Weighted hula hoops are all the rage. In today’s lesson, we’ll answer some of the biggest questions about them.
- How HEAVY does your weighted hula hoop need to be in order to lose weight?
- Which trend could be moving your weight loss goals in the wrong direction? (and killing your back in the process)
- What’s the perfect hula hoop weight to really work your abs?
- Is front back pushing or side-to-side better for your core?
Plus, a super simple exercise you can do anywhere to help you fire off deep core muscles!
That’s a lot, so let’s jump in!
The Weighted Hula Hoop Trend That Has Us Worried
Using Excessively Heavy Hoops (More Than 3lbs)
We need to understand WHY adults are using heavier and heavier hoops. Think about children you’ve seen hula hooping. When children hula hoop, most don’t need heavier hoops to keep the hoop spinning. They don’t need a lot of instruction. With a little practice they can naturally master waist hooping and make it look effortless. But as we age, a few things happen.
- We lose our mind muscle connection. Our mind muscle connection allows us to increase the number of muscle fibers used while performing an exercise. An increase in muscle fibers means we improve our ability to control, fire, and relax muscles on demand. Ever wonder why some can waist hoop effortlessly? Even with very little motion and a light hoop? It’s this the brain muscle connection and level of control that takes your waist hoop practice to the next level.
- We lose core strength and proper body mechanics. Most of us sit for a great portion of the day. Sitting makes the lower back take on a job it wasn’t designed to do, leading to lower back pain. We have tension in our necks and headaches from a forward staring down at computers or looking down at texts. We focus on the “six pack” ab muscles, the rectus abdominus, and ignore the other core muscles. These core muscles are the group of muscles that stabilize and protect the spine, transfer force from one extremity to another, and initiate movement. They even act as a natural corset. Yet most of us don’t know how to activate them beyond the superficial six pack layer.
- We lose patience. We live in a world of instant gratification. Instant texts, TV and movies on demand, answers at our fingertips. While this makes life easier in some areas, it hasn’t helped our patience or practice. The right weight and size are important when learning the basics of waist hooping, but so is practice. And practicing your technique will take your results from “I can hoop” to “Wow, that looks effortless”.
These three factors have contributed to the popularity of weighted hula hoops for adults. And it makes sense. A heavier hoop rotates more slowly around your body giving you time to master the technique necessary to keep your hoop spinning. And when we have almost instant success with anything it our brain lights up with a flood of dopamine, one of the neurochemicals that contribute to happiness and good mood. Read more about the hooping mood connection here. And when we use a heavier hoop we MUST be working up a sweat that means weight loss and getting that hour glass figure back, right?
Well, not so fast.
Overly Heavy Hula Hoops Can Do More Harm Than Good
Using a hoop that’s heavier than 3lbs can potentially do more harm than good. Foundation training expert Dr. Eric Goodman explains how our modern lifestyle affects us in his book “True to Form”. “The muscles constructed to keep her upright against gravity have weakened from lack of use; the joints taking the pressure the muscles should absorb have grown rigid. That’s backward from the way things should work, leaving Hallie with weak muscles and stiff joints – the exact opposite of what they should be.
“As a result, Hallie’s chest droops downward under the force of gravity, taking her ribcage with it and pressing the ribcage into her pelvis, thereby shortening her torso and further bending the muscles of her lower back out of shape. Inside this drooping structure, everything gets squashed, flattened, jammed together in a body that is pressed forward, collapsed inward squeezed down, out of alignment, and off-balance”
The problem, as Dr. Goodman explains, is that we are all Hallie. Most of us spend time sitting behind a computer, or in our cars for long commutes, bending over as we text, watching TV.
So adding a hoop heavier than 3lbs to a body that’s already collapsed downward, out of alignment, off balance, and coupled with poor hooping mechanics is a recipe for disaster. As a trainer, I would never load weight on to a squat bar for a client that has poor body mechanics while squatting. That’s just asking for injury and does nothing to properly train muscle recruitment.
Nor should we give a client an excessively heavy hoop, just because it feels like good exercise. We reached out to Dr. Keenan Borgardt, a Portland based chiropractor, specializing in acute and chronic injury rehabilitation. Dr. Borgardt agreed that a very heavy hoop provides the ability to create momentum to keep the hoop spinning (not a good thing), and thus does not recruit the stabilizing musculature.
