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The Best Sports For Toning Specific Body Parts

people playing volleyball

Not everyone is a big fan of heading to the gym and smashing out 100 crunches in a bid for rock-hard abs. Many understandably need a bit more fun and motivation in their exercise – that’s why taking part in different types of activities, rather than sticking to a single routine, is so popular.

But what if you’re more of a sports-player than gym-goer, and want to target a particular part of your body?

Whether you’re looking to tone up, seriously strengthen or slim down a certain area, you might want to consider giving some of these sports a go…

Volleyball for washboard abs

People playing volleyball
Spiking the ball over the net is basically a crunch for your abs (Mike Egerton/PA)

It’s no coincidence that volleyball players are some of the most ripped sportspeople out there, because they’re constantly engaging and working their core (and it probably helps that the outfits they wear show off their toned abs particularly well).

The dynamic moves of a volleyball game mean you have to keep your core tightly on lock, strengthening the muscles. Plus, a serve is basically a mid-air crunch for your abs.

Playing beach volleyball is even better for your core, because the unstable surface of the sand forces your muscles to activate even more for stability.

Cycling for strong thighs

Cycling up hills will particularly work your thighs (Mike Egerton/PA)

This one’s a no-brainer, because your thighs are the bit of your body that works the hardest when you step onto a bike. In particular, the quadriceps of your thighs, and the hamstrings at the back of your upper legs, will be engaged when you cycle (with the added bonus of some calf and ab work along the way).

When you crank up the resistance in a spin class or start climbing a particularly meaty hill outdoors, your muscles will have to work even harder to keep you going – so if you do this regularly, they’ll be toned in no time. And yes, unfortunately that means you can’t turn the resistance down to zero and free-wheel your way through a class – that’s not going to do anything for your muscles.

Rowing for toned arms

Hopping in a boat (or on a machine) will help build your arm muscles (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Doing a million push-ups or bicep curls is frankly a bit dull, but luckily there are a whole lot more fun ways you can build muscle in your arms.

The action of rowing works your chest, shoulder and arm muscles in an intense way. If you’re able to join a crew and row outside, that will help you stay motivated, but a rowing machine indoors will tone up your arms too – you’ll just have to cheer yourself on.

Tennis for powerful shoulders

Federer serving
Serving can build powerful back muscles (Adam Davy/PA)

Tennis is a pretty good total body workout: It tones your arms through hitting the ball, as well as your legs by running around the court.

However, one of the biggest impacts it can have is strengthening your shoulders. While you don’t necessarily want to be smashing those forehands and backhands across the court to secure the best shot, serving is definitely about power (as long as you nail the direction and accuracy as well).

Throwing up the ball with one hand, raising the other arm in the air and bringing the racket down is a brilliant shoulder workout. In fact, it uses the muscles in such an intense way that it’s common for tennis players to sustain shoulder injuries, but as long as you stretch and cool down properly and don’t overdo it, you should be fine.

Golf for a trim waist

Rory McIlroy golfing
The twisting motion works your waist (Jane Barlow/PA)

Golfing doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a high-intensity workout, but there’s a reason that golf stars, like Rory McIlroy, need to be in great shape to be at the top of their game.

And luckily, you don’t have to suffer through a Kardashian-approved – but entirely uncomfortable – waist trainer to trim your middle. Trying golf could have unexpected benefits in this department, as the way you twist your body and keep your hips loose when hitting the ball will work your side abdominals the same way as an infinitely less fun Russian twist.

Football for powerful legs

Running + kicking = good legs (Adam Davy/PA)

In all honesty, any kind of sport that involves running will help tone up all the muscles in your legs, and football is no exception.

In fact, football is a particularly good choice because of the distance you have to cover – the length of a pitch has to be between 90-120m. Over a 90-minute match, just imagine how much running you’ll be doing, which will strengthen and tone your pins in the process.

Skiing for a peachy bum

A day of skiing is essentially a day of squatting (Mike Egerton/PA)

Unfortunately, this isn’t the easiest sport to casually pick up, but after a skiing holiday you can be sure you’ll come home from the slopes with a stronger, perkier rear end.

If you nail the technique of the sport, you have to be in a constant squat position to successfully travel down the mountain. It’s no wonder your bum will inevitably ache after a day on the slopes, because your glutes have been under intense pressure the entire time.

This is just one of the many benefits of skiing, which works your core and legs as well as helping strengthen your joints.