Some people seem to have bodies meant for certain types of physical activity—shoulders for swimming, a petite build for gymnastics, height for ballet or basketball.
If you think your body was created for desk-sitting or couch-lounging, though, think again. It's time to consider your natural shape, and we don't mean changing it. We mean embracing what you've got and strengthening what you don't have (yet).
While there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” style of exercise for different body types, every workout style yields different results. Here’s what fitness professionals had to say about which exercises are best suited to your build.
Rectangle // Pilates
Those whose bust, waist, and hips are about the same width should try Pilates. It's “known for the way it builds deep core strength and stability,” says Robin Long, Pilates instructor, and creator of The Balanced Life. With Pilates, “one can expect to build strength, improve muscle tone, restore posture, correct alignment, increase flexibility, reduce stress and ease chronic aches and pains,” she says. It's not uncommon for people to find some of the exercises and positions in mat Pilates challenging. So Long advises finding a teacher and class that offer the modifications you need.
Hourglass // Running
If your hips and bust line are proportionate to each other, try hitting the road. Holistic Health Coach and RRCA running coach Laura Peifer says running is well-suited for an hourglass shape, “as it will help to slightly slim down the hips [and] butt and tone the legs,” which helps distribute balanced strength throughout the body. According to Peifer, “Hill training can help tone the glutes. And by adding intensity, like sprints, the abs and core will get some training as well.” However, “if the goal is overall toning, the better option is to use running for basic cardio training and incorporate strength workouts and/or high-intensity interval training for fat burning.”
Pear // Kickboxing
If your hips and thighs are the widest part of your body, you likely have more natural flexibility than the average person, says Grant Clark, a personal trainer. Hip mobility is integral in kickboxing, and body shapes with a wider hip base “have an easier time entering a deep squat than someone with narrow, shallow hip joints,” he notes. Squats and kicks will tone your legs, while quick upper-body work will build muscle in your arms. Bonus points if you’re petite: high kicks and single-leg extensions may come more easily to you because of your more stable base.
Heart // Yoga
A heart-shaped build has a bust and shoulders that are wider than the hips, making it ideal for workouts that involve holding up your own body weight like yoga. Clark, who's also a certified yoga instructor, says, “Body weight exercises like planking and the downward dog can help create significant strength in the abs, chest, and upper back.” The flow of moving up and down to the floor “helps lengthen the body overall.” When practiced consistently, Clark says yoga can, “improve your balance, body awareness and flexibility, as well as strengthen your arms, legs, and core,” creating a powerful, lean physique.
Also try: Barre
A good workout shows us what our bodies are capable of, even on the days when our motivation can't seem to click. Some of these moves may come more easily to others at the start. But Clark points out, “if you keep moving, regardless of body type, the exercises will become easier and more natural over time...any amount of movement will benefit the body, so don’t be afraid to start even after a hiatus.”
Robin Long agrees. With any form of exercise and any body shape, “The more you do it, the quicker you'll see results.” What’s most important is that you enjoy your workout routine and make time for it consistently.
Photo Credit: Annemarie Bollman Photography
Illustrations: Emma Block