Know Your Trainers: Corset vs. Cincher vs. Trimmer vs. Lifter

Every field has its own specialized vocabulary, and unfortunately waist training is no exception. For new fans or waist training novices, the differences between “corsets” “waist cinchers” “waist trimmers” “butt lifters” and even between more general terms such as “shapewear” can be extremely difficult to pin down and clearly understand. This, in turn, can make it significantly more difficult than necessary for individuals to select the waist training garment – or garments – which work best for their body, their needs and their goals.  

Luckily, there is one important and comforting piece of information: there is no one universal “best waist trainer”.

Choosing a waist trainer is an incredibly personal and individual decision, and which is “best” varies from person to person. Perhaps multiple different types of waist trainer will find a place in your daily routine. Or perhaps you will try and discard several varieties before realizing that only a corset is just right for you. Whatever the solution, we at [site name] are here to help you find it – first of all, by presenting this helpful, easy-to-read breakdown of the pros, cons and unique features of each type of waist training garment.  

The Corset  

The corset is the simplest type of waist trainer to clearly define. It has the longest history, appearing on figurines dated as early as 1600 BC and having seen regular use in Europe and America, primarily by women, from the 16th century until just after the conclusion of World War I. As a result of this history, a number of specific qualifications have been developed in order to officially classify a garment as a corset.  

A proper corset must:  

  • Be designed to compress the abdomen and core in order to achieve an hourglass figure (narrowing the waist while emphasizing the chest and hips)
 
  • Include lacing up the back (or, very rarely, the front) of the garment. Traditionally, the lacing was gradually tightened in stages in order to shrink the waist over time (a technique referred to as tightlacing).
 
  • Include a flat, solid panel called a busk in the front of the garment, which flattens the abdomen and keeps the torso straight. Today, many busks feature hook-and-eye style fasteners to allow the corset to be removed without disturbing the laces, but this is not a requirement.
 
  • Feature a series of stiff vertical bones, which give the corset its characteristic unyielding, rigid form. The name refers to the fact that they were traditionally made from animal bones, usually whale, but modern corset bones are made from sturdy metal such as steel.

   

It should be noted that, despite the strict regulations delineated above, there are a few areas of corset design in which some variation is permitted. A corset may have any number of bones, although somewhere in the 20-30 range is most common. In addition, a corset can be made from a wide variety of materials. Today, stiff cotton is the most common, but silk, velvet, brocade, leather, or synthetic leather (“pleather”) may also be used. Stretchy, elastic fabrics such as latex or spandex/Lycra are not recommended, as the primary feature of a corset is its stiffness.  

Corsets are further subdivided into two categories: the overbust and the underbust. An overbust corset covers all or part of the breasts – sometimes, the top part of the breast and/or some cleavage may be allowed to remain exposed for aesthetic purposes. It provides greater support to the breasts and spine and is the best corset for promoting straight, proper posture, but is typically more expensive and may take longer to successfully “break in”.  

On the other hand, an underbust corset comes to the top of the ribcage and does not cover the breast; it devotes greater focus to the narrowing of the waist in exchange for less spine and postural support. Underbust corsets are usually somewhat less expensive and easier to conceal under clothing without obvious tells.  

The corset will provide the swiftest and most dramatic waist-narrowing results when compared with other types of waist training garments. A properly fitted corset can decrease the waist by anywhere from 6 to 8 inches, while even the loosest will offer at least 4 inches of reduction. However, corsets are also considered by many to be less comfortable and take longer amounts of time to accustom oneself to than other currently available trainers.  

Additionally, corsets tend to experience a longer lifespan than other trainers – although they may seem daunting to waist training newbies, a single properly fitted, high quality corset can represent a valuable lifetime investment. (Historically, corsets also commanded a higher price than cinchers, trimmers or lifters, but here at [site name] we are proud to offer a variety of styles that won’t empty your wallet!)  

The last important note regarding corsets is that it they are not recommended to be worn during workouts or other periods of intense, strenuous physical exercise. This can lead to warping or deformation of the bones, tearing or fraying of the laces, and general decrease in the lifespan of the corset. Exercising in a corset can also cause uncomfortable rubbing or friction between the garment and your skin even if a properly fitted corset liner is worn underneath. If you plan to wear a waist trainer only during your exercise routines, a corset is likely not the right choice for you.  

The Cincher  

If you’ve seen any of the hundreds of waist training pictures Instagrammed by celebrities such as Jessica Alba and the Kardashian sisters, you have at least a passing familiarity with the cincher. Cinchers are the type of training garment which has taken Hollywood’s elite by storm, primarily due to its ease of use, comfort, and usefulness in the gym.  

