Exercises for Your Body Type

Women with different body shapes at spa

According to some fitness and nutrition gurus, exercising and eating for your body type is more effective for losing unwanted areas of fat, as well as building and toning targeted muscles. Fitness experts suggest combining the right aerobics and resistance exercises for your body type allows you to maintain or re-sculpt your body as you wish.

The Apple

Apple and pear shape

Your genes, gender, and hormones largely determine your primary body shape or type, as well as where your fat tends to accumulate. If you have an apple body shape, then you may be rounder in the middle with larger breasts and smaller shoulders and hips.

The apple belly accumulates fat under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and around the intestines and other internal organs (visceral fat). Yale Scientific notes that with diet or exercise, you lose fat all over and therefore, you cannot spot reduce belly fat. However, according to Harvard Health Publications, the unhealthy visceral fat is usually the first to mobilize and reduce because it is the most metabolically active fat.

Aerobic Exercises for Apples

Aerobic exercise helps you burn off unwanted excess belly fat, as well as fat from other areas. This reduces the health risks of the apple body, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Havard Health recommends aerobic cardiovascular exercise for 30 to 60 minutes at least five days a week at a moderate intensity for the apple body. For a more effective and faster burn of fat calories, Yale Scientific recommends a rigorous, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine for 20 minutes three days a week. The American College of Sports Medicine describes HIIT as alternating short bouts of a high-intensity exercise with longer bouts of lower-intensity.

  • For either type of workout, start with 10 to 15 minutes a day two to three times per week if you are not fit.
  • Slowly increase your effort to the goal of 30 to 60 minutes at least five times per week as your cardiovascular fitness and endurance improve.

Pick your favorite aerobic activity.

  • Walking and jogging are effective exercises that can be part of either an aerobic or HIIT workout. The choice is yours, but walking is easier on your knees and back.
  • Jumping rope is an easy aerobic exercise you can do outside of a gym that requires little equipment.
  • Step aerobics at home or in a gym increase your heart fitness.
  • Zumba dance to energetic Latin music is an enjoyable aerobic exercise that gets your whole body moving. A home video can teach you the moves, or you can take a Zumba fitness class.
  • The elliptical trainer and treadmill are popular pieces of exercise equipment you can buy for your home or use in a gym. The elliptical trainer provides a full-body workout if you use the handles to engage your upper body, and it is easier on your hips and knees than other high-impact forms of exercise. The treadmill is handy when weather conditions are not favorable for walking of jogging outdoors.
  • Swimming laps provides a great aerobic workout. Begin with slow laps and increase your speed and number as you ramp up to swimming at least five days a week.

Engage in one type of aerobic activity, design a workout with a combination of exercises, or use a pre-designed aerobics routine.

Apple Resistance Training

A resistance or strength training routine tones, strengthens, or builds specific muscles. To perform resistance training, use your body weight, work with resistance bands, or weight train. In addition to health benefits, engaging in resistance exercise can help you burn more fat by improving your metabolism as you build muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Apple Resistance Routine

To meet the above goals, perform the following strength exercises with your aerobic activity or alternate your days between resistance and aerobics. Perform three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions for each of the following exercises, or engage in three sets of a circuit training routine.

  • Forward abdominal crunches are a popular exercise that targets the stomach region by working your longitudinal abdominal muscles.
  • Reverse crunches strengthen your core, targeting your obliques and other belly muscles.
  • Squats are effective exercises for your bottom (glutes) and thighs. Perform them with or without weights.
  • Forward leg lunges engage the glutes, quads, and calves. Perform them with or without weights depending on your fitness level and strength.
  • Floor push-ups allow you to use your own weight to work your entire body, particularly your chest, triceps, back, and shoulder muscles.
  • Bench presses with dumbbell or barbell weights exercise your chest muscles (pectorals) and upper arms, providing breast lift and support.
  • Biceps curls, with or without weights or resistance bands, help tone or build the front of your upper arms.
  • Triceps extensions, also known as skullcrushers, allow you to exercise the triceps muscles and rear deltoids, which run along the backs of your upper arms and shoulders.