What Hula Hoop Weight Should I Use to Lose Weight?
So if too heavy is no good, how heavy CAN you go? Or should you even use a weighted hula hoop? You absolutely can use a weighted hoop safely to lose weight, tone your abs, and narrow your waist. But to lose weight, your body needs to be in a fat burning state. And the truth is, no amount of hooping with ANY weight of hoop will get the job done if your body’s fat storage switch is turned on.
Whether your body is in fat storage or fat burning mode is very much influenced what you’re eating. To flip the switch to burn fat, we need to focus on whole foods. These include vegetables, healthy fats and proteins, fruit, and whole grains. An overabundance of processed food will keep your body in fat storage mode.
Based on feedback from thousands of clients, we’ve found the optimal starting weight for most people is between 1.5 and 3lbs at the very maximum. All of our fitness hoops are weighted in this range to give you the best possible chance of learning to waist hoop correctly and safely.
This weight is ideal to practice regularly for longer time periods to gain both aerobic and core strength benefits. Go much heavier and you risk being able to use your hoop for shorter time periods (5 minutes or less) and with an increased risk of injury.
Our 2 in 1 Fitness Hula Hoop is our pick because it has a starting size of 2 lbs and with the push of a button has a removable connector that takes it down to a smaller 1.5 lb hoop .
What Weight Should I Use to Work My Abs?
Hooping is a little different than traditional strength training exercises. When you do traditional strength training, you or your trainer may measure success by how much weight you’ve been able to ADD. Maybe you used to be able to do a set of bicep curls with a 5lb weight and now you can use 10 lbs – that’s progress right? When we look at hooping, we can get stuck in the “more is better mindset”.
But your optimal weight is the minimum weight YOU NEED to keep your hoop spinning with proper body mechanics. As your technique improves, you can progress with a lighter hoop by controlling and activating your deep core muscles so precisely that you learn to keep a very light hoop spinning. And a lighter hoop means more contractions per minute because it’s going to rotate faster.
Minimum weight needed to keep the hoop spinning WHILE your core muscles contract = maximum abdominal muscle activation
Which Works Your Core More, Side-to-Side Hooping or Front-Back Hooping?
There’s a progression that happens (or SHOULD happen) when you learn to waist hoop. When you begin to waist hoop your movements tend to be a bit exaggerated to keep the hoop spinning. Side-to-side pushing and bigger front back movement keep the hoop up in the beginning.
This is absolutely OK, and expected because at this stage we are learning basic mechanics and are just trying to have success with the hoop. Success lights up feel good neurochemicals like dopamine in the brain that make us feel good. This is key to enjoying hooping and that makes you pick your hoop up again the next day.
After you gain control of basic waist hooping in your normal current (the direction your hoop spins), try waist hooping in the opposite current to work muscles equally and prevent imbalances.
Then you want to start tweaking those side-to-side and front-back movements so they become smaller. As you do this, your inner core muscles begin taking over and opposed to hip movement and momentum to keep your hoop spinning.
Both front-back and side-to-side motions are important to try. Our core is designed to work through a variety of plans (front to back, side to side, keeping the spine stable under weighted loads, stabilization during twisting, etc). Most people will find one way that’s most comfortable and stay there without experimenting. But to maximize your results, work both.
Reengage Your Core With This Activation Exercise
Did you know that hula hoop workouts are a fantastic way to lose belly fat? Because hula hooping increases the feel-good neurochemicals in your brain and decreases your stress hormone cortisol (this hormone plays a role in women’s belly fat), it is particularly effective in a weight loss strategy.
If you are battling chronic daily stress (job, financial, marriage, move, etc) and/or are post-menopausal, then you might just be familiar with cortisol’s effect on your body. Cortisol is a hormone that when chronically elevated, can disrupt normal functioning. It can reduce sleep quality, duration, create more stress, cause overeating, and increased fat deposits around the middle in post-menopausal women.
In this lesson, we’re teaching you how to reactivate your transverse abdominis through breathing and apply this new technique while hooping, regardless of what front-back or side-to-side stance.
When we breathe vertically, the vegas nerve puts our body into a fight or flight mode, regardless of what’s going on around us. So if we’re hooping to bring down cortisol levels and reduce stress and fight belly fat, unless we address our breathing, we’re not sending the right signals to our body