Blog Fitness Does Waist Size Increase With Muscle: Unpacking The Truth

Does Waist Size Increase With Muscle: Unpacking The Truth

does working obliques increase waist size

Does waist size increase with muscle? This is a question for someone who has recently started working out. One may wonder about this after they realize that their ab and core workouts are not giving them the desired results. If this describes you, you should know that you are not alone. In fact this is a common question and occurrence.


Does Waist Size Increase With Muscle Bodybuilding?

Unfortunately, yes, it does. How does this happen? You might think that doing multiple abs and core exercises will burn or melt your fat away, but this is not true. Working out does not burn or melt fat. When you work out, your muscles will begin to grow and expand under the already existing layer of fat there.

The expansion of muscles, coupled with the fat in your body, will make your waistline bigger. The only way to get rid of this effect is NOT to stop working out but to give attention to and change your eating habits.

Does Waist Size Increase With Muscle Women?

Let us be honest, one of the primary reasons that most women decide to go on a diet, join a gym or look up home workouts is because they would love to reduce the size of their stomach area and get a slimmer waist. After all, a completely flat or ripped abdominal area is quite enviable in public.

However, one of the side effects of working out core muscles is that your waist will get larger before it gets smaller. Why is this? Part of it comes from you gaining muscle definition where you did not have it before. The other reason has to do with the type of workouts that you are doing.

does waist size increase with muscle

How Can I Stop My Waist From Getting Bigger?

How can I slim my waist? This is an issue that bothers many women who are working out and yet cannot seem to achieve their desired hourglass figure. It is also an issue with men who, too, would like to have a trimmer waist.

Unfortunately, some workouts have been known to give you a bigger waist than others. Some examples of such exercises you should avoid in order to stop and hopefully reverse this waist thickening process include.

Read More: How Many Pounds To Lose An Inch: Measure Your Weight Loss By Your Waistline

  • Avoid Doing Weighted Side Bends

An example of this is the dumbbell side bend. How is this done?

  • Stand up tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, or any other weight of choice in your right hand.
  • Brace your core and slowly bend over to the left side until you feel a slight stretch. Your body should not be to the back or forward
  • Come back through the center and bend over to the other side. Come back to the center. Repeat, then switch sides (10).
See also
Assistance Exercises For Overhead Press: Working Up To The Overhead Press

As you can see, this workout targets the love handles quite a bit (6). The workout and the added weight will make the obliques larger, thus increasing your waistline.


  • Weighted Crunches

While regular crunches can be considered as an okay option, adding weights to them is not advisable. This is because the extra weight forces your rectus abdominis – aka ‘six-pack’ abs – to work double time. Eventually, your six-pack will stand out more, increasing your waist-line and making your waist look larger.

  • Cable Wood Chops

This workout is usually done using a kettlebell, dumbbell, medicine ball, or cable machine. With your feet apart in a comfortable position, grasp the cable handle with both hands above one shoulder and swing the clasped handle downward and across the body until it passes the opposite thigh (12). This is kind of like a simulation of cutting down a tree.

For anyone wishing to grow their obliques or side abs, this is an amazing workout. However, if you desire an hourglass figure, then you should avoid it.

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does waist size increase with muscle

How Can I slim My Waist? The Best Exercises For A Smaller Waist

Thankfully, some workouts are known to be more effective than others in slimming down the waist. Some fantastic examples of workouts that will are great for your core without the undesired effect of making your waist bigger include (14)

Lying Leg Raises

  • Lie on your back, legs straight and together.
  • Keep your legs straight and lift them all the way up to the ceiling until your butt comes off the floor.
  • Slowly lower your legs back down till they are just above the floor. Do not let them touch the floor.
  • Hold for this position for a moment and then raise your legs back up and repeat (11)

An alternative and more advanced version to this is the hanging leg raise (9)

