How To Get A Smaller Waist (Ultimate Guide 2019)

Shelley Darlington in a pale pink one-piece with arms outstretched

A smaller waist is seen as attractive & feminine because it accentuates an hourglass figure & maximises the waist-to-hip ratio.

But holding body fat around your waistline is also indicative of higher risks of developing cardiovascular disease & 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 some unhealthy belly fat… here is everything you need to know about how to get a smaller waist.

Small Waist Mistakes

You Can't Out-Train A Bad Diet

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 & tight tummy. So your first & most important way to achieve a smaller waist, is to clean up your diet.

“Weight loss = 5% exercise, 20% diet, 75% lifestyle & de-stress”

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NOTE: 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.

Can You Spot Reduce Body Fat?

The short answer is… no. You cannot pick & choose which body part you want to lose weight 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 & how you lose it, is largely based on your unique body composition. Due to our higher oestrogen levels & also evolution’s way of protecting our reproductive organs, most women tend to hold most of their body fat around the hips, butt & lower belly.

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 & 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 & lower your body fat levels (*read: get 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…

The Small Waist 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 & leave you constantly hungry, low on energy & miserable. 

“The plan that works is the one that you can stick to”

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There is a better way! Forming long-lasting healthy eating habits is only achievable if the diet you choose feels fulfilling, enjoyable & fits in with your lifestyle. That’s why I love the low carb way of eating (WOE). You never go hungry, have oodles of energy & still able to achieve your goals AND enjoy treats now & then. 

Check out my blog post “Why LCHF is best for a strength training female” to learn more about how this WOE can benefit you & help you get a smaller waist.

But in a snap shot:

  • Processed & packaged foods
  • Junk food & take aways
  • Sugary & fizzy drinks
  • Refined sugar like, candy, chocolate & ice-cream
  • Processed baked goods like cake, pastries, bread & muffins
  • Trans fats in margarine & other spreads, as well as vegetable oils like canola

Eat predominantly whole foods as nature intended:

  • green & cruciferous vegetables high in fibre to keep you feeling fuller for longer & regulate your digestion
  • drink plenty of water to flush out toxins (sometimes we mistake hunger for thirst & end up over eating)
  • swap unhealthy table salt for Himalayan pink rock salt that’s full of important trace minerals
  • increase your healthy fats like avocado, real grass fed butter, olive oil, nuts & seeds to give you sustained energy throughout the day, balance your hormones & keep you feeling satiated.
  • get enough protein to sustain muscle growth & repair from hormone free pasture raised meats such as salmon, mackerel, beef & chicken

TIP: a diet high in processed carbs, baked goods, refined sugar & sodium will make you hold more water weight, which can add inches onto your waistline. Because LCHF is low in carbs & sodium, people tend to ‘drop’ this excess water which can help your waistline look tighter.

Ab Exercises That Make You Blockier!

“The myth that lifting weights makes you ‘bulky’ is only true if you do the wrong type of exercises”

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If done correctly, strength training will shape & 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

Avoid Weighted Exercises

The more you challenge a muscle under a heavy load, the more it will grow. So if you smash the weighted crunches or use med balls & plates in your core workouts, your mid section will become thicker & blockier over time. If you want to get a smaller waist, you should avoid these exercises:

  • Cable Crunches
  • Russian Twist
  • Kettlebell Windmills
  • Cable Twist
  • Abdominal Machine
  • Or any Ab exercise with added resistance

Avoid Exercises That Target The Obliques

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 blocky 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:

  • Russian twist
  • Dumbbell Side Bend
  • Oblique V crunch
  • Heel Touches
  • Plank Hip Dips
  • Side Crunch
  • Triangle Crunch
  • Side Plank Hip Lifts
  • Cable Twist

Instead stick to high rep body weight exercises that target the rectus abdominis (six pack) and transverse abdominis. Continue reading to find out which are the best exercises.

Best Core Exercises For A Smaller Waist

Target the Rectus Abdominis

This is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles & typically what people call ‘six pack abs’. They key is to target both the lower & upper part of this abdominal muscle. Most people only do crunches which work the upper part & neglect the lower belly, which is where women tend to hold the most stubborn body fat - also known as the ‘belly pooch’. This lower belly workout will strengthen & tighten your core.

Here are all the best core exercises to target the ‘six pack’ muscles to tighten your waistline:

Crunch

Toe Touch

V Crunch

Leg Raises

Knee Tuck

Flutter Kicks

Scissor Kicks

Jack Knife

Target the Transverse Abdominis (inner core)

The inner core is responsible for helping you balance, perform everyday movements & helps with 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 & low back pain. It’s responsible for holding in all your organs & 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 remember to stand up straight & be conscious of your posture.

