In the old days if you weren't born with a tiny waist you might create one with a tight corset. The same still applies -- to a certain extent -- only a healthier approach over tightening laces is tightening the muscles around your waist that form your internal corset and losing a few pounds, if necessary. That said, exercise can't change your genes. While you may trim a small amount off your waist, the best approach is to learn to love your square body.
Muscle Vs. Fat
Don't automatically plunge into a weight loss plan assuming that will help. You may not need to lose weight, and even if you do, fat comes off from every part of your body, so your shape may still be square. Have a trained professional calculate your fat-to-lean mass ratio. If it's good or better, don't worry about losing weight. If you have too much fat, combine a reduction in calories with more calorie-burning cardio. For good health, you should also resistance train all your major muscles -- chest, shoulders, back, arms, legs and abs -- on at least two non-consecutive days per week. Increasing the intensity of your training will increase your lean, or muscle, tissue.
Create a Deficit
If you do need to lose a few pounds, you'll have to burn more calories than you take in -- about 3,500 more to burn one pound of fat in a week. The number of calories you burn doing cardio will depend on your weight, the type of activity and its intensity and duration. For example, according to Harvard Health Publications, a 125-pound individual burns about 120 calories walking for 30 minutes at 3.5 mph and a 185-pound person burns about 178 calories in the same time. Walking for one hour doubles those numbers, while increasing the intensity or speed to 4 mph boosts calorie burn by 15 and 22 calories, respectively. When cutting calories, start by eliminating empty calories from added sugars and solid fats to avoid sacrificing nutrition.
Hollow and Crunch
While sit-ups will tighten the rectus abdominis that runs down your middle, working the deeper transverse abdominis pulls your midsection inward. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor or supported on a bench if you have back problems. Start with your hands at your sides and take a deep breath, allowing your abdomen to expand. Then, slowly exhale while tightening your mid-region. Simultaneously lift your shoulders and pelvis slightly while sliding your hands along the floor. Start with two sets of 10 repetitions and build to 25 reps. Progress to crossing your hands on your chest and placing your hands behind your head.
Waist Cinching Obliques
Various exercises work the obliques at the sides of your waist. Start lying on your back with legs lifted so they form a 90-degree angle at your hips and knees. Place a stability ball between your knees. With your arms extended to your sides, slowly drop your knees as far as you can to one side, slowly bring them back up and drop down to the other side. Concentrate on contracting the side muscles between your ribs and hips on the return. When you can do two sets of 25 on each side, progress to twist crunches. Start in the same position as the standard crunch but place your ankle on the opposite knee -- while incorporating the same breathing technique, contract your oblique muscles to bring the opposite shoulder toward your bent knee. Starting with your hands crossed on your chest is easier, followed by one hand behind your head, then both hands behind your head with your elbows straight out.
Create an Illusion
As you will be working all your major muscle groups twice per week, extra work to build the chest and shoulders may make your waist appear smaller. You could do extra sets of each exercise or do two exercises for each muscle group. For example, perform bench presses with dumbbells, followed by dumbbell flyes for your pecs -- and shoulder presses, followed by lateral lifts for your shoulders. Of course, bigger shoulders could simply make you look like a bigger square. In that case you might want to consider clothing options, like a wide belt.