Different Kinds of Hula Hoops and Their Uses

Welcome to the exciting world of hula hooping! There was a time when I was only familiar with the kid hoops that you can get from the toy section at a store. My world opened up when I saw some friends dancing with hula hoops around our bonfire and my mind was blown the first time I saw a person use a fire hoop at the Rainbow Gathering. This was also around the time when I was introduced to the weighted fitness hula hoop. Back then, I wanted them all, but they all seemed like skills beyond my reach. Let’s talk about different kinds of hula hoops and their uses.

Different Kinds of Hula Hoops and their uses:

There are different kinds of hula hoops and different hoops serve different purposes. Like anything else, each hoop style has strengths and weaknesses. Let’s start with the most common hoop that most people are familiar with.

1- Small hoops / toy hoops

Different Kinds of Hula Hoops and Their Uses

These hoops are not good for waist hooping. They are too lightweight and little and do not pick up enough momentum. While kids can hula hoop (with a proper fitting hoop), these hoops aren’t ideal for them either. I’ve said it and I wanted to save you the disappointment that I experienced when I rushed to the toy section of Target to get my hands on a hoop. I had ordered a weighted hula hoop on Amazon, but was too excited to wait and wanted to start immediately.

I picked out a shiny pink hoop and rushed home to give it a spin. When I tried to spin it around my waist, but the hoop came crashing down almost faster than I could spin it. I tried again and again, but it was all in vain. I don’t want to say that it was demoralizing, but it was super discouraging and took the steam out of my enthusiasm. When my bf asked me to choose a quieter workout, I decided to call it a night. My constant hoop drops were making a lot of noise so I can’t blame him. At that point hooping felt like such a struggle that I wondered if it would be possible for me to learn how to hoop.

Toy hoops can still come in handy

While these little hoops are not ideal for waist hooping, they can still come in handy. I like to use my toy hoops to learn hand moves, foot hooping, and poi moves. A bigger hoop that you would use for waist hooping can get heavy in a hurry so it’s helpful to have smaller, lightweight hoops that you can use as learning tools.

If you want to pick out a good hula hoop for kids, the video below is a complete guide. Minka will tell you about the ideal size, thickness, and material.

What hula hoop is best for kids? | Complete Guide: size, thickness, material

Good for: Learning hand tricks, arm hooping, foot hooping, neck hooping, twins / poi moves.

Bad for: Chest, shoulder, waist, hips, and leg hooping. The hoop will fall down.

2- Weighted Hula Hoops

Different kinds of hula hoops and their uses

I was eager to get a weighted hula hoop because it claimed to be a killer ab workout and who doesn’t want a sexy hourglass shape? It almost sounded too good to be true! Was it really possible to get a snatched core without doing planks, crunches, and sit-ups? Hula hooping seemed a lot like dancing and that really appealed to me. If I could figure out how to keep the hoop up it might be the kind of workout that I could fall in love with.

Weighted hoop tips:

  • Avoid hoops that weigh over 2 lbs. They can cause serious bruising, be painful to use, and open you up to a higher risk of injury.
  • Try to get a hoop that has at least a 40 inch diameter. A larger hoop is better for beginners because it gives you enough time to learn and get acquainted with the motion.
  • Avoid “massage hoops” that have lumps, bumps, or knobs on them. This can cause bruising.

What is a weighted hula hoop?

A weighted hula hoop is a heavier version of the typical hoop usually weighing in at 1-2 lbs. It is constructed with heavier plastic or a metal core that is surrounded by exterior padding or foam. This hoop typically breaks down into individual pieces which allows you to customize the size according to your body type. Affordability makes these hoops an appealing option with prices that range from $20-$60.

Are weighted hula hoops effective?

When used correctly a weighted hoop can be a low impact form of exercise that burns calories and provides an alternative to high impact exercises like running and jump-rope. I acquired my weighted hula hoop when I was nursing a foot injury that I got from running. I was trying to decide between chair yoga, riding a stationary bike, and hula hooping. I’m so glad that I chose hula hooping.

Proceed with caution

When it comes to hula hooping, bigger and heavier is NOT better.