  • Grab a bar that is high above your head. Preferably one that is far enough up that your arms are straight.
  • Tilt your pelvis slightly backward. Engage your abs and hip flexors to lift your feet off the ground by raising your legs outward in front of you.
  • Exhale as you lift your legs and ensure that the legs remain straight. Do not bend them at the knees.
  • Note that while the aim of this exercise is to raise the legs to a 90 – degree angle or higher, do not overwork yourself. Raise your legs to a position that you feel comfortable with.
  • Slowly lower your legs back down to a vertical body position, inhaling. Maintain the posterior pelvic tilt even at the bottom of the movement.
  • Do this 10 to 15 times (or more) depending on your core strength.
See also
Types Of Posture: Which One Do You Have?

does waist size increase with muscle

Lunge Twist

  • With your feet hip-distance apart, lift your arms straight up and clasp them together.
  • Lunge forward with your right leg and simultaneously rotate your arms and torso to the right.
  • Step back to the standing position and repeat the move with the left leg. Remember to just twist your torso only and not your whole body.
  • Repeat this move 10 to 16 times.

Take note that if you would like to make this exercise a little harder; you can hold onto some weights instead of just clasping your hands together. Be sure to use weight that you are comfortable with to avoid injury (1).

Toe Taps

  • Lie on your back on a yoga or gym mat with your hands on either side of your torso.
  • Lift your legs and bend your knees so your knees are right over your hips, and your shins are parallel to the floor.
  • Engage your core by contracting your belly to pull your navel to your spine. Slowly lower your right foot and leg to tap the floor.
  • Remember to maintain the 90-degree bend in the knee as you lower. Return the right leg to the start and repeat with the left leg.
  • Alternate for 30 to 60 seconds (2).

does waist size increase with muscle

For an advanced and full-body version of this workout, you can do the following.

  • Stand in front of a box, staircase step, or platform that is at least ten to 12 inches tall.
  • With your arms at your side, raise your right foot and place the ball of your foot on the box.
  • Push off the ground with your left foot so that you switch legs mid-air, with your left foot touching the box and your right foot on the ground.
  • Repeat alternating toe taps slowly until you feel comfortable with the movement pattern. Once you feel that you have mastered said movements, pick up the pace.
  • Alternate between your left and right foot, tapping the box’s edge for a set of 30 to 60 seconds.
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The Best Stretching Techniques For Better Flexibility

This version is a compound exercise. Not only will it work on your core, but it also targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and hip flexors (13).

Please note that you should first consult your doctor before attempting any of the above workouts. This is even more important when it comes to people with chronic or unstable health conditions, asthma, or any other respiratory ailment, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, or diabetes (5).

does waist size increase with muscle

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, the answer to the question,’Does waist size increase with muscle’ is yes. Your stomach will increase in size once you start working out. However, this should not deter you from exercising. This is a temporary condition that will go away if you eat and choose the right workouts.

Also, keep in mind that weights are not your enemy. While weighted oblique workouts can have some undesirable effects, they are still quite important. Rather than using weights, just use your body weight to do your workouts instead. With these minor changes in your diet and routine, you will have the enviable hourglass figure that you desire.

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does waist size increase with muscle


Does Waist Size Increase When Lifting?

Yes, it does. Ordinarily, doing a normal non-weighted workout will build muscle. Workouts such as pull-ups, push-ups, and squats are incredible examples of bodyweight exercises that will gradually grow your muscles (7).

However, weight lifting increases the intensity of your workout. The more you lift and the heavier the weights, the more your muscles will grow (8). Therefore, if you incorporate weights when doing ab and oblique exercises, your waist will grow in size with time.

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does waist size increase with muscle women

How Does Working Obliques Increase Waist Size?

Before we go into how this happens, let’s look at what exactly are the obliques, and what do they do. First we all have two kinds of obliques; internal and external obliques. The external muscles are located on either side of your torso on each side of the rectus abdominis (the ‘six-pack’ abs). These muscles run diagonally downward and inward from the lower ribs to the pelvis, forming the letter V.

