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Fat Anywhere But There: How to Get Rid of Cellulite

04/09/2013 11:53 am ET | Updated Jun 09, 2013

Few subjects have been addressed with such chronic inaccuracy as cellulite.  We've come such a long way in fitness, with more widely-available hard data on what works, and fewer pervasive myths, that it amazes me to find such rampant misunderstanding surrounding the causes of and remedies for cellulite. 
 
Cellulite, like male-pattern baldness (trust me) is genetics' way of reminding us that life isn't fair. People who are "pissed off" enough can get hair plugs or liposuction. But those of us who are merely "put out" -- but unwilling to resort to the knife -- still have some options. At least you women do. Me, I'm going to have to hope year-round hats stay in style.
 
Sit Still While We Vacuum Your Rump

So what doesn't work? First off, we have topical creams and bum vibrators. These range from largely ineffective to a complete waste of time. Simple math, if these provided long-term results, no one would have cellulite. We can argue over what constitutes results, but we all know we're not going to rub the cottage cheese off our buns.

Weight Loss, That'll Do the Trick

The basic concept is sound -- lose weight, lose the downtown dimples. You're on the right track -- losing weight is a piece of the puzzle -- but it's not indiscriminate weight loss you're after. What you're really looking for is your skin to press more tightly against the underlying muscle, creating enough pressure to smooth out the dimpling effect caused by any adipose tissue (fat) between the two. That's why the appearance of cellulite is reduced while the underlying muscle is contracted or you're bending over: Muscle tissue presses up against the layer of fat, temporarily ironing out your dimples. It's when the muscles under the area affected by dimpling are under-developed that cellulite rears its curdy head.

What you're really aiming for is decreased body fat and increased muscle mass around the affected area. This doesn't mean you'll be building big thighs or a large butt; instead view it as shifting the composition of what's already there to a firmer, less clumpy composition. If you're significantly overweight, then starting with weight loss is a good bet. Up your aerobics and keep your calories in check.

If you're battling cellulite but are not significantly overweight, indiscriminate weight loss can result in a shrinking of muscle volume in the affected area. This can cause a reduction in tension between the skin and your muscle that can sometimes even make the dimpling appear worse. The trick is both to decrease body fat and increase the muscle mass around the affected areas. Since you can't spot-reduce body fat, you'll have to improve body composition throughout your entire body by cleaning up your diet and performing aerobics regularly. But you can spot increase muscle mass -- so that means hit the weights! Work your whole body, but give special attention to building the muscle under your trouble areas.
 
I Thought I Was Working My Butt?  

Are you sure? You may be working the right muscle groups but the wrong muscle fibers. Muscles have different fiber types for different jobs. Slow-twitch fibers are for endurance: You use these when you walk, jog, or peddle for any extended amount of time. Training them doesn't result in much, if any, growth and may even cause your muscles to shrink. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are for your heavy lifting and high-effort activities like sprinting. These are the fibers with the potential for the kind of growth you want. You primarily use them when the load is heavy and your effort level is high.

You can determine which type of muscle fiber you're working by how long it takes to reach muscular fatigue. A safe bet is to select exercises that bring you to muscular fatigue in 30 seconds or less -- then you know you're hitting your fast-twitch fibers. If you're doing hundreds of kickbacks and step ups in an hour-long aerobics class, you're training the wrong fibers.
 
If you're doing deep squats, heavy kick-backs, leg curls, and walking lunges with weights that become challenging after 8-12 repetitions, then you're on the right track. These are some of the staples I use with my clients.

Intense exercise coupled with clean eating will take you in the right direction, but chances are you won't see the body fat come off your trouble areas first -- that's why they're your trouble areas. But as long as you're seeing signs elsewhere in your physique -- more definition in your arms, shoulders, and cheekbones -- know that you're on the right track. Train regularly, eat clean, and you'll see some good results.
 
I've witnessed firsthand many females completely (yes I said completely) smooth out their lady lumps. Battling cellulite isn't the easiest thing you'll ever do, but you're not doomed to spend your days at the beach hiding dimpled cheeks. As for me with my pale skin and hairless dome, all I can do is re-apply sun screen and hope for shade.

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