Hourglass figures have been all the rage for quite some time. In the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood sirens like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Jayne Mansfield and others were renowned for their hourglass figures. After falling out of fashion somewhat in the 70s and 80s, the hourglass shape roared back into fashion thanks to the likes of Jennifer Lopez. Then the Kardashians arguably made achieving the look an art form in the Nineties. With the look still very much in vogue, it’s little wonder that so many women today are trying to figure out how to get an hourglass figure.

The truth is, however, that having that classic hourglass shape – the chiseled shoulders, the small waist and those lovely lower body curves – does not really mean that you are more attractive or healthier. Also, those celebrities you see on the red carpets of the world don’t always naturally have them either.

What they do have are plastic surgeons, dedicated personal trainers, expensive shapewear and the constant help of one of the best beauty aids available in the modern world: Photoshop. These are all beautiful ladies for sure, but they may not be as perfect as they seem.

Realistic Expectations and a Healthy Diet

With all of that said, if you’d like to lose inches from around your waist and tone your shoulders, hips and bust to create a figure that is more like an hourglass figure, then there is a strategy that you can follow! Anything you can do to become stronger, fitter and healthier can only be a good thing. But it’s important to go into it all with realistic expectations and to keep your efforts sensibly healthy.

Tweaks to your fitness routine coupled with better dietary habits and even a few lifestyle changes can all be used to influence the way your body looks. Let’s take a look now at what works, what does not and what you can do to help your trim your waistline while accentuating your curves.

Hourglass Figure Basics

Those who are considered to have an hourglass figure typically have a smaller waist that is balanced out by curvy hips and a larger bust. This means that there are three key areas to work on to build a more hourglass-like shape:

  • the upper body
  • the waist
  • the hips, glutes and upper thighs

How you should work on this will depend on your natural shape. If you are already generally slim, you may want to concentrate your efforts on building muscle in your chest and shoulder areas to become broader there. If you are one of the many women who carry weight at the midsection, then working on that may be your priority.

How to Get a Smaller Waist

Contrary to popular opinion, it is almost impossible to spot reduce fat in single areas of the body. Therefore, focusing on overall healthy weight loss is the best way to reduce the fat around your waistline. There are, however, some forms of exercise and workouts that are more successful for those who want to target waistline fat.

1. Yoga

Yoga Boat Pose
Yoga Boat Pose

As a waist whittler, yoga is hard to beat. As has been proven by recent research, this ancient practice can be used effectively to gain a smaller, more shapely waist. In fact, a 2016 study found that in their 60-woman sample group, just 12 weeks of basic yoga resulted in an average loss of one and a half inches in waist size. And that was achieved without any changes in diet or caloric restriction.

Although yoga is great in general, poses like the Boat, Bow and Reverse Warrior are all especially good for tightening and toning core muscles, which can help lead to that smaller waist.


HIIT Running on Treadmill
HIIT Running on Treadmill

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a great way to burn lots of calories in a short time and really blast stubborn belly fat. If you aren’t familiar with them, HIIT workouts call for you to do short (but very intense) bursts of exercise followed by short rest periods. Most can be completed in less than twenty minutes, making them a great choice for those who think they won’t – or don’t – have time for longer workouts.

HIIT workouts vary, but even very simple ones – say 30 seconds of fast running, followed by 15 seconds of walking – can be repeated in a pattern of 15-20 minutes for hugely effective results. Best of all, you can do exercises like these almost anywhere.

3. Toning Up Your Hips

As you begin to lose that belly fat – or if it was never much of a problem anyway – you can turn your attention to shaping and toning your hips and thighs. Here are just a few simple ways to do that.



Squats are a wonderful, simple way to shape and strengthen your lower body as a whole, but they’re especially good for toning hip, glute and thigh muscles. Completing just a couple of sets of 10-12 squats three or four times a week can make a big difference!

Hip Side Lifts

Hip Side Lift Step 1
Hip Side Lift: Step 1
Hip Side Lift Step 2
Hip Side Lift: Step 2

These are also called fire hydrants because the move is just like a doggo lifting his leg at a fire hydrant. Hip side lifts target your glutes and hips very effectively. They also help strengthen your core muscles in general. This leads to that better posture and balance needed to show off an hourglass figure. Again, start with a few sets of 10-12 repetitions per side every few days and build up as you get better at them.



As simple as they are, they are a great way to build lean muscle mass in your buttocks and thighs. They also work core abdominal muscles and give your butt a nice lift! Begin with 10-12 lunges per leg at a time and build up your reps gradually.

4. Toning the Shoulders and Chest

Toning your shoulders as a part of your efforts to create an hourglass figure can be a challenge. Most of us want to look fit and solid but not broad and bulky.

Although there is a lot that can be done with more complicated weight training, a simple wall is one of the best tools you can use to strengthen and tone your shoulders along with lifting the muscles in your chest.

Wall push-ups 

Wall Push-up
Wall Push-up

They are just what they sound like. Push-ups against a wall are an excellent way to tone the pectoral muscles, which support and lift the breasts. Building these muscles can be especially great for getting rid of the pesky “chicken wings” that often form under the arms.

Traditional push-ups

These are great for helping to create the “upper half” of an hourglass figure too. You can make doing them more fun by setting yourself a push-up challenge. Start with just five and add an extra one every day. By doing this, you won’t overwork yourself but should still see some relatively quick results.

Download our free bodyweight exercise cheat sheet and try out these 30 simple fat-burning, muscle-defining exercises.

Diet and an Hourglass Figure

There is no special diet that will give you an hourglass figure. Simply concentrate on maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and taking better care of your gut health to help reduce bloating. Here are some simple tips:

  • Avoid over-processed foods, as they often contain too much salt and hidden sugars; they’re also just generally bad for you due to preservatives. Focus instead on a diet that contains lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
  • Cut out sugary sodas and reduce the amount of fizz you consume in general. This even includes things even like Diet Coke, as those bubbles can lead to bloating. Drink more water instead or try a tasty herbal tea as an alternative.
  • Probiotics can improve your digestion and reduce bloating. The best source is fresh Greek yogurt, which is also an excellent source of muscle-building protein.

What Not to Do to Get an Hourglass Figure

A perfect hourglass figure is very rare in “nature” and can be hard to achieve. Also, fad products won’t help. For example, take waist trainers. They can limit your breathing and even damage your organs. In fact, their predecessors, whalebone corsets, are the reason Victorian ladies fainted so often. They simply won’t help you lose weight.

The bottom line? You will always be better off following a sensible exercise and diet plan to get the curves you want. Remember that your measurements alone don’t define you, but being in optimal overall health will.

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Stephanie Mansour
Stephanie Mansour is a nationally recognized Health & Fitness Expert as seen on Today Show, Dr. Oz, CNN, FOX New York, ABC Chicago, Fox LA, WGN, Fox Chicago, CBS Chicago, NBC Chicago, PBS, Yahoo, Sirius XM, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Business. She reaches more than 52 million viewers per month. For the past decade, Stephanie has been helping millions of people “Step It Up,” every day in their lives with weight loss tips, lifestyle hacks, and fitness secrets to up their game. Steph coaches you on how to be the rockstar of your own health that you always knew you could be. She gets real and fast results, and provides easy tips and tricks that work no matter how busy you are. She’ll help you finally rid yourself of the weight – both emotionally and physically – to get the life you want. In fact, she coached one reality TV star to lose almost 90 lbs in 3 months!