If you have a thin upper body but a plump or fat lower body, you need to know which works better for busting fat: cardio or strength training?

The issue of having a skinny upper body and a fat or thick lower body is far more common in women than in men.

Cardio or Weights for a Thin Upper and Fat Lower Body?

“I recommend both,” says Dr. Tom Carpenter, corrective exercise specialist, certified personal trainer and chiropractor, inventor of Stand Corrected™, a portable harness-like stretching tool that helps alleviate back, neck and shoulder pain.

“There are basically three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph.

“A thin upper body and fat lower body, otherwise known as pear shaped, is a combination of ectomorph and endomorph body types.

“It is believed that your body type is, to a great degree, determined genetically; you cannot completely change this reality.”

Ectomorph: naturally fast metabolism, “lanky” build, has trouble putting on muscle.

Ectomorph. Freepik.com/yanalya

Mesomorph: naturally fast metabolism, athletic build, naturally stronger than average, easily puts on muscle.

Mesomorph. Shutterstock/SerdyukPhotography

Endomorph: naturally average to slower than average metabolism, tendency towards a plump or soft build, no problem putting on muscle.


Dr. Carpenter continues, “Also, ‘spot reducing’ fat in one area only is a myth; however, when you train to build muscle and reduce fat in the lower body, total body fat is then reduced.”

Think of the lower body, with all its large muscles, as the body’s overall metabolic furnace.

Large muscles require more energy for exercise and post-exercise recovery.

This energy will be pulled from the body’s fat depos – from all over, not just from the legs.

“This will the reduce size and add definition to lower body, as muscle takes up much less space than fat,” adds Dr. Carpenter.

“You can also build up the upper body size by choosing exercises that will encourage upper body hypertrophy.

“Combined, you can create a more proportioned figure, within reason.

“I would recommend resistance/weight training for the upper body as well as interval cardio and resistance training for the lower body, such as biking, treadmill, squats and lunges.

“And don’t forget the core. Planks are great for this.

Plank. Freepik.com

“All of this together will encourage EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which turns the body into a muscle building, fat burning machine, continuing to change your body for hours after the workout is over.

“Think of driving a car on a cold night for an hour and then parking it in the cold garage when you get home.

“Go back into the garage 20 minutes later and you’ll notice that the temperature in the garage has warmed up from the heat the engine still gives off.

“Our bodies work the same way when it comes to building muscle and burning fat.

“An intense interval workout using compound joints for even 20 minutes will create EPOC. And this will help to reshape the body.”

Thin Upper Body, Fat Lower Body: Do Cardio AND Weights

Train the lower body also with deadlifts and leg presses. Work out intensely: get winded after each set. Get sweaty and feel hammered after each set.

Deadlift. Shutterstock/ Everyonephoto Studio

This kind of exercise will create a hormonal environment that will unleash fat burning hormones – and these hormones will keep on burning for hours after the workout is over while your muscles recover.

This same process will occur with intense upper body training.

Focus on multi-joint movements such as the bench press, any kind of dumbbell press, seated chest press and any kind of rowing movement such as the bent-over barbell row (below).

Shutterstock/Catalin Petolea

Interval cardio means just that: intervals – brief periods of high effort alternating with one to several minutes of casual paced effort.

An example would be mixing fast jogging with slow walking, or sprinting with slow walking (depending in your fitness level).

HIIT can also involve fast stair dashing alternating with easy descents.

HIIT can be applied to pedaling as well.

Learn more about HIIT here.

Having a thin upper body and fat lower body does not make you any less a candidate for strength training or interval cardio than if the top and bottom of your body were more matched.

dr. carpenter

Photo credit: Aleesia Forni

Based upon 30+ years of experience, Dr. Carpenter’s practice approach reflects his belief that restoring optimum health and function will enable his patients to enjoy a much greater amount of vitality and wellness. Chiropractic care is true health care, not sick care!
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 


Top image: Shutterstock/WAYHOME studio