Can We Spot Reduce Like a Surgeon?

I was training one of my regular clients last week and they asked me a great question.

It’s one I hear a lot, I see regularly discussed online and most clients will ask me at some point or another.

In all honesty, I find this baffling we still hear this asked.

I believe deep down the people asking already know the answer, but they’re hoping to hear there is some way, or some new exercise or diet on the market that will solve their problems.

(Context is key, I’m talking solely from a health and fitness stand point, and not cosmetic.)

The questions is - which deserves only one right answer…

“Is it possible to spot reduce, I dislike my *insert body part*, can something be done to target this?”

If you’ve not heard this term before, it basically means to target and lose fat from a specific area or body part.

When people ask it does kind of make sense, I do see why they would assume this could be done.

With any exercise of choice, for example, abs training (as it is normally the standard thing you see everyone doing in the gym), you will find so many people performing crunches with the belief that they can reduce the fat on the tummy and make the abs pop and look “toned”.

I wish this was true because I would be sipping cocktails on my boat in the Caribbean using 10 pounds notes as bait.

Unfortunately though, you simply cannot spot reduce. Doing crunches will not reduce the belly fat covering the abs.

That said, I can give you some positives. We can’t theoretically spot reduce, however, when we lift weights we can change the appearance of our troublesome areas.


Lifting weights, and therefore gaining strength, will cause adaptations to your muscles resulting in them being bigger and stronger. This will in due time make them stand out, giving the illusion you are leaner than you might be, even if you’re carrying the same amount of body fat. So if you aren’t already, start incorporating weight training to your routine. (Go ahead and add this to list of all the other reasons we all should convert to weight training.)

Let me explain why we can’t spot reduce.

We are all built the same on a biological level, but what separates us is our genes- we can’t decide the genes we’re given.

Imagine if this could be done, we would probably all change them to favour less body fat I’d assume.

Our own genetics influence where we hold fat, and when and where we start to lose fat. This is different for everyone, but trouble spots like the lower abs and love handles are the last place to vanish for a lot of people striving for weight loss.

Usually the answers given in the fitness world are “it depends,” in order to sell potential clients a dream, but unfortunately it’s simply not true. The answer actually is a solid NO. Spot reduction is not possible.

To summarise, next time you decide to diet, be in the know.

There’s no point stressing over parts of your body you want to lose fat first. The less stress you can put yourself under the better as it will make overall fat loss easier. This way you’ll find yourself more easily down to tackling those last few lbs, which is where you’ll finally see the results on those stubborn spots you’ve been talking about for years.

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