You don’t need a “weighted” hula hoop for hoop dance fitness. I repeat: You don’t need a “weighted” hula hoop for hoop dance fitness, and I’m on a mission to drop this terminology.
Handmade hoops are what started the hoop dance and fitness phenomenon. Most hoop makers like myself use a variety of different tubing options so we can size people appropriately. Handmade hoop sizing is based on these factors: height, body type, experience level and flow style (in other words, how you intend to use the hoop). The larger the diameter, the slower the hoop spins which makes it easier for on-body hooping. Small, lightweight hoops work best for off-body technique because they provide less stress on the hands. Hoop sizing works like surf boards in the sense that, we go smaller and lighter as we get more advanced. A small, light hoop also provides a faster rotation which equates to increased cardio during on-body hooping.
Simply put: no one needs a hoop that weighs more than 2 pounds.
I’ve been teaching modern day hoop dance for more than a decade (I’m the creator of both Hoola Fit and Hoola Monsters), and one of my biggest hurdles is re-educating new hoopers on what equipment is needed and effective for hula hoop fitness. There’s been a lot of misinformation circulated in this regard, which I’ll address momentarily. But first: let me give you some hoop history:
Modern day hoop dance is an emerging art form that stemmed from the use of handcrafted hoops. It began in the mid ’90’s when a jam band known as The String Cheese Incident started tossing large adult-sized, handmade hoops out into the audience during their concerts to get people moving, dancing and having fun. In the hooping community, Anah Reichenbach is considered the “Mother of Modern Day Hoop Dance.” Anah, along with her hula hoop performance partner Christabel Zamor, helped to pave the way for hoop dance as we now know it. (Side Note: Christabel is my original teacher, and she was the creator of one of the very first hula hoop fitness programs).
From there, the hoop community began to form. Burning Man was also a catalyst for hoopers to gather, connect, share tricks, and push the art form forward. By the mid 2000’s, the hula hooping craze was going strong. Actresses like Marisa Tomei and even former first lady Michelle Obama were in on the action. Still… we are talking about handcrafted hoops that weighed no more than 2 pounds.
Fast forward to 2011. The American Council on Exercise took notice of the hoop fitness trend and conducted a comprehensive study to determine if hooping was an effective workout or “just child’s play.” Sixteen women between the ages of 16 and 59 were evaluated while hula hooping with handmade hoops. The participants averaged 151 heart beats per minute, burning an average of 420 calories an hour hooping [source: Goodman]. To put that in perspective, the average 154-pound (70-kilogram) person burns approximately 220 calories during a half hour of heavy yard work or vigorous weight lifting [source: CDC]. Simply put, the study found that hooping with handcrafted hoops is considered an “excellent form of fitness.”
It was then that fitness equipment companies jumped on the trend and started to mass produce “weighted” hoops. This is when things got muddy. Along with the mass production of “weighted hoops” came the mindset that the heavier the hoop, the better it is for fitness.Three-to-five-pound, mass produced, “weighted hoops” hit the marketplace with a vengeance, along with hoop fitness programs that incorporated this super heavy equipment. And guess what? ALL of the programs that used mass produced “weighted” hoops have now fallen by the wayside. Why? I imagine it’s because spinning a hoop that’s too heavy for a person’s body type is likely to cause injury. Hooping is supposed to be fun, not painful.
Weighted hoops in the three-to-five-pound range can cause serious bruising. I’ve seen it, and it’s not pretty. Mass produced, weighted hoops can also result in pinched nerves, and even internal bruising. The Yonsei Medical Journal reports that a woman sustained a Perirenal Hematoma (bleeding around the kidney) after continuous use of a hoop that was too heavy for her body type.
Unfortunately, the problem of “weighted hoops” still exists for hoop fitness instructors like myself because we’ve had to do cleanup work ever since they hit the market. I’ve personally refused to make and sell hoops to customers who’ve requested hoops that weigh more than 2 pounds. I’ve turned down large orders in an effort to make sure that my students and customers are safe and set up for success. I won’t stand behind a product that could potentially cause more damage than good.
