Standing at a height of 5 feet, 4 inches or less, a petite woman has a body shape that does not fit the standard clothing rack or fitness model. Unlike taller women, the petite female's body composition differs. Some exercises designed for taller women may build too much bulk, making you look heavier than you are. This underscores the importance of finding the right combination of exercises to enhance your petite frame.
Upper Body Sculpting
Reese Witherspoon, Jada Pink Smith and celebrity fitness trainer Jillian Michael all are shorter than 5 feet, 4 inches -- and still sport sculpted upper bodies. Muscle definition on the petite frame lends itself to the illusion of a taller, sleeker frame. Performing overhead tricep curls while balancing on a stability ball is what Reese Witherspoon's personal trainer Michael George suggests for camera-ready arms and shoulders. Yoga poses aiming to open and stretch the chest cavity or tone the arms are beneficial for the petite female figure as well. Beginning poses include Cat, Cobra, Triangle, Downward Facing Dog, Crane, Plank and Upward Facing Dog.
Lower Body Sculpting
Peak Performance Strength and Conditioning co-owner Joe Dowdell prescribes a simple yet effective move when his petite celebrity client, Claire Danes, wants to tone her lower body: the rotational step-up. A twist on the tradition step-up, the rotational step-up requires you to keep your inactive foot on the step or stair. To do the exercise, put your left foot on the step or stair. Balancing your weight on the left foot, step up with your foot and then take it back. Repeat for 12 to 15 repetitions before switching legs.
Shapely Glutes and Smooth Contouring
Lower body bulk will give the illusion that you are shorter than you actually are. For the already petite frame, you will want to avoid exercises that increase large muscle mass, such as heavy weightlifting. Instead, aim for exercises that tone and sculpt. Accentuate your features to make you look taller. Celebrity trainer Ashley Borden helped sculpt petite singer Christina Aguilera's gluteal region with a modified bridge position Borden calls a roll-up. To do a roll-up, lie on your back with your knees bent. As you inhale and exhale, raise your pelvis toward the ceiling, squeezing your glutes. Hold the position, taking a breath and releasing it as you lower. Try to hold the squeeze until your bottom comes to rest on the floor. Borden suggests doing five to six roll-ups.
Interval Strength Training
Interval strength training is the ideal workout for petite women, Wharton-educated nutrition expert Jim Karas, says in his book "The Petite Advantage Diet." Karas claims cardio's ability to cause immune system weakening and muscle damage makes it inferior to interval strength training, given that both provide the same heart healthy benefits. The benefits of interval training, says MayoClinic.com, are that it revs up your routine while the short burst of activity trains your metabolism to burn more calories. Mix up your routine by alternating strength exercises and yoga positions with only a few seconds of rest in between.
- Marie Claire: The Petite Advantage Diet
- MayoClinic.com: Rev Up Your Workout With Interval Training
- Fitness: Reese Witherspoon's Arm and Shoulders Workout
- Yoga Journal: Poses: Anatomical Focus - Chest
- Yoga Journal: Poses: Anatomical Focus - Arms
- Fitness: Claire Danes' Lower Body Workout
- Fitness: Christina Aguilera's Butt Exercises
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.