Q: I’m now a believer in negative-accentuated sets for fat loss. I started using a version of your Ultimate Fat-to-Muscle Workout and got leaner and more muscular after only one month. I admit that I did a few more NA sets for areas in which I really needed to reduce fat. I’ve heard that spot reduction isn’t possible, but I could swear I lost more fat in my midsection and thighs, which I hit with more NA work. I’m seeing abs! So do you think that spot reduction is a myth? I’m starting to think not.
A: An NA set is one second up on the positive and six seconds down on the negative. For example, on a curl you would curl the weight at normal speed, then lower slowly to a count of six. The slow negative emphasis increases blood flow to the muscle and also triggers more muscle trauma. Both of those factors are critical to fast fat-to-muscle results.
Muscle trauma is key because it requires more “energy” to repair it. That’s why your metabolism is higher and you burn more fat for days after your workout. The question becomes, Does the energy required come from surrounding fat? For example, say you do NA sets for your abs—on incline kneeups you raise your legs in one second and lower in six. Do the excess calories necessary for repair after the workout come from abdominal fat?
While many studies suggest that spot reduction is a myth, in the e-book X-treme Lean Jonathan Lawson and I suggest that it could be possible to a degree:
“Lack of blood flow to an area on your body can hamper fat loss there. So high reps [longer tension time] may help. It’s kind of a roundabout spot-reduction strategy—or at least a more targeted fat-loss-acceleration technique.”
According to respected researcher Mauro Di Pasquale, M.D., his belief in spot reduction is changing as well. This is from his Dr. D’s Elite Performance Newsletter, 1(3):
“I did finally find a seminal study published in 2007 (Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 292(2):E934-9) that for me definitively shows that exercising muscle does have an effect on local fat and especially the subcutaneous fat adjacent to the muscle. The study concluded that ‘an acute bout of exercise can induce spot lipolysis and increased blood flow in adipose tissue adjacent to contracting skeletal muscle.’
“What this means is that you can reduce subcutaneous fat over a specific area in your body by exercising the muscles in that area. For example if you want to reduce abdominal fat, it’s useful to do abdominal exercises. However, keep in mind that, even though this study found that blood flow and lipolysis are stimulated more in adipose tissue adjacent to contracting muscles than in adipose tissue adjacent to resting muscles, whole-body exercise, whether aerobic or RT, will result in more overall bodyfat loss than working local muscle groups.”
So you should still do some cardio, as you’ll lose more bodyfat overall with whole-body workouts. If you add specific bodypart exercises—for the abs, for example—you can increase the fat loss somewhat more in that area due to an increase in blood flow and tapping into surrounding fat stores.
You added NA sets for specific areas like your midsection. That no doubt helped because increasing muscle damage via negative-accentuated exercise can have some spot-reducing effects and amplify the fat-burning ability of high reps—also included in the programs in the e-book Fat-to-Muscle Workout.
The longer tension times you get with both NA and higher-rep sets produce a fat-to-muscle effect. Both of those techniques keep the muscle under tension for close to a minute and induce muscle burn. The lactic acid burn releases more growth hormone, a potent fat burner. That’s why we include both negative-accentuated and higher-rep sets in our fat-to-muscle programs and why it’s worked so well for you.
Incidentally, muscle burn and longer tension times are why the 4X method has a very good fat-burning edge as well as amazing muscle-size-building properties—another reason many pro bodybuilders of yesteryear used it for contest prep. The 30-second rests between sets heighten muscle burn for GH release as well as blood flow to grow.
Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF videos and Size Surge programs, visit www.X-Rep.com for information on X-Rep and 3D POF methods and e-books. IM
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