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When different people gain weight, the fat tends to accumulate in different parts of the body based on the individual. Some people gain in their stomach, their buttocks, their thighs, etc.

If I am looking to burn off localized fat in my stomach, for example, would I be any better off focusing more time on my abs? Or would I get similar benefit by working out my whole body, building up overall muscle mass?

Essentially, when burning fat, does the location of the muscle you're working have any bearing on where the fat might come off?

Yes, I realize that cardio is useful/mandatory for weight/fat loss as well. I am not interested in the cardio aspects for this question, however.

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Relevant answer: fitness.stackexchange.com/a/3933/1771 –  Dave Liepmann Sep 26 '12 at 16:42
    
There is absolutely nothing mandatory about "cardio" as it is traditionally understood for losing body fat :) –  Affe Sep 26 '12 at 17:28
    
possible duplicate of How to lose fat only in your thigh? –  FredrikD Sep 26 '12 at 17:37
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@FredrikD the losing fat in just the thigh, while a great question, is very specific in scope. This question is much more generic and more helpful to people looking to lose fat in other areas, not necessarily the thighs (even if the answers are near the same). –  Moses Sep 26 '12 at 18:29

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Unfortunately you cannot spot reduce (localised fat burning).

When burning fat your body decides where to burn it from. Doing ab work will build the ab muscles but will not burn fat in only that region.

To burn fat in a particular area you will have to target overall fat loss, with mainly a healthy diet and perhaps an exercise regime.

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There are actually two schools of thought on this.

For a long time, spot reduction has been (and still is) considered to be a myth because the body burns fat systemically (whole body, as opposed to localized). Up until recently, I myself thought this was true. If the body burns fat systemically, then it is the body that will determine where it pulls fat from, regardless of the muscle that you workout.

However, recent studies have begun to suggest otherwise. Cold fat does not mobilize well, so by warming it up (increasing blood flow to the area) you are assisting your body with mobilizing and eliminating those fat cells.

Other studies have demonstrated that blood flow and lipolysis increased in the subcutaneous fatty tissue that is directly adjacent to the working muscle. In other words, the study showed that working out specific muscles increased the fat loss in that area.

Whether this new science is right, and spot reduction is real, is up to you to decide. It just helps to know that there are multiple schools of thought, so keep an open mind.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16985258

http://0-jap.physiology.org.library.pcc.edu/content/106/5/1529.full

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10817155

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Could you link one of those studies or at least a credible second source for this? –  Baarn Sep 26 '12 at 18:32
    
From what I recall of what I believe are the same studies, the spot-reduction-relevant increase was minimal. –  Dave Liepmann Sep 26 '12 at 18:44
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@Informaficker edited answer to provide academic sources for claims. Dave, as far as its efficacy, I have not run any numbers to see exactly how much more effective it is. That being said, many of the body building greats swore by spot reduction, including Arnold and Franco, but your mileage may vary XD. –  Moses Sep 26 '12 at 19:16
    
@Moses thank you, appreciate it! Well actually not, would have made a pretty good question on Skeptics, hehe ;) –  Baarn Sep 26 '12 at 19:45
    
I understand how the first study relates (though not to the magnitude or usefulness of the effect), but the other two don't seem to me to be relevant to spot reduction at first skim. –  Dave Liepmann Sep 26 '12 at 20:02

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