There will always be females who want to build a muscular body, widen their delts, grow strong quads, and get a full-on set of ripped abs. But many women don't desire this look.
You might want an hourglass shape: feminine, with curves in all the right places. You still want to maintain lower body fat levels so you will see some muscle tone, but you definitely don't want that lean look where veins pop and clear muscle definition is seen.
You want long, streamlined legs, a slim waist, and hips that give the illusion of the hourglass appearance. You want a curvy bottom that closely resembles that of popular celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez or Beyonce. Finally, you want toned arms that have a softer appearance to round out your figure so you feel great in sleeveless shirts.
So how do you go about obtaining this look? Should your training differ from that of the woman who wants more muscle? You better believe it should.
General workout principles will apply regardless of what your desired body type happens to be. There are some clear differences that need to be in place to create the look you're after.
Let's walk you through some main focus areas to obtain an hourglass physique.
1: Your Body Fat Level Is Key
The first major consideration you must face is where your body fat levels are. For females, this is going to have a distinct difference on the look you want to obtain.
When going for the hourglass look and a fit body that still has a soft and feminine side, you'll want slightly higher body fat levels, but still in the low-healthy range. Aim for 17-25%.
Women who dip below 17% and into the lower teens will begin showing greater muscle definition and could start losing some of the natural curves in the bust and hip regions.
Remember, females will preferentially store body fat in these areas. It's part of what makes you a woman. So the leaner you get, the more these areas will be reduced.
At the same time, since you're still looking for a thinner look overall (and not heavy or 'boxy'), don't add too much muscle. Some muscle is good, but adding too much muscle along with higher fat levels will lead to a thicker appearance in the legs, waist and arms.
Fortunately for most women, they don't readily build muscle quickly so this shouldn't be hard to avoid. If you have been athletic throughout your life and already have a significant amount of muscle present on your frame, you may want to back off the volume of weight lifting to prevent the addition of more muscle growth.
2: Favor Glute-Friendly Workouts
What you should focus on is concentrated effort toward glute-dominant lower-body work. This is going to give you the rounded backside you look for without too much additional quad development, which would increase the overall width of the thighs.
Start with good glute-oriented exercises: walking and stationary lunges, single-leg deadlifts, stiff leg deadlifts, single leg squats, split squats, step-ups with a higher bench and the leg press exercise with feet placed higher on the foot pad. Altering foot placement on this machine will change the stress loading pattern on the muscles slightly so you get a larger glute-dominant exercise.
When performing each of these exercises, squeeze your glutes to help move through the movement pattern. If you let other muscles come into play and do too much of the work, your glutes will receive little stimulation.
The quads are the most powerful muscle in your lower body. In each of the exercises listed above (with the exception of deadlifts) the quads could carry out the movement on their own.
Some quad activation is fine and will always be expected, but you don't want to totally isolate the quads to the extent that the glutes aren't contracting maximally.
Some people may find by performing quad isolation exercises beforehand, such as leg extensions or the leg press with the feet low on the foot plate, they can fatigue their quads so extensively that they won't come into play as much when doing these activities.
3: Don't Perform Side Bends Or Weighted Ab Work
Building an hourglass physique means avoiding weighted ab work.
Some women make the mistake of thinking weighted ab work is a great way to firm up their love handles and achieve the toned, fit look they desire. The only thing weighted side bends or ab work may do is cause an increase in the thickness of the waist, making you look boxy, not curvy.
To create this look, it's important that your waist be as small as possible. Body frame size will limit this to some extent. If you develop larger muscles in the core region - especially the obliques - you won't do yourself any favors.
Instead, focus on isometric ab exercises. These movements will help you maintain better control over the abs so you can easily hold them in place, creating the illusion of a thinner waistline.
Isometric exercises are also challenging from a muscular strength point of view. They should produce excellent improvements in your core fitness.
4: Develop Your Lats
The last step you'll want to take on your mission to get yourself an hourglass physique is bringing up your lat muscles.
By increasing the size of the lat muscles you're going to great a very nice 'V' shape to the body, further enhancing that slim waist. Since most females don't have the body structure to build extreme amounts of muscle in this region, you won't have to worry about getting too bulky.
Now you have the top areas to focus on if you hope to develop an hourglass physique. You can change the overall way your body looks if you train wisely and know precisely what you want.
Many people don't fully understand what their physique goals are and understand even less how to go about getting there. That is a problem. If you follow all of the steps illustrated above, the hourglass figure can be yours, provided you're also able to maintain a lower but healthy body fat level.