Workout ideas to keep hourglass shape
August 3, 2012 6:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for workout ideas for an hourglass shape, so I can stay curvy but be more fit and toned. I don't go to the gym because I don't want to look like I go to the gym - I'd rather have a Beyonce or 1960s bikini kind of shape.

What exercises would you recommend for someone who doesn't want to get lean, but wants to stay curvy?

I'd like to be a little more fit and have a more toned, stronger and healthy version of my natural hourglass body. I'm not fat and I don't want to lose too much weight, but maybe some from my upper arms and mid-section (abs?!). Google is confusing me on this and I'm scared that working out will make me look like someone from an exercise machine infomercial!

I'm particularly interested in how women get that gently concave tummy like in the last two photos, as opposed to the flat, straight up and down tummy that most workouts seem to promote. Strong thighs and big butt are good also.

Any ideas? Exercises, websites, books... Where do I start? Thanks in advance! : )
posted by inkypinky to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
The second photo you posted, I'm pretty sure, is ultra-Photoshopped.

It's a lot harder to get "buff" than most new work-outters realize.

The basic workout advice, based on your goal, is squats and some general cardio, and possibly alterations to your diet. Paleo, low-carb, or something like that - people have tried different things. The squat is the basic lower-body workout that helps everything from back to butt to legs. You can't spot-reduce any part of your body, but lowering bodyfat percentage will cause you to lose fat overall, which depending on your body may come off your body differently than others. A bit of muscle otone may get the leaner look you want on those certain parts.
posted by demagogue at 7:04 AM on August 3, 2012

You can't spot-reduce any part of your body, but lowering bodyfat percentage will cause you to lose fat overall, which depending on your body may come off your body differently than others.

Yeah, that's the thing. There is no uniform shape for a healthy, fit body. The fact that many athletes have similar body shapes might be less because working out produces consistent results than because certain body shapes and types are better suited to athleticism than others.
posted by valkyryn at 7:08 AM on August 3, 2012 [18 favorites]

They're sucking it in. Most all cheesecake models of that era do it when they pose. I think Beyonce is just doing it because of the way she's standing. I have a naturally very flat stomach and it's a little concave between my hip bones but never up under my rib cage unless I suck it in.
posted by milk white peacock at 7:12 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm particularly interested in how women get that gently concave tummy like in the last two photos, as opposed to the flat, straight up and down tummy that most workouts seem to promote.

Genes, darlin', and intense diet and exercise. Also Photoshop.

What exercises would you recommend for someone who doesn't want to get lean, but wants to stay curvy?

The same ones that the model you don't want to look like does. She works out like it's her job, because it is. Lifting weights a couple times a week will not make you look like that.
posted by liketitanic at 7:12 AM on August 3, 2012 [11 favorites]

And this great Stumptuous rant argues the same.
posted by liketitanic at 7:13 AM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Beyonce, I'm certain, goes to the gym a lot (and spends a fair amount of time dancing, obviously). She has muscular definition, at times and in certain photos (depending on light, etc.), she has as much muscular definition as the model in your first link. The Raquel Welch photo is sucking in the belly. The ripped model might lift heavier weights and probably eats stricter.

I'm scared that working out will make me look like someone from an exercise machine infomercial!

Highly, highly unlikely. And, hey, if you think you're getting too ripped, you can also tuck into a big ol' plate of pasta. That will cure it quick. :-)
posted by Kurichina at 7:17 AM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

kettlebell swings = big butt. you know when you squeeze your butt really tight and it gets all round and out there? that's the shape that kettlebell swings create. I [ahem] have first hand experience.

squats and deadlifts (heavy!!) will give you those shapely thighs. you will probably also want to work out your chest, back and shoulders to create a proportionate upper and lower body, and to make your waist seem smaller by comparison. try pullups (assisted if you can't do real), shoulder presses, rows, pushups, bench presses.

the stomach thing is going to be all diet (and sucking in, like other commenters noted...) figure out what type of nutrition most efficiently helps you slim down (sorry I can't be more specific, it's different for everyone.)

it is absolutely true that lifting heavy weights will not make you look like the woman in the first picture. I very much like this book for the beginning lifter. if you can get a trainer for a few sessions to help you understand some of the workouts in the book, it'll speed your progress and ensure that you don't hurt yourself with poor form. good luck!
posted by dynamiiiite at 7:18 AM on August 3, 2012 [8 favorites]

When I've been training, I can do a single rep deadlift of 230 pounds. I can move some serious weight around.

I have an hourglass shape (and I am on the *ahem* generous side of curvy). Lifting weights will not give you an angular, lean, chiseled body. You will still be curvy, only fitter.