So, what do you actually need for hula hoop fitness? Here’s a short and sweet video I made that breaks it down:
So, if you’re someone who’s been inspired by the beauty and grace of modern day hoop dance, it’s safe to assume that inspiration stemmed from dancers using handcrafted hoops. We make our own because we can totally customize them and make sure we’re setting new hoop dancers up for success based on their height, body type, experience level and flow style. Hoops are not “one size fits all.”
The elaborate spins, leaps, tosses, and optical illusion technique performed by skilled hoopers is a result of using handmade hoops (and lots of practice, of course). Even if you have no desire to learn the fancy tricks (I hear this all the time: “I just want to hula hoop for exercise.”), then it’s still in your best interest to go the handmade route, for injury prevention purposes.
I always encourage customers to contact me on ETSY if they have ANY questions about hoop sizing before placing their order. It’s my personal mission to set you up for success, as hooping is a beautiful, fun and effective form of fitness. It’s also attainable for EVERYONE with a little help and hoop sizing guidance.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful, and please let me know if there are any additional questions I can answer about handmade hoop sizing and how to get started on your hooping journey.
About the Author: Abby Joan Lee Abby is the founder of both Hoola-Fit and Hoola Monsters – Florida’s first full service hoop dance company, which specializes in handmade fitness hoops, hoop dance classes and performances. A play professional and fitness pro for more than a decade, Abby is an ACE-Certified Youth Fitness Specialist and ACE-Certified Group Fitness Instructor who also holds certifications in Les Mills Body Combat and Cardio Kickboxing. A hoop dance educator since 2007, Abby has taught the art form to thousands of people of all ages. She’s also spent years developing, testing and implementing her training programs. Her mission is to inspire and empower hoop dancers worldwide.
Real Talk: I’ve had body image issues for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Florida, pool parties were the norm. I remember, as a kid, I was always so embarrassed to be seen in my swimsuit. And my biggest insecurity was my belly. I’ve never been one of those girls with a tiny waist and well defined curves. Then, as time went on, so did my weight battle. The scale was constantly fluctuating, and I tried every diet under the sun. I gained; I lost, and this viscous cycle continued for more than a couple decades.
In fact, this time last year, I was only 2 months into my weight loss journey when I realized that I finally found something that worked for me. The 2-month mark was pivotal because that’s when I allowed myself to step on the scale (I refused to weigh myself for the first two months of my journey because I didn’t want to obsess over it)… And after my first “weigh-in,” it became clear that the pounds were literally melting off.
If you would have told me that I’d be posting a shirtless pic on my website a year later, I would’ve said you were crazy. And yet – here I am: 5 pounds under my original goal weight, and 35 lbs down total. I never thought I’d be in the best shape of my life at age 39, either. But I’m here to tell you (and show you) that anything is possible.
Here are my biggest takeaways from my weight loss journey, along with some steps to success that I hope you’ll find helpful:
Step 1: Make the Commitment to Change. The power of your mental state is everything! Get clear on your goals and what you want to accomplish. And don’t go crazy. Start small. Consider hiding the scale in the beginning too. Focus on how you FEEL instead of how you look.
Step 2: Create a Plan that’s Sustainable and that Works for You. Different things work for different people. Take my younger sis for example. She’s big on calorie counting, and she writes down everything she eats. She lost 60 pounds, and that’s what works for her (but I fell flat on my face with her method).
As for me, I practice a clean ketogenic lifestyle. What does that mean, you might ask? I eat low carb, high fat, and foods that are nutrient-rich (meaning loads of leafy greens, organic low carb veggies, sustainable seafood, eggs, nuts and berries). I also practice intuitive eating, which is just a fancy way of saying that I only eat when I’m hungry and if I want to do a carb-up because I feel low energy, I’ll do it. Intermittent fasting also works really well for me. And bulletproof coffee gives me life. It’s just a tablespoon of grassfed butter, a tablespoon of MCT oil, almond milk, coffee (and cinnamon if you want) in a blender. That will keep you full all morning, and it promotes mental clarity.