Let’s talk about the caveats. It’s always good to exercise caution with any form of exercise. Make sure that you start every session with a good warm-up to get your blood flowing and to prevent injuries.

Some light bruising may occur when you start using any kind of hula hoop, but if a hoop is too heavy it may cause severe bruising or even internal injuries to the organs. Weighted hoops can reach up to 5 lbs, but you should never go above 2 lbs.

People with a history of low back pain should be extra mindful that using a weighted hula hoop requires a repetitive motion that can exacerbate an old injury. Individuals with pre-existing conditions such as herniated disks or a history of spinal fractures should get medical clearance from their doctor before using a weighted hoop.

Listen to your body. If you notice bruising, chest pain, or any kind of prolonged pain in your body you should stop immediately. The best kind of workout is the one that you can stick with and if it is causing your pain then you shouldn’t push through the pain and risk getting injured.

My personal opinion: spin or skip?

I had my stint with a weighted hula hoop when I first started, but I quickly found myself searching for a better hoop. It did cause bruising in the first two weeks. Thankfully, the bruising went away, but it was a little alarming to see. Once I got started, I enjoyed hooping and was eager to continue. This hoop is heavy and moves slowly and my goal was to start learning how to dance with my hoop and do off body and on body tricks. It is not a practical hoop for these kinds of goals.

Remember: your workout equipment is a tool that should not torture or damage you. Speaking of torture, I have even seen some hoops reach 6 lbs that have knobs. If I were you, I would avoid those types of hoops. My sister got one of the heavy knobbed hoops and it badly bruised her. In fact, if I could do it over again I would skip this type of hoop and search for a good dance hoop. I actually felt kind of bummed that I couldn’t start learning some of the fun-looking moves that required a less-bulky hoop. The money could have been better spent on a hoop that was in alignment with my goals.

In the video below, these ladies tried the 30 day weighted hula hoop challenge. It is definitely worth watching if you are curious about what it’s like to use a weighted hoop.

Trying the 30 Day WEIGHTED Hula Hoop Challenge! * we bruised.. quickly*

I like how she said to “use at your own risk” and if you notice pain and a lot of bruising to stop.

Can be used for: General fitness and hula hoop workouts. Walking with your hoop.

Not good for: Hoop tricks, off body, or hooping any place that is not the waist and hips. Weighted hoops are NOT suitable for children.

3- Dance / Fitness Hoops

Different Kinds of Hula Hoops and Their Uses

After my weighted hoop experience, I was eager to continue my hooping journey with a dance / fitness hoop. My favorite hoop of all time is this dance hoop built by The Spinsterz. Now I have a massive stack of hula hoops from all makers and have started to build my own hula hoops, but I still reach for my Spinsterz hoop before the others. I liked it so much that I got a 2nd hoop in the same size and color. Did you know that you can increase the intensity of your workouts, by spinning 2 or more hoops at the same time?

Huge Collection of Hula Hoop Tutorials & Workouts! ??? GOLDMINE! | Bee Varga the Hula Hooper

Dance Hoop Tips:

  • Get a large hoop with grip tape
  • While it is possible to get a hoop that is too small to learn with, no hoop will ever be too large
  • You canNOT go wrong with a bigger hoop
  • Every body is different and I will write a hoop buying guide soon, but I recommend aiming for a 40 inch diameter hoop to start with. I wouldn’t go smaller than 38 inches

What are dance hoops made of?

When you are learning the basics of hooping, it is super helpful to have a hoop with a large diameter and slightly heavier material. Adult beginner dance hoops are typically made from 3/4″ diameter 100 PSI PE tubing. The tubing is heavy enough for beginners, but hoopers of all levels can enjoy this kind of hoop. You don’t need anything heavier than 1-2 lbs. These hoops also have grip tape which is essential to keep the hoop from slipping.

What size is my hoop?

I am 4’11” and on some days I can even reach 5′ if I stretch enough. My 1st hoop was a 38″ PE hoop with pink grip tape. It has been a great size for waist / hip / chest and leg hooping. I also learned how to shoulder hoop and do duckouts with this size, but if I had to do it over again I would try to get a larger hoop for learning shoulder hooping.

