How to Sculpt an Hourglass Figure

How to Sculpt an Hourglass Figure

So you’d like to see a little more curve when you look in the mirror, and you’re wondering how to get an hourglass figure.

Genetics play a huge role in your natural body shape and how you build muscle and lose fat. Not everyone is born with the hourglass genes, so you want to prioritize progress — like building muscle or feeling less winded during your workouts — over chasing one specific body type.

“It’s important to remember that this figure is not the most common body type and that it’s most important to focus on maintaining a strong, healthy, and mindful body,” says Rachel Butler-Green, CSCS.

Still, there are healthy ways to build your shoulders and hips and slim your waist to get as close to this figure as your body type will support. Here’s what you need to know.

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What Is an Hourglass Figure?

“The hourglass shape is characterized by having hips and shoulders that are nearly equal in width and a narrow waist, giving the illusion of an hourglass,” explains Jim White, RD, ACSM EX-P, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia. (If it’s easier to imagine a person, he adds, Marilyn Monroe is often considered the quintessential hourglass figure.)

Although shoulder width may not be something many people pay attention to, a wider upper body is what differentiates the hourglass figure from a pear shape (in which the hips are typically wider than the shoulders or bust).

 

Can Anyone Get an Hourglass Figure?

woman posing during run | hourglass figure

Anyone can focus on building certain parts of their body to look more like an hourglass — like sculpting stronger shoulders or a more rounded booty. Your nutrition plan and a tailored workout routine “can have a significant impact on the appearance of your overall body shape,” White says.

But because genes play a significant role in body fat distribution, you need to be realistic with your goals.

Sculpting an hourglass figure is particularly tricky, points out Ben Walker, CPT, Founder of Anywhere Fitness in Dublin. Many people need to focus on fat loss to slim their waistline — we’ll get into that more in a second — and that may make achieving the other aspects of an hourglass figure harder.

“When working out and losing body fat, your shoulders and hips will naturally shrink in size along with your waist,” Walker says. Unless you’re following a bodybuilding routine that targets muscle growth, you’re likely to slim down as you get stronger.

 

How Do I Reduce My Waist Size for an Hourglass Figure?

“The truth is that the midsection is really made in the kitchen,” Butler-Green says. So although there are exercises that can help strengthen your core, you won’t see their effects without a solid nutritional foundation that supports weight loss.

“Incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training will help slim down unwanted fat while maintaining muscle definition,” Butler-Green adds. She suggests choosing HIIT exercises that increase your heart rate but also target your core, such as mountain climbersRussian twists, cable rotations, wood chops, and planks.

White suggests combining your healthy diet with a combination of strength training and HIIT or steady-state cardio to achieve the slimmer waistline characteristic of the hourglass figure.

But keep in mind spot reduction isn’t possible, Walker says — whether it comes off of your waist first or last depends on your genetics. Walker recommends short, intense bursts of cardio to help you maintain as much muscle as possible while losing fat. Patience is also crucial, so don’t overestimate how much weight you can realistically lose in a certain timeframe.

 

What’s the Best Diet for an Hourglass Figure?

“There is no single diet that is best for achieving an hourglass figure,” White says. That’s actually a good thing — it means you can choose a nutrition plan that’s sustainable for you, as long as it creates a calorie deficit and includes lean protein to support muscle growth. “It would also be helpful to limit processed foods and foods high in added sugar that encourage fat storage,” White says.

 

How to Build Your Hips

Walker suggests combining heavier compound movements (like squats and deadlifts) with hip- and glute-specific exercises. Here are a few to add to your next workout:

Donkey kicks

  • Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Keeping your arms straight, core engaged, hips level, and knees bent 90 degrees, raise your right knee off the floor and kick your heel toward the ceiling as high as you can.
  • Return your right knee to the ground.
  • Perform 10 to 12 reps, then repeat with your left leg.

Fire hydrants

fire hydrant lateral raise demonstration | hourglass figure

  • Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Flex your right glute and lift your right leg out to the right side of your body. (Think about a dog peeing on a fire hydrant.) Lift your leg as high as you can while maintaining the 90-degree bend in your knee and keeping your hips square to the ground.
  • Return your right knee to the ground.
  • Perform 10 to 12 reps, then repeat with your left leg.

Glute bridges

glute bridge lateral raise demonstration | hourglass figure

  • Start by lying on your back with your arms down by your sides.
  • Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground under your knees.
  • Squeeze your glutes and drive through your feet to lift your lower body off of the floor until your body is straight from your chest to your knees.
  • Lower your hips to the ground, using your glutes to control the movement, and repeat.

Side lunges

side lunge lateral raise demonstration | hourglass figure

  • Start by standing with your feet together (or hip-width apart).
  • Push your hips back and over to the right as you step out to your right side, bending your right knee to 90 degrees. Your left leg should be straight, and your right leg should be bent.
  • Push through your heel to return to your starting position.
  • Repeat on your left side.

If these movements are easy, use weights or resistance bands to challenge your muscles and promote muscle growth.

 

How to Build Your Shoulders and Chest

Some women may need to build muscle in their upper body to match the width of their hips. That means targeting the chest and shoulders. “It is important to work all parts of the shoulder, including the front, sides, and back,” White says.

Push-ups

  • Start in a high plank position with your hands under your shoulders, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your body should form a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels.
  • Engage your core and glutes. Driving the elbows back about 45 degrees, slowly lower yourself until your chest is a few inches off the floor.
  • Squeeze through your chest and triceps to push yourself back up.
  • Perform with your knees on the ground instead of your feet if you need to build strength through this movement.

Dumbbell bench press

dumbbell bench press lateral raise demonstration | hourglass figure

  • Lie on a flat bench with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells directly above your chest with palms facing forward.
  • Bend your elbows and slowly lower the dumbbells towards the sides of your chest.
  • Pause, then press the dumbbells back up to the ceiling.

Walker suggests performing different variations of this exercise, like the decline chest press, since it’s such a good choice for building the chest and shoulders.

 

Dumbbell lateral raise

lateral raise demonstration | hourglass figure

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees softly bent.
  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise them out to the sides until your arms are level with your shoulders, palms facing down, with a slight bend at the elbows.
  • Return your arms to your sides in a controlled movement.
  • Focus on keeping your shoulder blades back and down throughout this movement.

About

Linnea Zielinski is a writer specializing in nutrition, wellness, food, and fitness. She was previously the site director at Eat This, Not That! and her work has appeared on MSN, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Health, Refinery29, and Serious Eats. She prefers weight lifting to cardio, swears by CBD massages and dry shampoo, and blogs about living a drama-free life in her spare time.