Why do belly dancers generally not have toned bellies?

I hesitate to use the term “fat”, though that’s what my boyfriend thinks of belly dancers. My ignorant guess is that the regions in which it originated had a somewhat different standard of beauty / optimal body model and it’s a matter of tradition. But what about modern day, American dancers? I personally think the rounded body shape suits the art but the bf’s comment did get me wondering; if you’re using your abdominal muscles in such a strenuous and concentrated way, shouldn’t you be more toned? Does the exercise itself cause the middle to be seemingly englarged due to the muscle beneath? I know it sounds a stupid question but I’ve honestly never seen a belly dancer with a firm, defined belly. Of course you can probably provide links that prove me wrong but I’m talking in generalities.

In my experience, most ladies who do a lot of belly dancing do, in fact, have extremely toned figures, belly and elsewhere. This is distinct from the folks who just go to one belly dancing class for an hour each weekend: They’ll have much the same bodies as the population at large.

This is totally a WAG, but I wonder if when most people think of a ‘toned belly’ they think of seeing the persons abs (6 pack, or at least the beginnings of it). I’m wondering if belly dancing doesn’t work those muscles, or maybe not to the extent that it’s going to cause them stand out (like it would if the person was doing hundreds of situps every day).

Muscles you get at the gym; a six-pack you get in the kitchen.

In other words, nothing but low body fat will give you the appearance of “ripped” abs.

Extremely low body fat, at the same time, does not have what is generally considered a “beneficial” effect on the appearance of the breasts. You will get either flat if they weren’t too big to begin with, or kinda look “deflated” as the breasts are partially fat.

Body fat determines if you can see the abdominal muscles. Exercise and belly dancing may mean you have very strong abdominal muscles, but unless you diet your way to low body fat percentage you’ll never see them. You can’t spot reduce fat, you have to lower your overall body fat percentage, and that’s pretty hard to do.

Sit ups do not give you a six pack, a lack of fat gives you a six pack.

Most people (read: all afaik) have six packs, they’re just buried under layers of fat.

I couldn’t have said it better. You can strenghthen your abdominal muscles all day 'til the cows come home; but if there is extra fat covering those muscles, they will never be visible.

They have toned bellies for sure, but not muscular and/or extremely lean tummies one might find on a fitness competitor or distance runner who is in the business of extremely low body fat.

So, I think it’s all relative. Most belly dancers you can find on-line in pics and videos appear to have fit/firm tummies (not all, but most).

Belly dancing is not nearly as intense as other activities that bring some women’s body fat levels down to 12% (where one would see defined abs/six-pack abs, etc).

ETA: * heck, the very image of a belly dancer that pops into my head is one that is a bit more ‘classic feminine’ and not one that is ripped or hard-bodied.*


Belly dancing is supposed to have a nice round belly. Not a toned, flat belly. And belly dancers are 'fat"? What does your boyfriend think is skinny? Bellydancers are supposed to be voluptous.

I used to attend and do volunteer work for a a church that rented space out to a belly-dancing studio; I think I’ve posted about it before. Anyway, I’d see the belly-dancers are a regular basis, and they ranged all over the chart in terms of attractiveness. The teachers were toned and had gorgeous bodies, as did the most committed dancers. But some had slight bellies, or larger ones, or were outright fat.

Are belly dancers supposed to be fat?

I asked this similar question years ago. Not a very long thread but some interesting responses.

Yep - all to do with the body fat percentage and how the body fat is distributed. When I used to do belly dancing no one in the class, not even the instructor, had a six pack. In fact at no point in my life, even when I had about 14% body fat did I I have a six pack (much to my chagrin).

Also, belly dancing begain in the Middle East and many of those cultures tend to prefer a bit of softness to their women so the ultra lean look isn’t really prized in belly dancing circles.

Finally, belly dancing is reasonable exercise but no where near as intense as any number of other things that you can do.

Good information all; thanks. Objectively I know you can’t spot reduce but looking at those ladies and their muscle control, it’s hard for me to reconcile the two. I’ll take your word(s) for it!

So, would you say it’s not a particularly effective way to tone the belly (as compared to more traditional excercise)?

Because a belly dancer’s body is sexier than a girl with a six pack and no ass.

This is incredibly hard to answer! Other ‘traditional’ exercises… such as what?


The best abs can be found on people not even doing targeted ab work: track athletes, distance runners…

One of the beautiful things about belly dance is how it accommodates all body types. No exceptions. It can be good to have some more in the middle, because it gives you more to work with.

Right. Belly dancing is all about the jiggling. More fat = more to jiggle.

It is not all about the jiggling. :rolleyes: It’s all about beauty, grace, and exquisite muscle control.

Sorry, I meant as opposed to sit-ups or other core excercises (assuming one is in overall good shape / has low body fat).

Again, you seem to be missing the point being made over and over. “Strengthening” and “toning” are two different things. “Toning” has more to do with reducing body fat and exposing a lean, strong abdominal wall. “Strengthening” that abdominal wall can come in many forms, with one being belly dancing. Yes, belly dancing can be an effective way of strengthening one’s abs but as far as toning them and exposing them, their is only one way. And that is to burn more calories than one consumes as well as working on strengthening them.