Side Note: I know this may be a lot to digest (pun intended) – so you can pop into my Keto Fit Tribe Facebook Group to learn more. We’ve got some great free resources in there, and it’s just a good, old-fashioned community-based group intended to support one another. Good vibes only!
Prior to starting the Keto Diet, I tried everything and I constantly felt like I was failing. Plus, as a group fitness instructor and performance artist, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be fit for my job and I was beyond frustrated.
The reason Keto was a game-changer for me is because, by being fat fueled, I stayed full longer. I was no longer munching and anticipating my next meal. I’ve also never felt deprived. Case in point: I eat chocolate every day. It just has to be 90% cacao or higher. Or it has to be Lily’s – my favorite sugar-free chocolate brand – (and no, I’m not endorsed by them but I totally want to be so they’ll send me free chocolate ;).
So… here’s my recommendation: Do some research on different diet plans to determine what will work best for you, your lifestyle, and your body.
Step 3: Move Your Body! Fitness experts agree that you’re much more likely to stick with an activity that you enjoy! In other words, you don’t need to do workouts that you hate in order to get the results that you want. Trust me… if someone told me that I was only allowed to run, for example, instead of doing the exercises that I love (like hula hooping and kickboxing), I’d be feeling frustrated all over again. But when you find an activity that excites you… you’re going to want to keep doing it! Did you know that, according to the American Council on Exercise, hooping burns an average of 420 calories an hour?!? Yep! And you get to smile the whole time you’re doing it. I’ve even got some free tutorials to get you started, and here’s where you can purchase a great priced beginner hoop.
Step 4: Meal Prep. Regardless of what plan you choose to follow, be sure to plan out your meals so you aren’t in a situation where you’ve got “nothing to eat,” in which case you might opt for food that’s not on your plan. That can put you into a downward spiral so super fast. You don’t need to be an award-winning chef to prep healthy food either. There are plenty of quick and easy recipes that you can find on Pinterest. I always keep a variety of raw nuts, string cheese and seaweed snacks on hand for quick grab-and-go situations, too. But take the time to plan out your meals and portion them so you don’t have to worry about it.
Step 5: Lay off the booze. Seriously. If you want to see real results real quick, ditch the alcohol. If you do decide to indulge, opt for low sugar drinks (like vodka/ soda) or a glass of French Bordeaux. Notice how I said glass and not bottle?!? 😉
Step 6: Don’t Give Up! Even if you fall of track, pick yourself back up and start fresh again the next day. And with the holidays just a couple short weeks away, my suggestion is to START NOW.
Honestly, I think starting a diet plan before the holidays will set you up for success in a massive way. You will feel UNSTOPPABLE after refraining from temptation during the most indulgent time of the year. I cut out sugar the week before Halloween, and I was so proud of myself for doing that. It helped me keep the momentum up! So, get your head right. And if you can make it through the holidays and stay on track, you’ll have a huge jump on things in the New Year! Again, whatever you do… don’t give up!
I hope you found this helpful, and I’m sending you so much love and positive vibes. You got this!
It was more than 10 years ago, and I’d never taught group fitness before. I literally taped my notes to the mirror, and I worried that I wouldn’t do the art form justice.
Hooping had transformed my life in the best ways possible, and I felt as though it was my duty to share it with others (even if it scared me). Hoop dance caused me to become more physically fit; I also attribute this powerful movement meditation practice as my main healing mechanism from depression.
Still, I had my reservations…
What if I’m not good enough to teach?
What if people don’t take hooping seriously?
How do I teach flow (the transcendent state of being where one loses sight of space and time, becoming one with the moment)?
What will keep my students engaged and coming back?
What will I do if an advanced hooper walks into my class of beginners?
These were some of the thoughts that consumed my newbie hoop dance teacher mind. Now, here we are: a decade later and I’ve turned my passion for hooping into a full-time career. In doing so, I’ve since it made it my personal mission to inspire, motivate and spread joy to others through this powerful art form.
It’s my vision to bring hoop dance to more gyms, dance studios, fitness centers and schools nationwide, and I now do this by helping people step into their power as hoop dance educators. There’s no reason to go through the same growing pains that I did.