See also
Shoulder Exercises For Women: Tone And Strengthen Your Shoulders

On the other hand, the internal obliques lie just below the external obliques. These two pairs of muscles work together to enable us to flex the spine, bend from side to side and rotate the torso, among other functions (3).

Due to where the obliques (commonly known as love handles) are located in our bodies, targeting them during exercise can cause them to grow, thus making your waist bigger and broader. Please note that this does not mean that you should stop exercising your obliques.

These muscles are quite important to your overall core strength, and you are advised to keep them in tip-top shape. It should be clear then that it’s best to choose to avoid weights when working on your love handles (4).

does waist size increase with muscle women

Does Ab Training Increase Your Waist Size?

Yes, it does. But this can be in relation to more than just your home or gym workouts. Some culprits of a bigger waist while exercising could be

  • Muscle Growth Ynder A Layer Of Fat

One thing to remember is that working out does not miraculously melt or burn fat. To lose any layer of fat on and around your torso, you need to watch your diet. Ab workouts stimulate core muscles growth. If these muscles are growing under a fat layer, then your waist will keep getting more prominent if you do not lose the extra fat.

  • Eating More Calories Than You Burn

Making healthier food choices and watching your portions and calorie intake (16) will go further in fat loss that working out will. It does not matter whether you do a combination of sit-ups, crunches, planks, and other core workouts on a daily basis. If you eat more calories than you burn then your waist will grow despite your intense ab workout routine.

  • Post-Workout Swelling

If you have recently started your workout journey, then you might be unaware of this fact. When working out, your heart rapidly pumps blood to your muscles and organs, causing your stomach muscles to puff up and look larger temporarily.

In addition to this, working out also causes microscopic tears in your muscles. As they heal, these tears will cause you to have bigger muscles with some temporary inflammation, both in combination causing  you to end up with a bigger tummy and waist for a little while (17).

While nothing much can be done about post-workout swelling, a lot can be fixed regarding calorie intake and extra fat. To curb the stomach bulge, you should

1. Eat A Healthy Diet

Focus on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose lean sources of protein such as fish and low-fat dairy products. Limit saturated fat, found in meat and high-fat dairy products, such as cheese and butter

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How To Improve Grip Strength Even If You Are No Ninja Master

2. Keep Portion Sizes In Check

Calories do not just count when you are eating unhealthy foods such as pizza, burgers, pastries, french fries, and other deep-fried foods, among others. Taking an excessive amount of the healthy meal options is also detrimental to your waist size. Take note of your usual calorie intake and cut it by at least 500 calories. A caloric deficit is essential in cutting down on body and stomach fat.

3. Replace Sugary Beverages

Energy and pre-packaged fruit juices are not the best for you and your waistline since they are full of added sugar. Instead of purchasing these, opt to have water instead.

4. Workout

And not just ab and core workouts. Incorporate full-body workouts like the cardio types that will make you sweat and burn more calories. You require at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Simple examples of this include walking, jogging, taking part in a dance or Zumba class (15).



This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Ab Exercises to Avoid in Order to Get an Hourglass Figure (2019,
  2. Abdominal Exercises & Toe Taps (2018,
  3. Abdominal Muscles Location and Function (2020,
  4. Can Oblique Exercises Make the Waist Wider? (2019,
  5. Do you need to see a doctor before starting your exercise program? (n.d,
  6. Dumbbell side bend (n.d.,
  7. How to Build Muscle Mass Without Weights (2019,
  8. How to build muscle with exercise (2020,
  9. How to Do a Hanging Leg Raise (2020,
  10. How Do I Get a Bigger Waist? (2019,
  11. How to Do Leg Raises (2017,
  12. How to Do the Cable Woodchop (2020,
  13. How to Do Toe Taps (2020,
  14. The Ab Exercise Women Shouldn’t Do (2017,
  15.  The Truth About Belly Fat (2011,
  16. Why Is My Waist Getting Bigger With Exercise? (n.d.,
  17. Will Abdominal Exercises Make My Stomach Stick Out More? (2019,
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