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AUGUSTREADY SparkPoints: (1,560)
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7/12/13 7:37 P

AMANDARAQS - totally agree with you about the changing ideals for body shape...I have always loved dance and since I started attending performances in the 80's, the change in shape is DRAMATIC.

On the positive side - the thing I do love about modern dance is that large frame women are now featured in contemporary pieces, because they have the strength and agility to lift more petite women; likewise, small frame men are now able to perform as these larger women can also lift them!

As a girl, I was discouraged from learning dance because I developed early and was very tall with large hips and shoulders...if I had been young today, it would have been no barrier!

Not to worry; I recently discovered Belly Dance - PERFECT for my body shape and size and I'm loving it!!!

I encourage all women who have had similar experiences to me to give it a try; it will help you LOVE your body like nothing else!!

And it's fantastic exercise, and a wonderful full body workout!

AMANDANCES Posts: 2,048
7/12/13 8:43 A

That one can "narrow one's waist through exercise" is an idea that's propagated by a lot of celebrity trainers. So it's not surprising that the students are bringing it up. I went on some body building forums and the general thoughts there were "don't do weighted ab work because it will increase your waistline size." So it's a prevalent enough idea in society, whether it's true or not. The girls are stupid for thinking it -- they're just echoing what they're hearing in the pop media.

I think it's safe to say 99% of shape is genetics, and I mentioned that last night. The other 1% might be illusion -- broader shoulders and hips will make the waist appear more narrow. It's an interesting question, though, and I appreciate your responses.

Btw -- While I agree that PROFESSIONAL dancers in ballet, modern, and contemporary companies experience an artificial selection process, based on visual aesthetics, the STUDENTS (especially at our school) don't necessarily respond to those same pressures. We have students who are entirely too short to ever make it as big company pros -- but they can certainly enjoy themselves in local or regional semi-pro companies. We have overweight students as well (although they don't do pointework.)

And these standards change generationally. When I was a kid, I remember seeing a ballet dancer with noticeable biceps and thinking "YUCK!" Then in the late 80s it was all about long legs, no hips, and a small head. Dancers today are a LOT more muscular than they ever were in the 70s, and of course this is reflected in contemporary choreography, which blurs the line between ballet and modern, (in my opinion.)

The training program (think 11 years of the same training) for ballet results in a body that looks different from the training program for Modern dance, which relies on different exercises and emphasizes different physical skills. But that only develops once the student reaches a certain point and focuses more on one or the other. For students who cross-study (as a lot of our college students do) they don't usually tend to develop those identifiers -- maybe excepting the shoulders and upper back region. And that's arguable.

Anyway, thanks!

MISSRUTH Posts: 4,271
7/12/13 8:15 A

If your basic body shape is a pear, even with weight loss and exercise you will still be a pear. A leaner pear, a more fit pear, but still a pear. Same with an "apple" or a "plank" (I don't think they refer to it as "plank" but that's actually fairly descriptive of the shape) or an "hourglass" shape. As Archii said, it's like setting a goal of gaining 3 inches in height.... it isn't going to happen. Same thing if a woman said, well I'm going to exercise and go from a B cup to a DD. Exercise has nothing to do with it. You cannot go from a "pear" to a "plank" or vice versa unless you use clothing, corsets, Spanx etc to create the shape.

AUGUSTREADY SparkPoints: (1,560)
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7/12/13 4:43 A

Wow; I'm amazed anyone would believe this!

I'm a natural hourglass; my hips are significantly wider than a woman with an athletic body shape, hence I have a very defined waist.

People seem to forget that our skeletons are pivotal in determining our body shape...

GRANDMAFRANNY SparkPoints: (384,158)
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7/12/13 1:16 A


MOTIVATED@LAST Posts: 15,443
7/11/13 9:07 P

Most strength gains (especially for women) actually come from improved muscle quality (the nerve fibers that control muscle learning how to work together better - aka 'neuromuscular adaptation') rather than increased muscle mass. The abdominal exercises you mention may well increase the strength and power of the oblique muscles (surely a good thing for a dancer) but they probably aren't going to lead to a significant increase in the size of the obliques.

I agree with Cheri - the obliques are actually a thin sheet of muscle, rather than a thick 'tube' like say the quads or biceps. Take a look at the diagram at . So even if someone does achieve a 25% increase in muscle mass of the obliques (which would be pretty significant in a woman), this will only increase their thickness by a fraction of an inch - pretty insignificant in someone's overall waist measurement.

Fat is considerably bulkier than muscle (take a look at the photo at
for a great image of this. If someone is worried about a 'thick' waist, it is almost certainly due to fat, rather than massive obliques.


SLYSAM SparkPoints: (43,184)
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7/11/13 3:31 P

That is a good point about how must ab exercises are really more endurance exercises. I.E. the person who does 100 sit-ups a day. I don't recommend that, I tried it at one time and saw no positive results at all other than I got good at doing sit-ups and tweaked my neck (probably using neck muscles more than I should have from being fatigued). But most people would not be able to do a challenging (for their body) strength exercise 100 times without a rest. So how likely it is that one would build muscle mass from endurance activities? I don't know, it may depend on genetics but probably not for most people. I still think there are benefits to stabilizing type ab work though. When I switched from crunches, etc to planks, I found the planks very difficult even though I thought I had good core strength. Now, when I am in a class that involves crunches, etc I can still do them even though I rarely do them on my own so the planks/stabilizing exercises have kept my core strong. I also like standing balance exercises which also use the core so that might help. Probably the idea would be a mix of different types of core exercises for overall core strength--I just don't really like spending much time on abs personally and prefer full body workouts in general so can't spend too much time on one muscle group.

