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Can sit ups really give me six-pack abs?
Short answer… No. Long answer… No but if you have low body fat and can already see your abs, sit ups can make those muscles stand out a little more. In today’s results now world there is a lot of confusion surrounding spot workouts. For years we have been told to do hundreds of sit ups and crunches often at the expense of our lower backs. So, can a spot workout eliminate your muffin top or flabby arms? What do they really do? Who should be using these exercises? And when should you do them?

Can I really target my fat?
The health and fitness industry, for a long time, has perpetuated that you can target certain areas of the body and selectively burn off fat with a spot workout. There are a multitude of devices and exercise plans on the market that promise to give you wash board abs or turn flabby underarms into toned and sculpted arms. Unfortunately just because you are exercising one spot doesn’t mean you will lose fat in that specific area. This is because fat loss tends to be a more generalized and systemic result, rather than a spot result. During exercise your body uses resources (carbohydrates, protein, and fats) from all over the body not just the “problem area”. So a spot workout can’t selectively burn the fat away from just one area but it can help to develop stronger as well as more defined muscles.

When should I use a spot workout?
Even though you can’t burn fat in one specific area, spot workouts still have a place in this world. If your goal is to make a muscle or group of muscles stronger and bigger you can still employ this technique. Bodybuilders commonly isolate their muscles in order to augment the size and look of their muscles. Keep in mind isolation workouts are very time consuming, so if you aren’t a body builder try whole body workouts instead. Whole body exercise makes you move more than spot workouts do and generally increase your heart rate more as well. The more you move, the more likely you will burn more calories and in turn fat, all in less time than working individual areas.

Are there any other benefits to spot workouts?
While not technically considered a spot workout, this method is at the heart of early rehabilitation. After injury or surgical intervention your muscle groups often need to be re-strengthened and re-trained in order for you to move properly. Just like a body builder trying to increase the size of their muscles, in rehabilitation settings you are trying to make a muscle group stronger and better. The difference between rehabilitation and a sport workout is that rehabilitation is aimed at improving function of the muscle as opposed to the increasing size and appearance of a muscle. Rehabilitation typically progresses from a specialized spot workout to a dynamic movement pattern to a full body movement. Remember that your body works as a whole unit and making one muscle group bigger may lead to impaired movement overall and poor movement patterns are often linked to injury or painful movements.

Why can’t I just diet instead?
Dieting alone has its own drawbacks. Limiting calories can certainly help to reduce fat by forcing your body to use stored calories; however calorie restriction can also reduce your muscle mass… Not to mention your sanity. You may lose fat and weight, while on a diet, but there is a good chance you may not even notice a real change. Without enough muscle mass it’s hard to get that sculpted look. The best way to change your body and look better needs to include a good nutrition plan, because you can’t outrun a bad diet. As well as exercise that includes cardio and strength training elements, to burn calories and maintain muscle mass.

Bottom line; if you want that beach body look, spot workouts like sit-ups aren’t enough!

The best results come from good habits – in the gym, in the kitchen, and in life.

Paul Bradshaw l Kinesiologist