And the long answer?
This is about encouraging people of any age to improve their health, fitness and strength. All of this inevitably leads to increases in confidence, self-esteem, mental health, and the obvious physiological improvements such as improved body shape, hormone function and metabolism. The decreases can be seen in resting heart-rate and the size of your trousers. We’re agreed on that, aren’t we? That said, there is nothing wrong with homing in on specific areas of your body but you need to understand what works and what doesn’t. So I’m going to use my column as a pulpit and preach till I’m blue in the face because if there’s one question I get asked ALL the time, it’s this:
“What exercises should I do to get rid of my wobbly tummy?”…or words to that effect.
The answer to that is this: Doing 250 abdominal crunches a day is going to make the muscles of your mid-section strong, but those exercises won’t get rid of the fat on top. You cannot remove fat from one specific area of your body.
Silence. Pin Drop. I’m sensing a tumbleweed moment.
Yes, underneath that fat you will probably, after countless weeks of ab crunches, have a six-pack brewing. If you want those defined abdominal muscles to show, then you need to strip back the layer of fat on top.
It’s the same with any part of your body. You might view the dangle of your underarm as the devil’s own work, and yes, knocking out daily sets of tricep kick-backs, skull-crushers and tricep press-ups WILL firm the muscle but the lean toned look can only be achieved if you get rid of the fat too. And how do you get rid of the fat? By adopting a whole body approach to your training.
“So what you’re saying is that if I want the defined arms of Elle Macpherson or Davina McCall’s abs, then I need to work the whole body, not just those bits?”
Plus..and this is just as important… you need to eat well. Increase your protein intake (fish, chicken, tofu, eggs, cheese, yogurt), reduce alcohol consumption (dull but vital) and focus on one dose of good carbohydrate after your workout (oats, potatoes, rice, wholegrain bread, no sugary crap to send your hormones into a spin).
So you with me? Whole body training plus a good healthy diet will reduce fat levels all over, not where you want it.
For whole body training, diarise at the very minimum three workouts a week which combine cardio and strength work. Or you can split them up into doses of strength training and doses of cardio. A typical week might look like this: Mondays Lower Body and Core strength training (could be weights in the gym, could be a Legs, Tums and Bums class or could be one of my W&H workouts): Tuesdays , a Hiit class (puffy cardio to you and me to make you sweat and which uses your whole body); Wednesdays a nice walk or cycle ; Thursdays Upper Body and Core; Fridays another dose of Hiit. Saturdays and Sundays whatever you like, but either one or both should be a rest day.
Just in case your attention has wandered, I’m going to repeat this again. You can only reduce the fat on your body by doing both of these things: a) making amends to your food (input) and b) by increasing your exercise (output). You will not achieve a torso of goddess proportions with a double cheese stuffed crust (extra pepperoni) and 250 daily crunches.
But you can still work on an area of your body which you want to tone up more than others. Take the triceps, you’d still follow your whole body workout regime and stuff your face with good food, but add in some specific strength exercises for that area, three or four times a week. Start now and you’ll be rocking some seriously defined arms in a couple of months.
(Originally written for Woman&Home magazine, November 2020. Adapted for this blog April 2021).