Changing your shape: is it possible through exercise?
Probably eight out of ten women will tell you that they’re not entirely happy with their figures. Fatter women will long for slimness, while the skinny, boyish figure will long for a fuller, more curvy outline. But the fact of the matter is that not every woman can be the same shape – and although Hollywood may be peppered with those hour-glass figures, the real world has millions of women who fall into the categories of Pear-shaped and Apple-shaped.
The shapes we share
On the question of whether we can change our body shapes through exercise, there are a range of answers. Men, being generally more similarly built, can of course develop their shape to that of sharply defined muscle – thereby changing their shape from perhaps slender or portly to a healthy triangle of broad shoulders, six-pack flat stomachs, large biceps and narrow hips. Worldwide, however, women vary considerably in their shapes. Four most common shapes are:
- Pear: narrow shoulders, small waist, wide, rounded hips.
- Apple: Round in the tummy area with thinner legs.
- Ruler: straight up and down so that shoulders, waist and hips are in line.
- Hourglass: balanced with a small waist (considered the ideal by most).
Can you change your basic shape?
To a degree, of course you can. But your basic underlying structure will always remain. You are a result of your genetic blueprint – and that’s not going to change. But what you can do, is find the right exercise regime for your shape, and work to that diligently, daily and with focused purpose.
The key is to choose exercises that will help to balance out your proportions – which means you need to choose exercises that will work harder on one area than another. Burning off fat in some areas while strengthening muscles in others is often a mix of cardio and strength training. You can create a look and refinement that can radically change the way you feel about your body. And looking good and feeling good is the battle won. Cardio exercises include: swimming, dance class, cycling, spinning class, etc. Strength training involves weight training or resistance training.
What Exercises should you do for your body shape?
The Pear shape
The upper part of the body is the easiest area to refine. Begin with exercises for shoulders, back and chest. Resistance training is the best way to sculpt the body: push ups, dumbbells, bench-presses, rowing, etc.These are a great way to build up strength and bulk in the upper area. Add squats and lunges for a good cardio mix. Resistance training increases muscle tone and reduces body fat at the same time.
Work to strengthen the lower body as well, but moderately. You won’t change this shape but you can align it more with firmer muscles. Remember that fat stored in the thighs and buttocks is less metabolically active and therefore harder to burn off. It is possible to shape and define lean muscles, but endless leg lifts will never burn off the deep fat of ‘saddle bags’.
The Apple shape
The key here is to build the upper and lower body while losing body fat around the middle. Avoid violent ab work – such as repetitive sit-ups and crunches. Strengthen your core with squats and lunges and rowing exercises – this will also serve to strengthen the abs along the way. Cardiovascular training can be beneficial while burning off toxic body fat. Any rhythmic, repetitive, low-impact activity for at least 20 minutes can be helpful.
Interval training is particularly effective – alternating periods of moderate intensity with high intensity. Walking is a great one for this, keeping a brisk pace for 5 minutes, then switching to a very fast pace for 60 seconds. This can also be done with swimming, biking, cross-country skiing, and stair-stepping, etc.
The Hourglass shape
Because you’ve already got the shape everyone is working towards, doesn’t mean you can relax. To keep that shape with a balanced programme that works both upper and lower body equally. Regular strength and core exercises will keep that body in perfect shape!
The Ruler shape
You will also need to work upper and lower body in a balanced way. Building your upper and lower body can reduce appearance of your waist in size. To help pull your waist in, you can work your transverse abdominis by doing stomach vacuums. Working the abs may not be best for you – rather work to develop a strong core using free weights instead of machines.
Changing your body takes time. It also requires a healthy, sensible and appropriate diet to support your workout goals. Kick the junk food and sugar intake. Remember that working out occasionally is not going to help you. You will need to train regularly. In fact, it should become an integral part of your everyday life. An hour 3 times a week is a good place to start – but even 30 minutes 5 times a week will work as well. Consistency is vital to achieving your dream body – or as close to it as you can get.
Don’t slack on the training. Train hard. Your workout sessions should leave you sweaty and feeling as though you have gone to the limit. Success lies with moderate to high intensity workouts for each session.
Vary your routine. Don’t get bored because that kills motivation. Include a variation of weight and cardio training, and keep up active leisure activities such as swimming, tennis and hiking. This will also help to keep your body supple and prevent injuries developing from any repetitive strain you may be putting on specific areas to achieve your shape change.
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