A great secret technique that works your inner core & 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 & protect the spine, we need to get good at ‘bracing’ our core… (think: ‘stiffening’ your torso if you get punched in your gut!)

These moves below are some more ‘bracing’ exercises that are great for the transverse abdominis to help you get a smaller waist:

Plank

Bird Dog

Foam Roller Knee Tuck

Foam Roller Pike

Stomach Vacuum Tutorial

Strong compound lifts for a smaller waist

Exercises that isolate the core muscles, like the ones above are obviously great for building strength in your core & keeping your waistline tight. But did you know that the squat, deadlift & hip thrust are also great ab exercises? Crazy, huh?

Squat

Deadlift

Hip Thrust

That’s because they are compound movements that require you to use multiple muscle groups & brace your core. So the stronger you can get at these moves, the stronger & 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 & growing your booty? Because focusing on building strong & round glutes will also maximise your waist-to-hip ratio & create the illusion of a smaller waist! BAM.

Another bonus is that adding strong compound lifts into your workouts helps you burn more calories & maintain lower body fat levels (yey for small waist!). Lifting weights elevates your metabolism even after you finish your workout (as opposed to cardio, where you only burn calories for the duration of the workout). Which leads us onto the age-old question…

TIP: Remember, the more you work a muscle under a heavy 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 2 sessions per week maximum… especially if you are also doing compound movements in your workout routine, because they work the core tremendously too!

To Cardio or Not To Cardio

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 & sculpting your body. Lifting weights is the only way you can tone & 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 & 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 & shrink your waistline?

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is best, because it’s short, it’s fast & if you do this STRONG HIIT workout, you’ll torch body fat AND sculpt curves at the same time! 2 sessions a week is more than enough, if you focus on a healthy diet & prioritise lifting weights in your weekly workout regime.

More Tips For Getting A Smaller Waist

The Waist Trainer Scam

There is no magic pill or quick fix to get a smaller waist.

Waist trainers, corsets, belly wraps, skinny teas, fat-burners… Don’t be fooled by gimmicky marketing on social media, promising you results that sound to good to be true! Here’s some great words of wisdom:

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”

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You have to be prepared to do the work, be consistent & be patient because results don’t come right away.

Dress To Flatter Your Curves

When we feel good about our appearance, we’re generally happier & more confident.

Clothes can either flatter our bodies & boost our confidence or… do the exact opposite. So before you give up & succumb to the scams mentioned above, take a look at your wardrobe & 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 & in the kitchen:

  • Wrap dresses & A-line skirts that cinch in your waist & flow out over your hips will accentuate hourglass curves & create the illusion of a smaller waist
  • High-waisted pants & skirts that sit above your hips will hold in your lower belly & muffin top. And the higher waistband will draw attention to your natural waistline (belly button level), which is the narrowest part of the torso
  • Peplum tops & skirts will create volume around the hips which increases the waist-to-hip ratio & accentuates a smaller waist
  • Circle
    Wide belts that cinch in the waist (at belly button level) will draw attention to your natural waistline & create the illusion of hourglass curves & a smaller waist

Avoid:

  • Baggy & loose ‘tent-like’ clothing that makes your waistline disappear
  • Low rise pants & skirts that cut your waist off at the widest part, because this will only dig into your ‘muffin top’ & accentuate a thicker waistline

Managing Stress For A Smaller Waist

Sounds a bit random, huh? How can managing stress actually help you get a smaller waist?

Well remember how I said,

“Weight loss = 5% exercise, 20% diet, 75% lifestyle & stress management”

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Well, stress is prevalent & ever-pervasive in our modern Western life. It has almost become so ‘normal’ that we don’t even see it anymore. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is constantly affecting our every day lives & well-being.

Mental & emotional stress, as well as poor lifestyle choices are making us sicker & fatter.

All these things increase our stress levels (whether physical, mental or emotional) and 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… and where we tend to store this ‘stress’ type of body fat is around our torso.

