Toning, Training, and Trimming: Exercises to Maintain Your Hourglass
In an earlier article, we talked about how to plan a workout routine and highlighted exercises for strengthening the core and abdominal muscles. After we published that article, we were surprised by a flood of questions and comments from readers just like you!
Are there exercises that will help me get an hourglass figure faster? What about exercises for my butt / hips / thighs / chest / shoulders? You forgot all about those! OK, my core is strong, and my stamina is up from doing cardio, what comes next?
Well, readers, we'd like to give a big shout out to all of you for bringing it to our attention that we skipped over this topic earlier. The answer to all of your questions is one big, enthusiastic YES! YES, there are exercises which target the hips, butt, chest and shoulders. And they can ABSOLUTELY (or would that be abs-olutely!) help your brand new hourglass figure "pop"! And yes, of course, we're going to share some of our favorite examples with you!
As with all of our fitness-focused articles, every single one of these examples were provided by members of our Get Waisted staff. They are taken from actual workouts performed by waist training enthusiasts on a regular basis, so we can vouch without a doubt for their effectiveness. Add these simple exercises into your trips to the gym - or even try them out at home - and you'll get a more dramatic hourglass figure in no time!
No Equipment Needed
In this article, we've divided the example exercises into two types. The ones below can be performed without any special equipment. All you'll need are some comfy clothes and a flat, even floor surface and you're good to go! Trying out these exercises while wearing your favorite cincher or trimmer is totally OK! BUT, as always, if you find yourself experiencing any pain or discomfort, try them without at first and slowly work up to including the waist trainer.
WAIST: The Scissor Lift
The scissor lift is a simple move which will help keep your waist thin and narrow. A slim waist is ideal for a balanced hourglass which emphasizes the chest above and the hips and butt below. Stand to the right of a raised surface as close to waist height as possible.
For this example, we'll be using the back of a kitchen chair, but a countertop, table, desk, or even banister will work too! Place your left hand on the back of the chair. Slowly raise your right leg into the air, keeping it as straight as possible. At the same time, stretch out your right arm and try to touch your right foot. Keep raising your leg until you can comfortably touch it with your right arm. Slowly return your leg to normal standing position. Focus on using your core and hips to lift your leg. Your unused hand should be only resting on the back of the chair, not pressing down too hard or taking too much weight.
If you're having trouble balancing, keep your active arm outstretched throughout each rep and focus only on moving your leg. Start with 10 lifts per leg. Over time, try to increase to 25 or 30 lifts per leg in one workout!
BUTT: The Donkey Kick
Donkey kicks are simple to do and easy to learn, but they'll have your butt looking rounder and feeling firmer faster than you could possibly believe!
Start in the table top position. Your hands and knees will be on the ground. Keep your knees hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart. Your back should be straight and level, not arched or humped. If you can, remain looking down throughout the exercise so you do not strain your neck. Slowly raise your left leg, "kicking" it into the air behind you. Your knee should be slightly bent and your foot should be pointing towards your head. Slowly count to three as you hold your leg in the air. Return it to the ground - you guessed it - slowly!
Once you're back in the starting position, complete the exercise again with the other leg. Stay aware of your butt and how it is moving. You should feel the muscles engage and squeeze as you raise each leg into he air. Keep your back straight and level throughout each rep. One kick for each leg will equal one rep. Start with 10 reps, then gradually increase it to 40 or 50. As this is a lower intensity exercise, don't be afraid to do a higher number of reps!
THIGHS: Side to Side Kick
Most articles about the hourglass figure don't focus on the thighs - and we think that's a total crime! Strong, toned thighs are a great way to draw even more attention to your fabulous butt. To strengthen those thigh muscles without needing any equipment, we recommend adding side to side kicks to your "leg day" workouts!
