From fashion choices to celebrity looks, there are three main body types we hear about all the time — pear, apple and hourglass. These body types are driven by hormones and influenced by lifestyle choices, but many women have a pear-shaped body, meaning they carry extra fat in their hips and thighs.
The best exercises for a pear-shaped body are strength training moves that emphasize the upper body, like triceps push-ups or a biceps curls. Over time, these exercises will create a balanced physique.
Apple Versus Pear
If you're reading this article, chances are you have a pear-shaped body. However, it's important to distinguish the difference between pear and apple as they do not have the same health implications. In fact, having a pear-shaped body is less worrisome than apple from a health standpoint.
When someone has an apple-shaped body, they carry more fat in their midsection. Sometimes referred to as a "beer belly," this fat distribution pattern is a sign that you have visceral fat deep within your abdominal cavity, surrounding several important organs, including your intestines, pancreas and liver.
Visceral fat has been linked to a variety of health issues, including type II diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Both men and post-menopausal women are more likely to have an apple-shaped body, so they're at higher risk of visceral fat gain.
A pear-shaped body, on the other hand, is common in women. This body type is distinguished by a slimmer upper body and extra fat stored in the hip and thigh area. Fat that is stored lower in the body is further away from your vital organs and could be one of the reasons why women live longer than men.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, genetics play a major roll in your body type, but they are not your destiny. In other words, no matter the body type you are genetically predisposed to, you can alter your physique with diet and exercise. And while having a pear shaped body doesn't pose as many health risks as an apple, it's still important to keep your body weight within a normal range for your height.
Pear-Shaped Body Exercises
First and foremost, it's important to note that spot reduction, or the idea that you can lose weight in just one specific area of your body by doing targeted strength work, is a myth. It simply doesn't work that way. The truth is that in order to lose weight, a combination of proper nutrition, exercise and even quality sleep is required.
Before you do any targeted strength work for a pear-shaped body, it's crucial that you are getting an adequate amount of cardiovascular exercise. According to the American Heart Association, this means 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity.
Put simply, you must get your heart rate up and often! As a general rule of thumb, set aside 30 minutes, five days a week to do cardio.
Cardio is going to help melt fat off the lower half of your body, but a common misconception is that people with a pear shaped body should only focus on lower body exercises at the gym. However, by focusing on your upper body — shoulders, triceps, chest, and abs — you can balance out your body for a more even-looking physique.
Move 1: Shoulder Tap
The shoulder tap is a fantastic multitasking exercise, targeting both your abdominal muscles and your shoulders.
- Start by getting into a plank position with your wrists directly underneath your shoulders, your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart and your hips square to the ground.
- Make sure you aren't sinking or lifting your hips, and that your entire spine is in a straight line, including your head.
- Engaging your core, lift your right hand off the ground and tap your palm to your left shoulder.
- Lower your right hand down into plank and then repeat on the left side.
- Repeat, switching from right to left, until you reach fatigue and then gently come out of your plank.
Move 2: Biceps Curls
The biceps curl is a great upper body move that can create toned arms.
- Start by standing with your feet hip-distance apart with your knees softly bent and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Rotate your wrist so that the palm side of your grip is facing forward.
- Keeping your arms tight to your body, hinge at the elbow to lift the dumbbells toward your chest. Avoid swinging the dumbbells or using momentum to lift.
- Lower down in the same fashion and repeat, up then down, for eight to 12 reps. Pick a weight that allows you to reach fatigue by your last repetition.
Move 3: Triceps Push-ups
This exercise targets your triceps, shoulders and abs — and it can be done without any equipment.
- Start in a plank position with your wrists directly underneath your shoulders, your feet approximately hip-distance apart, and your entire spine in a straight line (again, no sagging or lifted hips).
- Externally rotate your arms while hinging at the elbow to lower down into a triceps push-up. In a triceps push-up, you will want to feel your elbows skim the sides of your body on the way down and up vs. a regular push-up, where your elbows go out wide.
- Engage your chest, abs and triceps to lift back up in the same manner and then repeat eight to 12 reps or until you reach fatigue.
To modify this exercise, do your push-ups on hands and knees vs. hands and toes. If you are on your knees, be sure to rock far enough forward so that your wrists are still below your shoulders and your spine is in a straight line.
Of course, you will still want to maintain a tight lower half, so be sure to incorporate glute and leg work as well. Emphasizing the upper body will help downplay your lower body and even out your physique.
Eating for a Pear Shape
According to the American Council on Exercise, the pear-shaped body is associated with estrogen dominance, which causes water retention, bloating and other issues. The good news is that there are specific foods associated with estrogen production and reduction, so making the right food choices may also help you trim down.
Foods that promote estrogen production that you may want to reduce in your diet include non-organic meats, caffeine, alcohol, trans fats and high-fat dairy. Those that aid in the removal of estrogen from the body, on the other hand, are those rich in fiber. Try incorporating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains into your daily intake and stay away from processed meats, as they can cause water retention due to high levels of sodium.
Though you can indeed alter your physique with nutrition and working out, it's important to know that everyone's body shape and size is different — and that's a beautiful thing. Practice self-care and self-love by saying and thinking kind words about yourself and your physique as you work on your health and wellness.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Genes Are Not Destiny”
- American Heart Association: “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids”
- American Cancer Society: “Normal weight ranges: Body mass index (BMI)”
- American Council on Fitness: “Are You an Apple or a Pear? How to Eat for Specific Body Types”
- John Hopkins Medicine: "The Skinny on Visceral Fat"