Workouts by Body Shape
In dressing rooms across the country, women are cursing their trouble zones and wondering if it's possible to make the most of what Mother Nature gave them. It is, okay? And you can do it before beach season. This plan tackles your entire package, using the latest thinking from trainers who recognize that when it comes to workouts, one size does not fit all. "By building up weaker or less developed parts of your body, you'll maximize your natural shape," says Laura Mak, owner of Mak Attack Fitness in Marina del Rey, California.
To start, find a body type most like your own: a pear (bottom-heavy), an apple (rounder in the middle), or a chili pepper (a narrow frame from head to toe). Do the basic routine designed by Mak with the prescribed regimen for your type. As our testers discovered, in just a few weeks, you can lose inches, sculpt muscle, and be in your best shape ever.
How it works: All three body types follow the same basic strength workout, but each will complete a different number of sets and reps. Do your strength routine twice a week; do the recommended cardio three times a week.
What you'll need: A stability ball and a set of 5- to 8-pound and 10- to 15-pound dumbbells.
You're a pear if most of your weight is below the waist
Your goal: Minimize your hips, butt, and thighs.
Your plan: To balance a heavier lower half, focus on adding muscle definition to your chest, back, and shoulders by lifting heavier weights with fewer repetitions. At the same time, improve lower-body endurance and sculpt your butt and thighs by doing more reps with lighter weights. One of the fastest ways to achieve this is through triple supersets — back-to-back-to-back exercises with three moves for the upper body, three for the lower body, and three for the upper body and core — with no rest between sets. (Take about 30 seconds to rest between supersets.) "It's a great way to boost your heart rate and burn fat while building lean muscle," says Mak.
The Pear Workout
- Superset 1: Bent-Over Dumbbell Row, Lateral-to-Front Dumbbell Raise, Dumbbell Flye on Ball (3 sets each, 8 to 12 reps; use moderate to heavy weights)
- Superset 2: Lunge with Biceps Curl, Squat and Calf Raise, Rear Leg Lift (4 sets each, 15 to 20 reps; use light to moderate weights)
- Superset 3: Long-Arm Ball Crunch, Overhead Triceps Extension, Oblique Ball Crunch (3 sets each, 8 to 12 reps; use moderate to heavy weights)
- Cardio: Do two moderate to hard steady-paced workouts a week for at least 30 minutes with the cardio of your choice. Use your rate of perceived exertion (RPE), or how difficult the exercise feels on a scale of 1 to 10; try to keep your effort at about a 7 or 8. In addition, do one interval routine (below) each week.
- Warm up: 5 minutes, RPE 3-4 (easy)
- Speed burst: 2 minutes, RPE 8-9 (hard)
- Recover: 2 minutes, RPE 5-6 (moderate)
- Repeat speed burst/recovery for a total of 5 times
- Cool down: 5 minutes, RPE 3-4 (easy)
You're an apple if you tend to carry fat around your midsection
Your goal: Burn flab everywhere, with an emphasis on moves to work your waistline.
Your plan: "Apples need to focus on developing a strong core and building lean muscle in the lower body to help balance the top half," says Mak. The key is to use lighter weights with more reps for your upper body and heavier ones with fewer reps for your legs and butt. Do triple supersets to increase your heart rate and blast fat, and since abdominal fat is particularly stubborn, increase the intensity of your cardio sessions.
The Apple Workout
- Superset 1: Bent-Over Dumbbell Row, Lateral-to-Front Dumbbell Raise, Dumbbell Flye on Ball (3 sets each, 12 to 15 reps; use moderate weights)
- Superset 2: Lunge with Biceps Curl, Squat and Calf Raise, Rear Leg Lift (3 sets each, 8 to 12 reps; use moderate to heavy weights)
- Superset 3: Long-Arm Ball Crunch, Overhead Triceps Extension, Oblique Ball Crunch (3 sets each, 12 to 15 reps; use moderate weights)
- Cardio: Do at least three 40-minute steady-paced sessions per week. After warming up for 5 minutes, go at a moderate to difficult intensity (RPE of 7 to 9), hard enough that speaking more than a few words at a time is extremely difficult; cool down for 5 minutes at a moderate pace. Lower-body workouts such as using the stairclimber or elliptical machine, walking on an incline, running, or skating will blast fat while also shaping your butt and thighs.