The Pear

The pear shape is another common body type. People with pear-shaped bodies are wider towards the hips and narrower in the shoulder region with small breasts. The pear body type has fewer health risks than the apple type, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Aerobic Exercise for Pears

The fitness magazine, Shape, has specific recommendations for people with pear body shapes, including:

  • Moderate intensity endurance aerobic exercise for 30 to 45 minutes three days per week
  • Whole body exercises that focus on moving the lower body, such as running, step aerobics, dancing, Zumba, or the elliptical trainer

Pear Resistance Training

To balance a pear-shaped body, Shape also advises the following for resistance training:

  • Perform resistance training three days per week.
  • Focus on upper body workouts that build the muscles of your upper back, shoulders, chest, and upper arms.
  • For more bulk on these muscles, use heavier weights or a tighter resistance band.
  • Also focus on toning your bottom, thighs, and abdomen with a lighter workout with lower body exercises.

Pear Resistance Routine

For the following routine, perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps three times per week. You will find the exercises described in the section for apples, above.

  • Push-ups build your chest, shoulders and arms.
  • Bench presses strengthen your chest and arms.
  • Bicep curls work the muscles along the front of your arms.
  • Triceps extensions build muscles along the backs of your arms.
  • Squats tone your bottom, legs, and thighs
  • Forward leg lunges work your bottom and thighs.
  • Abdominal crunches strengthen your longitudinal muscles.
  • Reverse crunches work all your belly muscles.

The Hourglass

Hourglass figure

If you have an hourglass shape, you tend to be curvy and have larger breasts and hips with a defined waist.

Aerobic Exercise for the Hourglass

People with an hourglass figure may not need to lose weight, although it is possible to be overweight with this body shape.

  • To improve and maintain cardiovascular fitness, Women's Health recommends engaging in moderate intensity aerobic workouts for 30 to 60 minutes per day five to six days per week.
  • Choose full body exercises, which can include walking, jogging, swimming, treadmill, or the elliptical trainer.
  • If you are overweight, then it is important to lose fat. To do this, increase the intensity, duration, and/or frequency of your aerobics training.

Resistance Training for the Hourglass

Combine or alternate your aerobics workout with a resistance strength routine.

Hourglass Resistance Routine

Perform three sets of 10 to 15 reps of the following resistance exercises two to three times per week. Refer to the Apple section for exercise descriptions if they are not listed below.

  • Planks engage your abdominal, arm, and back muscles. To perform a plank, lie face down on the floor with your arms bent and elbows close to your body. Put your palms flat on the floor. Hold your belly muscles tight while rising to balance your body on your forearms and balls of of your feet. Hold for five seconds then lower your body to your starting position.
  • Push-ups work your chest, shoulders and arms.
  • Squats tone or build your bottom and thighs.
  • Bench presses work your chest and upper arms.
  • Forward leg lunges exercise your bottom and thighs.
  • Forward abdominal crunches exercise your longitudinal abdominal muscles.
  • Reverse abdominal crunches engage your obliques and other belly muscles.

The Rectangle or Straight Body

Rectangular shape figure

If your figure has been described as "boyish," then you may have a rectangle body type, with a flat bottom, small bust, and a waist that isn't defined. Those with a rectangle-shaped body often do not need to lose weight. Put less emphasis on aerobics. Instead, focus on strength building exercises that can help promote overall muscle strength and tone, as well as create waist definition.

Aerobic Exercises for Rectangles

While aerobic activity is helpful for maintaining cardiovascular fitness, there's no need to do so much you lose excess fat unless you are overweight. To maintain cardiovascular fitness, Shape magazine recommends a low to moderate-intensity aerobics workout for 20 to 30 minutes five days per week. As for the other body types, choose an activity you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, swimming, dance, elliptical trainer, or any other type of aerobic exercise.

Resistance Training

Resistance training can help strengthen, tone, and define muscles for the rectangle body type.

  • Perform resistance exercise about three days a week.
  • Balance your routine to tone your upper and lower body.
  • Add abdominal exercises for core strength.

Rectangle Resistance Routine

Perform three sets of 12 to 15 reps of the following strength workout to tone all your muscles and define your waistline:

  • Planks strengthen your abdominal, arm, and back muscles (see description on Hourglass section).
  • Push-ups increase core strength, as well as toning the shoulders and arms.
  • Pull-ups exercise your upper and mid back, shoulders, and upper arms.
  • Side bends help define your waistline by engaging your oblique belly muscles.
  • Consider combining your aerobics and resistance exercises in a full body toning single workout session.

Optimize Your Body

You can modify your body fat and muscle definition, and thus your body shape, by how you eat and exercise. Performing the right diet and exercise routines for your body type can help you shed excess fat, tone muscles, optimize your shape, and improve your health. Don't neglect to include stretching exercises to your routines to maintain flexibility. Talk to your doctor before you start a new strenuous exercise program.

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