If I were to look like an exercise infomericial, I'd need some combination of surgery, steroids, and Photoshop. Exercise will not do it.
posted by pointystick at 7:20 AM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Unless you have the genes for it and/or obsessive dedication to it, it's pretty hard for women to get super-muscled up. I personally have a tendency to build muscle easily, and have gone through periods of lifting lots of weights and stuff like that, and I do get more muscled than the average woman, but even so a nice thick layer of fat covers it all up anyway, keeping it more traditionally "feminine" looking.

Cross that bridge when you get there anyway--it's easy to lose muscle if you don't like it!
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:22 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife has been doing the Tracy Anderson workouts for the past year or so, and it's pretty incredible. She has an ass now (she's Japanese, an ethnicity not known for booty) and an hourglass figure.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:27 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not scared of muscle and I love the idea of weights! My point is I don't aspire to the lean, straight-up-and-down silhouette which many women get when they exercise, and which many women aim for. I want to stay hourglass, and I thought I would need to choose workouts based on this. But what people are saying is that I will only ever look like myself, only more toned?

I did a lot of swimming last year and started to get a swimmer's body - strong arms, flat belly, flat butt. Noo! No flat!

Yeah, I should have figured about sucking the stomach in, heh...
posted by inkypinky at 7:27 AM on August 3, 2012

I've been going to the gym (cardio & weights) regularly for years and my body is the same basic shape as it's ever been. You aren't going to become Jillian Michaels unless you devote yourself to it virtually full-time and are sort of shaped like her already.
posted by something something at 7:53 AM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think you're just mistaken that exercise will cause a lean up and down figure in the way you fear. If you don't change your diet it's not likely you'll notice any difference in your appearance except that you'll be stronger. So do lots of compound lifts and you'll be stronger and fitter and won't waste away to nothing.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:54 AM on August 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm an hourglass too, and my shape has stayed curvy with cycling, push-ups, and walking as many places as possible/feasible. Cycling keeps your thighs and butt looking gorgeous (I don't know anyone who doesn't lust after cyclist-butt... :D ), provides a decentish upper-body workout, and push-ups help tone the arms and promote core strength when done in tandem with something more lower-body intensive like cycling. If you haven't done push-ups in a while, you really notice how much they work your back and abs.

I've never had a flat tummy, fwiw.
posted by fraula at 7:56 AM on August 3, 2012

First off, everyone who is telling you "Photoshop" would be correct. Some of it is also your natural build. If you've never had a defined waist, and no one in your family does, then it may not be easy to get there without a lot of help (i.e. cosmetic surgery, etc.).

BUT that does not mean you can't make the best of what you do have. Do do not be afraid of weightlifting. Ripped bodybuilders look that way because that's all they do. There is no way for a normal person, regardless of gender, to ever look like a bodybuilder unless they live the life. Trust me, men and women who look like that do things like insanely high-protein diets (way above Paleo levels) and creatine "stacks" and various drugs (yes, anabolic steroids), and basically make a living out of, well, living in the gym pumping iron for several hours daily.

There are lots of good sites out there, but NerdFitness has one of the best firsthand examples of how a moderate powerlifting program in itself (meaning, simply lifting heavy without also doing a lot of supplementation and drugs) does NOT make a woman look muscular, but indeed will give you a nicely toned, sexy look.

A lot. Make that a lot, a lot, of what you're aiming for is diet. Simple carbs and sugar pretty much go straight onto the waist and belly, with bonus saddlebags for some of us (ahem, me). Some of this has been backed up in recent studies of metabolic syndrome - all forms of sugar (and simple carb and alcohol, which metabolize directly into various forms of sugar in the bloodstream) have been linked to increases in belly fat and a host of related health issues (hormonal, inflammatory, diabetic, autoimmune, etc.). There is some good info out there on PubMed, and much of it has been posted within the past 4-6 years.

anecdata: since cleaning up our diet and totally eliminating grains, soy, dairy and alcohol, both my husband and I have easily and non-cravingly lost every ounce of the belly fat that we had both been struggling with for several years. And we are both endurance athletes to begin with. Cardio does not help lose fat, it simply makes you hungrier and makes the blood sugar seesaws more pronounced and difficult to deal with if you don't fix your diet first. A 30 minute power lifting session burns almost 3x more calories than an hour of jogging or elliptical, or a 2 hour bike ride, and doesn't tend to leave you wanting to eat the entire fridge afterwards.

In our case we both tried it because my husband had developed early warning signs of Crohn's, had developed moderate anemia, and had struggled with GERD and IBS for years. Since we've been on the new diet and lifting program, he hasn't had a single symptom in over six months and his recent bloodwork all came back normal.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:57 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

But what people are saying is that I will only ever look like myself, only more toned?

