Star Trainers' Top Workout Tips

Get fit fast with results-driven advice.

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Buy into a better body

“I tell my clients that for the first time in their life, whether they are a high-level pro-athlete or a homemaker, to stop renting their health and take ownership,” says Mackie Shilstone, who’s trained more than 3,000 professional athletes in his career. Acting with passion allows you to reinvent yourself on a daily basis and reclaim one of your most important gifts.

Joshua Hodge Photography

Save Time

Can’t get through long workouts but have specific spots to troubleshoot? Do a mix of high-energy activities. “I train a model who has two trouble zones—her face and her belly—but she hates the gym and won’t spend more than 30 minutes exercising,” says New York City-based trainer Amanda Russell. “So for her I do a jump rope/boxer-style circuit.” To try a sample routine, click here.

Geoffrey M. R. Hammond

Be patient

When setting goals, don’t set yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations. “One important piece of advice I give my clients is to not feel overwhelmed when they are starting a training plan,” says Joy Di Palma, Los Angeles-based personal trainer and founder of Core Conditioning CrossFit. “It took them some time to put on the weight or fall out of shape and it will take some time to lose the weight and get back in shape.” If you want to slim down for a specific event, allow enough time in advance of the event to get ready for it. “On average, you can safely lose one to two pounds per week with the right foods and exercise,” says Di Palma. “There are no quick fixes—it takes time and discipline.”


Don’t settle for half the results

Get the most out of every repetition by focusing on the eccentric movements, or the easy phase of a repetition, says, Steve Ettinger, a New York City-based Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. For example, as you lower dumbbells during shoulder raises or return the bar during a pulling exercise, concentrate on making these movements slow and controlled.


Make an appointment

“A recommendation I give to all of my female clients is that they must include three total body resistance training sessions per week on non-consecutive days in their weekly schedule,” says Joe Dowdell, who’s worked with Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, Eva Mendez and Claire Danes. “I ask that they schedule these sessions in their calendar, just like they would any other appointment because accountability is super important in achieving your goals.”


Keep Your Heart Rate High

To rev your metabolism, practice cardio-acceleration: short, intense bursts of cardio in between strength-training exercises, suggests Jackie Warner, author of 10 Pounds in 10 Days. “A great way to do this is to complete 100 to 200 jump-rope rotations between resistance-training moves.”


Photo courtesy of Kim Reinick /

Kim Reinick /

Prepare your body

Before you begin pounding the pavement or hoisting heavy weights, warm up with three to five minutes of brisk self-massage, suggests says Jill Miller, creator of Yoga Tune Up, a fitness therapy program popular with stars like Kyra Sedgwick. “Use therapy balls or a foam roller to create friction, heat and circulation in parts of your body that are being targeted for your next workout. The self-massage will help to lengthen stagnant tissues and load the muscles with oxygen-rich blood. This preps them to be aware and responsive.” For a sample foam roller routine, click here.

Scott Little


“When you dehydrate, your blood thickens, moves more slowly and your muscles cannot function fully,” says Miller. “Do yourself a favor and drink at least 8 ounces of water upon waking,”

Eric Gevaert

Start slow

Committing to a strict diet and strenuous exercise from the get-go can put you on the fast track to burnout. “When I hear people say that they, ‘hate exercise’, or ‘can't stay on a workout program’, I know that they have approached it in an unrealistic way,” says Erin O’Brien creator of Strong Body, Fit Body and Kristi Yamaguchi: Power Workout DVDs. “I’ve found that when people ease into exercise, they last much longer on a workout program.” Think about it as a lifestyle change. “For the first two weeks concentrate on moderate exercise,” says O’Brien. “This means, walking, swimming, biking, taking classes and light strength training. After a few weeks, start ‘cleaning up’ your eating, and focusing more on ‘raising your ceiling,’ meaning working harder and to fatigue.”


Push yourself

Challenge your muscles with isometrics plus a jolt, says Andrea Metcalf, creator of Keeping Fit: Strength, Cardio, Pilates DVDs and author of Naked Fitness. “At the end of each set of muscle contractions hold the last one against resistance for 30 seconds to a minute.” For instance, when doing squats, pause at the bottom of the movement of the last repetition for up to one minute, then perform five to 10 more reps. Or, hold your last push-up for 30 seconds in the bottom position, and then push up to straight arms and try three to five more reps. If you’re doing sit-ups, hold the last crunch for 30 seconds to a minute, then do five to 10 more crunches. Metcalf promises, “Squeeze out those reps after the holding pattern and you'll feel the jolt!”

American Council on Exercise


“I am a big fan of High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT,” says MB Regan, a New York City-based SoulCycle instructor. “It takes you out of your comfort zone and that’s when change happens.” This training method alternates low- to moderate-intensity intervals with heart-thumping, lung-screaming high-intensity intervals. The best part? You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to get results—just give yourself 20 minutes. “HIIT is considered to be much more effective than normal cardio because the intensity is higher and you are able to increase both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance while burning more fat,” says Regan.


HIIT can be applied to your cardio or strength training. Here are three routines to try. Perform as many repetitions as you can in 30 seconds. And remember, says Regan, form is key.


Upper body HIIT

1. Push-ups for 30 seconds

2. Bent over rows using 10 or 12-pound dumbbells for 30 seconds

3. Tricep kickbacks using (10-12lbs) for 30 seconds

4. Bicep curls (10-12lbs) for 30 seconds

5. Rest/Recover. Repeat two more times


Lower body HIIT

1. Squats for 30 seconds

2. Standing lunges, right foot forward for 30 seconds

3. Standing lunges, left foot forward for 30 seconds

4. Plies with shoulder press (5-10lbs) for 30 seconds

5. Rest/Recover. Repeat two more times



1.Walk briskly or jog lightly for 30 seconds.

