Most people have one or two 'problem' areas, where they carry a little extra weight. Where you gain weight is beyond your control, and mainly due to genetics. What you might not like to hear is that where you lose weight is also beyond your control. In other words, you can't spot reduce.
If your back and lower neck are your problem areas, you can fix them with diet and exercise; but it might take some patience as you lose total body fat. Create a calorie deficit by controlling your calorie intake and doing regular cardio and strength training and your problem areas won't be problems anymore.
The Fat Loss Equation
Fat loss is both simple and complex. The basic idea is that you must take in fewer calories from your diet than you expend through physiological processes and physical activities.
But trying to figure out the right number gets a little more difficult. Your metabolic rate, or the speed at which your body burns calories, depends on a number of factors, including your weight, cardiovascular fitness, age, gender and genetics.
You can roughly estimate the number of calories you take in and calories you expend through exercise, and using an online calorie calculator can help. You can also enlist the help of your doctor or other health professional.
Regardless, just keep in mind the basic guidelines: reduce calorie input, increase calorie output.
Check Your Diet
No amount of time in the gym will make up for a bad diet. If you're eating too many calories, you won't lose weight. Eating healthy isn't hard on paper. It all comes down to commitment and will power.
The best foods for weight loss are:
- Fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruits
- Lean meats and fish
- Whole grains
- Nuts, seeds and vegetable oils (in moderation)
- Low-fat dairy
The worst foods for weight loss are:
- Snack foods -- chips, cookies, candy
- Fast foods -- french fries, greasy hamburgers, pizza
- Refined carbohydrates -- white pasta, bread and rice
- Fatty meats
- Sugary beverages -- soda, sweetened teas, juices, fancy coffee drinks
Emphasize fresh, whole foods in your diet and cut out processed foods and you'll find it's easy to stay within your calorie budget for fat loss.
Read more: The 7 Principles of Fat Loss
Do Your Cardio
While controlling calorie intake is key, it's hard to stay in a calorie deficit without cardio exercise, which is the type of exercise that burns the most calories. Any type of activity that gets your heart rate up for a period of time counts as exercise, but not all cardio is equal when it comes to fat loss.
High-Intensity Exercise and Interval Training
If you're serious about losing the fat on your back and lower neck area, you've got to get serious with your cardio. The harder you work in your training sessions, the more calories you'll burn and the more fat you'll lose. If you've been walking for exercise, try jogging. If you've been cycling at a leisurely pace, turn up the volume. Whatever kind of cardio you choose to do, do it harder and faster.
A couple times a week, mix in some high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. In a HIIT workout, you alternate periods of intense activity, such as sprinting, with periods of recovery, such as walking or jogging. This type of cardio has been proven to be more effective at burning fat than steady-state cardio. And unlike steady-state cardio, your body continues to burn calories for hours after your workout in the repair and recovery process.
HIIT can be tough on the body though, so if you've never done it before, ease into it. Even if you're an exercise pro, remember to alternate HIIT workouts with moderate-intensity cardio workouts during the week.
The third piece of the fat-loss equation is building lean muscle mass -- this is the part a lot of people neglect. Don't make that mistake. By building lean muscle mass, you are effectively turning your body into a fat-burning machine.
This is because your body expends more calories to build and maintain muscle than it does fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn -- even while you're at rest.
Total-Body Strength Training
Though you might be inclined to target your problem areas with site-specific exercises, that won't do you any good. You might build muscle in your back and lower neck with that plan, but you'll also develop muscular imbalances.
The best type of strength training for fat loss involves compound exercises that target all the major muscle groups -- chest, shoulders, arms, abs, back, thighs and calves. Compound exercises are big muscle moves that work more than one muscle group at a time. The more muscles worked at one time, the more calories you'll burn while you're exercising.
Some examples of compound exercises include:
To make planning your workouts easy, pick five or six exercises that target all the major muscle groups. Do one set of each exercise for 60 seconds, then immediately move on to the next exercise for 60 seconds. At the end of the round, rest for 2 minutes, then do it again. Do three to five rounds.
This type of workout will help you build muscle and burn fat better than doing small muscle exercises like biceps curls. You can actually get a great cardio workout from this type of high-intensity circuit training, which means you'll be able to kiss your back and lower neck fat adieu that much sooner.
Read more: 10 Body-Fat Burning Moves