This article is from The Swaddle.
By Neville Wadia
Besides launching millions of sit-ups, leg lifts and torso twists, the idea of toning a specific part of the body has sold countless exercise devices of dubious worth. Vibrating belts and gut-busting contraptions all claim to tighten our trouble spots overnight. But the miracles we are expecting never materialize, and our "spots" remain un-"reduced." Where did we go wrong?
Spot reduction encourages us to think narrowly, to zero in on one part of the body. We forget the bigger picture and neglect the most important factor: fat (adipose tissue). Hundreds of crunches or leg lifts will improve the tone and endurance of abdominal muscles, but they won't burn fat. And without burning fat, crunches and leg lifts won't give you a smaller waist.
The key to changing the shape of your body is combining strength training with aerobic activity and a healthy diet. This article will teach you how to reduce weight around three key parts of the body.
The strength training exercises below focus on three of the most common "spots" people want to reduce. Try performing these spot exercises three times a week, but never two days in a row, in order to give your muscles time to recover.
Triceps (back of the upper arm)
Kickboxing is a double dose: It is great cardio, and the pushing and punching movements help tone your muscles. (20-45 minutes)
Push-ups are beginner-friendly, since they come in various versions. If you struggle with a regular push-up, start out by standing and leaning at an angle toward the wall, using it as your base. Then, you can graduate to push-ups on the floor with bent knees, and finally to full push-ups on your toes and palms. (10-15 reps / 3 sets)
Inchworm adds variety to your upper body workout. Stand straight, then bend over till your hands touch the floor. Try to keep your legs as straight as possible. Walk your hands forward as far as you can, while your feet stay in place, balancing your body weight between. Then walk your hands back till they touch your toes. This exercise strengthens your upper arms as well as your back and core muscles. (10-15 reps / 3 sets)
Plank has various iterations. In its most basic form, you balance on your toes and forearms, with your body perfectly straight between, and your head up. As you progress, you can make it harder by balancing on your palms, instead of forearms, or trying side planks. Also you can extend the length of time you hold the position up to one and a half minutes at a time--but only if you have perfect technique. (Hold 30 seconds / 3 sets)
Downward dog works your core abdomen muscles, arms and back, if held and repeated. From the plank position, lift yourself into a push-up position, palms flat on the floor and your feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips up, using your back and abdominal muscles, so that your body forms an upside down V shape, with palms and feet still flat on the floor. (Hold 30 seconds / 3 sets)
Cobra helps you build a stronger core by reversing what the above exercises do. When trying to tone a specific part of your body, it's just as important to stretch that muscle in the opposite direction. The cobra yoga position, where you lie face down, then lift your head, shoulders and torso up using your back and core, stretches your core muscles, strengthens your back muscles, and ultimately contributes more to spot reduction. (Hold 30 seconds / 3 sets)
Squats strengthen your glute muscles when done properly. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and - keeping your heels flat on the floor and torso straight - lower your body down to where your thighs are parallel to the ground. Then stand up slowly while carefully preserving your posture. (10-15 reps / 3 sets)
Kick-backs are a lesser-known workout for the glute muscles. Get into a downward dog yoga position, bring one knee to your chest, then kick back, extending the leg fully. Take turns between legs to make sure you don't develop muscles unevenly. (10-15 reps / 3 sets)
Step-ups also good for your whole leg. Stand in front of a chair or low stool. Place your foot on the stool, and - keeping your body weight on the heel, not your toe - step onto the stool, bringing your other leg up with you. Step down with full control and repeat. Be sure to alternate your stepping leg in order to tone your legs evenly. (10-15 reps / 3 sets)
Any aerobic activity that elevates your heart rate can help you burn fat and take off unwanted kilos. Try one of these exercises for at least three 20-minute sessions per week. (For long-term weight control, engage in at least four 45-minute sessions per week.)
- Boxing / Kickboxing
- Hiking / Trekking
- Martial Arts
- Water Sports
A healthy, balanced diet is a critical part of weight loss and long-term weight control. But a nutritionist or dietician can advise you best. Check out The Swaddle's Nutrition section for more information!