2. Sprint for 30 Seconds Sprint.
3. Repeat nine times, alternating walking/jogging and sprinting for a total of 10 minutes.  

Personalize your routine

Exercise should be a way of life, not a burden, says O’Brien. “If you are finding that you dread going to the gym, find a different approach: Join a softball team, play volleyball, find a partner who likes to hike or commit to a walk around your block every night after dinner rather than sitting down and staring at the TV. There are so many paths to good health and fitness, find the one that best suits you!”

Sarah Musselman

Build functional strength

“When it comes to exercise, I'm a big believer in the mantra, integrate, don't isolate,” says fitness icon Kathy Smith, creator of Ageless with Kathy Smith: Staying Strong DVD. “Pick moves that incorporate multiple muscle groups with full-range, compound movements that engage the upper body, lower body and core to burn more calories than isolated moves alone.” Get started with one of Smith’s favorites:


Step Back Lunge with Cross Chop

Move: Reach your arms diagonally forward to the left as you step back with your right leg and dip into a lunge. Pull your arms across your body to the right hip as you slide your right leg back to standing. Repeat 12 times on each side.



  • Step back far enough into the lunge so that the front knee is directly over the front ankle.
  • When your arms reach diagonally overhead, hold your core muscle tight to keep the lower back from arching.
  • The move can be done with a towel or weights.
  • For a challenge, left your knee toward your chest, balancing on one foot.

Practice Kegels

To improve any workout, engage your pelvic floor muscles, says Stefan Aschan, founder of STRENGTH 123 and author of Alpine Weight Loss Secrets. “Keeping your pelvic floor activated helps you maintain greater stability and balance.” This allows you to increase the resistance in your exercise program, which builds lean muscle tissue. “More lean muscle means you’ll burn more fat during your workout as your intensity levels can be increased without injuries,” says Aschan. Engaging your pelvic floor also stabilizes your lower back—warding off pain—and slims your midsection. No crunches required!

Stefan Aschan

Mix it up

To remind her clients how they can keep their workout fresh when she's not around, Reebok Global Instructor Sara Haley, who whipped supermodel Brooklyn Decker into shape, teaches them this mnemonic device: “Say thank you please.” Here’s what it means and how to use it.


Say: Single limb (for a balance challenge)

Thank you: Twist (for a rotational challenge)

Please: Plyometric (for a jump/hop/fly challenge)



S: Single Jack: Alternate traditional jumping jacks with hop to one leg (like hop scotch). Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.

T: Jack Turn: Alternate traditional jumping jacks with a jack that turns your body 90 degrees to the right and then the left. Repeat 30 to 45 seconds.

P: Jack and Jump: Alternate traditional jumping jacks with a tuck jump (knees to chest). Repeat 20 to 30 seconds.



S: Single Leg Lunge: Elevate back leg on chair or table. Lunge down with back leg long, keeping hands on hips. At bottom of lunge pop up front heel. Hold for two counts. Lower heel and lengthen front leg. Repeat 12 times on each side.

T: Lunge Twist & Reach: Lunge with arms reaching out long. Twist to the right. Reach left arm down, but do not touch the floor. Repeat the reach four times. Twist back to center and then repeat to left. Repeat 12 times (six on each leg). 

P: Lunge Hop & Push: Lunge down, pushing off two feet into the air. Pull back leg in to chest and extend front leg long. Pointing toe towards the floor, land back down in bottom or lunge. Repeat 12 times on each side.



S: Single Arm Plank: Balance in plank with right arm behind back and legs out wide. Work to hold up to one minute. Repeat with left arm behind back.

T: Plank & Twist: Balance in plank with feet shoulder width apart. Twist to the right initiating rotation from the hips. Drop right hip to floor. Return to center. Repeat on the other side. Repeat sequence 10 times.

P: Plank Jump: Balance in plank with feet together. Squeeze abs and jump knees into chest. Jump back out to plank. Jump legs apart. Jump legs back in. (If needed walk feet in on each one.)  Repeat sequence 10 times.

Eric Hood

Get into position

Instead of speeding through your workout routine, work on perfecting your form, suggests Elisabeth Halfpapp, co-creator of the bestselling Exhale: Core Fusion DVD series. “Exercise is not a sport. It’s a therapy and these movements should be done in a way that protects your joints while challenging your muscles.”


Squats and step-ups are notoriously easy to mess up. If you’ve been doing these moves religiously but haven’t noticed a tighter bottom, you may be shifting your body weight in the wrong direction, which can lead to hip joint and knee pain, says Aschan. Fix your form by placing a pen (or a pencil or even a single chopstick) under the balls of your feet during these moves. This automatically shifts your body weight backward, targeting your bum. “The slight elevation in the ball of the foot forces you to push yourself up using the muscles of your gluteus instead of your quadriceps,” says Aschan. “You should feel the burn in your bottom—and see tightening and toning results. Use the pen for a few weeks to get in the habit of proper body alignment.”


Next: How Stars Get in Shape


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Arthur Kwiatkowski

Incorporate the 3Fs

For optimal toning, complete at least 2 “Functions” (different exercises) back to back with perfect “Form” to complete “Fatigue” (muscle failure), suggests Warner.


Next: Celebrity Trainers' Favorite Fitness Tips and Toys


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Arthur Kwiatkowski

First Published April 21, 2011

Share Your Thoughts!


alicia castillo05.17.2011

Thats why I became a beachbody coach i first incorperated my diet change then into cardio i love HIIT intervals too. now working towards my goal to loose 30 lbs so excited!

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