Hula-Hoops are trending, but it’s not your childhood version

Instead of spinning hoops around the waist as kids have done for decades, Hula-Hoop dancers have some new moves as the trend returns.

They are now throwing them into the air and twirling them around the body. Some use bright, flashing hoops. Others use multiple hoops at the same time.

One influencer can hoop while standing on a giant red ball, and another can hoop with her feet while doing a handstand.

Angela Presnell, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, was mesmerized by all the Hula-Hoop activity on Instagram, so she bought a big hoop five years ago and began with the classic move: moving the hoop around her waist.

“I was instantly hooked. It was a movement mediation that I needed during that time in my life,” Presnell, 24, said. “Then over time it just followed me everywhere I went. I was going to different cities, and I was bringing my hoops. My hoops were getting smaller. I was getting better.”

Five years later, she can do all sorts of tricks, such as balancing the hoop on her nose and throwing it in the air and catching it between her ankles. Hooping became her form of self-expression, as she developed her own signature style.

Last year, she created @lilhoopgirl on TikTok to document her progress.

Hula-Hoop video goes viral

“I make TikToks just for fun. I just put my phone up and dance to a goofy popular song. I didn’t expect anything to happen,” she said.

Presnell was shocked when her first video on TikTok went viral, raking in more than 2 million views. Her page, @lilhoopgirl, now has more than 283,000 followers and more than 6.2 million likes. On Instagram, she has another 21,500 followers.

Though they have existed since the late 1950s, Hula-Hoops have become a recent social media favorite with influencers such as Presnell, Melina Bear and Alice Nimmo taking this childhood trend to a whole new level.

On TikTok, there are more than 972.8 million views with the hashtag #HulaHoop.

A surge in demand

Companies selling hoops have reported an increase in demand. Hoopologie, based in Boulder, Colorado, had a 25% increase in sales during the pandemic in 2020, according to founder Melinda Rider.

“TikTok introduced many to this art and exercise activity,” Rider said.

There are three types of hooping trending right now.

The version you’re used to doing as a child is called on-body. With this style, the hoop spins around the waist, chest, shoulders, arms, knees and really any body part. Through a series of moves, these hoopers transition the hoop from one body part to another in one seemingly effortless motion.

Presnell specializes in off-body hooping, which has become more popular during the pandemic. It involves tossing, flipping and catching the hoop. Picture dancing but with the added complexity of a hoop being flung and caught while grooving. “It’s a lot of fun, fast moves that, when you’re watching, you’re like, ‘what just happened?'” Presnell explained.

Finally, there is weighted hooping. These hoops are large and can weigh up to 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms). Weighted hoops are used as a fitness routine to strengthen abdominal muscles. These hoops are designed to stay around your waist.

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Benefits of flowing with a Hula-Hoop

Using a Hula-Hoop is a near total-body workout that engages your entire core, said CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas, a breathing, mobility and mind-body coach in pro sports. It’s an aerobic, calorie-burning activity that also improves balance and flexibility.

Santas uses it as part of her interval training and warm-up routines.

“I’m more of a proponent for hula hooping than crunches,” Santas said. Crunches only move your body in one direction — forward and backward — while hooping is a 360-degree movement.

“Hula hooping around your waist is going to be working your obliques big time and working your lower lats in your back, which is great because you’re making them stronger and more mobile at the same time,” Santas said.

If you’re waist hooping as an exercise, Santas recommends alternating between clockwise and counterclockwise rotations around your body. That engages all the muscles around your core. It’s also a neurological workout — challenging your brain to move in your nondominant direction.

Just like writing with your left or right hand, most people have a dominant direction for hooping.

Heavy exercise

Weighted hula hooping was found to decreased waist circumference, according to a small 2015 study published in The Journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. In the six-week trial, the participants lost an average of 1.3 inches (3.3 centimeters) from their waistline and 0.5 inch (1.27 centimeters) from their hips.

“We have seen miraculous weight loss stories, women who have lost 90 pounds and trimmed their waistline from the simple act of hooping 30 minutes a day,” said Hoopologie founder Rider.

