Your best workout

Keep your body strong and slim in all the right places, no matter what your shape

You can blame Mom for your generous hips or chest, or throw in the gym towel because your workout is bulking you up exactly where you’re trying to slim down. Or—and we highly recommend this option—you can develop an exercise program that works for your particular shape. “You can’t change your body type, but you can choose activities to help achieve a balanced physique,” says Dr. Julia Alleyne, medical director of Sport C.A.R.E. at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. Exercising regularly can also shave your risk of heart disease and breast cancer by 40 and 50 per cent, respectively.

To customize your workout, start by tracing an imaginary figure eight from your shoulders to your knees, with the eight intersecting at your belly button. Your body type should fall into one of the following categories: even eight, bottom-heavy eight, top-heavy eight or slim-and-narrow straight eight. Then, review the fitness prescription for your body type and adjust your workout, perhaps in consultation with a trainer or physiotherapist, to meet your needs. Just remember to go for a range of endurance, flexibility and strength-building activities and avoid going full throttle, at least at first. “Start low and go slow,” says Dr. Alleyne. Your patience will be rewarded—with a better balanced bod!

Even Eight

Your fitness Rx Firm and strengthen major muscle groups in your back, chest and butt with cardiovascular activities. Tennis, power walking (pumping your arms) and swimming three times a week for 30 to 40 minutes should do the trick. Or, put those curves to work in a belly dancing class.

Boycott bulk
Tone without beefing up with light weights and frequent reps.

Your slim-down secret
Go for low intensity and long-duration activities such as a brisk 90-minute walk.

Your target move

Crunches on a stability ball to strengthen your midsection, suggests Cathy Simon, a licensed physiotherapist in Saint John, N.B.

Lie with your back on a stability ball, knees bent and feet on the floor.

Cross your hands over your chest and press your belly button into your spine. Lift your head and upper body halfway up. Slowly lower. Do three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.

Bottom Eight

Your fitness Rx Focus on strengthening and defining your arms, back and shoulders while toning, but not building, your lower body. Enjoy aerobic sports that offer a low-resistance leg workout, such as racquet sports, basketball or golfing, three times a week. Join a rowing club or pack a punch in boxing lessons.

Stay off the stairs
Stair climbers and lower-body workouts with heavy weights may overdevelop your lower half.

Your slim-down secret
Extra and longer cardio sessions. Firm up lower-half jiggles by skipping the weights and relying on resistance leg work such as lunges and squats.

Your target move

A shoulder-sculpting lateral raise to even up your proportions.

Hold five-pound weights in each hand with feet shoulder-width apart.

Raise your arms to shoulder height. Hold for a second and then lower. Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement. Do three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.

Top Eight

Your fitness Rx Strengthen your upper back, tone your arms and add lower-body definition to balance your proportions by in-line skating, biking, stair climbing or hiking several days a week. Windsurfing and Tai Chi also improve posture.

Don’t row that boat Working your upper body with heavy weights and activities such as rowing may bulk up your arms. Running could be a challenge because you tend to jog slightly bent over.

Your slim-down secret Biking burns calories, strengthens the lower body and stabilizes the upper body.

Your target move

A back-strengthening extension.

Lie on your stomach with your nose to the floor and your hands behind your ears.

Lift your head and chest off the floor. Hold for a second and then slowly lower. Try doing three sets of 15 repetitions.

Straight Eight

Your fitness Rx Your streamlined shape makes running and in-line skating natural cardio choices. Thirty minutes in yoga or Pilates classes or on the elliptical machine will help you gain strength and add some curves, too. Beach volleyball and gardening also use a lot of muscles.

Vive la résistance Cardio alone won’t get you results, so include resistance work, such as weight training, in the mix.

Your slim-down secret Resistance training increases muscle, revs up your metabolism and burns fat. Straight eights carry more fat than muscle, even when underweight, says Barb Maduck, a personal trainer and owner of Partners in Fitness in Saskatoon.

Your target move

A plank pose to build core muscles.

Lying on your stomach, push yourself up on your toes and elbows, with your toes in line with your shoulders. Make a triangle with your arms: elbows directly under your shoulders, hands together. Distribute weight evenly and make sure your back is flat. Hold for 10 seconds—head aligned with spine and tummy pulled in—and release. Repeat three times.