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.