So to start improving your well-being & keep your stress hormone balanced, you need to look at your MIND. Watch this video on how to get your dream body by incorporating these practical well-being tips:

  • Get into nature daily
  • Meditate every day for at least 15 minutes
  • Practice yoga or mindfulness
  • Prioritise ‘me’ time & cultivate your passions
  • Start a ‘positive mindset’ journal

How To Get A Smaller Waist In A Nutshell

  • Lower your body fat levels by cleaning up your diet
  • Tighten up your waistline by doing the right core strengthening exercises
  • Sculpt muscles in the right places by lifting weights to give you hourglass curves
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    Avoid scams & quick fixes!
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    Dress to accentuate the waist-to-hip ratio
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    Change your lifestyle & manage stress to optimise your metabolism

10 thoughts on “How To Get A Smaller Waist (Ultimate Guide 2019)”

  1. Would you recommend any oblique stretching to improve a naturally blocky waistline? I have low body fat and a very clean diet but my waistline is pretty much a straight line from my rib cage to my hip bones. I’ve been doing your booty workouts to increase the size of my glute muscles and increase my hip to waiste ratio! Thank you, I really enjoy everything you post!

    1. Hey Mary,

      Apologies for the late reply! So stretching in general is great, but I don;t think that specific oblique stretching would do much in the way off slimming your waistline. Your torso shape is determined by genetics and if you have a naturally athletic straight up and down waist, then trying to minimize it, isn’t really possible. Sorry! But I’d rather give you 100% truth than fill your head with unrealistic expectations… especially since you’ve said you’ve already got low body fat levels. BUT… what you can do is build muscle in other areas to create the illusion of a smaller waist. Growing your glutes is definitely a good idea as you say, to increase your waist-to-hip ratio. But other muscles that are super important to target are your shoulders and back! Specifically your side deltoid – the best exercise for this is dumbbell lateral raises. And also your lats (back) targeted with wide grip lat pull downs, pull ups and dumbbell single arm rows!

      Lastly, check out this video if you haven’t already:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfkVMW1ZTpM&t=74s

      The stomach vacuum is incredible for shrinking your waistline and will definitely help!

      Good luck 🙂

  2. Hi! will the stomach vacuum just flatten your stomach or create a curvier appearence on the side of your waist?

    1. Hi Milka,

      Perfecting the stomach vacuum will help to tighten your core and give you a smaller waist circumference and yes, it’ll help to minimise the sides of your waist to create curves. But please note that this exercise will not get rid of excess belly fat. So to make the vacuum more effective, you should also take measures to exercise, eat healthy and de-stress to lose any excess belly fat too.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Hi, Shelley

    Your exercise advice on here is phenomenal! I’ve been perusing the internet looking for ab slimming exercise and this is the only site that has actually made sense and given the vacuum its due credit! Thanks!

    My only question is, to start lifting weights as you’ve described with the bar, what poundage to begin? I thought it looked like your weights said 5 lbs/piece, but I couldn’t be sure.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Erica,

      Thanks for the awesome feedback! So happy you find my content helpful 🙂

      How heavy you should lift is totally individual to you. What might be easy for one person, could be challenging for another. You want to choose a weight that is moderately heavy for you, whilst maintaining good form and full range of motion on each exercise. It shouldn’t be so heavy that you can’t perform the exercise but also, not so light that you aren’t challenging your muscles at all.

      Ideally, if you a performing 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps for any exercise, then the last 3 or so reps of your last few sets should feel super challenging to the point of near failure, where your muscles are burning and fatiguing – very challenging but not impossible. If you fail and can’t lift the weight early on in the set, you’ve gone too heavy. Equally, if you can perform all sets and reps with ease (even if they feel challenging) you’ve gone to light.

      It requires a little trial and error to find your most challenging weight. Aim to find that sweet spot and then consistently beat it by going heavier as you progress!

      Don’t look to what other people are lifting, focus solely on your own abilities.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  4. Hey Shelley,
    I recently came across your channel and I’m loving your content and workout videos so far! Regarding exercises to avoid, what’s your take on bicycle crunches? I find that they work my obliques but I wanted to ask a professional. I suffer from hip dips and don’t have a big booty, so I’m really careful on the ab workouts that I do. I’m striving for an hourglass figure and I know it’s going to be difficult but I’m willing to try!

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      So yes, bicycle crunches do work the obliques, but they are definitely not as bad as weighted side bends or oblique crunches. If you are looking to keep your waistline tight and small, I would avoid doing bicycle crunches every day! Focus on the exercises in this article but throwing in the odd bicycle crunch once in a while won’t do any harm either. It’s only when you overdo the oblique exercises, do them frequently and then with added weights that it starts to make the waist blocky. In short, focus on other crunch variations but no harm in occasionally doing bicycle crunches. Hope that helps!

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