Spot Reducing....please stop asking me!
As a trainer I have answered a lot of questions for my clients over the years. The number on question I get however sounds something like this: "How do I lose weight from [insert body part here]?". I cannot tell you the frustration that I get trying to answer this question. Infomercials and fad weight loss/exercise plans have the general public believing that it is actually possible to reduce fat from one particular region of the body. I think I have seen just over a million different gimmicks on how to get a slim midsection. It is a million dollar industry. Let me tell you something.....IT IS A LIE! This myth in the fitness industry is known as spot reducing and any trainer worth their reputation knows better than to tell a client that it is possible. Study after study has been conducted to test this "theory" and all say the same thing. It can't be done. Not possible. Don't bother. Knowing what I know it is hilarious to me when I see someone in the gym doing crunch after crunch, killing themselves. And for what I ask?
Let me explain a little better. Imagine that you have something; anything that has a definite shape to it. You can tell what it is just by the shape of it. (Imagine this object as your abdominals). Now let's say you take that object and cover it with a thick blanket. Then another and another. (this is like fat around your midsection) The object (your abs) are still there, it just can't be seen because of the layers of blankets (fat) over top of it. You can try to emphasize the underlying object as much as you want (which is basically what you are doing when you crunch yourself to death), but without removing the blankets on top (fat) it will be very hard, nay impossible, to make out the shape.
This analogy is similar to muscle in your body. The muscle is underneath your fat. You can build the muscle as much as you like, but without removing the fat over the top all you end up with is a well built muscle under fat. When you build the muscle it increases in size. When you don't burn the fat over the top the bigger muscle underneath can actually make you look heavier than you really are, especially when it comes to the midsection. Some may ask, "doesn't muscle burn fat?" Yes it does, but the fat loss isn't necessarily from the area over top of that particular muscle. The myth of spot reducing has a person believe that they can target fat loss to one area of the body, but the body is a fickle beast. It loses weight form where it wants to, and my experience has shown me that the midsection is usually the last (and most difficult) place to lose from. Does this mean it is impossible to attain a nice slim midsection you'd be proud to show off? Absolutely not! What it means is that it will take hard work, exercise, and a clean diet to get there.
So stop wasting gym time doing things that don't work and focus more on a quality workout that emphasizes calorie burn and cardio. Crunches are fine. They will still build the muscle. Just don't expect to get a six-pack from doing them alone.
So next time you are watching t.v. at 1:00am and you see a piece of equipment that "promises results" you will know better. Save the 4 easy payments of $19.99 and invest in a gym membership and some lessons with a qualified trainer instead. They will go a lot further in getting you towards your goal than a cheap piece of plastic that is destined for your next yard sale will ever do.