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The Best Workout For Your Body Type


Regardless of what the cold temperatures and winter weather may have you believing, the spring season is slowly but surely on its way. With warmer weather just around the corner, now is a great time to step up (or restart) that fitness regimen and get your bikini body ready for action. Whether you’ve been working out every day or haven’t stepped foot in a gym since Labor Day, there is no better time than now to take your gym grind to the next level. We spoke with Dr. Lisa Mealey, CSCS and Assistant Professor of Exercise Science in the Department of Health & Sport Sciences at Salisbury University to get the inside scoop on how to make the most out of your cardio, weight lifting and group fitness workouts based on your personal body type.

Some Ground Rules for Everyone

As a rule of thumb, Dr. Mealey suggests following the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) cardiovascular guidelines, which recommend 150-250 minutes of cardio per week for maintaining current body weight and for achieving a modest weight loss, and more than 250 minutes for those looking to achieve a significant weight loss. For most, performing 30-45 minutes of moderate intensity cardio 5 days per week will keep you looking and feeling great. Trying to tone up before a spring break trip? Check out HC’s 3 Week Exercise Plan for even more ideas.

For weight lifting newbies, Dr. Mealey recommends scheduling strength training sessions into your normal gym routine two to three days a week. Start with weights that are challenging but not uncomfortable, and progress from there.

If you’re in the market for a “two for one” workout that combines forms of strength training at a fast, sweat-inducing pace, find out if your campus recreation department or nearby gym offers group fitness classes. Emory University alum Lauren Kaplan shares why she sometimes chooses to do fitness classes rather than her normal workout, “[Exercising] makes me feel energized and healthy, yet even running on the treadmill ends up getting monotonous. To keep things interesting, I go to barre/cycling classes a couple of times a week when I have some time to spare.”

While it may be impossible to “spot train” or lose weight in only specific areas of your body, understanding the exercises that deliver the best results for your body type could play a significant role in making the most of your workouts. Find your body type and corresponding exercise plan in our guide below and consider yourself one step closer to reaching those fitness goals!


These exercises are best for women who tend to hold weight in their lower bodies, more specifically in the calf, thigh, and buttocks regions. And whether it’s thighs that need toning, a butt that needs lifting, or cellulite that just has to go, this fitness plan will help you tackle those problem areas head on.

Cardio: 5-7 days/week
Spend 30-60 minutes on the stationary bike or rower, as the added resistance will not only burn calories but also increase overall muscle tone in the legs and backside, according to the ACSM.

Weight Room Exercises: 2-3 days/week
Dr. Mealey suggests the following exercises for targeting the gluteus, hamstring, and calf muscle groups. She advises that beginners start with 2-3 sets of 5-12 repetitions for each exercise, and that they take a one to two minute rest period between sets.

  • Squats: Start with feet a bit wider than shoulder width apart. Bend at the knees slowly and move your buttocks back and down, going as deep as you are able but stopping when your thighs are parallel to the ground. Also ensure that you’re keeping your weight in your heels, chest up, and that your knees do not go over your toes. Hold free weights during this exercise for an added challenge.
  • Walking lunges: Keeping hips centered, step forward with one foot and bend at the knees, making sure to keep your back and upper body straight, your feet aligned, and not allowing your knees to go over your toes. Free weights are a great addition to work the upper body on this as well!
  • Machine-free leg curl: While lying on your back, place your feet together on top of a large exercise ball. Bracing your core and glutes, bring feet in towards your body, bending at the knees and maintaining a straight back. This one is great for targeting the back of the thighs and your butt muscles! 
  • Calf raises: Keeping feet forward and shoulder width apart, core tight, and back straight, slowly raise to the balls of your feet, then slowly back down to your heels. Continue this motion for the remainder of your reps.

Looking for a Fitness Class?

Try cardio kickboxing or spin class, which will provide a chance to work all of your lower body muscle groups while incorporating cardio, without the use of bulky weights or thousands of boring repetitions.


Apple girls have a tendency to hold weight in their upper body and midsection, with a frame that resembles a “V” or square shape. Put this exercise plan into action to get that top half looking lean.

Cardio: 5-7 days/week
Try the elliptical machine for 30-60 minutes, which provides a cardio workout that also adds arm resistance and overall body toning according to the ACSM. Many newer machines have a “arm blaster” option, which ups the resistance significantly in short bursts.

Weight Room Exercises: 2-3 days/week
Dr. Mealey recommends the following exercises for targeting the abdominals, oblique, and arm muscle groups. She advises that beginners start with 2-3 sets of 5-12 repetitions for each exercise, and that they take a one to two minute rest period between sets.

  • Crunches: While this classic ab work out can get a bit boring, advanced lifters can try performing crunches while sitting on a large exercise ball or while holding a weighted medicine ball. Just remember to keep that core tight!
  • Triangle push up: Similar to a normal push-up, the only difference being that your hands are placed directly below the center of the chest in a triangle formation, targeting both arm and core muscle groups! Just remember to keep your core tight and avoid arching your back.
  • Hammer curls: Holding a free weight in each hand, stand with feet shoulder width apart and keep palms facing inward. Keeping your elbows at your sides, raise one weight until forearm is vertical and the side of the dumbbell is facing you. Continue alternating for the remainder of the repetitions.
  • Tricep extensions: Keeping feet shoulder width apart, hold one dumbbell with both hands over your head. Lower the dumbbell slowly behind your head, and slowly back up to complete on repetition. Keep your core tight and avoid arching your back.

Looking for a Fitness Class?