Pretty much. Your body shape has more to do with genetics than exercise. You'll still carry extra fat on your hips and boobs even when you reduce your overall amount of body fat and tone your muscles. The women with the straight up and down torsos, no boobs, no butt are genetically built that way, and even if they were overweight, they would still have small breasts and a small butt relative to overall body weight.
posted by peacrow at 7:57 AM on August 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

I aim for fit but curvy as well. Here's what I've got to help:
I've found a combination of cardio (running and elliptical) and good diet sheds fat while I replace that with muscle in the places I want firm but curvy. I do chest flyes and presses to firm the top curves (make sure to do a seated row weight or something similar so your front and back muscles are balance and your shouldn't don't start to curve forward. Pus a strong back is SO useful!) I do tiny, focused leg presses, sometimes in a plie style, on the leg press machine, attempting to just use my glutes, in an attempt to keep the bottom curves without building up huge quads. I only just recently learned that if you want to build muscle to an area, you lift as basically as heavy as you can do for 6-8 reps, 3 sets. I had been doing 15-25 reps on lighter weights, which is what you want to do to simply tone. So, keep the weights light and you won't bulk up, but make them heavy in the areas you want curvy. Basically the result of all this is that I've lost fat and firmed, and perked, up everywhere, but my chest and hip measurements have stayed exactly the same, and my waist has gotten smaller. (I do a few crunches now and then, but your waist will narrow with cardio and diet, as others have said.)

Good luck! I think what you want is totally do-able. Workout to get leaner, but keep those workouts varied so you don't find yourself wearing a body "type."

Man, I sound like such a meathead... I'm not! Shortbread cookies for breakfast, here...
posted by Sayuri. at 7:59 AM on August 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

The flat butt can be solved by walking up lots of hills! There are other exercises that really make your butt bigger.

Maybe a session or two with a personal trainer would be helpful for you?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:59 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and stair stepper! If you are going to go to a gym, get on the stepper. No one uses them anymore, so they're always free, and they make for fantastic ass.
posted by Sayuri. at 8:03 AM on August 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

You aren't going to wake up too skinny one morning. Just pick a workout that you enjoy. Nobody looks like that first photo by accident all of a sudden.
posted by scose at 8:11 AM on August 3, 2012

If you don't want a flat butt (and I won't think swimming should do that unless your butt is naturally flat and you just lost fat from doing cardio), then you want to do squats and deadlifts, with heavy weights. And make sure you really squeeze your booty at the top of those squats. Bridges and hip thrusts will also work the glutes.
posted by Kurichina at 8:16 AM on August 3, 2012

Your body will look like what it looks like.

I had the full-on 50s physique when I was doing competitive powerlifting. Tiny waist from deadlifts, great posture, and a big ole ass that belonged in a Juvenile video. I trained at least 8 hours a week because - spoiler alert - I LOVE LOVE LOVED my sport (still do, but I no longer live near a powerlifting gym).

Find a sport, workout, dance form, whatever that you love doing. Forget about what your body looks like. Your body will look the way it looks.
posted by nerdfish at 8:16 AM on August 3, 2012

I am hourglass shaped and not lean. I have been doing heavy lifting (squats and deadlifts, bench press, rows and overhead press) for a year or so, and there are exactly three noticeable differences to my physique:

1. I am no longer even the least bit wobbly in the arms.
2. My butt is bigger (in a good way)
3. My jeans are tighter around the thighs.

I do not look any leaner, I do not look like a bodybuilder (and won't unless I start some ridiculous diet), and I am not any less curvy. I suspect that my curvy shape is 99% bone structure and thus unalterable by any form of diet or exercise.
posted by emilyw at 8:23 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have to seriously reduce body fat to go from what you are now to what you fear. Women who run a LOT (like miles and miles daily) can lose their bustline and reduce or lose their periods. It helps if they also have an anorexic diet.

So avoid super heavy cardio and serious/extreme dietary changes. Start with walking, which is a gentle cardio that doesn't tend to make you look like you work out. I can walk 10 to 17 miles a day, and did so earlier this year. I assure you no one is mistaking me for an exercise machine model. And then do some toning -- I.e. muscle building -- exercises. Plus you will want to do some stretching.

