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Free Weights or Machines? continued...

Weil: Yes. The muscle tightness means that the muscle is responding; it is getting stronger, and if you continue, you will probably notice that your clothes will fit looser as your torso tightens up. This tightening may occur even if you don't lose weight or fat. The reason the clothes fit tighter is that the muscles have tightened and pulled in the abdomen, even if there was no weight loss.

Unfortunately, you cannot spot reduce, so even if you did 1,000 sit-ups per day, the fat on top of the muscle is not going to disappear. Basically, our abdominal muscles look no different than pieces of steak from the butcher. The meat is the muscle and the fat around the meat is the fat. The only thing missing is the skin. You can work that muscle all you like, but it won't eliminate the fat.

The way to reduce the fat is to do aerobic exercise, which stimulates the fat to release into the body, into the bloodstream, so that it can be burned during exercise, and to do resistance or weight lifting exercise to build that muscle. Remember the muscle is the engine that burns all the calories. The aerobic exercise will stimulate the fat to release into the bloodstream, so that it can get to the muscle. Once the fat is in the muscle, it gets burned and then you have a smaller fat cell, and that's how you lose fat.

Keep up with the abdominal exercises, because they will tone you, tighten you and strengthen you, and then as you do more aerobic activity, you'll get those fat cells to reduce.

Then finally, of course, attention to how many calories you eat is critical for losing the fat, because no matter how much exercise you do, you will never lose weight if you eat more than you burn.

Member question: Can you recommend any free weight exercises to replace lunges and squats for bad knees?

Weil: Start with straight leg raises:

  • Lie down on the floor, one knee bent and the other leg straight.
  • Lift the straight leg to the height of the other knee.
  • Pause one to two seconds and then lower the straight leg to the floor.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • If that's easy, strap an ankle weight -- two pounds to start -- on your ankle and do the exercise with that.

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