A waist cincher – or simply “cincher” – typically bears a shape similar to that of the underbust corset, starting at the top of the ribcage beneath the breasts and stopping just above the hips. Like a corset, a cincher aims to narrow the waist while emphasizing the areas just above and below it for a more ideal, attractive figure. Cinchers also have experienced extreme popularity over the past several decades in Central and South America, where they are referred to by the name faja (plural: fajas), meaning “belt”.  

Waist cinchers were initially designed as a comfortable and easier to wear alternative to the traditional corset, and this definitely shows. Cinchers are made from stretchy, non-breathable fabrics, with latex being the most popular but polyester, spandex and Lycra also seeing use. They are typically not boned; however, variations with bones can sometimes be purchased. Boned cinchers typically utilizer a smaller number of bones (8-20) which are crafted from plastic rather than the corset’s standard steel. These plastic bones are sometimes referred to as “flexibones” due to their lesser rigidity and greater give when compared to steel.  

The majority of cinchers do not feature lacing, but instead use a row of simpler hook and eye fasteners up the front (or, very rarely, the back) similar to – but not nearly as rigid as – the busk of a corset. Recently, some brands of cincher have experimented with zippers or even Velcro fastenings instead of the traditional hook and eye. Regardless of fastenings chosen, cinchers are typically much easier to put on and remove by oneself than traditional corsets.  

Due to their elastic nature, lack of laces and more forgiving design, most waist cinchers do not compress the waist as dramatically as a traditional corset will, resulting in a less extreme hourglass figure. The average cincher will narrow the waist by 2 to 4 inches, compared to the average corset’s 6 to 8.  

However, what cinchers lack in waist compression, they make up for in effective weight loss. The primary roles of the waist cincher are assisting its user in dropping pounds, decreasing water weight and strengthening the muscles of the core and abdomen. Like a corset, a cincher will decrease the wearer’s appetite and prevent overeating, helping to shed weight quickly. In addition, the non-breathable fabric of the cincher causes the user to sweat, removing water weight and allowing them to remain properly hydrated without bloating. Some women have even reported that wearing their waist cincher regularly during their menstrual cycle both eliminates bloating and reduces the severity of cramps!   Unlike the corset, the cincher can be worn – and in fact, in many ways is designed to be worn – in the gym, while playing sports or on an outdoor hike or run. While exercising in a cincher may take some getting used to (like any trainer, a break-in period where the garment is worn for short times initially and gradually increased over time), it is safe, comfortable and does not cause shortness of breath or damage the body in any way.  

Adding a cincher to your workout, especially high-intensity cardio or strength training sessions in the gym, can be extremely beneficial in both the short and long terms. The compression provided by cincher keeps the core and abdominal muscles active and engaged, essentially forcing them to work harder during each exercise. This allows you to get the greatest results possible out of each workout. In addition, as mentioned earlier, cinchers promote increased sweating, further helping you to drop the pounds quickly. See our article here for some example exercises to help you get the most out of your cincher both at home and at the gym!  

The primary drawback of cinchers, in addition to the less dramatic waist narrowing, is that its lesser rigidity when compared to a traditional corset means it can sometimes ride up, slip down, bunch or wrinkle throughout the day. While a properly fitted cincher will mitigate the majority of these effects, some waist training enthusiasts have found that cinchers’ tendencies to wrinkle make them less than ideal to wear underneath clothing, especially anything tight or sheer. If you need a waist trainer to wear under your suave new suit or alluring new dress, a more standard corset might be your garment of choice rather than a cincher.  

The Trimmer  

 

Like the cincher, the waist trimmer or trimming band is designed primarily for use during periods of exercise. Unlike the two types of training garment discussed above, the trimmer prioritizes weight loss and fat burn and does not narrow the waist or help achieve an hourglass figure in any significant manner.  

As its secondary name suggests, this garment typically takes the form of a flexible band of uniform thickness, which is wrapped around the narrowest point of the waist. It is typically smaller than a cincher or underbust corset, sitting just above the hips but not quite reaching the top of the rib cage or base of the breast area. A trimmer is usually fastened with Velcro for ease of wear; however, a set of small hooks and eyes similar to a cincher may also be used.  

During workouts, a trimmer performs the same functions as a cincher, engaging the core and abdominal muscles and ensuring that they work at peak efficiency. They also induce sweating in a similar manner; the standard material used in the manufacture of trimming bands is not latex but the similarly non-breathable neoprene, a tough yet elastic variant of synthetic fabric particularly known for its higher than average resistance to all forms of wear and tear.  

Similarly to a cincher, a trimmer will be most effective when paired with high-intensity cardio workouts and strength training exercises targeting the core and abdominal muscles. If you don’t live near a gym or simply aren’t a fan, the stretches and exercises listed here can easily be performed in the comfort of your own home!  

