Lose Man Boobs?! Lose Belly Fat?! Get Abs Instead of the Fat Tire?!
These questions get asked so often that I thought I'd write an article to answer them. Surprisingly, they all have the exact same answer. The problem is that your body likes to accumulate fat. It couldn't care less about looking good as long as it has lots of energy reserves in the form of fat. (Note that I am talking about extra fat, not merely extra weight -- if you are not clear on how weight is different from fat, please read my How To Lose Weight article). This fat gets stored all over your body, but certain areas are your body's favorites for fat storage while you really would rather not have any fat there. These include stomach, lower back, and chest ("man boobs") for men as well as stomach, lower back, legs, and upper arms for women.
Fact #1. What you have is too much body fat. If you didn't have too much body fat overall, you wouldn't have too much fat in those fat-favorite areas either. This leads us to...
Fact #2. In order to lose fat in those areas that you want to see the fat-free, you HAVE to lose fat overall. You can't pick and choose to only lose fat on your stomach or on your chest. Your body doesn't work that way. But if you lose fat from all over your body, you'll lose it on the stomach and on the chest too. You'll see plenty of ads for drugs or exercise programs claiming to "target stomach fat" -- those are lies, plain and simple. There is absolutely no way to just burn fat in one area of the body; the best you can and should do is burn fat overall.
Fact #3. To lose overall body fat you need to focus on two things: heavy whole-body weight-training and a fat-burning diet! 80% of your success will be determined by how good a weight training program and diet you have and how closely you stick to them. Cardio is a useful tool as well and it is great for your overall health, but it does not have the fat-burning potential of a good weight training program and diet.
Why Heavy Whole-Body Weight Training?
Because heavy weight training literally destroys your muscle tissue during the exercise which your body is then forced to repair. This repair process has incredible fat-burning potential! You'll be burning fat just going about your everyday life while your body repairs the muscle damage you inflicted in the gym. That's on top of the significant amount of calories that you'll burn actually lifting those weights in the first place. And by exercising your whole body and not just arms, abs, and chest you force your body to perform this metabolism-boosting repair on as many muscles as possible further maximizing fat burning. This little-known fact that will help you achieve fat loss far faster and more effectively than you ever could otherwise.
A small aside for those guys who want that ugly chest fat gone: heavy weight training for your chest (mainly through bench presses) will help you in another way. By building up your chest muscles and making your chest bigger and broader, you will effectively hide whatever little fat you have on there -- same amount of fat as before but in front of much more muscle now will not look nearly as visible. You'll be doing chest weight training as part of any good weight training program, plus you can prioritize your chest more by doing its exercises first. Just don't only do chest training -- remember what I said about training your whole body to maximize fat burning.
What About Cardio?
Do it in moderation. 2-3 sessions per week, 20-30 minutes per session of moderate-to-brisk pace. Alternatively, do very short intense cardio sessions where you go all out. You'll start out doing four 30-second intervals of high intensity cardio (basically, all-out sprinting) each of which is followed by 30 seconds of relaxed walking. So your session would look like: 30 second sprint, 30 second walk, 30 second sprint, 30 second walk, 30 second sprint, 30 second walk, 30 second sprint, 30 second walk... and at this point you should be exhausted. You do this 2-3 times a week and add another interval with every passing week, building up to 15 or so. This is called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). But again remember: cardio is a relatively small part of the puzzle. Focus on weight training and diet.
What To Do Next?