6 Exercises to Make Your Waist Look Smaller — No Crunches Required

Whether it's the curvy hourglass figure or lean swimmer's body, these popularly idolized silhouettes have one thing in common: a slim waist. If you're filling your ab workouts with endless crunches or wearing a waist trainer in hopes of trimming your midsection, you're taking the wrong approach.

Exercising your lats and shoulders will give you the appearance of a smaller waist. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

One tactic that can help you fake it 'til you make it? Building your shoulders and lats to give your body a more tapered look. While this shoulder and lat workout won't actually target your waist, defining your shoulders and lats will give you the illusion of a smaller waist, says Holly Perkins, certified personal trainer.

"This whole premise hinges upon an optical illusion," she says. "Nice wide deltoids and wide lats make your waist look teeny tiny and it also provides an athletic frame." Not to mention, you'll gain overall upper-body strength.

These six exercises will help your waist appear smaller so you can leave the corset in the past. Add a few to your next upper-body workout or perform all of them for three to four sets of 10 to 15 reps.

1. Standing Dumbbell Side Raise

  1. Begin with the feet hip-width apart, knees soft, abs drawn inward. Stand with a long, tall spine, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
  2. Press your shoulder blades down toward your hips and back away from you.
  3. With a slight bend in your elbows, raise the dumbbells out to the side until your arm is slightly above parallel to the floor.
  4. Pause at the top for two seconds before slowly lowering with control back down.

2. Dumbbell Upright Row

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees soft, abs drawn in. Maintain a long, tall spine.
  2. Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing your thighs, so that the dumbbells start straddling each of your upper thighs.
  3. Draw your elbows up as if dragging the dumbbells along your body.
  4. Stop when your elbows are slightly above shoulder height and the dumbbells are in front of your chest.
  5. Without pausing at the top, release back down.

3. Dumbbell Overhead Press

  1. From seated, hold your dumbbells so that they're directly in front of your shoulders, elbows bent. The palms will face each other in a neutral grip.
  2. Press your shoulder blades down toward your hips and draw them back toward each other.
  3. Maintaining this position, drive the dumbbells up, ending with arms straight and dumbbells over shoulders (but don't lock out your elbows).
  4. Slowly lower back down.

4. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

  1. Begin at the cable lat pulldown machine. Adjust the kneepad so that it comfortably anchors you into your seat.
  2. Grasp the bar above you so that your hands are slightly wider than the widest part of your shoulders.
  3. With arms long and straight, press your shoulder blades down toward your hips.
  4. Use your arms to pull the bar down toward your upper chest.
  5. Pause or two seconds.
  6. Slowly release the bar until your arms are fully extended.

5. Bent-Over Barbell Row

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell facing with your palms facing away from you. Place your palms at the width of your shoulders.
  2. Slightly bend your knees, press your hips back and bend forward slightly at about 30 degrees, so that your torso has a slight forward lean.
  3. From this position, contract your upper back muscles, draw your elbows back and pull the bar to your sternum.
  4. Pause here for two seconds, squeezing your shoulder blades to really focus on the lats and upper back.
  5. Slowly release, letting the bar return to right in front of your bent knees.

6. Lying Dumbbell Pullover

  1. Start with a single, heavier dumbbell and sit on an exercise bench.
  2. Holding the dumbbell at chest height, lie back and bring your feet onto the bench, contracting your abs.
  3. With both hands, cradle the dumbbell at one end and press it up over your chest toward the ceiling.
  4. Keeping your arms long, drive your shoulders down toward your hips and down toward the bench.
  5. From the anchored position, slowly lower the dumbbell in an arching fashion over your head until it ends directly over your head, almost parallel to the floor behind you.
  6. Drive downward, pulling the dumbbell in an arching position back to start.

This is a broad, arching movement, Perkins says. Keep a slight bend in the elbows throughout and avoid locking them.

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