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5 Keys To Firing Up Fat Loss While Still Kicking Ass
When women say they want to "lose fat," that all-around statement often doesn't reflect how specific their goals really are. Many of us know exactly where we want to lose it: the hips, the abs, and those nagging chicken wings.
News flash! Spot reduction—or the idea that you can direct fat loss to a single area—is pretty much accepted as a myth. But that doesn't mean you can't do anything to help your problem areas. Cellucor athlete and trainer Jen Jewell has a better idea: By strategically adding muscle, you can reshape your body and get closer to your ideal physique. According to Jewell, the first step to getting there is to stop looking at the scale to judge your progress.
"It can be tricky for women—and men—to get past the scale," Jewell says. "To become truly healthy, we simply have to stop letting the scale rule our lives. You don't always need to lose weight to look better."
In fact, she says, you might be better off gaining weight. Here's why.
Pounds of Muscle Versus Pounds of Fat
The thought of gaining weight to look better might seem idiotic. But we're talking about gaining muscle weight, not fat weight, and there's a big difference. Muscle is denser than body fat, so 5 pounds of muscle takes up a lot less space than 5 pounds of body fat. And that new muscle can make you look a lot better than if, by some miracle, you had been able to "spot reduce."
"Training to add muscle can change how your body looks and how it fits into your clothing," says Jewell. "Most people who gain muscle say their clothing usually fits better. Their body weight may increase, but they lose enough fat that they can fit more comfortably into smaller sizes."
She notes that when you transition mentally from losing to gaining, all kinds of great things can happen. "Ditching the 'I need to lose' mentality can not only get rid of those problem areas, but also increase your strength, endurance, and confidence," she says.
But if you stop using the scale to measure your progress, how are you going to know if you're getting anywhere?
"Focus on whether you have more energy from day to day and whether you're getting in more reps today than you did last week," Jewell says. "Is your strength training making you feel more confident? Is it lowering your stress level? How do your clothes fit these days? These are all much better indicators of progress than how many pounds you weigh."
Now Is Not the Time to Diet
Lest you feel tempted to jump on the latest fad-diet wagon to speed your progress, Jewell says that a key element to getting trim is not to go on an extreme diet but to pay attention to your nutrition. She eats foods from whole sources, limiting processed foods as much as possible while increasing her intake of lean proteins, heart healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables.
"When I'm trying to get a little leaner, I pay a lot of attention to what I eat. But that doesn't mean skipping carbs and fats."
Instead of focusing on how little she can eat, Jewell tries to make sure she eats enough to fuel her workouts so she can create new muscle and burn more fat.
"Your body simply performs better when it's properly fueled," she says. "The simple fact of the matter is that you need good nutrition to support muscle growth."
Sculpt Your Problem Areas
There may not be any such thing as spot reduction. But with the right training techniques, Jewell says, you can make real progress on these common "high-priority" spots.
To firm up your midsection, Jewell says, ditch those basic crunches. Instead, try this short routine to work your core muscles from different angles.
Also known as "chicken wings," excess fat around your triceps causes that dreaded underarm jiggle. By adding muscle here, Jewell says, you can reduce the jiggles while getting toned and feeling stronger. But you have to hit the triceps from a variety of angles so you can strengthen all three triceps heads.
Move from one exercise to the next without stopping until you complete your first set of reps on all four exercises. Then rest for 30-60 seconds and repeat for two more sets.
"My thighs are the first place any excess body fat goes—and the absolute last place to lean out," Jewell says. "I've always been so frustrated by it, but now I've decided to embrace it and focus instead on making my lower body as strong and muscular as possible."
But there's more to improving lower-body strength than doing the usual quad exercises. "You have to pay extra close attention to your hamstrings too," she says. Here's Jewell's favorite lower body line-up.
Curtsy Lunge (Perform without kettlebell)2-3 sets of 10-12 reps, rest 30-60 sec.
Gain Perspective From Gains!
Next time you're feeling frustrated with one of your body areas, shift your focus. Rather than thinking about losing weight from that area, consider gaining muscle there instead. You can look better, feel stronger, and be more confident!