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Can you tailor your workout plan to your body type?

August 13th 2015 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Can you tailor your workout plan to your body type?


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Are you an apple, pear, banana or carrot? We asked a personal trainer for her workout recommendations to fit the most common fitness goals for these body types

The beauty of women is that we come in all different shapes and sizes. From apples to pears, bananas to carrots, no one size fits all when it comes to our body types.

As well as helping us reach our fitness goals though, exercise should be a means of making over our moods, energy levels and above all, our health. However, as transformative as it can be, is it just fruitless to try and change our body shape completely?

“Unfortunately it is not completely possible to change your body shape, as factors such as our genetics; race, gender and hormones predispose you towards one body type or another,” explains personal trainer and co-founder of That Girl London Christina Howells.

“Even though you can’t control where your body stores fat, you can control how much fat your body stores. Your workouts should be designed according to your body type and fitness goals. Dedication to your training and lifestyle management can get you closer to another body type and radically improve both your aesthetics and health.”

One word of caution though, an effective workout plan is only one piece of the puzzle. “You need to remember that even though you can lose fat through your workouts, you can gain fat through poor diet so it’s imperative to address this too.”

So are you an apple, pear, banana or carrot? Here are Christina’s top fitness tips and workout plans courtesy of That Girl London to fit the most common goals for each of these body types.

Apple shapes

Common fitness goals: Targeting belly fat.

“This shape is the most dangerous from a health perspective as it’s associated with greater insensitivity to insulin, low HDL (our good cholesterol), higher levels of triglycerides in the blood stream and often-higher blood pressure to name but a few,” explains Christina.

What are the best exercises to do?

Christina recommends the following:

  • Aerobic exercise is important for the apple shape, as it helps to burn excess adipose tissue and improves cardiovascular fitness. Low intensity, rhythmic exercise of course is good for burning fat, but ideally you want to take the intensity up higher and make some of your sessions interval training centred. This is where you alternate periods of high intensity with low intensity to increase fat metabolism both during and even after your workout.
  • You can do this with hill walking intervals, swimming, biking, HIIT classes or home programmes, spinning and of course running.
  • Spot reducing won’t work, so don’t waste your time with endless abdominal curls. Do incorporate though some plank moves to strengthen your core and stabilise your spine.
  • You also want to build lean muscle to help increase your resting metabolism and improve your shape and posture. Aim for a whole body programme and choose compound exercises (i.e. exercises that work numerous muscles groups at once, rather than isolation exercises than only work one muscle group), such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, pull-ups, chest presses, shoulder presses, rows, and step-ups.
  • I would aim for multiple sets of 12-15 reps with shorter rest times between sets or alternate two different body areas so you keep moving, i.e. 12-15 reps of squats and chest presses x 2 - 3 sets.
  • Remember resistance exercise alone is not enough for apple shapes. I would also ensure that you’re eating protein with each meal and snack healthily to help control blood sugar.

MORE GLOSS: The bloat-busters - 14 ways to feel less bloated at the end of the day

Exercise 1: The crawl

“People don’t realise how hard this is,” says Christina. “It’s a great bodyweight training exercise that challenges your core and your mind as well as endurance.”


“Come to all fours with hands shoulder width apart and feet hip width apart. Keep knees just forward of your hips towards your navel. Hover you knees 1-2 inches off the floor and hold.”


“Purposefully crawl your left hand and right foot forwards working in unison so you lift the hand and foot and place them down at the same time. Keep the abdominals pulled inwards.

“Take 10 steps forward and then try reversing the movement taking 10 steps backwards.”


Exercise 2: Plank twists

“This exercise works the abdominals and challenges shoulder stability,” explains Christina.


“Come into plank position on your forearms.”


“Focus on scooping the belly inwards towards the spine. From here scoop upwards and drop the hips over to one side. Come back to centre and repeat to the opposite side.

“Repeat 20-30 times, alternating sides.”

Shot at The Detox Kitchen.


Pear shapes

Common fitness goals: Toning the thighs and bottom.

“This shape may not be so detrimental to overall health, but this is usually the one women struggle with most,” comments Christina.

What are the best exercises to do?

Christina recommends the following:

  • The fat stored on the hips and thighs is not as metabolically active as the abdomen fat found with apple shapes; hence it’s a little more stubborn to burn. Cardio exercise is important for fat burning and should be performed 3-4 times a week. I would aim for two longer sessions of 40-45 minutes moderate intensity and two shorter sessions of interval training.
  • The key with this shape is to create balance by developing a stronger top half focusing on resistance training to create lean muscle mass.
  • It’s important to improve the lean muscle tone as this shape is often more prone to cellulite especially if the muscles that are supporting the fat are undeveloped.