Stand with your legs slightly more than hip width apart. Gradually squat down until your knees are bent and your thighs are parallel to the ground. Keep your torso straight with your shoulders directly over your hips. If you find yourself wanting to rely on your arms too much instead of your legs and thighs, cross them over your chest or keep your hands clasped in front of you. Slowly raise yourself from a squatting position back into a standing one. As you do, kick your left leg to the side. Try to straighten out your left leg entirely during the kick. Lower your left leg, return to the squat position, and repeat the exercise kicking out with your right leg to your right side this time. Start with 10 kicks per leg, then gradually increase to 20-30 over time.
This exercise targets muscles that may not currently see a lot of use in your workouts, so don't forget to stretch afterwards!
SHOULDERS: The Mermaid
The mermaid is a creatively named variation on the traditional plank which focuses on your shoulders and upper chest area. Properly trained shoulders help you keep excellent posture at all times. Walk with your chest proudly forward to show off your brand new hourglass figure!
Lay in a side-plank position with only the right side of your body on the floor. Your right forearm should be entirely on the floor, directly underneath your shoulder. Keep your left foot slightly in front of your right foot - do not stack your feet directly on top of each other. Raise your left arm over your head with your palm facing the floor. Keep it very close to your body - the top of your arm should be lying against your ear. Push your hips off the ground and raise them into the air as high as you can go. Try to hold this position for at least three seconds to start out with. You can gradually increase this over time as you get more comfortable with the exercise. Return to your starting position to complete one rep. Start with 8 mermaids on each side of your body, then gradually increase to 12 or 16 per workout.
HIPS and WHOLE LEG: Windshield Wiper
Adding windshield wipers to your workout allows you to engage your whole leg. The stunning results will be toned, muscular legs which serve as the "base" of your body's hourglass. As a bonus, this exercise even involves your hips, too! Sit on a soft surface - such as carpet or a yoga mat - with your legs outstretched in front of you.
Place both of your forearms on the ground slightly behind you. You will know that you have the correct posture if your shoulders are directly over your elbows. Point your toes and lift your legs straight into the air. Do not let your hips come off the floor/mat - they need to stay down! Move your feet as far as they can go to the right side of your body. Then, return them to center. Next, lower them as far as they can go to the left side. Return to center once again. That's one rep! Can you see where this exercise gets its name? As you slowly move your legs in an arc from the right side of your body to the left, they look just like a pair of windshield wipers removing the rain from your car! Make sure to move slowly and carefully through each rep.
Focus on your stomach and core - can you feel the muscles working? Are your hips still and steady on the ground? Are you keeping your legs straight and your toes pointed? Asking yourself these questions can help keep you aware and engaged in the exercise. Start with 8 reps per workout. Gradually work your way up to 15 or even 20!
BALANCE and POSTURE: Standing Side Lunge
We round out our section on equipment-free exercises with the standing side lunge, which focuses on improving balance and keeping your posture straight.
But wait, you ask, what do either of those things have to do with an hourglass figure?
Well, the better, more stable and more balanced your posture is, the more dramatic your hourglass figure will look! After all, it doesn't matter if you have the world's best chest or a perfectly round butt if you're slouching all the time instead of showing them off!
Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Extend your arms in front of you, making sure that your elbows are straight and your palms are facing the floor. With your right foot, take a large step to the side. Allow your right knee to bend, but not so much that it passes in front of the toes - this can cause painful muscle strain. Keep your left leg as straight as possible. (You are now essentially in a standard lunge position, but oriented to the side instead of front to back.) Rotate your waist to the left as far as it can go. Keep your arms outstretched and let them move along with your upper body. Return to the center. Now rotate to the right, again moving your arms as you do so. Return to center once again. Move slowly and carefully. Focus on keeping your shoulders back and your chest forward. If you are having difficulty balancing, try doing this exercise in front of a mirror to observe your posture. Start out by doing 5 reps on each side (so 5 in a right-side lunge with the right knee bent, and 5 in a left-side lunge).