As others have said, unless you really dedicate yourself to some totally life and body altering regimen, you won't accidentally wake up looking like an athlete with 7% or less body fat.
posted by Michele in California at 8:46 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sure the woman in the first photo eats super super clean (or has amazing genes), so I wouldn't worry about that. Do some weights, and eat as you would normally, and you'll probably be more Beyonce than first woman. Pilates and yoga work too.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:48 AM on August 3, 2012

I know that research does not support the whole spot training thing, but if you're looking for an ab workout that can allegedly reduce the size of your waist (which will help give you the look you want without sucking in all the time), you should try the ab vacuum. A buddy of mine is a former body builder and he says that Arnold (the Arnold) swore by the ab vacuum to achieve the tiniest waist possible.
posted by Mrs.Spiffy at 8:53 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

But what people are saying is that I will only ever look like myself, only more toned?

Yes. I have been doing a fairly strenuous boot camp program most mornings for five years. Lots of people in my class have lost significant amounts of weight and hugely improved their fitness levels. (There's also a dieting component there.) I have been struck -- again and again -- about how much people stubbornly look the same, even after significant weight (fat) loss. Their basic body shape never changes. They can, however, lift heavy weights with ease, and they run a smokin' mile.
posted by purpleclover at 8:53 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm built a lot like you and I used to do upwards of 12 hours of MMA a week in addition to a bit of walking/weight training/running and yoga. Now, 12 hrs. of MMA is some pretty intense cardio, which is the thing that has the rep for slimming people down the most. And I lost a lot, I mean a LOT, of weight-- as in, like, 35 lbs. of it and it looked like more because I switched from flab to muscle. But my proportions, which I think are probably genetically preconditioned, stayed pretty much the same-- tiny waist, big ol' round perky booty. And you know what? I actually went up a cupsize from the muscle increase in my pectorals. So I wouldn't worry about it too much. Without a LOT of very specific work, you're not going to change the way you look so much as you'll change your size and the way you feel. You're gonna look fab because you feel fab, not because you suddenly get all weird and skeleton-y.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:56 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anecdotal data point: I'd been lamenting my lack of butt for years, but figured it to be a genetic lost cause since I'm Asian. I started doing squats and deadlifts to build my allover strength, and not long after, maybe in the space of a few months, BAM! I had a big round booty, and it was sitting up higher than I ever thought was possible. Suddenly I was having trouble finding jeans that I could stuff my butt into without being too big everywhere else. So losing fat doesn't necessarily mean flat butt, even if you're not genetically disposed to having a lot of muscle there. You may just have to give that muscle group more attention than someone who naturally has a lot of it.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:57 AM on August 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

You could work out as intensely as that woman in picture #1, but you could still never look like her without losing a ton of fat off your body. Muscles like that can be there, but you will never see the definition without having a very low body fat percentage. And that's incredibly hard to achieve. If you're already prone to being curvy, you don't have a thing to worry about. Just work out to your heart's content and don't diet.
posted by kitcat at 12:16 PM on August 3, 2012

Cycling is good for curving the butt. I have especially noticed this effect in spinning classes - shorter bouts of high-intensity, high-resistance riding - rather than long outdoor endurance rides. A friend of mine said she had to stop spinning before her wedding because her butt wasn't fitting into her gown.
posted by TrixieRamble at 12:30 PM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hahahaahahaahahahahaha, if only looking like the woman in #1 was that easy! That lady is probably at 14% body fat (very very low for a woman), is dehydrated as hell, and hasn't eaten any carbs for a few weeks. And she is very strict about her diet.

If you want a more realistic standpoint of what attending to your diet and workout will do look here, this is paying attention to diet AND lifting weights. Notice she is definitely still curvy, just with less fat.
posted by schroedinger at 1:40 PM on August 3, 2012

Yeah, Beyonce is fit and works out a lot! She just naturally has that great shape and isn't afraid of the little bit of body fat she has.

In my experience a lot of dancers (like zumba, hip-hop type dancing) have curvy bodies with muscles that are not like the woman in the first photo. And if you look at shows like "so you think you can dance" you will see that many of the female dancers are curvy and not skinny. Maybe it has to do with the kind of muscles being developed in fast-paced dancing, similar to sprinters? None of my zumba teachers has been really skinny, and a few have been pretty curvy.

I would also recommend yoga actually. Yoga has helped me have a more defined waist and a more toned butt (it's already big) and this has enhanced my hourglass figure.
posted by bearette at 8:21 PM on August 3, 2012

I have a gently concave belly because my entire life, my mom reminded me to "sit up straight and suck in that gut", and I hold it in naturally. (It's not sucked in super tight, just restrained). If I consciously relax, it's mildly convex and floppy. So either start wearing a girdle or learn to hold your tummy in. Proper posture helps. And gentle tummy tightening excercises will help to strengthen it, making it easier to hold in. But no specific exercise will give you the concave, smooth, non-muscly belly.
posted by windykites at 9:10 PM on August 3, 2012

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