I have been in the fitness and wellness field for over 35 years and the most commonly asked questions are what specific exercises to do that get rid of undesirable body fat (primarily around the waist, thighs and triceps). I also saw the futility of trying to work off fat in these areas by the excessive amount of time people spent on ab machines, abductor-adductor machines (thighs), and triceps exercises with little visual benefits.
The most important thing to understand is the difference between lean muscle tissue and fat (adipose) tissue. They are two completely different types of tissue, and you can’t turn body fat into muscle, nor will muscle ever get converted into fat. The next thing to understand is you can’t spot reduce. This just means that when losing, or attempting to lose weight you can’t target a specific area with excessive exercise and expect weight loss from that area.
Therefore, with that said, you must realize that the loss of body fat in any area comes when the amount of calories burned in a day is more than the amount of calories consumed. Taking into consideration how much you want to lose, and how long you want it to take, determines the amount of exercise you need to do and the reduction in calories you can consume. The best plans I’ve seen that seem to work over time is a 500-750 calorie reduction through an increase in exercise and a decrease in calories consumed. Over a ten-week period, this results in a 10-15 pound loss of body fat.
Now back to the original question of targeting specific areas through strength training. If there is not an excessive amount of body fat in the area you would like to enhance then yes, there are specific exercises you can do that can create the desirable effect you are looking for. I prefer doing exercises that work large muscle groups in the upper and lower body. One of my favorites is the squat press. While squatting with the bar in a front squat position, you come up and lift the bar over your head. This exercise will involve all the leg muscles, along with the shoulders and triceps. The complement to this exercise is the snatch, where you are now pulling the weight up over the head. This will involve those lower body muscles working in conjunction with the back and biceps. While doing multiple muscle exercises, remember that the triceps are getting work every time the arm presses or extends, and the biceps are getting work every time the arm curls or flexes. The triceps work with the chest and shoulders (ex: push-ups), and the biceps work with the back muscles (ex: chin ups). There are many different ways to work the abs and obliques (love handles), although it’s hard to get that six-pack look we all desire unless our body fat is extremely low. But I do believe that abdominal strength is one of the keys to preventing lower back injuries and it is an area we don’t want to overlook. My only suggestion is to make planks, both side and regular, a part of your ab routine.
In conclusion, the most important thing is to make sure you are doing some weight resistance training. As we age, this is imperative for overall body wellness. If time is not a concern in your routine, these are some of my favorite exercises that will have those shoulders and legs ready for those summer dresses!