How to Find the Best Workout for Your Body Shape

woman doing battle ropes in the gym
Make sure your workout aligns with your body type and goals. (Image: Adobe Stock/Andriy Bezuglov)

The key to sticking with your workout program is finding one that deliver results. And that can be easier said than done. Should you focus on cardio? Only do HIIT workouts? Or stick to the weight rack?

The good news is that people can greatly improve the way their bodies look by exercising based on their body type. So, rather than just focusing on how much you weigh, channel your energy and efforts on making your body more proportionate. And, as long as you are fit and healthy and have a healthy ratio of lean muscle mass to body fat, what you weigh becomes less important.

Not working out for your body type is like studying French and taking the final exam in Russian.

Identifying Your Body Shape

Everyone naturally has a general body type or shape — hourglass, spoon, ruler or cone. These shapes are, for the most part, genetically predetermined.

Identifying your body type is a matter of observing how and where your weight (both muscle and fat) is distributed on your frame. No one body type is better or worse than any another. And while you can’t change from one body type to another, you can improve your shape and make the best of your body type through proper exercise.

Use the following criteria to determine what your body type is:

  1. If you tend to carry weight in both your upper and lower body, yet are more slender through the waist, you have an hourglass figure.
  2. If you're pretty much built straight up and down with very few curves, you have a ruler figure.
  3. If you carry most of your weight in your hips, thighs and butt, you have a spoon figure.
  4. If you tend to carry most of your weight in your back, chest, arms and stomach, you have a cone figure.
woman working out in the gym
Work with your body shape — not against it. (Image: Adobe Stock/dusanpetkovic1)

How to Exercise for Your Body Shape

First off, let's start with the basics that nearly everyone can apply to their workouts. Cardio torches calories and ups your endurance, while weight training tones and firms your muscles. When it comes to losing weight, what counts the most is your overall calorie expenditure. How you burn those calories also makes a huge difference in losing fat and mass versus building additional muscle.

Here's a general guideline for how to divide your workouts if you're looking to lose weight: If you need to lose 50+ pounds, 85 percent of your workout time should be spent doing aerobic exercise (walking, running and strength training) and 15 percent should be anaerobic exercise (sprinting, HIIT workouts and powerlifting).

If you need to lose between 25 and 50 pounds, 70 percent of your exercise time should be aerobically-geared. And to lose between 10 and 25 pounds, 60 percent of that time should be aerobic. For those last 10 pounds, half of your time should be devoted to aerobic exercise and half to anaerobic.

Intensity is the key, because the higher the intensity of your workout, the more total calories you will burn. However, because people equate higher intensity with either lifting a heavier weight, running on an incline, increasing the resistance on a stationary bike or taking a popular HIIT class, if you're doing the wrong exercises for you body type, you may not target the areas you need to accentuate your natural shape.

Depending on your body type, here are some of your best bets when it comes to exercising:

What Do YOU Think?

What does your current workout plan look like? Are you exercising for your body type? Which body type do you most closely align with? Do you think you’ll alter your workout to fit in with this body type-specific advice? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

About the Author

Edward Jackowski, Ph.D., is a motivational and fitness expert whose company Exude Fitness in New York City, focuses on exercising based on body types. He’s also written seven books, including “Escape Your Shape,” in which he sheds light on the fact that different body types require different exercises in order to be effective for weight loss.

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