Q: Do you have any tips for people who have unbalanced body shapes? As I’ve lost weight, most of it has been from my top. I can start to see the outline of my abs and clavicle, but unfortunately I still have the bottom of a Kardashian. I still have 20lbs I want to lose, but with my body type, how would you recommend I continue to really slim down the hips and thighs? More cardio or more weights?
So, essentially, what we’re talking about is wanting to go from one body shape – pear, triangle, diamond, and so on – to another. And how in the world do we do that?
Simple. (Not to be confused with “easy.”)
When you’re talking about body shapes, you’re almost invariably talking about body fat. Lots of people are under the impression that their body shape is due to their “frame,” but unless your body fat percentage is around 25% or lower, it’s likely due to a combination of genetics, lived experiences (did you give birth? are you very sedentary? were you athletic as a teen — maybe a swimmer, even?), and age.
But, back to that word: “frame.” What does that mean? When you’re talking about a “frame” in terms of body shape, your skeleton doesn’t contribute much to it. You could be talking about your muscular frame, but again – unless your body is around 25% or lower, it might not make as much as a difference as we’d like to believe.
So, back to the body fat. Theoretically, body fat is intended to be protective of reproductive organs, which is why it’s supposed to “make so much sense” for body fat to be more present in the lower half – thighs, booty, hips, calves – for women. The only way to change your shape, in that regard, is to lean out, which is another way of saying “lose body fat.”Tips and Tools for Changing Your Body Shape Click To Tweet
Does cardio lose body fat? Absolutely, but it also loses muscle, too, which is important when it comes to changing your shape. When you lean out, it gives your muscle the opportunity to shine and, while you can’t choose which parts of the body you lose fat in, you can always choose which muscle groups and physical regions of your body to build.
When it comes to your preferred body shape – for the record, I’m not into passing judgment on which one you like or dislike… what you like is for you – there are three components – your shoulders, your waist, and your hips. They’re all made up of multiple muscle groups, but these are the three primary points that contribute to the kind of “shape” you appear to have once your body fat percentage starts to cruise into the 20s. Take a close look at which parts of the body are featured most prominently in your chosen body shape – are the shoulders more pronounced than the rest of the physique? Are the hips and thighs more pronounced than everything else? Is everything pretty evenly distributed? Or are you shooting for more of an hourglass figure, where everything except the waist has pronouncement?
When I say to think of your shoulders, it’s not just the shoulder muscles you have to consider – it’s your back, your arms, your chest, and your neck that make up that region. Moves like kettlebell presses, push-ups, chin-ups (assisted or otherwise), and their infinite variants will help you define this area.Identifying Your Body Shape and Change It the Healthy Way Click To Tweet
Virtually all of the body shapes, except the round and diamond types, call for particularly lean waists. This includes your tummy, the sides of your abdominal muscles, and your lower back – essentially, the majority of your core. Muscle-building exercises – like crunches and their myriad variations – actually work to expand your waist, which can work counter to your goal if you’re shooting for anything other than a ruler-esque shape.
I prefer something I refer to as “passive core training” as opposed to “active core training” – since the overwhelming majority of people have needs that are best served by not targeting core but, instead, target adjacent muscle groups – push-ups, squats, presses, for example – which trains the core, but also proportionately trains the muscle groups surrounding the core, as well. It saves time, serves as a more balanced way to approach training, and quite honestly, training multiple muscle groups at a time serves as a more function-centered form of training. (I didn’t always think that way, but when it comes to this, compound training – the idea of training multiple muscle groups at a time – is best.)
When it comes to your hips, you should know that this is the hardest part to rid of body fat, primarily because this is where it goes first, and usually where it leaves last. (Particularly lean people often joke about something “going straight to their thighs,” and they’re usually telling the truth.) When it comes to the hip area, you’re mainly talking your lower core, your quads (front of the thighs), your hamstrings (back of the thighs), your glutes (hello, booty!), and any fat that might reside in the area.What do you need to change your shape? HIIT and lots of squats! Click To Tweet
When it comes to a “safe” way to lose body fat while also reducing the amount of muscle you use from such high octane activity, getting your pre- and post-workout nutrition up to par is key. What’s also key is high intensity interval training. Challenging all of the muscles in your body while simultaneously getting – and keeping – your heart rate high while simultaneously staying on par with your nutrition will help you both burn fat and maintain the muscle you have, so as to not set you back by much.
When everything’s said and done, you will have lowered your body fat percentage to the point where developing muscle can alter your shape in a positive and long-lasting way that leaves you feeling confident, happy, and empowered to take your training to the next level. So go run something! And go lift something! And go eat something! And come see me in six months to tell me how it’s going!