“Shrink belly fat in 24 hours!” declares the online ad that drops into your social media feed. “Arm jiggle will be history after just one three-minute session with our miracle apparatus,” promises the next.
It’s easy to be tempted by claims of miracle fixes, because they promise to give you exactly what you want — targeted fat reduction. Here’s the big reveal: Spot reducing is a myth; spot toning is not. Allegedly, when sculptor Michelangelo was asked about the process of creating his masterpiece David, he replied, “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.”
Every woman’s body is its own work of art waiting to be revealed. If you’re ready to chisel away the pieces that aren’t what you desire, then the powerhouse combination of strength and high- intensity interval training (HIIT) are the tools that are needed. It takes a blend of strategies: Resistance training to sculpt and define, as well as HIIT to reduce body fat. Both parts are needed to create that toned silhouette that you’re looking for.
Step 1: Strengthen the muscle
Forget diamonds — these days muscles are a girl’s best friend. Building muscle is essential to creating a shapely physique and giving you the vitality to perform everyday activities more efficiently. It’s time to pick up the weights. If you want to shape it, tone it or lift it, weight training is the key. In short, muscles are youth. It’s not about being younger than you are, it’s about being a vibrant and energetic version of yourself now. Muscles are your body’s unsung heroes. Their work is more “behind the scenes.” Always necessary for the big production, but rarely considered a star player. Muscles are major contributors to many qualities that separate the aged from the ageless: endurance, agility, energy, coordination, balance and easy weight management. Muscle mass starts a process of what I call “The Great Decline” at about age 30. At that point you lose about 1 percent per year, with the loss accelerating in your 40s and beyond. If you give muscles the attention they deserve, though, you can have the strength and vitality of somebody decades younger. Defining and shaping your muscles is the fountain of youth, and it’s possible at any age.
The best approach to maximize muscle work is to think “whole body,” not just the parts that show. All your muscles want to come out to play, and they actually play well together. Using the “Integrate, Don’t Isolate” method primes your body to perform functionally, the way nature intended. Whether it’s chasing the grandkids or hoisting a bag into the overhead compartment on a flight, real life is about twisting, bending, lifting and pulling. Functional integration recruits multiple muscle groups and trains them to work as a team, improving your metabolism, efficiency and balance while reducing your risk of injury.
Step 2: Burn the fat
One of the facts about toning any area of the body is that it’s really about strengthening a muscle group while reducing body fat. Think of it as preparing the muscles for their big debut — pull back the curtain to let the stars shine! The reason spot toning doesn’t reduce fat is because fat belongs to your entire body, not to a muscle group. When you exercise and follow a sensible diet, you’ll start to lose fat. Genetics and lifestyle are the main factors that determine how and where you shed fat. We each have a one-of-a-kind fat-distribution pattern. Just like a fingerprint, how you gain fat, and lose fat, is unique to you. Each person’s fitness journey is rarely identical to anyone else’s. A couch-to-5K training program could lead to reduced belly fat for one woman and fat loss in the hips for another. So, when it comes to spot reducing, remember, each part of your body will lose fat at different rates.
Accepting that you can’t dictate the exact location of weight loss doesn’t mean you can’t create a more sculpted version of yourself. The key is making sure you’re choosing the right movements. Hitting the sweet spot of maximum fat burn with minimum time investment is as easy as HIIT. Also called “interval” or “burst” training, HIIT is the key to igniting your calorie-burning engine during and for several hours after your workout. Short bursts of higher intensity are HIIT’s secret weapon against fat. For example, if you’re on a brisk walk, try upping your intensity for a 60-second burst, then continue at a steady-state pace for 60 seconds and continue this cycle for 10 minutes. Don’t be afraid to kick it into high gear during HIIT. The more effort you put in during the burst, the bigger the results. Focus on the gratifying rewards of sustained calorie and fat burn after the workout and enhanced cardio endurance. I’ve created this custom-workout that targets trouble spots while incorporating stability work that engages the entire body. Try this workout three times per week for a leaner, more sculpted, more energized version of yourself. There’s a tank top or skirt in your wardrobe waiting to adorn your masterpiece.
TRAINING THE TROUBLE ZONES WORKOUT
4 Moves • Abs • Legs • Arms • Butt
As you get more advanced, add more sets. Use a counter or chair if needed for support.
Targets upper arm, chest, back and core: In plank position with bent knees, lower the torso. Maintain a straight line from your neck to your knees. Push up, keeping elbows close to sides. Fifteen reps.
Advanced plank on toes
Forward lunge with tricep extension
Targets glutes, legs, triceps and core: Stand in wide lunge. As you lower into a lunge, bend your elbow into a bicep curl. Press to standing, straightening and pressing the arms back. Squeeze triceps as you rise. Fifteen reps each side.
Side lunge with balance
Targets glutes, legs and core: From a standing position, step out to a side lunge, keeping knee facing directly over toe. As you push to standing, add a bicep curl. Advanced — balance on one leg. Fifteen reps each side.
Targets glutes, back, legs and core: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Press hips up, maintaining a straight line from shoulders to knees. Extend one leg toward the ceiling. Pulse foot toward ceiling by squeezing glutes and hamstrings. Fifteen reps each side.