Gradually increase to 15-20 reps per workout. If you still feel like your balance and posture need work, we recommend both extending your pre-workout stretch period and giving yoga or pilates a try!
Some Equipment Required
The following exercises can still easily be done at home, but make use of dumbbells and exercise balls. If you don't have these items at home, your local gym will usually have several available for use or rent.
Dumbbells and exercise balls can be purchased at most sporting goods stores and large department stores. When picking out a dumbbell, make sure to practice lifting it in the store a few times to check that it is the right weight for you. If you're not sure where to start, 2, 3, or 5-pound dumbbells are great options for beginners! Just make sure to get two of them, so you can do these exercises with one in each hand!
SHOULDERS: The Lift Off
The lift off is one of those exercises that does it all. It adds muscle tone to your shoulders while also keeping your legs moving and your core engaged.
You'll need two dumbbells of equal weight and a flat, sturdy floor surface. Stand straight and tall with your feet hip width-apart. Bend your elbows and hold your dumbbells just over your shoulders. Grip them so that your palms are facing forward. Make sure to keep them level and steady throughout the exercise.
Using your right foot, take a big step forward. Both of your knees should be bent for this exercise. Keep your front knee over your ankle - do not let it move forwards over the toes. Putting all your weight on your right foot, move to a standing position. As you stand, lift your leg and move it forward. Keep your left knee bent throughout the rep. Slowly raise your dumbbells above your head until your arms are fully extended. Hold the position for three seconds.
If you have difficulty balancing, try this out in front of a mirror so you can keep an eye on your posture. Slowly lower your arms and left leg and return to a normal standing position. Do not drop your arms all the way - keep your dumbbells at just above shoulder height as they were at the beginning of the exercise. Start with 6 or 7 reps per leg, then gradually increase to 12 each. For extra intensity, try to hold your balanced pose a few more seconds each time!
CHEST: Combined Push-up and Leg Raise
Don't let its name intimidate you. The combined push-up and leg raise targets your chest while also involving your entire lower body. As with any kind of push-up, it's also a great exercise for strengthening your core and abdominal muscles. Pretty much every element of the hourglass figure gets some love with this handy exercise!
You'll need a large exercise ball. If you don't have one, you can try using a step or other raised surface. However, pick something soft and flexible to avoid damaging your legs. Lie face down with your legs on top of the exercise ball and your palms pressed against the ground. Keep your hands directly below your shoulders - in the starting position, your arms should not be bent at all. The ball should be underneath your shins and the tops of your feet. (If you're having difficulty balancing, you can start with the ball under your knees before gradually moving on to the shins.) Bend your elbows and push your upper body towards the floor - just like a standard push-up. Keep your torso as straight as possible. Concentrate and make sure that your abs and core are fully engaged. Hold the push-up pose for at least 3 seconds. Raise your upper body and return to the starting position. Keeping your butt contracted, raise your right leg off the ball. Hold it for at least 3 seconds. Lower your right leg, and repeat with your left. Once again, don't forget to hold for 3 seconds when you have raised your leg as high as possible. This completes one rep!
For an extra challenge, lift your leg while raising your upper body out of the push-up position instead of after. This is a pretty challenging exercise, so we recommend starting with a lower number of reps - 5 or 6 is a good beginner's point. Gradually try increasing to 12 reps per workout.
BUTT: The Extended Bridge
Get your dumbbells back out and tighten that fantastic booty with some extended bridges. If your biceps and triceps need work, start out with lighter dumbbells until you've gotten the hang of the exercise.
Lie on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold one dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows backwards so that one dumbbell is resting on each side of your head. Keep your elbows pointed straight upwards at the ceiling. Engage your gluteal (butt!) muscles and raise your hips as high into the air as they can go. At the same time, extend your arms up into the air until they are completely straight. Slowly lower your hips and arms to return to the starting position. Focus on timing so that your hips and arms are moving at roughly the same pace. Start out with 10 reps per workout before gradually increasing to 15-20. Try holding the raised position a little longer each time.
