Today we have a doozy of a question, so I'm going to do my best to answer as simply as possible but still give a good idea of what you should be doing to solve today's problem.
My friend Shawna writes:
"My two problem areas are my arms and my lower tummy. What workouts do you recommend?"
So, there are two approaches we can take to a question like this, depending on what is meant by "problem areas": the strength approach and the fat loss approach. As with many things I talk about here, the approach you take will depend on your end goals.
If the problem is a lack of strength and definition, I would recommend several isolation exercises for the arms. Some of my personal favorites for arms include using cable machines for bicep curls and tricep extensions, EZ Curl Bar bicep curls with a pronated (palm down) grip, and tricep kickbacks with a dumbbell.
Developing strength in the lower abs is a bit of a different story, as there is a big debate over whether its possible to isolate either the lower or upper abs or not. However, with the research I've done and my own experience, there isn't a hugely significant difference in muscle activation when doing a "lower ab" exercise vs. an "upper ab" exercise.
In other words, focus more on training your entire core (which can include abs, obliques, lower back) rather than just one part of your abs for best results. Exercises such as planks, lying or upright leg raises, and Supermans are great choices to start with.
Now, let's talk about fat loss and these problem areas, which is much more commonly asked about by my personal training clients.
I've talked a lot before about spot reduction and how you can't burn fat in a specific area by exercising muscles there, and the same holds true here.
You'll be much better off following these three steps:
1. Exercise your body in a balanced manner. Working on total body training WILL benefit you in many ways, including turning your "problem" areas into points of confidence for you. This can include a combination of cardiovascular training, lifting weights, bodyweight circuits, or whatever else you like. I personally love bodyweight training, and have seen tremendous results in my clients by using that method.
2. Reducing calorie intake. This is a HUGE one, as you probably know. You can exercise for days and drink all the shakes and juices, but there is no getting around the need to create a negative energy balance to start losing body fat. In other words, calories in has to be fewer than calories out.
3. Manage your thoughts. I believe strongly in the power of your words. Your body can't follow a command that your mind doesn't give it, so when you tell yourself you have a problem with fat or that you struggle to lose weight, your body responds by having fat problems and struggling to lose weight! Start flipping your words around, shrink the problem in your mind, and then watch the problem shrink on your body.
Hope that helps you Shawna, and everyone reading this! As always, feel free to send me a message on Facebook if you have a question you want me to answer!