Not all workouts are created equal. By tweaking your exercise routine according to your particular body shape—whether you’re Hourglass, Circle, Triangle, Ruler or Inverted Triangle—you can help balance out your physique and make the most of your beautiful body.
Exercises for Hourglass Body Shapes
You’re curvy up top and down below with a small waist—basically, the smokin’ definition of the old Hollywood bombshell.
Best cardio routine: “Muscle confusion is key,” says certified fitness trainer Lisa Avellino. “Because the symmetry of your lower and upper body is ideal, routines should rotate to challenge different muscles on different days in order to maintain this balance.” A sample week might include four one-hour workouts: Zumba one day, a recumbent bike with light free weights the next, then a boot camp class with a step challenge, and a classic cardio workout, like indoor cycling or hiking for the final day.
Best strength-training routine: Certified strength and conditioning specialist Kevin Bailey recommends two to three days a week of a total body strength training routine that focuses on the extremities to balance upper and lower body curves.
For the upper body, use a moderate weight (one with which you can perform two sets of 15 to 20 reps) to do biceps curls, shoulder presses, and triceps dips to build lean muscle, suggests Bailey. He notes that hourglass figures needs to pay special attention to strengthening the upper back with moves like the Bent Over Row (two sets of eight to 12 reps with a moderate to heavy weight) because the chest is often front-loaded and needs support.
For the lower body, Bailey recommends focusing on the quadriceps, inner thighs, hamstrings and calves to complement the curve of your hips. That means dumbbell squats with a light to moderate weight, supine bridge curls with a stability ball and single-leg calf raises with a light to moderate weight. Try two sets of 20 reps for each.
Exercises for Circle Body Shapes
Your smaller shoulders and hips—not to mention those shapely legs and trim backside—are the fittest parts of your body. Your fat tends to fall right in the middle, around your stomach.
Best cardio routine: “Engage in cardio stretch, where the target heart rate is elevated in the fat burning zone without impact,” Avellino advises. Half an hour of power yoga and then power walking for 30 to 45 minutes is an ideal cardio workout for a Circle. Bailey concurs, adding that people with this body type have lean and strong legs, which allow them to endure longer cardio routines without risking joint injury.
Interval training—short sprints of high-intensity cardio drills—is also great for Circle shapes, once a certain level of fitness is reached. “It boosts the metabolism even more than regular cardio workouts because the pace changes from slow to fast, challenging the body to work harder,” he says. Bailey recommends four weeks of regular workouts before starting interval training.
Best strength-training routine: Do strength training two to three days a week for 30 to 45 minutes, suggests Bailey. One key exercise is the diamond push-up (two sets of 10 to 15 reps). These are push-ups with hands close together in a diamond shape, which work to build the biceps and triceps and also engage the transverse abdominals—the deepest layer of your core. “Strengthening these muscles pulls the abdomen inward like a girdle, giving a Circle a leaner look,” he says. The Plank (keeping your body long and straight, arms straight or bent at the elbow and shoulder-width apart, holding you in a hover above the ground) is another great move that focuses on the abdomen. Hold the position for 30 seconds, then rest. Work your way up to 60 seconds.
Exercises for Triangle Body Shapes
Curvy on the bottom with a small waist and upper body, you’ve got a classic womanly silhouette.
Best cardio routine: Walking, jogging, cycling or the elliptical machine are the go-to cardio workouts for Triangle body shapes, according to Bailey, who recommends working up to 45 minutes of cardio five to six days per week. “Lower impact exercises are good because there is decreased pressure on the knee, hip and ankle joints, which may be weaker since there is more weight in those areas,” says Bailey.
Best strength-training routine: Although it’s important to do some lower-body exercises like squats and calf raises, Triangle shapes should emphasize upper body training in order to build these muscles and balance out a, ahem, more generous lower half. Bailey’s plan: Using a moderate to heavy weight, do three sets of 10 to 15 reps of each of these exercises: dumbbell bicep curls, overhead triceps extensions, dumbbell shoulder presses and chest presses. As you progress, Avellino recommends increasing the weights in the upper body program while reducing the number of reps. “This will build upper body size to re-proportion the hips and achieve a more symmetrical look,” she says.
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