Can you burn fat locally?

The idea is pretty simple: when you have access fatty tissue at a certain spot on your body you could exercise the muscles around the spot more intensively which would result in fat being burned right there. If you are not happy with your belly you would do a lot of crunches and the fat will disappear, or when you butt is not as firm as the rest of your body you start doing squats till your butt is in perfect shape.

Some earlier research even found evidence that burning fat locally was possible. They followed a group of women who only performed abdominal crunches over a period of time and they ended up with a smaller waist. But the researched forgot to measure the total amount of body fat of this group of women, and the positive results were due to them losing fat in general instead of them only losing fat around their stomach area.

A more recently published study did more extensive research in burning fat locally by forming a group of 11 students who would train one of their legs on a leg-press machine for well over an hour, three times a week, for 12 weeks. This resulted in 960–1200 reps per set which assured the researchers that fatty tissue had to be used as energy.

By measuring the bone mass, lean mass, and fat mass before and after their research they were able to check the difference in body composition of the students, and compare the leg that was trained with the leg that was not trained.

The table above shows the results the researchers found: the decrease in fat mass was statistically significant from doing these exercises but most of this fat mass came from the upper body. This research therefore concludes that burning fat locally by training a certain area of your body is not possible. But it also shows that the decrease in fat mass was not equal over the body: in a later article we will take a further look into what might have caused this.

Originally published at