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Last updated on March 19, 2021·
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A smaller waist is seen as attractive and feminine because it accentuates an hourglass figure and maximises the waist-to-hip ratio. Holding body fat around your waistline increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other health issues, which is why it is important to maintain a healthy waist circumference. Whether you want to achieve a smaller waist to accentuate your hourglass curves or to shed belly fat, here is everything you need to know about how to get a smaller waist.
A small waist primarily comes down to lower body fat levels. Strength training exercises for your core will help increase muscle in that area (think six pack abs), but that washboard stomach will never make an appearance if you have a larger-than-average layer of insulation over the top. It doesn’t matter how many crunches you do, if your diet is appalling, you will never see a toned and tight tummy.
So your first and most important way to achieve a smaller waist, is to clean up your diet.
Weight loss = 5% exercise, 20% diet, 75% lifestyle & de-stress
If you already have low body fat levels, especially on your belly, then losing more body fat is not recommended! According to the American Council on Exercise Body Fat Categorisation these are the recommended body fat levels for women: Check that your body fat levels are in the healthy range with this online calculator.
The short answer is, no. You cannot pick and choose which body part you want to lose fat from - which means: Targeted ab exercises like crunches don’t burn belly fat! Where you tend to hold the most body fat comes down to your genetic predisposition and how you lose it, is largely based on your unique body composition or ‘body type'. Women have higher oestrogen levels which means they tend to hold most of their body fat around the hips, butt and lower belly - it’s evolution’s way of protecting our reproductive organs.
When you take measures to lose body fat, you will lose it evenly from all over your body, so wherever you tend to store it most (thighs, butt and belly), will be the last place you see it go from, while other areas seem to get leaner far quicker (usually upper body for women). But this is where lifting weights can give you a head start on getting a smaller waist.
Strength training is the most effective way to change your body composition, meaning: increase lean muscle mass and lower your body fat levels (*read: get strong curves in all the right places). The more muscle you build, the easier it is to maintain lower body fat levels. That’s good news for your waistline! More on how to lift weights for a smaller waist, later on in this article. But first, let’s talk about your diet.
So what’s the best diet to lose body fat to get a smaller waist? Most fitness experts will tell you to go on a low fat, low calorie restrictive diet, but honestly, who wants to count calories for every meal? These types of crash diets never work long term and only leave you constantly hungry, low on energy and miserable.
The plan that works is the one that you can stick to.
There is a better way! Forming long-lasting healthy eating habits is only achievable if the diet you choose feels fulfilling, enjoyable and fits in with your lifestyle. That’s why I love the low carb lifestyle. You never go hungry, have oodles of energy, still able to achieve your goals and enjoy treats now and then. Check out my blog post Why LCHF is best for a strength training female to learn more about how this way of eating can help you get a smaller waist. But in a nutshell, avoid these foods if you want to maintain a smaller waist:
Instead what you should focus on eating is nutrient-dense whole foods, just as nature intended. When it comes to diet, here are best fat loss tips to help you get a smaller waist:
A diet high in processed carbs, baked goods, refined sugar and sodium will make you hold more water weight, which can add inches onto your waistline. LCHF is low in carbs and sodium, so people tend to ‘drop’ this excess water which can help your waistline look tighter.
The myth that lifting weights makes you ‘bulky’ is only true if you do the wrong type of exercises. Certain ab exercises can make your waistline get bigger, giving your waist a blockier appearance. If done correctly, strength training will shape and tone your body like no other form of exercise - I’m talking hourglass curves in all the right places. But not all core exercises are going to help you get a smaller waist. Here are the ones to avoid, to keep your waistline small:
The more you challenge a muscle under load, the more it will grow. So if you smash the weighted crunches or use med balls and plates in your core workouts, your mid section will become thicker and blockier over time. If you want to get a smaller waist, you should avoid these exercises:
The obliques or ‘side waist’ run along the sides of your torso. Many fitness experts will tell you that doing exercises that target this muscle will help get rid of your muffin top - the body fat that sits just above your waistband. But this is so wrong! Firstly, we know that targeted exercises cannot spot reduce fat in specific body parts.
But secondly, overdoing exercises that grow the oblique muscles, will only make the sides of your waist grow out, making your waistline even thicker. The result is a blockier looking torso - great if you’re a guy, but not so good if you’re trying to enhance your hourglass curves. So to get a smaller waist, avoid these exercises:
Now you know which exercises to avoid, let’s talk about the best exercises to keep your waist tight and small. The best way is to stick to high rep bodyweight exercises that target the rectus abdominis (six pack) and transverse abdominis.
This is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles and typically what people call ‘six pack abs’. They key is to target both the lower and upper part of this abdominal muscle. Most people only do crunches which work the upper part and neglect the lower belly, which is where women tend to hold the most stubborn body fat - also known as the ‘belly pouch’. This lower belly workout will strengthen and tighten your core. Here are all the best core exercises to target the ‘six pack’ muscles to tighten your waistline:
The inner core is responsible for helping you balance, perform everyday movements and helps to encourage good posture. So it’s just as important to train this part of your core as well as the superficial ‘six pack’ abs. When this muscle is weak, it can lead to poor posture and low back pain. It’s responsible for holding in all your organs and when you don’t have very good control over this muscle, we tend to ‘let it all hang out’ so-to-speak, which can make our waistline look bigger. So consider this your daily reminder to stand up straight and be conscious of your posture.
