In the 1800s, you had to wear a corset to create an hourglass figure. Now, you spend time at the gym to develop a balanced upper and lower body with a narrow waist. Achieving that hourglass isn't always about doing just the right moves, though — sometimes, it's more about what exercises you skip.
Whittling your waist at each and every workout might seem to be a sensible way to get the narrow waist essential to an hourglass shape. However, the abs are a muscle just like any other in the body, and when you work them incessantly — especially with added weight — you're likely to make them thicker and stronger. This contributes to blocking at your waist, not narrowing.
Make a Trade
Don't skip ab exercises entirely -- a strong core is essential to optimal functioning and prevention of back pain. You also need good posture to make your hourglass shape appear tall and shapely. Carefully select the ab exercises you do to encourage slimming and lengthening, rather than the squaring, of your ab muscles. Keep your ab-specific workouts to just twice per week.
Skip This: Weighted Side Bend
When you add weight to side bends, you encourage muscle development in the obliques, which lie at the sides of your waist. When your intention is to look tapered, this is a move to avoid.
Do This Instead: Reclining Knee Twist
Prop yourself up on your forearms, with your tailbone in the floor. Lift your legs so that the knees create a 90-degree angle with the floor.
Keep your upper body still as you drop your legs to the right as far as possible.
Draw the knees back to center and then drop the legs to the other side. Alternate for 10 repetitions.
Skip This: Weighted Crunches
Weighted crunches make your rectus abdominis, the front of your abs, work harder, and thus build muscle. When the fronts of your abs are thick, you look wide from front to back. Another drawback to weighted crunches is that they compound pressure on your spine.
Do This Instead: Toe Taps
Lie on a gym mat with your back and head pressed toward the floor. Lift your legs to create a 90-degree angle at your hips and knees.
Keep the angle in the right knee as you slowly lower the leg to touch the floor. Raise it back up and then lower the left leg.
Continue to alternate for 20 repetitions.
Skip This: Wood Chops
Woodchops, done using a cable machine, kettlebell, medicine ball or dumbbell, are functionally productive moves, but they build muscle in your side waist. If your goal is to look slimmer, leave them out of your workout plan.
Do This Instead: Lunge Twist
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Lift your arms up so that they are straight and parallel to the floor. Clasp your palms together.
Lunge forward with your right leg. Simultaneously rotate your arms and torso to the right.
Step back to the stand and repeat to the left side.
Alternate the rotating twist for 10 to 16 repetitions.
Activate Your Abs at All Workouts
Don't worry that you're not doing all these hardcore moves to train your midsection. Your abs play a tremendous role in every strength-training exercise you do.
For example, you include squats and deadlifts regularly to build the voluptuous lower body that helps give you the hourglass shape. During these moves, your abs and entire core -- the area from your hips to your shoulders -- provide stabilization and power. If you regularly strength train and actively brace your core, excessive repetitions of ab-specific exercises become less necessary.