Happy Herbivore Blog

August 2, 2013

Herbie Fitness (Part 3): Spot Training — How to Get Rid of the "Muffin Top," Belly, Booty, etc.

Herbie Fitness week continues! You didn't miss Part 1 and Part 2, did you? We have talked about plant-proud nutrition for active Herbies, tips for weight loss and marathon training, muscle building, and inspiration from plant-based body-builders and athletes. Today we're tackling another question I get asked often — how to get rid of those "problem" areas.


A few days ago I received this email:

"Please, can you recommend the best exercises for the muffin area — lower belly and round the back in a big wobbly circle? I can't find anything to shift it and it's getting me down."

Regrettably, you cannot "spot train." This is why someone with a "beer belly" can't do 300 crunches a day and end up with a 6-pack. You have to reduce your overall body fat. We all have lean muscles and a 6-pack under the body fat. 

When I was a personal trainer, I always told my clients: "you had a dream body underneath, we just needed to pull back the curtain."

You've got to reduce your overall body fat. You have to change your body composition (% fat vs. % lean muscle)

There's also another ugly side of "spot training." Sometimes spot training can make the area look "bigger," which is usually not the end result you were looking for. 

For example, I had a client, Melinda*, who wanted more shapely thighs. (Thighs and booty were often a "trouble area" my female clients wanted to focus on). Anyway, prior to meeting me, Melinda had started doing a lot of leg exercises: squats, lunges, step-ups, just to to name a few, hoping they'd burn off the fat and give her slender thighs. Basically, Melinda was "spot training" and attempting spot reduction.  


While Melinda absolutely felt fitter and healthier, and you couldn't deny how much stronger she had become — she had STRONG legs! — Melinda was devastated and discouraged. Her thighs had gotten bigger — bigger than they were before she started to exercise. 

Why? She'd been putting on muscle and now her muscles were bigger. The fat on top of the muscles had not reduced or not reduced very much, creating a bigger appearance.  

Once we started working out Melinda's entire body and we put her on my meal plan for weight-loss, the fat started coming off Melinda's entire body, including the thighs, where she stored most of it. 

Through diet (most important!) with a little help from exercising the entire body, Melinda ended up with the lean, shapely legs she'd sought after. Melinda also found herself loving her new shapely arms and back, a tighter midsection, etc. that hadn't be an initial goal but were a perk she soaked up. 

In my experience personally and as a trainer, spot reduction never worked. I wished it did. The American Counsel of Exercise agrees.

Another bummer: I find we generally lose weight in the opposite of how we put it on. For example, if the midsection is the first place you start to store fat, it'll be the last place to go. I've experienced that with every client, both male and female. 


If you want to get rid of your muffin top, or any other "trouble zone," start by eating right. Diet is the most important factor in weight-loss. I cannot recommend my meal plans enough (give them a go!) or the 3-day reboot and 10-day cleanse immersion program

Once you lose weight — once you reduce your body fat — the muffin top will go away. You'll find that long and lean body. For many clients, I had them lose the weight before we started doing exercises. Once the fat was off, we then started to build the muscle for a more muscular and fit appearance. 

To find out more about my personal workout routine and recipes geared especially toward fitness and weight loss, preorder my new book, Happy Herbivore Light & Lean, which will be out in December.

I hope you enjoyed Herbie Fitness Week. Plants are powerful — and you are what you eat! Be plant-proud.

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