Presnell said she’s in the best health of her life — physically and mentally — since she started hooping regularly. Hooping provides her with a mind-body connection.

“Hooping was a way for me to get out of my head,” said Presnell, who calls hooping a movement meditation.

Express yourself

For Presnell, the biggest benefit has been self-expression. As a queer woman, hooping is a way to freely express herself through meaningful movements.

“I didn’t even know I was queer when I picked up my first Hula-Hoop,” she said. She now laughs looking back at her old videos and seeing how much she has grown. She now proudly rocks a mullet — her signature look — and takes pride in hooping as she challenges social norms.

Presnell also loves the growing community. She describes it as welcoming, loving and embracing of diversity.

“It’s a community where you show up as you are. You don’t have to look a certain way. Be a certain somebody. You don’t have to like festivals or EDM. You don’t have to be super-advanced,” Presnell said. “If you are going into it with good intentions and a desire to learn, the community will love you.”

The circle of learning

After falling in love with hooping, Presnell now hopes others will join the movement. Her message is: Hooping isn’t just for hippies or children, it’s for everyone. It is fun and affordable — and can be done anywhere (except a tiny apartment).

When Presnell started learning, she looked up to hoop dancer Deanne Love for tips and inspiration. Love has hundreds of video tutorials on her YouTube page.

Now, Presnell is paving the way for more hoop enthusiasts by launching her own website, full of resources for beginners. It has all the information she says she wished she had when she got started.

She recommends hooping five to 10 minutes a day to build up your muscle memory. The key thing is to be persistent and patient as you start your journey.

“Take that first step. The first step is always the hardest,” Presnell said. “It’s going to be harder than it looks. It going to take more than a few days to get down. It’s going to take months.”

5 tips for beginners

Before you dust off your old Hula-Hoop, read Presnell’s top tips:

1. Dress for success: When you are using a hoop, wear close-fitting athleisure attire. You’ll want to get skin contact with the hoop, so tank tops and shorts are ideal. Remember, hooping is an art form, so wear something that makes you feel confident and comfortable.

2. Choose the right hoop for your style: No, you cannot just grab the one you used as a child — those typically have water or sand for weight, so the hoop is wobbly and off-centered.

There are specific hoops designed for specific purposes. As a beginner, you’ll need to start with a bigger hoop to master the basic moves. The bigger your hoop, the slower it rotates. That makes it easier to learn. The right hoop size for you should hit your belly button when you stand the hoop upright from the floor.

For on-body moves, Presnell recommends starting with a 36- to 40-inch (91.4- to 107-centimeter) hoop that’s weighted and taped. It might sound counterintuitive, but heavier hoops are easier to keep up. If you plan to try off-body moves, get a lighter and smaller hoop. She recommends a 29- to 30-inch (74- to 76.2-centimeter) polypropylene hoop that is about 0.75 inch (1.9 centimeters) in width.

3. Get the body ready before picking up the hoop: Before you start hooping, Santas recommends warming up. Put your hands on your hips and slowly move your hips in a circle, in both directions. “Warm up your hips and your core first, before trying this dynamic movement,” Santas said.

Make sure you stand up straight and tall. Your weight should be centered with your feet shoulder width apart, and your hoop should be parallel to the ground before releasing.

4. Master the waist spin first: As you spin the hoop around your waist, keep your legs as still as you can and pulse your waist forward to backward in a rhythmic fashion. When the hoop starts to drop (and it will), move faster and harder to push it back up. Focus on your four contact points: left hip, right hip, back and front.

5. Give these tricks a whirl: Once you get a good flow, practice a two-handed isolation. This is when the hoop stays still as your hands lightly circle the inside of the hoop. This creates an illusion that the hoop is defying gravity. “It’s like the hoop is just floating in one circle while your hands are doing all the work,” Presnell said.

For an on-body move, try the upward escalator — when the hoop twirls up around your body with one flick of the hand. Start with the hoop in front of you around one foot, then push the hoop up with the other hip, and the hoop will spiral up your body until you can catch it by your head.

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