Hula hooping isn't just for kids and circus performers. With a hoop around your hips and some music playing, you'll work up a sweat, get your heart pounding and tone your abs, back, hips, glutes and legs – and have a good laugh at the same time.
Deanne Love is one hula hooper devoted to bringing fun and play back into fitness. Once a primary school teacher, now the founder of Hooperlovers.tv, Deanne shares her knowledge and passion for hoop dance through energetic live and online classes, workshops and teacher training.
Here, she shows us how to get started with this playful workout.
What makes hula hooping such a great exercise?
Hooping is such a great exercise because it is playful yet challenging, expressive as well as physically and mentally stimulating. There are thousands of hoop moves – with the hoop both on and off the body – that can be linked together, so hoopers can get super creative but still have an incredible, full body workout. Hooping is a dance, a workout, a mood elevator and a creative journey that is accessible to all fitness levels, abilities and age groups.
Which muscles and body parts does it work?
Most people assume that hooping is just about getting a slim waist or stronger abs, but it is truly a full body workout. Hooping works all the muscles in the core including the abs, back and hips, as well as the large and small muscles in the legs, arms and upper body. Hooping even gives the muscles in your face a workout because you have a good laugh while doing it.
"Hooping is a dance, a workout, a mood elevator and a creative journey that is accessible to all fitness levels, abilities and age groups."
What different moves can you do with a hoop?
There are unlimited moves! Hooping is super creative – it is dance. There are some really important foundation moves though that I teach in my online workshops and teacher training that are ideal for beginner and beyond: a set of 100 hoop dance moves that can be categorised as tricks, transitions or technique.
The tricks are on-body moves (waist, hips, knees, chest, neck, shoulders and variations) and off-body moves (vertical hand moves, horizontal hand moves and variations). The transitions are moves that take the hoop on and off the body or from one trick to another so that the hoop keeps flowing. The technique is the style, pace, imagery and creativity that is used.
What happens in a hula hooping class?
Hooping classes are like a dance party often guided by an awesome soundtrack. Students are lead through playful and creative warm ups to get their bodies and minds ready to move and learn. Then the hoopers learn a series of on-body moves, off-body moves and transitions that are blended together to create hoop dance sequences.
There are usually some fun strengthening activities to build confidence and control. Classes often finish with playtime so students can experiment and get support with freestyle movement and find their own hoop dance flow, then a chilled out cool down.
"Keeping the hoop spinning on the body is about posture, pace and connection. It’s about knowing how to position your body, and building good rhythm and momentum."
What different types of hoops are there, and which do you recommend?
There are several types of hoops available. Try to avoid the cheap, kids’ hoops – they are too small and break easily. A good way to decide which size hoop to get is to measure from the floor up to the belly button. That will be the minimum diameter needed as a beginner hooper. Once you have that measurement you can look for adult size hoops in circus shops or online by Googling "adult size hoop" or checking out places like Etsy.
Larger hoops are generally slower and easier for beginners and small hoops are faster and more challenging. Many adults feel discouraged when they pick up a kids hoop and find it too difficult – it’s not their fault, it’s just that the hoop is too small, and maybe they need a few tips to get them started.
Weighted hoops are popular, although anything with large massage balls or that's oversized and super heavy is not ideal for hoop dance. An adult size dance or circus hoop is best. Talking to a hoop maker or hoop teacher is ideal when buying your first hoop.
What’s the secret to perfect hooping? (Or even just for keeping it up on your hips for more than a minute or two!)
Having the right size hoop, getting some professional tips by going to a class or learning online, and being willing to have some fun while learning something new.
Keeping the hoop spinning on the body is about posture, pace and connection. It’s about knowing how to position your body, building good rhythm and momentum, plus understanding the contact points on the body to keep the hoop spinning. Often small changes make a big difference. Just like anything that is worth learning, hooping takes practice, patience and lots of play time.
What’s the best way to get started hooping?
Get an adult size hoop and learn online with me or find a hoop class in your area. A combination of both is ideal. I started hooping when I was in Tokyo and learned online and with DVDs then learned many different styles from going to other workshops and classes. It is really accessible no matter where you live or what your budget is.
Try hoop dance for yourself or learn more at Hooplovers.tv