When I signed up for Bee Varga’s Showgirl 2 course I ordered twin 36″ hoops because smaller hoops are easier to work with when learning poi moves. I also wanted to challenge myself with a smaller size. The smaller your hoop is the quicker you have to move to keep it up. This is a good way to challenge yourself. I still constantly reach for my 38″ hoops it is my favorite size for learning and flow.

HDPE Hoops

Different Kinds of Hula Hoops and Their Uses

You can also get a dance hoop made from HDPE, but HDPE hoops are more lightweight and move faster. Last winter, I ordered a 33″ 3/4 HDPE hoop and noticed that it is significantly lighter than my other hoops, but not as light as my polypro hoop. This HDPE hoop has become my favorite hoop to use when I am practicing any kind of toss, isolations, single leg hooping, and foot hooping. I can kind of waist hoop with it, but it’s not ideal because the hoop spins so fast. Additionally, I haven’t managed to sustain angle hooping for long periods of time either. I see it as a “goal hoop” I would like to work up (or down) to this size because it would be easier to travel with than my larger dance hoops.

If I could only choose 1 hoop and my goal was total body fitness, I would choose my 36 inch PE dance hoop.

Which hula hoop to choose for fitness? | Bee Varga

Bee Varga the Hula hooper is my go-to person for all things hula hoop and fitness related. She has been a professional hula hooper since 2008 and has traveled internationally to perform on stage and teach. When she became a mum she started teaching online courses. These are the courses that helped me to kick-off and continue my hula hoop journey and I highly recommend them! Taking Bee’s hula hoop courses has transformed my entire life and helped me discover passion, confidence, and abilities that I didn’t even know that I had. She will push you (kindly), challenge you, and help you to become the best version of yourself!


4- Polypro Hoops

Polypro hoops are super trendy and popular especially in the flow and festival world. Many people refer to polypro hoops as “advanced hoops.” They are lightweight, springy, and can move lightening fast with practice. This is nice if you know what you’re doing, but learning some moves can be difficult with such a light hoop.

Polypro is great for learning off body tricks and juggling. When I first started learning how to toss I was using my PE hoop and it was heavy. I often found myself ducking and covering like the sky was falling and chasing my hoop everywhere ??On a side note, this provides a really good upper body workout and you will feel the burn in your arms.

I noticed a very obvious difference when I attempted the same tosses with my polypro hoop. The hoop was very responsive to my movement, light, quick, and bouncy. Because the hoop was much lighter I was less afraid of getting hit with it.

What is a polypro hoop?

Polypro is a nickname for polypropylene (PP) which is the type of plastic that this hoop created with.

  • These hoops are usually lighter than fitness hoops and HDPE hoops
  • Polypro comes in a wide plethora of colors. You can probably find a polypro in any color that you can think of!
  • Great for off-body tricks, tosses, and juggling
  • You can do on-body moves with polypro too, but I recommend getting a large hoop because it moves quickly

WARNING: Hoop shopping may become an addiction!

Different Kinds of Hula Hoops and Their Uses

You will soon see that hula hoop acquisition can become an addiction. Hula hoops of every variety are beautiful and shiny and it’s exciting to buy them. Hoopers on Instagram, Tik-tok and other social media platforms rave about polypro hoops and it is the kind of hoop that I see many hoopers using. Online hula hoop vendors also advertise polypro hoops as being “advanced hoops” and the be-all-to-end-all. I didn’t want to be left out and the colorful hoops just looked so pretty that I had to order one. In fact, I ordered 2! I ordered a 30 inch 3/4 and a 28″ 5/8 hoop around the same time.

polypro hoops
The yellow hoop is my 30″ 3/4 and the green hoop is a 28″ 5/8. There is a big difference in thickness.

I was honestly disappointed with my polypro hoops…

I have to be honest with you and say that when my polypro hoops arrived in the mail I was super disappointed. It felt like I had been taken as my heart flooded with regret and I wondered, “what the heck did I just spend money on?” Unwrapping a taped dance hoop versus a polypro hoop is a completely different experience. I had to reread the marketing posts about how great and advanced polypro hoops are to console myself. When I took them for a spin I still felt bummed because I couldn’t spin the hoops around the waist and they quickly fell down.

