Will home workouts help me lose weight?

Posted by Dayne Hudson in Weight Loss

Estimated reading time: 6mins

Will home workouts help me lose weight?
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Working out from home for weight loss

We must start with the number one truth of fat loss: it comes down to a calorie deficit.

So regardless of what you’re doing to lose weight, if you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming (and you’re consuming enough and properly) then you’re fine.

And by properly, I mean you’re eating in a 20% calorie deficit and getting about 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.

If you’re not starving yourself or making things any harder, then you’re off to a good start.

Great.

But what about the workouts?

Working out from home for weight loss

Home workouts: a definition

We’ll define home workouts as cardio-based workouts with an instructor on a screen prescribing exercises to increase your heart rate. I’m talking about exercises like jumping jacks, running on the spot, mountain climbers, high knees, and sit ups.

Some of us HATE these exercises. You might love them.

Regardless, these exercises are going to burn calories.

But the problem is too many of these workouts are marketed as “fat burners” – as if just doing them is enough.

And that’s where the home workout world is misleading.

You can perform jumping jacks and sit ups until you’re blue in the face. You ultimately won’t lose a GRAM of body fat if you’re not in a calorie deficit.

But people start to think these home workouts are the only way to lose weight. But they’re not.

Man doing a home workout
What are home workouts?

What about spot reduction? Can I do that?

Spot reduction theory says you can perform sit ups and lose more stomach fat because you’re targeting your abs directly.

The bulk of the studies investigating this suggest that’s not going to happen.

But there have been some additional findings to spot reduction that have turned heads – this recent study suggests spot reduction might be possible.

Wait, spot reduction MIGHT be possible?
Wait, spot reduction MIGHT be possible?

The study had two groups: the lower body strength training group and the upper body strength training group. And both groups lost more fat in the regions of their body they were training.

Their calorie intake was the same, and they both lost the same total amount of body fat, so the researchers reported spot reduction had occurred.

But there was a difference in this study design: cardio was performed after the weight training.

So why is this significant?

Well, research suggests 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 there. In other words, spot reduction.

And it seems that doing cardio after a 30-minute ab home workout, for example, means you MAY lose slightly more body fat from your stomach.

But whilst it doesn’t seem to be anything significant or life-changing to the point of making sure we do it daily, it does challenge the accepted notion that spot reduction is a myth.

So, what does that mean for home workouts?

The case for home workouts

You should do home workouts if the answer is “yes” to these questions:

  • Do you really enjoy training at home compared to the gym?
  • Do you enjoy the exercises prescribed to you? I.e., jumping jacks, mountain climbers, sit ups?
  • Have you compared tried doing these workouts in a gym and found working out at home easier?
  • Do you prefer this type of training over traditional resistance training, which will be far better at growing muscle tissue and thus getting you in better shape?
  • Or maybe you’re ALREADY doing resistance training, and are doing this to complement it?

If you answered yes to all of these, then great. Home workouts for you.

If “yes” is your answer to many of them, then keep going with your home workouts.
If “yes” is your answer to many of them, then keep going with your home workouts.

And whilst cardio after sit-ups MAY allow for more spot reduction within your abs (the evidence isn’t strong enough at the moment to say for sure), DON’T do them if you hate doing them.

Because here’s the news: you’ll still lose enough body fat and be blown away with your new stomach without doing them and cardio right after. You can achieve this by eating in a calorie deficit, doing resistance training, and even performing no cardio if you prefer. Or getting outside and doing cardio.

There’s nothing special about home workouts. Only do them if you like doing them, and don’t do them because you think you have to do them to burn fat – you don’t.

The case against home workouts

You shouldn’t do home workouts if you answer “yes” to the majority of these questions:

  • Do you dislike doing home workouts?
  • Do you hate cardio-based exercises like mountain climbers, high knees, etc?
  • Do you only do “cardio” because you think you have to in order to lose weight?
  • Do you find it hard to get motivated at home?
  • Would you rather lift weights to build maximal muscle, and do your cardio outdoors or drop it altogether, and focus on eating in a calorie deficit for weight loss?

If you find yourself leaning towards “yes” on these answers, then it sounds like home workouts might not be for you.

Is a gym with weight training more your style?
Is a gym with weight training more your style?

The bottom line on home workouts

Home workouts aren’t necessary to lose fat. They’re marketed as fat burners, which isn’t accurate. They’ll burn calories, but that doesn’t mean anything if you’re not eating in a calorie deficit. But if you’re in control of your diet, and like doing them, then keep going.

For training to be effective, we have to be motivated to do it and enjoy it more than our alternatives. If you prefer home workouts compared to resistance training in a gym, then they are for you. If not, you should consider resistance training in the gym, where you can then perform your cardio outdoors. Don’t ever do any exercises or workouts you don’t want to.

References:

  1. 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
  2. Henselmans M. New science: spot reduction is not a myth. https://mennohenselmans.com.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Leidy HJ, Clifton PM, Astrup A, Wycherley TP, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Woods SC, Mattes RD. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;101(6):1320S-1329S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.084038. Epub 2015 Apr 29. PMID: 25926512.
  7. 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
  8. Strasser B, Spreitzer A, Haber P. Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Ann NutrMetab. 2007;51(5):428-32. doi: 10.1159/000111162. Epub 2007 Nov 20. PMID: 18025815.
  9. 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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