Spot reduction or targeted fat loss is the process of doing an exercise, hoping to target fat loss in an area.

Certain areas in your body have higher fat deposits, and spot reduction is believed to target those areas. 

Based on your genetics and gender, your body will favor certain areas to store fat. For men, it's their midsection, and for women, it's mainly thighs, butt, and arms. These can vary, but in most cases, it is like this. 

It takes a lot of effort and discipline to burn fat. But with spot reduction, you can target a specific area in your body. 

Easy right: 

We can't blame anyone, but still, there are a lot of fitness products and programs( fat targeting exercises) that claim targeted fat loss. 

So let's look more into targeted fat loss, and whether it's possible (based on the latest research). Some research shows that it's possible to some extent. 

What is spot reduction

Spot reduction is the use of exercise in certain body parts, hoping to burn or lose fat from the targeted areas of the body. 

For example, If you want to lose fat from your belly, you start doing crunches and leg raises to target belly fat. 

Can you spot reduce fat?

Answer: No, you can't spot-reduce fat. 

Why is spot reduction or targeted fat loss not possible? 

You need to understand the process of fat gain and fat loss mechanism

fat storing lipogenesis

Glucose to fat cell   

When you are on a calorie surplus diet (you take in more calories than you need ), your body will store the surplus calorie as fat in the fat cells. So fat is trapped energy in your body. These days people are getting fatty due to the change in lifestyle

So to burn fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit state. You have to burn more calories or intake fewer calories. In either way, you can achieve a calorie deficit. 

calorie deficit

Calorie deficit state

In a calorie deficit state, your body starts to use your stored energy( glycogen, fatty acids, and even muscles).

If you are on a balanced diet and lifting weights, then you can preserve your muscles. 

Why can't you spot reduce fat? 

When your body uses your fatty acids, it will cause your fat cells to become less dense and cause it to shrink( Just like a balloon that leaks air). This causes you to lose inches off your waist, arms, or thighs. 

  • But you can't tell your body to use fat from specific areas. 

Each person varies in the order of fat loss from the body. For men, the stubborn area(challenging to lose fat.) is their midsection. For women, it's their thighs and butt.

What parts of the body lose fat first? 

The fat loss will follow a reverse pattern of fat gain. You will start to lose fat in those areas that gain fat recently. 

Where do you start losing weight first?

You can't measure the fat loss with weight loss. Weight loss can be due to either fat loss or muscle loss. Muscle loss is common during a calorie deficit crash diet. So don't measure your fat loss with weight loss. Try measuring your body fat using calipers or BIA. Keep track of everything in a journal. 

Research - Can you target fat loss in certain areas

Let's see what various studies on spot fat reduction have found out. 

  • The study published in the journal of strength and conditioning shows that doing abdominal exercise does not affect belly fat. The study was conducted on 24 healthy sedentary people for six weeks. Training improved the muscular endurance of participants.
  • Another study was done on 40 obese women to find out the effect of exercise to target belly fat. They want to find the answer to the never-ending question, "can you target belly fat?"      The results show that abdominal exercise does not affect belly fat alone. If you combine it with a proper diet, you can see an overall fat loss. 
  • This study was done on 104 people, which includes both men and women. They train their non-dominant arm to find out a targeted fat reduction in that arm. Mri scan was used to study the fat loss.But the research finding shows that there is no significant fat loss.
  • The study published in the journal of strength and conditioning research also shows a similar result when the participant lost upper body fat when trained lower body. The participants have to do a lower-body exercise( one-legged leg press). The result shows no difference between tissue composition between two legs. 

Research -  Is there a way to target fat loss (target weight loss)? 

We have seen some of the research showing that targeted fat loss is a myth and is not possible. But we can't conclude without showing you a few studies that show spot reduction is possible. 

  • This study was conducted to find out the effect of resistance training on the subcutaneous fat( fat under your skin). The blood flow and lipolysis were higher in the fat lying near to the working muscle.
  • Lipolysis is the process of the breakdown of fat in the fat cells. But it does not mean fat loss. You have to use those fatty acids in your cells to cause fat loss. You can enable this by keeping your body in a calorie deficit state. 
  • This study was conducted to find out the effect of resistance training and endurance exercise on fat loss. The research shows that when a cardio workout follows resistance training, you can expect to see target fat loss.
  • This four-week study on women with isometric training shows that it had caused a decrease in waist circumference.
  • This study used a high-intensity training (7RM ( find your one-rep max) ) for six weeks. The results show that high-intensity training in an area causes a reduction in fat loss in that area. 

These studies are conducted in small groups. We need more reviews before concluding.

We can use the methods they have implemented in the study.

Let's see some ways we can increase the fat loss rate


Increase the intensity of exercise 

You can increase the intensity of the exercise to increase blood flow and lipolysis in that area. You can choose the intensity of 7RM and above. It helps to add some muscles, as high-intensity exercise gives the right stimulus for muscle hypertrophy. 


Combine cardio workouts with resistance training

After doing resistance training, throw a 20 - 30 min of cardio (running, jogging, rowing). 


Keep your body in a calorie deficit state

To spot reduction or spot weight loss to happen, you have to burn your fat. It occurs in a calorie deficit state.

Some tips to stay in a calorie deficit state

  • Control your food intake - reduce your portion size
  • Eat slowly -Take more time to eat
  • Try to include protein in all your meals
  • Reduce sugary and processed foods
  • Take more fresh and unprocessed foods
  • Try to stay away from sugary and alcoholic beverages
small plate calorie control

Let's spot reduce the article 

Everyone wants to lose fat fast.  Spot reduction is seen as a more natural way to achieve that.  

Instead of going behind spot reduction, shift yourself to a healthy lifestyle. 

Follow the above tips, and you can have an overall fat loss. In the process, your target spot will also lose the layers of fat.

 Start lifting, and stay healthy.

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