Sorry, You Can’t Spot Reduce, BUT You Can Spot Develop


Spot reduction – the process of exercising a certain muscle group or part of the body with the goal of melting away fat from that exact area.

Think of the bro’s doing millions of crunches the week before spring break in college to get their abs.

Or the lady walking sideways up a step mill with the goal of melting fat from her inner thighs.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like this.

Or bodies will choose where we lose fat from, and the only way to lose fat – yes, here I go again – is to create a caloric deficit.

So then what is the point of lifting weights if we can’t magically change the appearance of our bodies based off of targeting a specific muscle group?

Oh but we can…

While we can’t spot reduce fat, it is very well known, especially in the bodybuilding realm, that you CAN spot develop a certain area.

This is called muscular hypertrophy:

Muscle hypertrophy involves an increase in size of skeletal muscle through a growth in size of its component cells. Two factors contribute to hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which focuses more on increased muscle glycogen storage; and myofibrillar hypertrophy, which focuses more on increased myofibril size. – Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning 

In other words – you build muscle.

So how do you build a certain area? You prioritize it, then you hit it with the right amount of volume, then you measure and adjust.

1) Prioritize

Want your stubborn calves to grow? Do them first in your workout.

Want your back to be wider and more imposing? Train it first in the week.

Want your booty to fill out those sexy jeans? Train it 3 times per week.

Now, there are limits to how much you can and should train a certain muscle group before you start getting negative returns, but more later.

This seems like a no brainer here though – if you want to develop a certain area, prioritize it!

2) Hit it with the right amount of volume and frequency

This refers to the amount of sets and or reps you do for that muscle group. For simplicity sake, lets keep the reps in the 8-15 range.

I usually base this off of a per week basis, and usually the low end is around 8-12 working sets per week. The maximum end (where you start getting diminishing returns) is around 24-30 sets per week.

Now, these are WORKING sets – meaning you are using a weight that is challenging for you, BUT you can complete all desired reps, with a few “left in the tank”.

So lets say you are new to lifting, but really want to build your chest.

Lets start at 8 working sets per week of some sort of chest building exercise (Dumbbell Bench Press for example)

So maybe you hit 4 sets of 12 reps on Monday, and 4 sets of 8 on Thursday. 8 total sets.

The following week, you would bump up to 10 working sets, and so on – following the basic progressive overload principles. 

If you are a more seasoned lifter, you might need to start around 16 working sets per week. This is where frequency becomes important.

Hitting 16 working sets for one muscle group in one day might be a little much.

So hit the group twice per week, for a much more manageable 8 working sets per day.

3) Measure and Adjust

Take measurements so you know if you actually are growing a body part. Pictures help too.

Remember, it takes time to build muscle -AND if you have a layer of fat over it, you might not see some of the changes.

This doesn’t mean you should avoid trying to build an area – it just means you have to have realistic expectations, and when you are ready – you could switch your priorities to a focus on burning fat, and eventually reveal those new muscles you have built up!

Are you thoroughly confused now?

I can help – I am always taking on distance coaching clients – for less than $2/day! He never saw me once during his training, followed the plan, and lost 12 pounds of fat, and GAINED 4 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks! (And is still going I might add…)

Click HERE to Apply

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Stay healthy my friends,

Published by Mike Gorski

Registered Dietitian and Fitness Coach OWNER OF MG FIT LIFE LLC