Does Spot Training Work? (Plus: 5-Minute Tank Top Arms)

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Spottraining 1080X675 1 | Does Spot Training Work? (Plus: 5-Minute Tank Top Arms)

Summer is on the horizon, which means:

Flip flops, possibly some sand and sun, and tank tops (although we’ve been wearing those since February in Austin).

“How do I get more toned arms?”

Hate to break it to you, but “spot training” does not exist.

Just like if you were to eat salads every day for lunch (with protein and fat of course), but eat takeout pizza and wine every night for dinner, and sleep 5-hours, one healthy habit does NOT necessarily take the cake for all the others.

All those crunches for flat abs, that inner-and-outer thigh machine for a thigh gap, and tricep kickbacks for that under-arm jiggle will only get you so far.

Here are 5 Truths for Toning Up ( No spot-training included).

“Tank top worthy arms” here you come!

  1. TOTAL Body Workout.

    Your body doesn’t see itself in parts—especially when it comes to toning up or fat loss.During a workout, your body does not say, “I am going to burn fat on your legs today” or “I am going to burn fat on your arms today.” Nope.

    Instead, “toning up” or “losing fat is a sum total of your body’s total metabolism—throughout your body—and doesn’t occur in one region. That’s why building a workout foundation built upon TOTAL (full) body movements and workouts (instead of doing certain parts or focusing on certain parts more) should come first, before moving to isolated movements for shaping lean definition over the long haul.

    As for muscle development: Muscle definition is a sum total of muscle development + fuel + total fat loss. Thus, if you put all your eggs in one basket—-and focus solely on spot-training body part (more than others) or one type of training (like just running or just doing Orange Theory), you are doing your body a great disservice.

    Bottom line: Incorporate compound movements (squats, deadlifts, presses, pushups, bench presses, lunges), along with a blend of heavyish/challenging strength work + walking + body weight movements + shorter bursts of cardio (HIIT/sprints 1-3 times per week) for a winning “toning” combination.


  1. Eat Enough

    Eating ENOUGH to fuel your body and shape lean muscle is essential if you want to see results from your time in the gym. When we under-eat, diet, or fool ourselves into thinking we are eating enough, we can do all the training in the world, but never see “results.”

And I am not talking about just eating enough Quest Bars, Vega protein powders or chicken and broccoli.

Eating enough fats with every meal (i.e. 1-2 servings of fats like coconut butter, ghee, butter, avocado, olive oil, avocado oil, etc.), along with proteins and carbohydrates (and not fearing real-food starches), will get you far.

Of course, “eating enough” must be individualized to you and your goals—as some people do better off a high fat, lower carbohydrate approach; others do better off a moderate carb-fat-protein approach etc.

How to know what works for you?

Be your own experiment. Check in. And ask, How do I feel?

In addition, some common signs and symptoms that you may not be eating enough include:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor recovery between workouts
  • Plateaus
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Missing periods
  • ADD/ADHD or inability to focus
  • Bran fog
  • Low energy
  • Getting hungry or shaky 1-3 hours after eating
  • Loss of appetite easily
  • Insatiably hungry if meals are delayed
  • Constantly thinking about food
  • Brittle nails or hair
  • Bumps on your legs or arms
  • Low immunity
  • Easily anxious/stressed


Not sure what you need or if you’re eating enough?

Connect with me today and we can set up a simple phone/video assessment to help you re-set or rebalance.

  1. Digestion

    Perhaps even more important than your nutrition is your gut health.

    The gut is the gateway to health and if you’re not properly digesting the foods you do eat to feed and build muscle in the first place, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Approximately 3 in 4 Americans experience some sort of digestive dysfunction—be it bloating, gas, and constipation, to less-known gut disturbances, like seasonal allergies, skin breakouts, autoimmune conditions, and hormonal imbalances.

Essentially, gut issues like a “leaky gut” or bacterial overgrowth gut prevent you from absorbing or fully digesting all the good nutrients you put in your body in the first place.

These issues may develop from a variety of triggers, including:

  • The consumption of gut irritating foods. Sugar, alcohol, some grains, poor fats and hydrogenated oils, and packaged or processed foods
  • Conventional meats and dairy
  • Disordered eating habits
  • Irregular bowel movements, or they are not fully eliminating all wastes daily
  • Low water intake
  • Stimulant intake is high (Caffeine, coffee)
  • Mindless eating (eating too fast, on the go, not chewing your food)
  • High consumption of restaurant and take-out food
  • Not chewing your food thoroughly
  • C-Section baby or formula-fed
  • Foreign country travel
  • Surgery
  • Illness
  • Antibiotic use
  • Prolonged medication use
  • Environmental exposures (cleaning products, hygiene products, plastics)

What to do about it?

Support your gut with healthy digestive practices in your daily life including:

  • Chewing your food thoroughly and slowing down at meal time
  • Drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water throughout the day
  • Taking a daily probiotic and digestive enzymes with meals
  • Boosting stomach acid with occasional apple cider vinegar or HCL supplementation
  • Eating real food and stressing less (sound familiar?)
  1. Address Stress

    Approximately 90-percent of poor health conditions are associated with stress (Perkins, 1994).

When it comes to that stubborn body fat, last 5 pounds or fitness plateaus, this statistic fits right in line.

Stress is the enemy when it comes to “getting the body you want” or finding the right workout for your body type, because it ultimately will prevent results.

When our bodies are stressed, they produce cortisol—our stress hormone.

Some cortisol is necessary to help us deal with stress (like running from a bear or getting through a tough workout), but if we have too much cortisol in our body—for too long—then it works against us.

In fact, sometimes, in chronic states of stress, we even lose our ability to produce much, if any, cortisol at all—leaving us equally with the inability to deal with stress (resulting in things like increased body fat or stubborn under-arm jiggle).

While stress is unavoidable, by recognizing the BIGGEST stressors in your life, you can then proactively seek to eliminate stress through the simplest of things, like:

Making time for social life in your busy work schedule;

  • Taking 10-minute breaks away from your screens;
  • Candling down at night instead of living on your screen;
  • Wearing blue-blocking glasses when you use your screens;
  • Dropping into a yoga class or varying your training intensities in your workouts;
  • Aiming for 30-60 minutes of sunshine and fresh air each day;
  • Reminding yourself…it’s OK      
  1. Free Love

In order to transform our lives (or our bodies), we must first transform our minds. In terms of “building a bad ass body,” this means embracing and accepting your body where it’s at—at all stages.

The more we hate on our body, the more our body senses that hate and the more we hold on to unnecessary stress (which does the OPPOSITE of boosting metabolism) .

Phew. That’s a lot more than just doing crunches.

Once these 5 factors are into place, THEN, the targeted “tone it up,” circuit or “spotraining” session in the gym WILL actually make a difference.

Try this shoulder blaster for those tank-top worthy arms.

Training BUST A MOVE:

5-Minute Tank Top Arms Workout

Complete 4-5 Rounds

10 Upright Dumbbell or Cable Rows (squeeze for 2 seconds at the top)

12 Rope Tricep Cable Press Downs (substitute: Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extensions)

12 Alternating Dumbbell Curls (12 each side)

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