Pear-shaped people tend to gain weight in their lower body, mainly the hips, butt, and thighs, and is this shape is most common in women. One misconception is that weight lifting will build muscle and make your lower body appear bigger, but you need the muscle in your lower body to change the shape of your legs. Performing weight-training exercises will sculpt and shape your legs. A good cardio program and diet will trim them down to the size you want.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends focusing on high-repetition training of 15 to 20 reps to keep fat burning high but still develop muscle. Lift a weight that fatigues your muscles by that 20th repetition. Do leg training twice per week on nonconsecutive days. Focus on leg exercises that target multiple muscle groups to keep your calorie burn higher, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and step-ups. Do not focus on isolation exercises like leg curls, extensions, hip abductions or adductions because they will not burn enough calories to change the shape of your legs.
Cardio is the best way to burn calories, but high-intensity cardio continues to burn calories long after you complete your workout. High-intensity exercise places much more stress on your body than long, slow cardio, so when you're finished your body fights to restore itself back to normal levels, a process that can take up to 24 hours post-exercise, burning calories in the process. According to the Idea Health and Fitness Association, high-intensity intervals also increase growth hormone, a fat-burning and muscle-preserving hormone, so you spare your muscle while working out hard. Start with three 20-minute bouts of high-intensity cardio per week, such as 30 seconds of sprints followed by 30 seconds of rest. Each week gradually increase the duration of a session or sprint.
Plyometrics, or jumping exercises, help shape and sculpt the legs without building massive amounts of muscle. The high-intensity keeps calorie burn high. Plyos are good to add in between strength exercises on leg day to keep your heart rate up. Start with simple jumps like squat jumps, stretch jumps or small box jumps of about six to 12 inches, and do three sets of 10 to 15 of each. After a few weeks, increase intensity to include taller box jumps of 12 to 24 inches, jumping lunges and single-leg jumps.
Pear-shaped bodies tend to accumulate more fat in their glutes. In order to tone, tighten and lift the butt, build the glute muscles. Lying glute bridges specifically focus on the glutes and hamstrings, as well as your core. Lie on the ground, knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips up as high as you can, hold for one second, and slowly lower. Do three sets of 15 reps. As you get stronger, progress to single-leg bridges and bridges with your feet on a Bosu or medicine ball for instability.
Lunges and their variations target all the muscles in your lower body, making them very effective at building muscle and burning fat. Start with body-weight lunges if you are new to exercise, and do three sets of 12 per leg. Add repetitions as you get stronger each leg session. Once you can complete 20 repetitions per leg, hold dumbbells or a barbell and start back at three sets of 12 reps per leg. Also include lunge variations such as step-ups onto a bench and stationary lunges with your back leg elevated.
- Idea Health and Fitness Association: Short-Burst Training
- Bodybuilding.com: Don’t want to be ripped? Then it’s time to shape an hourglass body
- American Council on Exercise: Exercise Library
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. Baechel, and Roger W. Earle
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images