How to Tone and Lose Fat in One Body Part

Is it possible to tone or burn fat in one specific body part, and if so, how do you spot reduce?

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #5

How to Tone and Lose Fat in One Body Part

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if there were a convenient way to take one specific area of your body, like your butt, your abs, the back of your arms, or your thighs, and magically make all the fat in that area instantly disappear?

How to Tone and Lose Fat in One Body Part

But as you may have guessed, there is no magic wand you can wave, or one special exercise you can do, that will tone a specific muscle or body part and make fat there disappear. If performing one exercise actually worked, then you could do just a few hundred crunches a day and have magazine cover model washboard abs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually work. Trust me, I’ve tried.

In this article, you’ll learn the next best thing: a method for spot reducing that involves a combination of targeted exercise and cardio.

How Do You Burn Fat?

Before you learn how to spot reduce, let’s take a quick look at how fat burning actually works. The best way to explain it goes something like this:

Imagine you have a big barrel of crude oil in the trunk of your car. Even though your car’s engine uses gasoline, and crude oil is used to make gasoline, all that crude oil in your trunk isn’t doing you a bit of good unless it somehow gets converted into gasoline and put into your engine!

Your body is no different. Think of all that fat around your waistline like the crude oil in your car’s trunk. You can’t just take the fat and burn it right where it sits on your waistline, because your body must first convert the fat into a form of fuel that your body can actually burn for energy. Your body accomplishes that by taking the fat, sending it to the liver, and breaking it down in something called “free fatty acids”, which can then be used for energy.

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Why Losing Weight in One Body Part is Hard

You can’t just take the fat and burn it right where it sits on your waistline, because your body must first convert the fat into a form of fuel that your body can actually burn for energy.

When your body needs energy, it doesn’t get it from a single specific body part. Instead it will take fat from everywhere and convert it into free fatty acids. So when you’re doing all those crunches, sure, you might use a little bit of fat from your waistline for energy, but you’ll also use fat from your thighs, your calves, your forearms, your chest, and if you’re unfortunate enough to have a fat forehead, maybe that too. The end result is that your body is so efficient at taking fat evenly from all different regions of your body, that the dent made in your waistline is pretty small.

How to Lose Fat in One Body Part

Good news! You can use your body’s fat burning capabilities to your advantage, but you just have to add a few extra steps to your spot reducing efforts. Here is how to do it:

Quick and Dirty Fat-Busting Tip #1: Tone. Begin to perform exercises that specifically stress the muscles of the body part that you are trying to spot reduce. Let’s say you’re trying to eliminate fat in the back of your arms. In this case, you could do dips, narrow-grip pushups, and kickbacks . Try to target the specific body part three times per week, with 48 hours of recovery between each session. The recovery will allow the muscles in the back of your arms to grow new fibers, which results in that lovely toned, sleeveless shirt appearance.

Quick and Dirty Fat-Busting Tip #2: Burn. At the same time, you should include regularly scheduled fat-burning cardio sessions and intervals, such as the type of cardio modes discussed in the Get-Fit Guy article “Which Exercise Machine Burns the Most Calories.” Aim for 3-4x per week, with 30-60 minutes per session.

Quick and Dirty Fat-Busting Tip #3: Fuel moderately. Think about all that fat fuel you have on your body. In the same way that your car is going to stay completely full of fuel if you stop at every gas station you happen to pass, your body is going to stay full of fuel if you have no dietary moderation and you’re eating every chance you get. The first two steps must be accompanied by the third step: moderation of your eating. Try this: write down everything you eat. Believe me, you’ll instantly begin moderating if you do.

By combining these three steps, you tone the muscle that is buried underneath the fat, you mobilize your fat stores to be used as energy, and you ensure that you don’t have more fat coming in as you burn the old fat. This three-step method is incredibly effective at spot reducing, and will leave you with far fewer carpet burns on your back compared to doing one hundred crunches.

Maintaining fitness is important, too. Check out my Quick Tip on maintaining your fitness level for more information.

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Woman Exercising image from Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.