You're a chili pepper if you have a narrow shape
Your goal: Create curves by building muscle.
Your plan: Focus on doing fewer reps with heavier resistance to add more lean muscle throughout your body — especially your shoulders, butt, and legs. Because you'll be using heavier weights, you'll need more time to rest and recover, so Mak recommends doing supersets of just two exercises back to back and resting 30 to 60 seconds between each set.
The Chili Pepper Workout
- Superset 1: Bent-Over Dumbbell Row and Dumbbell Flye on Ball (3 sets each, 8 to 12 reps; use heavy weights)
- Superset 2: Lateral-to-Front Dumbbell Raise and Overhead Triceps Extension (3 sets each, 8 to 12 reps; use moderate to heavy weights)
- Superset 3: Lunge with Biceps Curl and Squat and Calf Raise (3 sets each, 8 to 12 reps; use moderate to heavy weights)
- Superset 4: Rear Leg Lift and Oblique Ball Crunch (3 sets each, 8 to 12 reps; no weights required)
- Cardio: Focus on the health benefits of aerobic activity rather than calorie blasting by doing three 30-minute workouts at an RPE of 5 to 6. To further strengthen your upper body, try swimming or using the rowing machine or an elliptical trainer with upper-body handles.
Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
Targets back, shoulders, and biceps
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells with palms facing front of thighs.
- Bend forward 45 to 90 degrees at hips, knees slightly bent, head in line with spine and hands in line with shoulders.
- Bend elbows 90 degrees and lift weights toward ribs, rotating arms so palms now face each other.
- Squeeze shoulder blades together for 1 count, then return to the start position, rotating arms so palms face body.
Long-Arm Ball Crunch
- Lie with lower back supported on a stability ball, arms extended over head.
- Contract abs and lift upper back and shoulders forward; lower without shoulders touching ball and repeat.
Lunge with Biceps Curl
Targets biceps, glutes, quads, and hamstrings
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, dumbbells next to thighs with palms facing forward.
- Lunge forward with right foot, bending knees 90 degrees; keep right knee aligned over ankle.
- Push through right heel to stand up; as you come up, curl weights toward shoulders.
- Do all given reps on right leg; switch sides and repeat.
Lateral-to-Front Dumbbell Raise
Targets shoulders (front and sides)
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at sides. Keeping elbows slightly bent, raise arms out to sides to shoulder level.
- Keeping arms raised, bring weights in front of body, arms extended. Follow the same path to return arms back to sides, then lower to start position.
Dumbbell Flye on Ball
Targets chest and core
- Lie with head and shoulders supported on a stability ball, holding dumbbells above chest with palms facing each other.
- Keeping elbows slightly bent, lower arms out to sides.
- Contract chest to raise dumbbells back to start position and repeat.
Squat and Calf Raise
Targets glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells at sides. Squat, bending knees 90 degrees and bringing quads parallel to ground; keep knees behind toes and weight over heels.
- Squeeze glutes and push through heels to stand up, then lift heels and stand on balls of feet. Lower and repeat.
Overhead Triceps Extension
Targets triceps and core
- Lie with head and shoulders supported on a stability ball, holding dumbbells vertically with ends pressed together, arms extended and on a slight diagonal.
- Bend elbows 90 degrees, lowering weights behind head; pause, then straighten arms and repeat.
Rear Leg Lift
Targets glutes and core
- Stand with both hands on a stability ball, shoulders aligned over wrists, legs extended behind you and abs pulled in.
- Lift left leg to hip height, squeezing glutes; lower.
- Repeat for given number of reps, then lift left leg to hip height and pulse up and down about 3 inches for another 15 reps; switch sides.
Oblique Ball Crunch
- Lie with lower back supported on a stability ball.
- Place left hand behind head and extend right arm across body toward left leg.
- Crunch up, reaching right hand to outside of left knee.
- Lower and repeat for given number of reps; switch sides.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2008.