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Is Spot Reduction Actually a Myth?

Is spot reduction actually a myth? Bulk Nutrients has the answers...

The science behind spot reduction fat loss

Both sexes tend to want to reduce body fat from certain areas of their body. For women, "tuck shop arms" describe too much upper body fat around the triceps, and for men, an excess of abdominal fat is referred to as the "beer belly."

This can be attributed to the differences in fat distribution between both sexes.

Thus, it's not uncommon to see people performing ab crunch after crunch in the gym, aiming for spot reduction and losing more fat from their stubborn abdominal regions. But does this method of reducing body fat work?

The bulk of the research, without digging too deep, says no.

In the early 80s, a study was conducted to see if sit-ups targeted unwanted belly fat, attempting to answer the question, "Can you target fat loss?"

Sadly, they didn't.

Recently, scientists investigated if an ab training program could achieve more fat loss compared to a group that didn't do any ab training, with the same number of calories eaten in both diets. And again, spot reduction failed, leading many in the fitness community to dismiss the idea of spot reduction.

However, some researchers have pointed out that in some of these studies, there was no fat loss at all. So, we won't see any evidence of spot reduction if no one is losing fat anyway!

This opens the door for more investigation into what is spot reduction and does spot reduction work?

Bulk Nutrients Ambassador Kylie Gilbert at the gym

New Evidence into Spot Weight Loss

A recent study also ruled against spot reduction, but there was more to the story. The researchers put two groups of overweight women into different programs: the diet-only group and the diet and ab training group.

Interestingly, they lost the same amount of abdominal fat, which might lead some to rule out spot reduction.

However, we know that women generally lose weight from their stomachs first regardless of what they do.

The study didn't really study them in terms of their abdominal work with progressive overload as we would; ensuring we increase weight and intensity as time goes on.

So, if spot reduction exists at all, where was the evidence of it?

Despite it being statistically insignificant, the group training abs lost more stomach fat on all three measures of fat loss, and the diet-only group had a greater reduction in hip circumference.

Bulk Nutrients Ambassador Bailey McDougall posing

Can we lose fat in each area on a weight loss diet and training program?

Now for the big revelation!

In this recent study, the conclusions are that spot reduction might actually be possible.

As discussed above, some ab training in concert with a calorie deficit may work slightly, but not to any significant degree.

But in this study, it was more evident due to the strength in study design, and something else that we'll get to.

There were two groups, the lower body strength training group and the upper body strength training group. And the group training upper body lost more fat from their upper body, and likewise for the lower body group.

And they both lost the same total amount of body fat. Moreover, their calorie intake was also the same, and so the researchers were excited to report spot reduction.

But the difference here was that cardio was performed after the weight training.

So why is this significant?

Well, research suggests that the increase in body temperature, fat burning hormone production, and blood flow, might increase the transfer of the fatty acids from your adipocytes (fat cells) into the region you're exercising and allow fat loss to occur from that place. In other words, spot reduction.

And it seems that the cardio afterwards means that the fat might just be reduced from that area.

So practically speaking, the research suggests that for us looking to "spot reduce" fat from a given area, we need to:

Spot Reducing Fat Step 1

Train the given area (eg, abs) we want to lose fat from with a relatively challenging weight; probably 70-80% of your one-rep max, to increase body temperature, fat burning hormone production, and blood flow, which can increase the transfer of the fatty acids from your fat cells.

Spot Reducing Fat Step 2

Back it up with cardio as we discussed or try something like a full-body workout to get your heart rate up.

Spot Reducing Fat Step 3

Make sure you're eating in a calorie deficit.

So, the old notion of abs and then cardio might not be so silly at all! There are some promising signs, but nothing definite just yet!

The bottom line is that more research might be needed for a definitive answer on spot reduction fat loss.

However, the notion that just doing sit-ups without cardio afterwards for targeted abdominal fat loss is still not (and will likely never be) supported by science.

But the new research suggests cardio following the resistance training of a given area you want to lose fat from (triceps, abs) may result in spot reduction.

However, a calorie deficit must always be present when you're aiming for spot reduction or body fat reduction.

Bulk Nutrients Ambassador Selina Farrelly Check Me Out

Targeted Fat Loss Conclusion

While there may be some evidence suggesting localised fat loss with a combination of cardio and weight/resistance training, it’s important to note that this concept is still debated in the scientific community and requires further research for conclusive evidence.

Several studies have explored the potential for regional fat loss, but the results have been mixed. Some studies have found evidence of localised fat loss in specific areas of the body [1] [2].

However, other studies have not found significant evidence to support the concept of spot reduction or targeted fat loss [3] [4]. It’s worth noting that factors such as genetics, individual differences, and overall body composition can influence how and where fat is lost in the body.

In general, fat loss occurs through creating a calorie deficit, which can be achieved through a combination of a balanced diet, regular exercise, and overall body fat reduction. Engaging in a mix of cardio exercises and weight/resistance training can help increase calorie expenditure and promote overall fat loss throughout the body.

