TikTok is great for many things, including cute animals, funny memes, and UGC challenges. But in between learning your next dance move or kitchen hack, you can also find fitness inspiration: one recent TikTok star is the #weightedhulahoop, with the hashtag racking up almost 130 million views. Hula hoops have been around for decades, and you likely remember them from your childhood playground days. As you've grown up, so have they, with weighted hula hoops now credited as a way to burn calories and strengthen your core muscles. Sure, it looks fun, but can twirling a hoop around your waist actually count as a workout? We asked a couple of fitness experts to give us the scoop on this throwback product, including what exactly is a weighted hula hoop, how to use one, and the benefits of spending some time hooping. Here's what they had to say.
Meet the Expert
What Is a Weighted Hula Hoop?
A weighted hula hoop is what the name suggests — it’s a hula hoop that’s heavier than the typical plastic hoops you’re used to and they typically weigh between one-and-a-half and eight pounds. Compared to a regular hula hoop, which usually weighs less than a pound, a weighted hula hoop provides more resistance, says Carol Gourlay, studio manager at Life Time.
Weighted hula hoops can also be made with different materials to give them that extra heft. And shapes may differ as well. “Some have a smaller diameter and a weighted ball attached to a tether or string, while different varieties have the weight distributed in the hula hoop of standard diameter, says Donna Walker, NASM, personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the Chicago Athletic Clubs.
Weighted Hula Hoops vs Traditional Hula Hoops
“It’s low-impact and combines cardio and strength training by raising your heart rate and engaging your core and back muscles,” says Gourlay. Adds Walker, “it’s great for your core muscles and your lower body too. If you choose to do arm work with the hula hoop, it’s total-body.” It can also help burn body fat and reduce inches off the midsection, says Walker. A small 2015 study showed that regular weighted hula hooping was associated with a reduction in waist and hip girth. Another 2019 study demonstrated that, relative to walking, weighted hula hooping decreased abdominal fat percent in overweight subjects.
Who Shouldn't Use a Weighted Hula Hoop?
As with any new form of exercise, Walker says you should take precautions as needed and consult your physician if you have any questions or concerns. And if you have any pain while exercising, stop immediately and seek medical attention. “Using a weighted hula hoop is relatively safe as long as you’re using a weight that’s appropriate for your strength and experience/fitness level,” says Gourlay.
How do you use a weighted hula hoop?
The good news is if you’ve ever hula hooped before, as a child or adult, using a weighted hula hoop isn’t that much different. “The trick is to move your hips forward and back, shifting your weight. And keep your feet staggered to start, “says Gourlay.
“Proper form with any movement is key,” adds Walker. “Basics for form center around good posture, including core and glute engagement, and full proper activation of the muscles you seek to use.” It may seem a little counterintuitive, but both Gourlay and Walker say a weighted hula hoop may actually be easier to use than a regular one. Getting the hoop going is easier because you have more control of the weight, Walker says. If you’re rhythmically challenged, opting for a bigger hoop may help because you have more reaction time to respond as it moves around your body. She also suggests against wearing baggy clothing because it can make it harder to catch the hoop around your waist.
And once you get the hang of a weighted hula hoop, feel free to incorporate all those tricks you did as a kid. “Waist hooping, arms, agility on the floor, jumping in and out, dance hooping — imagination is your only limitation!” says Walker.
How do you find the right weighted hula hoop for you?
Your hula hoop should measure from standing on the floor upright to your navel, recommends Walker. “Most of the time, if someone thinks they can’t hula hoop, they probably have an experience with a hoop that’s a bit too small. Bigger hoops are better for learning. As you progress your skills, you can reduce the hoop size and weight, increasing speed too,” says Walker.
Ultimately, the right weight and size will depend on the individual. “To pick the right weight is like purchasing a piece of clothing. I recommend trying a few and see what feels best for your body and experience level,” says Gourlay.
How often should you use a weighted hula hoop?
If you’re interested in giving a weighted hula hoop a spin or two, Walker suggests starting small and try to hula hoop for 10-30 minutes, two-to-three times a week. Ultimately, how often you use a weighted hula hoop will come down to individual preferences, fitness levels, and goals. If you like to hoop, incorporate it as part of your workout routine. Like with all exercise, Walker says, “Enjoy the way you move and move the way you enjoy.”
McGill SM, Cambridge ED, Andersen JT. A six-week trial of hula hooping using a weighted hoop: effects on skinfold, girths, weight, and torso muscle endurance. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(5):1279-1284. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000653
Lahelma M, Sädevirta S, Lallukka-Brück S, et al. Effects of Weighted Hula-Hooping Compared to Walking on Abdominal Fat, Trunk Muscularity, and Metabolic Parameters in Overweight Subjects: A Randomized Controlled Study. Obes Facts. 2019;12(4):385-396. doi:10.1159/000500572