MORE GLOSS: How to get rid of cellulite - what really works

  • Strength training and bodyweight training are essential for getting the muscles firmer and stronger to give the fat a flatter appearance.
  • You need to target all of your lower body muscles from every angle to give your legs and bottom a more toned appearance. Lunge variations, hip lifts, squats, step up variations, hamstring curls, deadlifts and some barre style moves are great additions. I prefer to up the reps on the lower body and decrease the resistance, aiming for 12-15 or more if it’s a barre style move.
  • I personally would recommend following combined lower and upper body resistance training, with a programme of three times a week. You can do the interval sessions on the same day but save the longer cardio for a separate session.
  • It is also worth noting than this shape is frequently associated with higher oestrogen levels (responsible for storage of fat in the lower body). My three top tips to reduce this are:

1. Reduce your exposure to environmental xenoestrogens (oestrogen imitators) from plastic, birth control pills and some cosmetics.

2. Increase your insoluble fibre intake, which binds to excess oestrogens in the intestines for excretion.

3. Choose organic to reduce exposure to excess hormones.

Exercise 1: Diagonal lunge

“This works the entire leg musculature while also incorporating balance, co-ordination and flexibility,” explains Christina.


“Stand with the feet together and arms by your side.”


“Step the left leg out to the side in a lunge position so the left knee bends at 90 degrees, as you sit the hips backwards. The right leg remains straight with your heel firmly on the floor.

“Repeat 15 times per leg.”


Exercise 2: Warrior lunge

“This deep lunge is excellent for getting the glutes to work while also challenging balance,” says Christina.


“Start standing with feet together.”


“Step the straight right leg backwards as you bend the left knee at a 45-degree angle. Your right arm should then reach towards the left shin as you open the left arm diagonally up and back.

“Repeat 15 times on each leg.”


Banana shapes

Common fitness goals: Definition, shape and toning.

“Opt for a full bodyweights workout using mainly compound exercises and core exercises such as side planks to tighten the mid-section,” recommends Christina.

“This shape needs to remember they lack the testosterone men have and they won’t get bulky muscles but rather sexy curves and lean muscle. I would also recommend upping your protein, as often the ‘banana’ has a higher metabolism: eat well but make healthy choices.

“Finally, even though this shape does not need to lose weight, that does not mean you’re not carrying too much body fat (aka being ‘skinny fat’). I personally would incorporate HIIT style interval training, which helps maintain muscle. Aim for three sessions a week.”

MORE GLOSS: Are you a skinny fat person?

What are the best exercises to do?

Christina recommends the following:

  • The banana shape will benefit most from lifting heavier weights for 8-10 reps and completing 3-4 sets of each exercise.
  • Compound movements are most beneficial to achieve more muscle stimulation, although isolation exercises will also help to increase definition.
  • Top exercise choices are squats, lunge patterns, pull ups and pull downs, bench presses and shoulder presses, as well as abdominal exercises that will give you a more defined waist, such as the plank, side plank, cable twists, Russian twists and bicycle crunches.

Exercise 1: Fancy plank

“This works all the core muscles and shoulders,” explains Christina.


“Come into a push-up plank position with your hands and toes supporting you.”


“Draw your abdominals in and extend the straight left leg upwards being mindful to focus on using your butt.

“Now rotate the body into a side plank resting on the left arm as you reach the left knee towards your chest.

“Repeat 8-12 times on each side.”


Exercise 2: Side plank

“This one works the waist, shoulder stability and balance.”


“Come into a side plank position elevated on the right hand and both right and left feet. The right leg should be extended under the left leg so the feet are staggered. Lift your hips high to create a diagonal line.”


“Raise your right knee towards your chest and return to start.

“Repeat 8-12 repetitions each side.”


Carrot shapes

Common fitness goals: Balancing proportions and strengthening the back.

“Upper bodywork should focus on posture, as often a bigger bust can mean we tend to round our shoulders more,” says Christina. “Strengthening the chest and back muscles will also help support the extra breast tissue.”

What are the best exercises to do?

Christina recommends the following:

  • Cardio should be included in your workouts and once again, I would choose interval training. Of course a good sports bra is imperative, with maximum hold.

MORE GLOSS: Sports bras, tried and tested

  • To bring the body into symmetry, focus on lifting heavier on your lower body and include exercises such as hip lifts, squats, deadlifts, step ups with weights, walking lunges with weights and butt lifts with ankle weights.

Exercise 1: Bridge up

“This is great for activating the glutes,” says Christina.


“Lay on your back with arms alongside your body, the left leg bent at 90 degrees with the heel rested on a chair.

“Your right leg should be straight up in the air.”


“Dynamically lift your hips towards the sky by contracting the left buttock. Allow your right leg to open 3-4 inches keeping the hips stable.

“Reverse the movement and lower your hips back down to the floor.

“Repeat 12-15 times on each side.”


Exercise 2: Step up

“This targets the butt and legs,” says Christina.


“Stand at the side of a step or bench, your left foot on top of it.”


“Root down into the left heel and focus on ‘firing’ the left butt muscle to stand tall.

“Bring the right foot up beside it. Return the left leg slowly to a count of 3 to the start position.

“Repeat 12-15 times on each side.”


Clothing courtesy of Charli Cohen.

Follow us @getthegloss, Christina @thatgirl_london and Ayesha @Ayesha_Muttu.

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