It’s important to approach fat loss goals with a comprehensive and balanced approach, focusing on overall health and well-being rather than targeting specific areas. Consulting with a healthcare professional or a qualified fitness expert can provide personalized guidance and support in achieving your specific fat loss goals.

FAQ on Spot Reduction and Targeted Fat Loss

Can you target fat loss?

No, it's not possible to target fat loss to specific areas of the body. While there is some evidence that there may be potential for regional fat loss using a combination of cardio and weight/resistance training, but the results have been mixed and remain largely inconclusive.

Can you spot reduce fat?

The idea of spot reduction is largely a myth. Fat loss typically occurs uniformly throughout the body.

How do you lose lower body fat?

General physical activity, coupled with a balanced diet, can lead to fat loss, including lower body fat.

What is spot reducing?

Spot reducing is the idea that you can reduce fat from a specific area of the body by exercising that area, which has been proven to be a myth.

What is spot reduction?

Spot reduction refers to the erroneous idea that fat can be targeted for reduction from a specific part of the body.

Does spot reduction work?

No, scientific evidence shows that spot reduction does not work.

Can you target specific areas for fat loss?

No, you cannot target specific areas for fat loss. Fat loss generally occurs evenly across the body.

Can you target areas of body for fat loss?

No, studies have shown that it's not possible to target specific areas of the body for fat loss.

Can you target belly fat loss?

No, belly fat loss cannot be specifically targeted. It reduces in conjunction with overall body fat.

Can you target neck fat loss?

No, you can't specifically target neck fat for loss. When the body loses fat, it is lost from all over the body.

Why can't you target belly fat loss?

Fat loss occurs uniformly across the body according to your genetic disposition, you can't target specific areas.

Can you target a specific area for fat loss?

No, targeted fat loss in specific areas is not possible according to current scientific understanding.

How can you target fat loss in the belly?

As per scientific evidence, you can't. Belly fat reduces as overall body fat decreases.

Can you target your core for fat loss?

While core exercises can strengthen your abs, they can't specifically target fat loss around the belly.

Can you target fat loss in certain areas?

No, you can't target fat loss in specific areas. Fat loss generally occurs uniformly throughout the body.

Bulk Nutrients Expert Dayne Hudson

Dayne Hudson

Like many, Dayne was once desperate to lose weight and get into shape. But everyone he asked, everything he read, lead to the same place... nowhere.

His journey started there - researching science journals and completing a Sports Nutrition Specialist qualification so he could make weight loss easier.

More about Dayne Hudson


  1. Mark D Peterson, Emidio Pistilli, G Gregory Haff, Eric P Hoffman, and Paul M Gordon. Progression of volume load and muscular adaptation during resistance exercise, 27th Nov 2010, doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1735-9, PMID: 21113614,
  2. Ramin Kordi, Saeed Dehghani, Pardis Noormohammadpour, Mohsen Rostami, Mohammad Ali Mansournia. Effect of abdominal resistance exercise on abdominal subcutaneous fat of obese women: a randomized controlled trial using ultrasound imaging assessments, 10th Mar 2015, DOI: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2014.12.004, PMID: 25766455,
  3. Bente Stallknecht, Flemming Dela, and Jørn Wulff Helge. Are blood flow and lipolysis in subcutaneous adipose tissue influenced by contractions in adjacent muscles in humans?, 1st Feb 2007,,
  4. Sachin S Vispute, John D Smith, James D LeCheminant, Kimberly S Hurley. The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat, 25th Sep 2011, doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fb4a46, PMID: 21804427,
  5. Frank I. Katch, Priscilla M. Clarkson, Walter Kroll, Thomas McBride & Anthony Wilcox (1984) Effects of Sit up Exercise Training on Adipose Cell Size and Adiposity, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 55:3, 242-247, DOI: 10.1080/02701367.1984.10609359
  6. Henselmans M. New science: spot reduction is not a myth
  7. Karastergiou K, Smith SR, Greenberg AS, Fried SK. Sex differences in human adipose tissues - the biology of pear shape. Biol Sex Differ. 2012;3(1):13. Published 2012 May 31. doi:10.1186/2042-6410-3-13
  8. Kordi R, Dehghani S, Noormohammadpour P, Rostami M, Mansournia MA. Effect of abdominal resistance exercise on abdominal subcutaneous fat of obese women: a randomized controlled trial using ultrasound imaging assessments. J Manipulative PhysiolTher. 2015 Mar-Apr;38(3):203-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2014.12.004. Epub 2015 Mar 10. PMID: 25766455.
  9. Peterson MD, Pistilli E, Haff GG, Hoffman EP, Gordon PM. Progression of volume load and muscular adaptation during resistance exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011;111(6):1063-1071. doi:10.1007/s00421-010-1735-9
  10. Vispute SS, Smith JD, LeCheminant JD, Hurley KS. The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Sep;25(9):2559-64. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fb4a46. PMID: 21804427.
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