only way to determine how many calories are going in and most people underestimate their caloric intake and overestimate their caloric output, fact. This study specifically addressed such discrepancies and found that on average people assume their energy expenditure is 3 to 4 fold what it actually is. Some participants assumed a brisk walk of 30-45 minutes was burning 3000-4000 calories! When asked to consume food consistent with what they perceived to have just expended they overate by approximately the same amount! Sites like Fitday are free sites that give you a very general estimate of your daily calories in and out. I am very successful with my clients in attaining the results they seek but 80% or more of these results are due to diet alone. The rest is just hard work and consistency over time.
Run on the treadmill till your dead if you like, crunch yourself into a pretzel if you like to “feel the burn” but in the end your abs will only pop and your legs will only have that tight look if you have “unfattened” yourself. The only way to do that is to get that fat mobilized by reducing your caloric intake over time and being consistent in your training.