When I talked with my teacher Bee about my buyer’s remorse she said that the hoops will probably come in handy at some point. Her favorite hoops are wooden hoops. Her 2nd favorite material is HDPE, and polypro is her least favorite. She said that when she was a performer on stage the company wanted her to switch from HDPE to polypro and she lost some of her muscle tone and fitness from the switch because it wasn’t as challenging. She had fun with the swiftness and speed, but her top priority is fitness so she switched back to HDPE.

I felt a lot better after talking with Bee and I haven’t purchased a polypro hoop ever since. They are my loneliest hoops because I reach for them the least. I think that if I had gotten a larger sized polypro like a 36″ of 38″ I might have had a better experience, but I made the mistake of ordering hoops that were so small. If you do decide to go with polypro, I recommend adding grip tape. These hoops usually are bare and they can be super slippery.

Different Kinds of Hula Hoops and Their Uses

The video below showcases several people using polypro hoops. I think it beautifully demonstrates the most popular polypro moves.

The affirmations are a beautiful touch! As you can see they are mostly doing off-body tricks with an occasional dip within the hoop.

My view on polypro hoops may not be the popular opinion, but I stand by it!

5- “Smart” hoops

Different Kinds of Hula Hoops and Their Uses
I couldn’t even find stock images of the “smart hoop” so I had to borrow this image from Amazon. “Won’t fall on you?” That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

My 1st question is: “Can you even call this a hoop?!?!”

*Before we got any further, this may need a trigger warning. I apologize in advance if you currently use a smart hoop and disagree with my opinion. I mean no disrespect and I don’t want to offend anyone.

This seems more like a belt than a hoop to me and all of the listings on Amazon seem super sketchy and look photo-shopped. These smart hoops made a splash during the 2020 pandemic as everyone was desperate for a good home-workout. Smart hoop videos have flooded youtube and social media.

What the heck is a “smart” hoop?

“Smart” hoops are being manufactured by several Chinese companies and millions of dollars are being spent on marketing this product. They are not hula hoops at all, but belts that are meant to imitate the hula hoop motion without having to spin an actual hoop. This product is “hoop drop proof” because it stays connected to you at all times. There is a weight attached to a string that swivels along the belt while you move. The belt itself is comprised of plastic snappable pieces.

As you can see, I’ve been wrapping the word “smart” in quotations because I think that the use of the word smart is a marketing ploy that sells. It is clever marketing because we all want to be smart about our workouts, but I don’t think this is actually a smart product.

I think that the “smart” hoop movement is a fad fueled by clever marketing

If it feels absolutely impossible for you to keep a traditional hoop up, this option may seem appealing. The truth is that SIZE REALLY MATTERS when it comes to selecting a hoop. If your hoop is too small or too light then it is guaranteed to drop. The key is to get a hula hoop that is appropriate for your body.

Here are some things to keep in mind when considering a “smart hoop:

  • You can only do one exercise with this. Traditional hoops allow you to learn a wide variety of skills and there is so much space for creativity
  • Requires a very repetitive motion that could cause an overuse injury
  • Targets only one area
  • Looks like a weird contraption / device
  • This would do nothing for my body image and confidence
  • There is no real community support for this product that I can find. So far I have only found backing from Chinese corporations
  • Seems like it would get boring FAST

Are “Smart” weighted hula hoops SAFE for your back and exercise? | Hoopsmiles

Are you still here?

If you are still reading and have made it this far then I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. This was a long article that I really enjoyed writing. There are more hoops that I would like to discuss such as: Wooden Hoops, beaded hoops, Fire Hoops, and LED Hoops, but I will save that for another article.

What are your thoughts on these different kinds of hoops? Have you tried any of these hoops? If not, do you feel inspired to try one of these hoops? Comment below to share your thoughts! I would love to start a conversation.

In my next article, I will be writing about the “History of Hula Hoops.” Stay tuned!

See you soon!