Wanting to change body shape is a common desire for many people, body shapes are commonly described as follows:
Pear – Narrow shoulders and wider hips
Apple – This shape is rounder in the mid section with thinner legs
Hourglass – Balanced upper and lower body with narrow waist
Inverted triangle – Broad shoulders and narrower hips.
Ruler – Straight up and down so your shoulders, waist and hips look almost the same width when viewed from straight on.
Another form of describing people’s body types was created by William Herbert Sheldon, an American psychologist and physician, who classified people according to three body types (however, his work is generally dismissed by modern researchers):
Ectomorph – Lean and slender build with slight muscular development.
Mesomorph – Athletic/muscular body build.
Endomorph – Heavy rounded body build with a tendency to become overweight.
Just because you are in one of these categories does not mean you can’t alter the way your body looks, now don’t get me wrong I am not saying that you can go from being a ruler to an hourglass or visa versa, it just wont happen due to your genetics, build, your bone structure etc. but what you can do is sculpt parts of your body to give the illusion of being a different body shape.
The exercises you do and how you do them can affect how your body changes, e.g. if you do a lot of ab exercises concentrating on your obliques (such as Russian twists and weighted side bends) you may be, unintentionally, making your waist look thicker. I am all for working on core exercises (it is important to have a strong core) but I don’t believe you need to do as many isolation exercises as people do, there are ways to get a strong core whilst doing other exercises e.g. compound exercises, using free weights, exercises that need you to balance whilst performing them, working on a bosu ball etc. Pilates is also a great way to increase core strength.
Weight distribution can also play a role in what kind of body shape you have, your body may look one way but your actual basic body shape may be another. If excess body fat goes straight to your hips and thighs and not your boobs or waist then you will look pear shaped – this could be changed by losing body fat. If the body fat goes to your belly then you may look more apple shape. We all know you cannot spot reduce fat but by working on losing body fat it will start to go from all areas of your body and your body shape will change.
How To Change Your Body Shape
The key is to choose exercises that will help balance out your proportions. A balanced exercise program is important but when you want to change your body shape you may need to work harder on some areas than others. To lose body fat a mixture of cardio and strength training is the most effective. The other changes will come from strength training.
Losing Body Fat
The distribution of body fat may be the reason for your particular body shape but cardio alone will not necessarily get the change you want, nor will it give you a more shapely and leaner body. It will burn off fat which will help you slim down, but it wont necessarily make your body look better, it is possible to be slim and have wobbly bits and you don‘t want that! You want your muscles to be firm so that you get that toned look and strength training is what will do this.
The most effective way for losing body fat is, as mentioned above, to combine strength training with cardio. Strength training, weight training, resistance training, whichever you prefer to call it, is also going to help you burn off more fat, an increase in muscle mass means an increase in your metabolic rate. So you can burn off more calories post workout. Hands up those who want to burn more calories even when sleeping!
High Intensity Interval Training (HIT) can also help to boost fat loss. This is where you alternate between a high intensity and a lower intensity.
Whatever you prefer – swimming, dance class, cycling, elliptical trainer, spinning class, Zumba – do whatever you enjoy, switch it around every now and then, as long as you enjoy the exercise you are more likely to stick to it.
Work on your upper body to even out the perceived imbalance. Include exercises for your back, shoulders and chest. Push ups are a great body weight exercise, dumbbell chest press or bench press. For your back – seated cable rows, lat pull down, pull ups, single arm rows. For shoulders – shoulder/military press, reverse flyes for your rear deltoids and some lateral raises. Don’t completely neglect your lower body but do more exercises for your upper body until your body shape looks more balanced.
I suggest you stay away from working your abs directly (it is a myth that doing lots of ab exercises will help you lose fat around your belly). By working on your lower body with compound movements such as squats and lunges you will be also be strengthening your core so don’t worry your abs will not be neglected and will get stronger. You will also want to work your upper body, I suggest you combine compound movements in to 1 exercise such as squat with shoulder press. You could also do a single arm row with a cable in the static lunge position. The key is to build up your upper and lower body to even out your shape and combined with losing body fat you will start to see your shape change.
This body type is usually the most desired body shape so all I can say for this one is – when designing an exercise program keep it balanced so you work your upper and lower body equally with strength training. Include some core exercises such as the plank, side plank etc.
Inverted triangle shape
You will look broader in your shoulders with narrower hips so work on your lower body. Squats, lunges, side lunges, leg press etc. You could also use the step machine as part of your cardio to help build muscle in legs. Don’t neglect your upper body as you want to work all your muscle groups but complete more exercises for your lower body to even your proportions out.
A balanced strength training program so you work both your upper and lower body, your waist will begin to look smaller as your proportions change. You can also work your transverses abdominis, to pull your waist in tighter, by doing stomach vacuums but I suggest you don’t work your abs directly with isolation exercises, keep a strong core by performing compound movements and using free weights instead of machines.
Tip For a Slimmer Waist
Stomach vacuums are an exercise that will help give you a slimmer waistline, the aim is to build a stronger inner abdominal wall. You can do these anywhere, sitting standing, kneeling, laying down. Try them standing to begin with.
- Standing up breathe out and expel all the air from your lungs.
- Now draw your belly button in towards your spine as far as you can and hold it for as long as you can.
- Don’t forget to keep breathing throughout the move, you will find your breathing is not as deep as normal when doing the vacuums.
I encourage people to work towards being fit and healthy, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve and enhance what you have but remember there is no set way for how you should look.