Hula Hoop Exercises

Laura Williams, M.S.Ed.
Exercise with Hula Hoop

Hooping is a popular form of aerobic activity that uses weighted hula hoops to firm and tone the body. You can choose to try hula hoop exercises on your own, or you can join a class or hooping group to engage in the exercise with your friends.

Popular Hula Hoop Exercises

Basic Waist Rotation

The key to working your waist is to put one foot in front of the other instead of standing with your feet side-by-side. Perform the basic waist twist by doing the following:

  1. Start with the hoop against your back at your waist.
  2. Give it a gentle push to start the rotation around your waist and shift your weight back and forth between your front and back foot to keep the hula hoop moving. Don't move your hips in a circle to keep it rotating.
  3. Speed up the rotation by shifting your weight more quickly.
  4. After a minute, switch your feet so your opposite foot is forward and try rotating the hoop in the opposite direction.
  5. Continue switching back and forth every few minutes.

Basic Arm Rotation

Use the hula hoop to tone your shoulders, biceps and triceps:

  1. Extend your arm out to the side and place the hoop against your forearm.
  2. Begin rolling the hoop around your arm in a circular motion. The idea is to keep the hoop moving as long as possible.
  3. Try switching the direction of the hoop's rotation every 20 to 30 seconds.

Basic Leg Rotation

You can do a similar exercise for the legs:

  1. Lie on your back with one leg extended off the ground, perpendicular to the floor, or at a slight angle.
  2. Start the hoop spinning around your extended leg and keep it spinning for one to two minutes before switching legs.

Basic Hip Rotation

To work your hips, start by standing in the hoop with your feet approximately hip-width apart.

  1. Hold the hoop at your hips, rather than your waist.
  2. Spin the hoop to get it moving and shift your weight back and forth to keep the hoop going.
  3. Keep the hoop at this lower, hip-level to target your glutes, abductors and adductors.

Wide Squat Exercise

When you're ready to increase the difficulty of your hooping exercises, start by targeting your legs with the wide squat exercise.

  1. Stand with your legs wider than shoulder-width apart, your toes pointing outward.
  2. Hold the hoop against the back of your waist and begin rotating the hoop around your body.
  3. Once the hoop is moving steadily, bend your knees and squat down as you keep the hoop moving.
  4. Squat as low as you can as you keep your heels in contact with the ground.
  5. Reverse the movement and stand.
  6. Continue squatting for 10 to 12 repetitions, or as long as you can keep the hoop moving.

Learning to Use a Hula Hoop

Before you start to exercise using a hula hoop, be sure that you have purchased the right size hoop. If you head out to Wal-mart and buy a hula hoop, most likely you'll be getting a child-size hoop. To make using the hoop fun and effective, it has to be the right size. The general rule of thumb is that when the hoop is resting on the ground, it should reach somewhere between stomach- and chest-height. However, if you have an apple-shaped body and a large waist, you'll want to compensate for that by purchasing a larger hoop. The bigger the hoop, the slower it will rotate around your body and the easier it will be to use.

If you can't find a hooping class near you, instructional hooping DVDs can show you the basics of how to use these larger (35-40 inch plus diameter) hoops to become fit. Using a weighted hoop is a little different that the classic hula hoops you used as a kid. These hoops weigh around 2 pounds, and because of the heavier weight, they rotate around the body more slowly. Even if you struggled to keep your hoop rotating as a kid, it should be easier with this heavier, larger version.

Make It Fun

Adding some fast paced cardio music will make your hula hoop exercises fun. You'll feel refreshed while you burn that unwanted body fat.

Hula Hoop Exercises