Pop quiz – is it possible to work out a specific part of the body consistently to see really impressive results (and less fat) in that area? Would extra sets of squats give you a better booty, or hundreds of curls give mean really impressive arms? The fitness industry wants you to believe it, if any of those late-night infomercials are anything to go by. But here’s the truth about spot training.
What is Spot Training?
This concept is often conflated with spot reduction, with the general idea being increased muscle definition and less body fat in “problem areas” – the abdomen, the thighs, the arms. Spot reduction actually refers to the idea that you can target certain areas of the body and burn fat, while spot training is focused on strengthening and toning certain muscle groups.
Spoiler – spot reduction is a stubborn myth. But spot training, if you go by the definition above, can be done. Here’s the catch – you’re still better off with functional training or full-body exercises.
Exercise is beneficial, no matter what you’re doing, but efficacy isn’t equal. Just because you’re doing a zillion reps on the leg press doesn’t mean you’re building incredibly muscular legs – you’d be better served with a variety of compound exercises targeting the lower body, and not just because you’ll hit all the muscles in your legs and rump with that approach.
Working larger muscle groups has the critical benefit of burning more calories. It’s also important for avoiding issues like muscle imbalance. Sure, you can incorporate muscle-specific exercises, but doing so as part of a total-body routine is a smarter, more efficient way to burn calories, decrease body fat, and start revealing those muscles you’re working so hard to build.
Keep in mind that working a certain muscle doesn’t mean you’re burning fat that may be covering that muscle. Instead, subcutaneous fat loss works body-wide – and not just in the area being trained. With that said, the best way to build a better physique is making sure you break a sweat regularly with effective cardio, eating for nutrition, and maintaining your muscle with consistent strength training.