You have seen them posted on social media, waved in your face promoting a smaller waistline. But what’s the truth behind waist trainers?
Let’s first address body sculpting and aesthetics. Have you ever noticed when you watch the Crossfit games, most of the women have a blockier/wider midsection? This is 100% due to training style. These women are lifting heavy and hard day in and day out, often times needing to utilize their obliques while lifting something with their legs overhead. This style of training and lifting can widen the waist over time simply by building the oblique muscles outwards.
Trying one out
I noticed this happening with myself a few years back when I was constantly lifting heavy lower body. As a bikini athlete, the last thing I wanted was a wider waist. I had known about waist trainers for a while but hadn’t tried one myself. They promised a smaller waist and every bikini athlete seems to be on team #NoWaist so I figured I would give it a shot.
I chose a Squeem (waist trainer) that was tight enough to create a “supportive” feeling yet wasn’t so tight it restricted my airway in any way, and I actually wore this while training to increase thermogenesis around my midsection. I also altered my training program so that I wasn’t training my legs as heavily. I only wore it for a few hours a couple times a week and never during HIIT or intense training because it limits proper breathing.
Personally, I liked the feeling of the waist trainer as it did offer support through my midsection and gave me a “tight” feeling while working out. Somewhat like a lifting belt. Overall I felt I sweat more and my efforts were paying off in creating a smaller looking waistline.
However, the more I’ve stepped away from the bodybuilding world and focused more on having the healthiest body I can for myself and my family, my thoughts have evolved in many areas, including training techniques and methods for reshaping the physique. This left me questioning, are waist trainers damaging to my body?
The big draw of waist trainers is the idea of quickly shedding size from your midsection. And most people want a smaller waist – the faster, the better. But if you want the best for yourself, you must consider any promise of faster results very objectively.
The truth behind waist trainers
Yes, you can temporarily shed a little water weight by increasing how much you sweat through your midsection. And yes, you can atrophy muscles through your midsection by restricting movement which is going to make your waist draw inward and appear and measure smaller. But taking things too far, like wearing corsets for long periods of time and very tightly will lead to bruised organs, digestive issues, and pinched nerves.
My core was a bit of a mess after giving birth. For as strong as I was prior to my pregnancy, the restrictions of trying to exercise with a growing baby caused me to not be able to keep that level of strength. So much so that I was in incredible pain (mostly in my low back) for a while as my body adjusted to suddenly changing that center of balance after he was born.
My core muscles had atrophied.
When you are restricting movement by using waist trainers with the aim of shrinking your core muscles, you are asking for your body to become weaker. Your upper and lower body depend on your core muscles stabilizing all movements. Without stability and control through the core, your body will actually limit the amount of weight you can safely move and will shorten your endurance potential for all activity.
Your core is not just your “six-pack” muscles. It’s also your sides, mid and low back, and your pelvic floor and hips. If you are restricting movement, all of those very important little muscles that support your every move will get weaker.
I always say to train for the body you want, working with the body you have. You can still lift heavy without fear of bulking out your midsection so long as you know how to properly engage your core muscles for your lifts and avoid heavily weighted oblique exercises. Unless of course aesthetics are not of importance to you as much as strength and functional movement or simply health.
Everyone is entitled to their own definition of an “ideal” body, but be smart in not overdoing waist training if you are doing it, as it can have a negative reaction to your health as much as it can help your aesthetics. Its all about being smart with your goals while keeping your health a priority!
For more like this straight to your inbox, sign up to the TRAIN for HER newsletter.