How to Use a Weighted Hula Hoop as Exercise Equipment


Start With Side-to-Side Hooping

Side-to-side hooping. Laura Williams

Hula hoops aren't just for kids! Hooping—a fitness-focused hula hooping exercise—is a fun and low-impact way to burn calories and accumulate health-related activity. According to a study performed at the University of Wisconsin that was funded by the American Council on Exercise, hula hooping with a weighted hula hoop burns as many as seven calories per minute or as many as 210 calories in 30 minutes. Plus, hula hooping enhances coordination and improves core strength. Add hooping to your regular workout routine to mix things up, or simply grab a hoop and challenge your kids to a hoop-off. They'll enjoy the experience, and you'll feel good about adding a little extra activity to your day.

Side-to-Side Hooping

The side-to-side hooping exercise is one people are most familiar with. Hold the hula hoop against your back and get it swinging by spinning it around your waist. Let go of the hoop and begin shifting your hips from side-to-side to keep the hoop up and moving. Accumulate a total of 200 spins in sets of 50, if possible, alternating between twisting the hoop to the left and twisting the hoop to the right.


Front-to-Back Hooping

Front-to-back hooping. Laura Williams

Front-to-back hooping is very similar to side-to-side hooping, but instead of shifting your hips from side-to-side, you stagger your legs so one foot is in front of the other, and you shift your hips from front-to-back to keep the hoop up and spinning. Accumulate a total of 200 spins, in sets of 50, alternating between which leg is staggered forward.


Hula Hops

Hula hops. Laura Williams

You don't have to use the hula hoop just for hooping. You can use it as a cardiovascular and agility tool by placing it on the ground and hopping in and out of the hoop in a predetermined fashion. For instance, you can simply hop side-to-side, starting in the center, hopping out of the hoop to the right, hopping back to center, then hopping out of the hoop to the left. Or, you can perform forward-backward hops, or even a cross formation, where you start behind the hoop, hop to the center, hop to the right, hop back to the center, hop to the left, hop back to the center, then hop in front. It's best to perform hula hops for time—decide which formation you want to perform, then aim to do it for 30 to 90 seconds.


Slide Under Sumo Squats

Slide under sumo squats. Laura Williams

Hula hoops can also be used as tools for strength-building exercises. The slide under sumo squat enhances lower body strength, coordination, and hip flexibility.

Hold the hula hoop vertically in your left hand so that the hoop is in contact with the ground. Step your left leg as far as you can through the hoop, so that the bottom of the hoop is close to your mid-line. Point your toes outward and settle your weight into your heels. Shift your hips backward and squat low to the ground, keeping your weight in your heels as you shift your body to the left, passing it under and through the hoop. Press yourself up to a half squat on the opposite side, then squat back down and pass back through the hoop, rising up to a half squat on the starting side. Make sure your knees track in line with your toes throughout the exercise. Perform two sets of 15 squats per side.


Alternating Lunge Press

Alternating lunge press. Laura Williams

The alternating lunge press with a hula hoop is a great way to enhance cardiovascular health and lower-body strength. The pressing movement can also enhance shoulder strength, but that depends, in part, on the weight of your hula hoop.

Take a wide stance with your feet about shoulder-width apart, your toes angled outward, your knees slightly bent. Hold the hula hoop in both hands at shoulder-height so that it's encircling your body and parallel to the ground. Twist your body to the left, bend both knees and begin lowering your back knee toward the ground as you press the hula hoop up over your head. When your knees form 90-degree angles, press back to standing as you rotate your body back to center and bring the hula hoop back down to the starting position. Next, twist your body to the right, performing a lunge to the opposite side. Continue the left lunge-center-right lunge series until you've performed 15 lunge presses to each side. Perform a total of three sets.


Cross-Body Twist

Cross-body twist. Laura Williams

Enhance core strength with the hula hoop cross-body twist.

Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent, holding the hula hoop in both hands directly in front of your body so that it's perpendicular to the ground, your arms fully extended. Keeping your arms straight, rotate your torso to the left, aiming to touch your left knee with your right elbow as the hula hoop twists behind your body. You can bend your knees and angle your feet as needed, but keep your torso as straight as possible throughout the movement.

From this position, engage your core and cut the hula hoop up and across your body, keeping your arms straight, until the hula hoop is extended over your head on the right side of your body. You can rotate your left foot and your hips to face the right. Reverse the movement and cut the hula hoop back across and behind your body. Perform 15 repetitions on each side, for a total of three sets per side.

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  1. Holthusen J, Porcari J, Foster C, Doberstein S. Anders M. Effective Hooping—Workout or Child’s Play? American Council on Exercise. 2011. 

  2. Wu HW, Tsai CF, Liang KH, Chang YW. Effect of Loading Devices on Muscle Activation in Squat and Lunge. J Sport Rehabil. 2019;29(2):200-205. doi:10.1123/jsr.2018-0182