Look into yoga and/or Pilates, or a class like Les Mill’s Body Flow that provides a combination of both. While it may seem like this type of exercise may not have a direct benefit when it comes to sculpting those abs, keep in mind that both methods center on breathing technique and strengthening the core muscles. And don’t forget about the extra, de-stressing benefits.

Curvy/Hourglass Shaped

With shoulder and hip measurements typically significantly larger than their waist measurements, this body type very literally resembles that of an hourglass. While the hourglass’s weight tends to be more evenly distributed around her body, that doesn’t mean that this body type isn’t prone to excess flab in unwanted areas. Follow this plan to help tighten and tone before summer.

Cardio: 5-7 days/week
Try combining the all over benefits of running with the calorie-torching effects of interval training, which involves alternating your pace frequently between a high-intensity speed and lower intensity recovery bouts, according to Mealey. Check out this HIIT Cardio workout example:

  1. Warm-up by walking 5 minutes
  2.  Run 2 minutes at 80% of your max pace
  3.  Jog or Walk 2-3 minutes at an easy pace for recovery
  4.  Repeat 5 times for a total interval time of 20-25 minutes
  5.  Cool-down by walking 5 minutes

In the Weight Room: 2-3 days/week
Dr. Mealey suggests these exercises that target back muscles, along with combination exercises that will tone multiple muscle groups at once. She advises that beginners start with 2-3 sets of 5-12 repetitions for each exercise, and that they take a one to two minute rest period between sets.

  • Plank hold: Lying on your stomach, lift up onto your elbows and the balls of your feet and keeping body straight in a plank position, and hold for 10-20 seconds. Looking to add an edge? Perform the same motion but while balancing on one foot or by placing your feet on a large exercise ball, while keeping elbows on the floor.
  • Tricep extension squat: While performing a traditional squat, hold one dumbbell with both hands over your head. When you bend your knees, simultaneously lower the dumbbell slowly behind you and then back up again, making sure to keep your weight in your heels.
  • Lateral Pull Down: Find a weight machine that includes a cable and hanging bar, then adjust the weight accordingly. Place your hands wider than shoulder width apart with an overhand grip on the bar, and pull the bar down slowly in front of the body with the elbows pushing straight down. Once the bar is parallel with your chest, straighten your arms back up to an almost locked out position to complete one rep. 
  • 1 Arm Bent Dumbbell Row: To start, kneel over an exercise bench, and place your inside hand on the bench so your shoulder is directly over your elbow and wrist, and keep your outside foot planted on the ground. Hold a dumbbell in your outside hand with an overhand grip. Lift the dumbbell up until your arm comes to a ninety-degree angle, and lower back down, ensuring to keep your back straight and core tight. This one benefits both back and arm muscles!

When Selecting a Fitness Class

Look into a cardio dance class like Zumba, which provides a total body workout. Not only do these types of fitness classes provide an energetic atmosphere, but you won’t even realize that you’re breaking a sweat.

Banana/Straight Shaped

Straight shaped women usually have a “boyish” build, in that their waist measurements do not vary much from their shoulder and hip measurements. Try the techniques included in this exercise plan to create a more toned, proportionate body.

Cardio: 5-7 days/week
Girls built on the straight side should use the stair stepper machine for 30-60 minutes, or walk/run using the incline feature on the treadmill in order to build muscle mass as well burn calories, according to the ACSM. Running outside is always a solid option as well, as it provides natural inclines, all of which helps to develop muscular and cardiovascular endurance.

In the Weight Room
Dr. Mealey recommends these exercises to target the shoulder, chest, and gluteus muscle groups. She advises that beginners start with 2-3 sets of 5-12 repetitions for each exercise, and that they take a one to two minute rest period between sets.

  • Leg Press: Upon sitting at the leg press machine, place feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart against the metal surface that faces the chair, so that knees are bent but you are still comfortable. Press back with both feet, extending legs until they are almost completely straight, and then return to the bent starting position. This one’s great because it works the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles at the same time, creating muscle tone all over.
  • Shoulder press: Start by sitting in an exercise chair holding dumbbells on either side of your shoulders, with arms bent at the elbow. Slowly lift both weights up and towards each other, so that they are almost touching above your head, then return to the original position.
  • Bench press: Lie flat on an exercise bench with each foot flat on the floor and your entire back in contact with the bench. Holding the bar above the center of your chest with arms bent and hands slightly wider than shoulder width, slowly lift the bar directly up until arms are almost straight, and slowly return to the original starting position. Add extra weight accordingly, and make sure to always have a spotter!
  • Dumbbell Fly: Lie down on an exercise bench with each foot flat on the floor and your entire back in contact with the bench. With dumbbells in each hand, lift the weights directly above you with your palms facing each other. Keeping a slight bend in the elbows, slowly lower the weights outward and downward in an arching motion. Go as low as you feel comfortable and then simultaneously bring the weights back up to the starting position.

Looking for a Fitness Class?

Try a class that incorporates a full body strength training as well as cardio, such as Les Mills Body Pump, which is offered at a number of campuses and gyms across the country.

Above all else, keep in mind that no two bodies are exactly alike, and there are certainly no “right” or “wrong” body types. The most important thing to factor into your health is how your body feels, which is far more important than how it looks. The good news is that sticking to a fitness plan will help benefit both! Need some extra motivation? “Plan ahead by setting time aside each day to be active and stick to it.” says Mealey, “You wouldn’t miss a doctor’s appointment, so why would you miss a scheduled exercise session? Holding yourself accountable is the first step to a healthy and in-shape you!”

Use this guide to ensure you’re getting the most out of your fitness regimen, but also make sure it includes things that are fun and enjoyable, as these are just as important for maintaining a happy and healthy collegiette lifestyle.

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