A great secret technique that works your inner core and can literally shave 2-3 inches off your waistline in just a few weeks, is the stomach vacuum. Watch this stomach vacuum tutorial to find out how you can get a smaller waist by practicing this move every morning. All of the exercises mentioned above, especially the ones that focus on raising the legs, will also target the inner core too.
But to really strengthen the abdominal muscles and protect the spine, we need to get good at ‘bracing’ our core (think: ‘stiffening’ your torso if you were to get punched in your stomach!) These moves below are some more ‘bracing’ exercises that are great for the transverse abdominis to help you get a smaller waist:
Exercises that isolate the core muscles, like the ones above are obviously great for building strength in your core and keeping your waistline tight. But did you know that the squat, deadlift and hip thrust are also great ab exercises? Crazy, huh? That’s because they are compound movements that require you to use multiple muscle groups as well as, your core. So the stronger you can get in these moves, the stronger and tighter your core will become, which can help you get a smaller waist. And need I tell you that these three compound exercises are also great for sculpting sexy hourglass curves and growing your booty?
Focusing on building strong and round glutes will also maximise your waist-to-hip ratio and create the illusion of a smaller waist! BAM. Another bonus is that adding strong compound lifts into your workouts helps you burn more calories and maintain lower body fat levels (yey for small waist!). Lifting weights increases your metabolism even after you finish your workout (as opposed to cardio, where you only burn calories for the duration of the workout).
Remember, the more you work a muscle under a load, the more it will grow. And same goes for how often you train that muscle too. So be strategic about where you want to ‘add’ muscle to your body. If you want to create an hourglass figure and maintain a smaller waist, then training your abs every day is way too much. Isolated ab workouts should be kept to two sessions per week maximum - especially if you are doing compound movements in your workout routine, because they work the core tremendously too!
Many people believe that increasing your cardio is the best way to lose belly fat. But I believe there is a better way. We already know that lifting weights is far more effective at burning calories. Cardio falls short because although it might aid in weight loss, it does absolutely nothing for shaping and sculpting your body. Lifting weights is the only way you can tone and tighten the muscles of your waistline - and that’s whats going to give you a smaller waist.
We’ve also established that you can’t out-train a bad diet and that the key to a smaller waistline is lowering your body fat levels by cleaning up your diet. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do cardio at all, it just means that it doesn’t need to be your primary focus when trying to get a smaller waist.
So, what kind of cardio is ideal to help you lose excess body fat and shrink your waistline? High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is best, but only if you are already fairly athletic and have higher levels of muscle mass. If you do this STRONG HIIT workout, you’ll torch body fat and sculpt curves at the same time. Two sessions a week is more than enough, if you focus on a healthy diet and prioritise lifting weights in your weekly workout regime.
On the other hand, if you have quite a bit of body fat to lose, lower muscle mass and poor fitness levels, then the best type of cardio for you is gentle steady state, like a 30 minute walk in nature, some laps of the pool or a leisurely bike ride. However, lifting weights should be your primary focus if you want to boost your metabolism and get into the fat-burning mode. Check out this fat-burning workout, perfect for beginners who want to get a smaller waist.
There is no magic pill or quick fix to get a smaller waist. Waist trainers, corsets, belly wraps, skinny teas and fat-burners are all a scam! Don’t be fooled by gimmicky marketing on social media, promising you results that sound to good to be true. You have to be prepared to do the work, be consistent and patient because results don’t come right away.
When we feel good about our appearance, we’re generally happier and more confident. Clothes can either flatter our bodies and boost our confidence or, do the exact opposite. Before you give up and succumb to the scams mentioned above, take a look at your wardrobe and see if making any of these little tweaks can help you create the illusion of a smaller waist, while you start putting in the work in the gym and in the kitchen:
However, there are some styles and shapes you should avoid if you have a naturally wider wider and narrower hips and your goal is to create the illusion of a smaller waist. Baggy and loose ‘tent-like’ clothing will make your waistline disappear and low rise pants and skirts will cut your waist off at the widest part which will only accentuate a thicker waistline.
Sounds a bit random, huh? How can managing stress actually help you get a smaller waist? Remember how I said, “Weight loss = 5% exercise, 20% diet, 75% lifestyle & de-stress”? Well, stress is chronic and ever-pervasive in our modern world. It has almost become so ‘normal’ that we don’t even notice it anymore, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is constantly affecting our every day lives and well-being. Mental and emotional stress, as well as, poor lifestyle choices are making us sicker and fatter:
All these things increase our stress levels (whether physical, mental or emotional) and they have an adverse affect on our physiology. Our stress hormone (cortisol) increases, which down regulates our metabolism, makes us gain body fat or makes it very difficult to lose it. Where we tend to store this ‘stress’ type of body fat is around our torso.
To start improving your well-being and keep your stress hormone balanced, you need to look at your mindset. Watch this video on how to get your dream body by incorporating these practical well-being tips:
If you found this article helpful, let me know in the comments below!
Founder of Strong Curves
With a no BS approach, I teach women how to sculpt strong curves and build confidence through my digital books, e-courses and app.
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Teaching women all over the world how to sculpt strong curves and gain confidence with my digital books, courses and app.