Bodybuilding isn't just about having big muscles. Contestants are judged on their symmetry and aesthetics too; part of this involves having a small waist. A small waist makes your back, chest and thighs look bigger and improves the overall appearance of your physique. Waist size is partly due to genetics, but there are certain dieting and training strategies you can use to work your way toward a bodybuilder's waist.
Check with your health care provider before starting a diet or training program.
Reduce your calorie intake to burn fat. The waist is one area where people tend to carry fat, so reducing your body-fat levels will give you a smaller waist. Women bodybuilders compete at around 8- to 12-percent body fat and men at 3 to 6 percent, says bodybuilder Tom Venuto, author of "The Body Fat Solution." To lose fat, MayoClinic.com advises dropping your calories by 500 per day. This should allow for a steady rate of fat loss of about a pound a week, but shouldn't be so low that you feel tired, or your performance in the gym suffers.
Perform squats and deadlifts at least once a week. Squats and deadlifts both work your quadriceps, hamstrings and glute muscles. Building these will give the appearance of a smaller waist. For squats, hold a bar on your upper back and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, then stand back up. To deadlift, stand with the bar on the floor and your feet underneath it. Hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip, drop your hips, bend your knees and lift your chest until your back is straight, then pull the bar forcefully from the floor until you;re standing straight. Do five sets of six to eight repetitions each, either in the same session or on different days.
Increase the amount of back and shoulder training you do. The classic bodybuilder physique is known as the X-shape -- wide shoulder and upper back and a small waist. Just like building leg size, making your back and shoulders more muscular makes your waist look leaner. Do two back and shoulder sessions every week, spaced thee days apart. Perform pullups, dumbbell rows, dumbbell shoulder presses and lateral raises for three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions each.
Avoid training your abdominals too much. A strong core is important, but building too much muscle can make your mid-section look bulky and your waist thicker. Stick to stabilization exercises such as planks rather than doing hundreds of situps and crunches. You may also want to avoid training your obliques -- the muscles at the side of your abs, as these too can create an appearance of waist thickness.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.