Due to their greater bulk, less body-contouring shape and lack of focus on narrowing the waist, trimming belts typically cannot be worn under clothing. When working out with a trimmer, make sure you are wearing a comfortable, breathable shirt, and place your trimmer over this layer of clothing. Specialized quick-dry fabric or anything which repels or wicks away sweat is highly recommended.   Garments made from thicker fabrics such as 100% cotton, on the other hand, may prove uncomfortable as they quickly become damp and heavy from absorbing too much sweat. Carefully choosing the clothing which you wear with your trimmer is extremely important, as an incorrect choice can lead to developing patches of red, irritated skin, itching, and even nasty rashes.  

Due to their smaller size and more limited function, trimming bands tend to sell for a lower price when compared with more intense cinchers or corsets. If you’re shopping for your next waist trainer on a budget; therefore, a waist trimming band or belt may be the right choice for you!  

The (Butt) Lifter  

 

While butt lifters may seem at first glance to be an entirely different category of clothing from cinchers and corsets, they do possess more similarities than are initially obvious. Like the above-listed garments, lifters focus on emphasizing a certain part of the body (in this case, the rear) while minimizing another (the waist and sometimes also the fatty parts of the upper thigh).  

The typical butt lifter resembles a pair of “boy shorts” type underwear made from an elastic material such as latex. The waistband of the “shorts” sits at the waistline and compresses and narrows it similar to a cincher, while the legs of the shorts focus on slimming each of the upper thighs. The result is the bottom “pops” out in an attention-getting manner while the waist and legs appear thinner. Butt lifters are designed to be worn under even the tightest-fitting clothing without producing any unsightly lines, seams or wrinkles.  

Some lifters, referred to as double cutouts, leave the cheeks of the bottom exposed while compressing the muscles around the edge of each cheek. Double-cutout variant butt lifters are recommended for wear during workouts, as they engage the gluteal muscles as cinchers do the abdominals.  

It is also possible to buy a butt lifter which does not resemble underwear at all, but instead comes in the form of two tight bands, one worn around each thigh. (This type of lifter is frequently referred to as a supportive band or shaping band). Knee-length and calf-like variants can also sometimes be purchased. This type of lifter can also be worn during workouts, and is recommended if you wish to focus on shaping your rear and thighs but are not particularly concerned about losing tummy fat or shaping the waist.  

For the ultimate body shaping workout experience, wear a butt lifter together with a cincher or trimming belt during your strength training days at the gym! This will allow you to train the abdominal area, core, glutes and thigh muscles in the course of a single high-intensity workout. Your body will be performing at peak efficiency and working harder and smarter than ever before!  

Wait, Then What’s “Shapewear”? Understanding Other Common Terms  

In addition to understanding the key differences between types of waist training garment as described above, it can also be necessary to recognize a few other specialized vocabulary words which might appear when discussing waist training. These are primarily umbrella terms which are often used to refer to any type of garment with a waist training focus.  

Shapewear is the most general term for any type of garment which shapes, forms or adjusts the body in any way. All four waist trainers described above are considered shapewear. Other types of shapewear not featured in this article might include specialized exercise outfits, push-up bras, and full-leg pantyhose designed with a slimming effect.  

Compression underwear or compression undergarments refers to any shapewear which 1) focuses on compressing, or redistributing the fat in, a certain part of the body in order to produce a slimming and/or narrowing effect and 2) can be worn under other types of clothing. Corsets, butt lifters and sometimes cinchers are typically considered to fit the definition of compression underwear, while trimming belts usually do not.  

Spanx refers to a specific brand of compression underwear, but has been erroneously used by a number of fashion bloggers and waist training “experts” to refer to all shapewear and training garments. These garments are typically extremely expensive and not significantly more effective than non-brand waist trainers.  

So…What’s the Best Waist Trainer?  

Again, there is no singular, all-encompassing “right answer” to this question. Each person’s individual needs may best be suited by a completely different waist training garment than everyone else’s. This may seem overwhelming – you may wonder how you will ever find the waist trainer that’s right for you. However, we’re here to offer you a piece of advice which has never steered us wrong:  

Don’t be afraid to choose more than one!    

Each type of shapewear discussed above can serve a completely different purpose due to its unique strengths and weaknesses. So, why not mix ‘n’ match? Wear a butt lifter to feel your best and most confident at work. Choose a corset to compliment that perfect outfit for a night on the town. Shave off inches in your sleep by wearing a comfortably fitting cincher to bed. Take your trimmer along to the gym on strength training days for the best workout of your life. Maybe there’s not one “just right” waist trainer for you – because there are so many!  

If you’re still feeling a little nervous about diving into the wonderful world of waist trainers, we’ve compiled a short list of some models which are recommended for training newbies due to being affordable, comfortable and easy to wear. Check out that list below, then go here to browse our full catalog of products! (And, as always, feel free to contact us if you’ve got any questions about any of our products or articles.)  

[add list here once I know the products better]