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.

  • Relevant answer: fitness.stackexchange.com/a/3933/1771 Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 16:42
  • There is absolutely nothing mandatory about "cardio" as it is traditionally understood for losing body fat :)
    – Affe
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 17:28
  • possible duplicate of How to lose fat only in your thigh?
    – FredrikD
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 17:37
  • 2
    @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
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 18:29

4 Answers 4


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.

  • nice well rounded resonse. Thanx for providing sources, especially the first study which seems to be right on with the question
    – user11922
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 5:00

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.





  • 2
    Could you link one of those studies or at least a credible second source for this?
    – Baarn
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 18:32
  • From what I recall of what I believe are the same studies, the spot-reduction-relevant increase was minimal. Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 18:44
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 19:16
  • @Moses thank you, appreciate it! Well actually not, would have made a pretty good question on Skeptics, hehe ;)
    – Baarn
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 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. Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 20:02

I have always wondered about localized fat burning as well. I like to study people and their body shapes which I understand is largely up to genetics but, I have also made a particular observation about people of the female persuasion, as I am female myself. It is common for left and right breasts not to be the same size. One is usually slightly larger than the other. I can tell just by looking at a woman's profile whether she is right or left-handed. The dominant hand/arm's side of the body will be smaller. So far, my observations have been 100% accurate and I have been making these observations since my early 20's and I am now in my 50's. For women who are left-handed, that breast will be slightly smaller. This observation has been made on women who have not had any sort of breast augmentation and seems to support the theory that the more you use a muscle group, the less fat one is going to have in that area. This holds true for my own body. I also have muscle definition in my lower legs and forearms, but that is about it. Everywhere else holds a fat layer deep enough not to see defined muscle. I feel this is attributable to the fact that I must walk to get around and I am an accountant and do a lot of typing and 10-key. The body is an amazing thing, and I will be putting this theory of localized burning to the test with a pilates workout meant for abs, thighs, and buttocks.

  • Welcome to the site! I would invite you to read the help section and take the tour, as we are not a typical discussion site. We expect additions to answer the question. It appears that your answer doesn't really answer the original question. We also expect answers to be more factual based, rather than anecdotal observation. Again welcome to the site and we look forward to having you around!
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 15:42

yes it does, ive worked on certain muscles and noticed that fat around that particular muscle gets burned, thats why you will notice that fat mainly accumulates around muscle areas that are largely dormant, ie , bum , stomach, upper thighs chest, whereas you will notice that calves , forearms, biceps, upper thighs, shoulders rarely have fat in those areas as they are used daily

  • No. This is erroneous from start to finish. What you are likely observing is that when you work a certain muscle, the "pump" that swells the muscle makes it appear as though there is less fat there. Your body deposits fat according to its own plan.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 18:17

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