We recommend doing this exercise with your eyes open so that you don't accidentally smack yourself with a dumbbell on the way down!
LEGS and ARMS: Curtsy Curl
The curtsy curl gets its name from its resemblance to the kind of fancy curtsy you might drop into when meeting royalty. We like imagining that we're greeting the Queen while we do this exercise! (We're pretty sure she would be impressed by all of your fabulous hourglass figures.)
Grab your dumbbells and hold them at your sides to start. Make sure that your palms are facing in towards your body - this will keep your muscles as engaged as possible at all times. Keep your feet together and your toes pointed forward. With your right foot, step behind your left foot (For best positioning, your right knee should be directly behind your left toes.) Lower your body towards the ground, bending both knees as you do - this is the curtsy position that gives the exercise its name. As you are lowering into your "curtsy," curl your forearms in towards your chest. Keep your movements smooth. You should feel the stretch mostly in your biceps. Return to your starting position. Step back with your left foot and perform a "curtsy" on the left side to complete one rep. Don't forget the bicep curl at the same time! Start with 8 reps and gradually increase to 15-20.
Make sure to stay balanced and don't go too fast at first - even our Get Waisted staffers each tripped a few times when they first introduced curtsy curls to their workouts!
THIGHS: Ball Bridge
We're back on top - of our exercise balls, that is!
That's right, it's time for the ball bridge, an intense thigh-toner which makes use of a large, stable ball. Lie on your back and place your feet on top of the ball. Keep your toes pointed up towards the ceiling. Your arms should be completely on the floor with your palms facing down. Lift your hips straight upwards, engaging your core, butt and upper leg muscles as you do. Your hips should come completely off the ground in order to get the most out of this exercise. Once your hips are in the air, slowly use your legs to roll the ball towards you. Keep rolling until the soles of your feet are planted on top of the ball. Then, slowly extend your legs to return the ball to its original position. You should once again end up with your heels on the ball and your toes pointed in the air.
For an extra challenge, don't lower your hips and butt to the ground between reps. Keep them in the air until you have completed all of your ball bridges for the day. Your abs will definitely thank you for it! If you're lowering your hips between reps, start with 10 per workout. If you're instead going to try the "challenge mode" described above,start with a lower number instead - 6 or 7 would be our suggestion! Of course, as always, feel free to add more reps with each additional workout!
What About Cardio?
Of course, even as you're focusing on your hourglass figure, you should not neglect your cardio. It's important to have at least 1-2 exercise days per week where you are raising your heart rate in order to burn fat and increase stamina.
You're probably aware of all the "standard" ways to get your cardio in - running, walking, swimming, attending Zumba, step , or dance classes at your gym, or participating in team sports such as basketball or soccer. However, we're going to introduce you to our personal favorite method of intensifying cardio: the interval.
For example, let's say your cardio for the day is running on your home treadmill. Start with a 5 minute warm up - walking or light jogging with the speed gradually increasing but not to the point that your heart rate raises too much. After the warm up is completed, speed up and run at your fastest pace - maximum intensity - for 45 seconds. Use the timer function on your phone or the treadmill itself to keep an eye on your time. After 45 seconds have passed, slow down (but stay at a run, don't walk) for the next 90 seconds - or minute and a half. Repeat this cycle ten times - 45 seconds of high intensity, followed by 90 seconds of recovery at a slower run. Once you've completed the ten cycles, slow down for a 5 minute cooldown period. You can jog or walk during these last 5 minutes, whichever you prefer!
As always, don't forget to stretch once you have completed your daily cardio. This will help your muscles relax and prevent them from tensing up once you are done exercising. You can include intervals in pretty much any cardio workout, not just running on the treadmill. Try them out sometime and let us know what you think! And, of course, if you want to share any of your own favorite exercises for toning your hourglass figure, contact us here at Get Waisted any time!