workouts for hourglass figure

Workouts for Hourglass Figure

For women, the hourglass figure has been held out as the physical ideal female body shape for decades. Going back to the days of Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, Hollywood and the marketing machine that flows from it has convinced millions of women all over the globe that they need to strive to get that buxom chest, narrow waist, and shapely hips and butt that epitomizes the hourglass figure. In this article, I’ll show you the exercise routine to achieve that hourglass figure ideal.

Is an Hourglass Figure Really the Ideal?

Just because you have an hourglass figure, it doesn’t mean that you are healthier or fitter than a person who does not. The first thing we need to acknowledge is that the hourglass figures that we see on the internet and in magazines are more often the product of photoshop and filtering than exercise and diet. Often these people are also cosmetically enhanced. 

Still, the hourglass figure does resemble an athletic, fit physique. So long as you don’t go overboard or resort to unhealthy practices, eating and training to get that all-over muscle tone is a worthwhile goal.

Training for an Hourglass Figure

Developing an effective hourglass figure workout plan involves concentrating on three areas of development:

  • Larger chest
  • The hips  and core muscles (smaller)
  • The butt (bigger)

The best way to work on these areas is to follow a regular weight training program. Perform exercises that will shape and define your shoulders and chest muscles and broaden your back. That will make your upper body wider to accentuate the smallness of your waist.

The best exercises to create a broader upper body are the decline dumbbell press for the pectoral muscles, the cable side lateral raise for the shoulders, and the lat pull in for the back muscles. 

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Decline Dumbbell Press

  1. Set a bench to a 30-degree decline angle and then lie on the bench with a pair of dumbbells.
  2. From a starting position with your arms held directly above your mid-chest, and with an overhand grip with palms facing away from you, bring your elbows down until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  3. Reverse the motion to return to the start position.

Cable Side Lateral Raise

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine at hip level.
  2. Stand side-on to the machine and grab the cable handle with your outside hand.
  3. With your arms straight, bring your arm up to the level of your shoulder. Lower and repeat.

Lat Pull In

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine so that the pulley handle is about two feet above your head when you are seated. Position a seat in front of the machine so that when you sit on it and grab the pulley handle your arm is extended at a 30-degree angle.
  2. Sit on the seat and grab one of the handles. 
  3. Pull the cable down and into your hip.
  4. Reverse to return to the start position under control.
  5. Do the same number of reps on each arm.

To Develop your butt area and hip muscles, you need to do the following glute and hip exercises; Glute Kickback machine, donkey kickback, and lunges.

Glute Kickback Machine

  1. Position yourself on the glute kickback machine, with your right foot on the footrest.
  2. From the start position with your knee bent, push your leg back to full extension.
  3. Reverse under control to come back to the start position.

Donkey Kickback

  1. Get down on all fours with a straight back and your knees stacked under your hips.
  2. Draw your right knee slightly forward and then kick it back to full leg extension.
  3. Reverse under control and repeat.
  4. Do the same number of reps on both legs.
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Reverse Lunges

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a pair of dumbbells in your hands at your sides.
  2. Take a large step back with your left foot and drop down into a lunge position, stopping when the rear knee is about two inches from the floor.
  3. Push through the front thigh to return to the start position. 

To work your entire core, you should be doing exercises to target the abdominal muscles, the obliques, and the intercostals. The best moves to do that are the cable crunch, and the cable side bend.

Cable Crunch

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine to its highest position and place two handles on it.
  2. Place a seat with a high back about two feet in front of the machine.
  3. Grab the handles and sit on the bench so that your arms are above your head.
  4. Crunch down on your abs to bring the cables down toward your knees.
  5. Hold for a second and then reverse to return to the start position. 

Cable Side Bend

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine to hip height.
  2. Stand side onto the machine and grab the handle with your closest hand.
  3. Hold the cable at your side, spread your legs wide apart. Now bend your torso to the opposite side so that you bring the cable up to you the level of your ribs.
  4. Lower and repeat, doing the same number of reps on both sides. Maintain a neutral spine position the entire time. 

The Hourglass Body Workout Routine:

  • Decline Dumbbell Press – 3 x 10-12 reps
  • Cable Side Lateral Raise – 3 x 15 reps
  • Lat Pull-In – 3 x 15 reps (each arm)
  • Glute Kickback Machine – 3 x 15 reps (each leg)
  • Donkey Kickback – 3  8-12 reps (each leg)
  • Lunges – 3 x 12 reps (each leg)
  • Cable Crunch – 3 x 15 reps
  • Cable Side Bend – 3 x 15 reps (each leg) 
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Weight Loss

A key to achieving the perfect hourglass shape is to cut down your levels of body fat. Pivotal to achieving that body fat weight loss is a healthy diet. I recommend doing intermittent fasting. This will create a calorie deficit that will force your body to use stored body fat for energy.

The type of intermittent fasting I recommend is the 16/8 method. To do this, stop eating each night at 7 pm. Start eating the next day at 11 am. You then have an 8-hour eating window. During this time you should have 3 meals, roughly at 11 am, 2 pm, and 6:30 pm.

You should also do cardio 3 times per week on a treadmill, stationary bike, or other cardio machines to burn calories. HIIT cardio workouts are more effective than moderate-intensity cardio exercises. 


Achieving the classic hourglass body shape naturally requires a combination of strength training, cardio, and diet to lose weight. Perform your strength figure training program workouts twice per week and your cardio on 3 other alternating days.  Do this consistently and you will get the results you are after.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best form of cardio for weight loss?

The best form of cardio for weight loss is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves doing intervals of short bursts of high intensity followed by a minimum rest period. I recommend doing 20-second sprints, followed by a 10-second interval for rest for 8 rounds. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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