5 Tips for Hula Hoop Beginners (and Mistakes to Avoid)

A couple of years ago, I decided to take up hula hooping for exercise. woman hula hoopoingI had very little experience but said: “Hey, if little kids can do this, how hard can it possibly be?”.

Excited, I bought a sparkly, plastic hula hoop at WalMart and eagerly rushed home. Slipping it over my head, I gave it a spin and started gyrating vigorously, only to feel it fall to the floor almost instantly. Again and again I tried. What was I doing wrong?  Did all hula hoop beginners have this much trouble?

Soon my sister visited and eyed the purple hoop in the corner of my living room. “I used to do this as a kid”, she said as she tossed it around her waist.  But like me, she watched it fall over and over. “I swear I can do this!” she said. Finally, she did, but she scowled as it started to seem more like work than play.

Here’s the problem:  adults attempt to use standard, off-the-shelf hula hoops, which are small, light-weight toys designed for child-sized bodies.

I could have avoided many frustrating weeks as a novice hooper had I known these important tips:

TIP # 1:  MOST ADULTS NEED TO START WITH A HULA HOOP THAT’S ABOUT 40 INCHES IN DIAMETER.   The light, plastic hoops for children are about 34 inches in diameter. Perfectly designed to revolve around small bodies, they will frustrate most adult beginners as well as adults who haven’t used one for a while.

In contrast, adult hoops are designed especially for larger bodies and extended workouts.  Their greater size and weight allow them to spin more steadily and with more momentum,  keeping them in motion for a longer period for greater aerobic benefits. The added weight also tones and strengthens core muscles as you move.

So start with a hoop made especially for adults.   About 40 inches in diameter and 1.5 to 2 lbs is ideal.  I use the Amzdeal weighted hula hoop sold by Amazon.   Once assembled,  it’s 41 inches in diameter, 2.17 lbs., and has nice foam cushioning that feels great around your waist as you move.   (Note:  The Amzdeal hula hoop is currently unavailable. The Cusfull weighted hula hoop is a very good substitute.)

Later, if you want more variety, add a smaller, lighter hoop to your routine once you’ve developed – or rediscovered – your basic hooping skills.

(Keep in mind that a larger adult hoop will require a larger workout space than the standard 34″ variety.)

TIP# 2:  INCREASE YOUR WORKOUT GRADUALLY.   Because a larger, heavier hoop will let you master the basic technique fairly quickly, you may be tempted to jump into extended workouts right away.  However, the weight of the adult hoop can cause soreness or bruising around the waist if approached too vigorously in the beginning.   Limit your workouts to a few minutes a day for the first week or so, then gradually build up to 15 or 30 minutes or more several times per week for great toning and aerobic benefits.

TIP# 3:  DON’T MOVE  YOUR HIPS IN CIRCLES AS YOU HOOP.    Of course, the hoop will revolve in circles around your waist, but your hips themselves should move either from side to side or from front to back.   Learn both for variety.   They work the body in different ways and each feels great! (Circular hip movements actually slow the hoop down. )

TIP# 4:  PRACTICE MOVING THE HOOP IN BOTH DIRECTIONS FROM THE START.   Most of us naturally favor one direction or the other in hula hooping and will find that direction easier in the beginning.  However, it’s important to practice both clockwise and counter-clockwise movements to develop your muscles and technique equally.    It will also increase your balance and coordination and make it easier to transition to more creative movements in the future if you so choose.

two hula hoopers

 TIP# 5: ENJOY THE MANY BENEFITS OF HOOPING. Steadily gaining popularity among adults, hula hooping provides a fun, yet comprehensive workout you can take seriously.   Here are some of the great benefits:

  • provides a whole-body, low-impact workout that tones the waist, back, hips, arms, and legs
  • improves cardiovascular fitness while burning 400-600 calories per hour (similar to boot camp according to the American College on Exercise)
  • works 30 core muscles, increasing overall strength, flexibility, and coordination
  • reduces stress; improves energy, mood, and libido; and encourages creative expression

So grab your hula hoop and get moving!  For more fun, helpful tips visit http://www.hulahooping.com or http://www.hoopnotica.com.