SLYSAM SparkPoints: (43,184)
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7/11/13 3:21 P

I've heard the argument that in some cases certain exercises can build oblique muscles in a way that might make the waist look a little wider than it potentially would. This is obviously not fat and such a person would probably still have enviable abs and an athletic look. So trainers with this view often suggest emphasizing stabilizing core muscles i.e. doing planks, bird dogs, roll outs, etc for the majority of core work. some claim these nip in the waist if body fat is low enough or maybe they just don't build it out. I am personally skeptical that ab work would build the abs too much--certainly it would make much less difference than genetics and bodyfat levels. However, I admit I admit I tend to favor the stabilizing type ab work as I read that can be beneficial for back health anyway and my core strength has not suffered as a result (if I am in a class that involves regular core work like crunches I still do them, just not really when I am exercising on my own).

I know some people with an extreme nipped in look do so with corset wearing or girdle wearing and avoiding muscle development. I guess there may be a point where one may consider what is important to them. I like the look of a nipped in hourglass type build but can't imagine that wearing a tight corset is at all healthy long term (not referring to wearing one for a night out or private fun on occasion). I think it is probably better to have a strong core and accept what nature gives you. :-)

but I do think training/exercise can change one's body in subtle ways. Generally if someone gains or loses weight they look like a bigger or smaller person of their general shape. I have known a few people who pretty dramatically changed their shapes with a pretty modest weight loss. They were all doing strength training of some sort usually a pretty focussed routine. So I guess I do think people can do a certain amount of reshaping depending on which muscles they work etc. Every dance teacher or teacher with a dance background I've had seems to have this view though I think the "dancers body" for any type of dance is largely genetic potential as well as the diet and training. (Ballet dancers tend to look like ballet dancers because the people with "ballet bodies" are encouraged to pursue it at higher levels, modern dance has slightly different aesthetic standards, exotic dancers have different still standards on aesthetic body type, etc. etc.) I don't believe in spot reduction or anything like that, we can't choose where our body stores or releases fat. To a certain point we can choose which muscles we want to develop though this type of change is slow and may be subtle unless someone is very lean. Isn't this the principal of bodybuilding? Of course some bodybuilders do all kinds of things to develop their look--and not always the healthiest methods.

7/11/13 3:16 P

She claims that certain pilates exercises and crunches will actually widen the waist, because those exercises strengthen different muscles."

That's an old myth. Your midsection muscles aren't capable of much hypertrophy (growth), since they are a thin muscle layer that are mostly made of "endurance fibers" (Type I fibers), not "strength fibers" (Type 2). It's the latter type that actually 'bulk up". If you care to read up about muscle fiber types, just google that phrase. The bottom line is that abs rarely "bulk up" in women, no matter what you do. And especially not from low-intensity exercises like crunches or pilates.

the question remains: can you do specific exercises to reshape the waistline?"

Ab exercises have very little affect on the appearance of the abs. They neither enlarge the area nor shrink it. The only exception is that "pulling in" your abs does make the front slightly smaller. But it does nothing for the sides. There is no way to pull in the sides without a corset.

By the way, i would not assume that a lean person has no midsection fat. The midsection is a common place to store fat in otherwise lean people.

ARCHIMEDESII SparkPoints: (197,190)
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7/11/13 11:53 A

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The question is whether or not certain exercises (like pilates exercises) can reshape the body ?

My personal opinion would be this. a good strength training program can add lean muscle. Extra lean muscle could enhance the shape of a person's body (add definition), but not necessarily reshape it.

If you look at the transformation photos posted in Bill Philips Body for Life book, you can see that people are leaner and stronger. BUT, if you compare the before and after photos, the shape doesn't change. They are smaller, tightly packed versions of their overweight former selves.

Ballet dancers are chosen because they do happen to fit a particular form factor. I have a sturdy peasant build. No matter how much I exercise or diet, I will never have the frame of a ballet dancer. It's like someone who's 5ft 3" tall wanting to be 5ft 6" tall. there isn't any amount of diet or exercise that will help that person grow three inches tall. There are limitations on what exercise and diet can do for a person's body.

If a person wants a wasp waist (assuming they have a straigh figure), then they need to wear a corset. The Ginger Grant measurements of 36-24-36 are not typical for women. Women do come in different shapes and sizes.

So, my personal opinion ? genetics trumps pilates. Pilates or strength training can enhance and add definition to a body, it doesn't change shape.

AMANDANCES Posts: 2,048
7/11/13 11:28 A

Two dancers had an argument about this at the studio recently, and I wondered if there was any actual evidence that this works. (The dancers are lean -- ballet students, with not a lot of body fat. So we can eliminate body fat as a factor.)

One claims that with certain abdominal exercises, you can actually reshape your body to have a more narrow "wasp-waist" look. She claims that certain pilates exercises and crunches will actually widen the waist, because those exercises strengthen different muscles. She points to articles like this which feature twisting exercises:

Now, dancers are accustomed to the idea of "reshaping" body parts, because of the specificity of the exercises we do on a daily basis. (Modern dancers have a different silhouette than ballet dancers, than jazz dancers, etc.) But I had never heard about this kind of reshaping (other than using a corset!)

Same dancer points to a lot of other students who basically are a straight line from boobs to hips, with no appreciable "nip in" at the waist line, and says pilates is responsible. We all acknowledge that GENETICS is the major factor, and some people are just born with a more plank-like figure than others, but the question remains: can you do specific exercises to reshape the waistline? And alternately, are there some exercises which really do encourage that plank-like look?

What's the expert opinion? I've asked some trainers, and they've all suggested that a reduction in body fat will give you a smaller waist, but that's not the question. They don't see to have an answer for the actual question -- of using specific exercises to create a different body shape.

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