You may not have touched one since you were 10, but the humble hula hoop is a bona fide piece of workout equipment that can tone your thighs, abdominals, gluteals, and arms. And it’s just as much fun as you remember. “You barely feel like you’re working out,” says Sunny Becks-Crumpton, a hooping instructor and the owner of Hooprama, an exercise studio in East Nashville, Tennessee. To try it, grab a hoop (Becks-Crumpton’s site, hoopsupplies.com, has easy, DIY hoop kits) and complete this routine three times a week, going through the sequence twice. At first the moves may throw you for a loop, but don’t despair: Practice makes perfect.
The classic move: Holding the hoop at waist level, start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. With your hands, push the hoop off a hip so it begins to rotate. As it spins, sway your hips in a side-to-side motion, as if bumping each side of a doorway. (Closing your eyes will help you focus on the feel of the move, says Becks-Crumpton.) Work for up to one minute, rest for a few seconds, then repeat.
Stagger your feet, with toes pointed forward (it doesn’t matter which foot is in front). Hold the hoop at waist level and push it off a hip so it begins to rotate. With knees soft, rock your hips forward and back to keep the hoop going, exaggerating the forward move so the hoop doesn’t fall. Work for up to one minute, rest for a few seconds, then repeat.
Stand with legs squeezed together and knees soft, holding the hoop at waist level. With a flat back, lean forward and push the hoop with your hands so it begins to rotate. Lift and lower your body to keep the hoop spinning by bending and straightening your knees; hold abs tight and keep your weight on your toes. The hoop should stay almost perpendicular to the floor. Keep it going for 30 seconds, rest, then repeat one or two more times.
Stand with your feet together and hold the hoop straight out in front of your body. Get the hoop in motion so that it’s rotating around your hand (move your arm up and down slightly to maintain the momentum). Slowly raise your arm above your head, keeping the hoop moving—it should roll over your thumb and into your palm. Do this for one minute, then return to start. Repeat with the other arm.