8 thoughts on “5 Tips for Hula Hoop Beginners (and Mistakes to Avoid)

  1. Now here’s an addition to exercise that I haven’t thought of. It was, as you said, for kiddies.
    I never knew that you could buy bigger Hula Hoops . Am fascinated how many different areas of the body can be worked.
    How long would your hula hoop session last? Do you use it every day? Are there any other moves one can do besides moving your hips from left to right or forwards and backwards with the hoop circling around the waist? As kids we use to try and get the hoop to circle around our necks and knees as well as our waists. Do the adult hula hoopers also do this today ?
    Thank you for bringing back the memories. Might just purchase one for myself.

    1. Hi Roy, I usually hula hoop for about 15 minutes at a time, almost every day.  It’s a relaxing kind of cardiovascular workout.  I move my arms in various ways to work those muscles as well, which involves a little experimentation. Some people do elaborate moves with several hoops, but I like to keep it pretty basic.  Thanks for your comments and hope to see you here again.


  2. I am freeing up some space in my room to increase my exercising routine and hopefully, to loose some belly fat as well.

    I’ve already got a Yoga mat and an exercise ball so a hula hoop would seem like a great addition especially if I am targeting the waist.

    Thanks for the heads up regarding the weight and the size. I have a small frame so that’s something to consider when choosing the right one.

    1. Hi, Cathy! Yes, people with smaller frames can generally go with smaller hoops, but it’s also good to consider that larger hoops are often easier to learn on than the very small ones.

      It does require a little extra space in your exercise area, yes. Exercise balls are great and I use a mat as well for many core toning exercises.

      Hooping is great for core strength and losing belly fat, as you mentioned, and I find it a great alternative to walking when the weather’s too foul to spend much time outside.

      Good luck, and thanks for writing!


  3. I was just at a festival over the summer and spent one day with a girl trying to learn how to hoop. She was unbelievable and amazing at it! I’m not sure why but i could never really pick it up. Maybe my body was to stiff and my hip movements didn’t flow with the motion of the hoop. Either way, some people are truly great at it.

    1. Hi, Kurtis! I’m pretty good at it now, but it actually took me weeks to learn. Each day, I was able to keep it up on my hips a second or two longer before it fell down. Even when I finally “got it”, it still took me days to keep it going for several minutes at a time.

      I wouldn’t really expect anyone to learn it in a day. But I do think you can learn it much quicker with a 40″ heavy hoop than with the kids’ light hoop.

      My husband, who hasn’t mastered it yet, suggested that maybe women can do it easier than most men, simply because we tend to have broader hips. Interesting thought.

  4. I remember trying this as a kid and failing miserably at it and giving up. My sister was quite good at it at the time and couldn’t figure out why she was so good and why I was so hopeless at it.

    The other thing that has surprised me is that it can give you a workout as I never saw this as an exercise but just some fun thing that people did.

    To think that this is a low impact exercise that can tone your body, works your core and gives you some cardio as well! It may be a suitable exercise for people over 50 who want to improve their fitness and have fun doing it.

    1. Hi, Adrian! I wasn’t very good at it as a kid either, and quickly gave up. I was determined to learn it as an adult, once I realized what a good workout it was. I think if I had started out with the bigger, weighted hoop – like they sell at Amazon – I would have had a much easier time learning it as an adult.

      I think it’s definitely great for people over 50. (I should know! ha-ha!) I can really feel it strengthening my muscles, and it’s easier to keep it moving than the lightweight kind, so you can have a real cardio workout.

      I was surprised at first how much pressure it puts on your waist and back as it revolves, but it doesn’t hurt. It just takes some getting used to. I think that’s one way it tones the muscles.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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