When last month I decided to join FitReserve, a multi-studio fitness membership that had me jumping on trampolines and swinging on monkey bars, I had one goal, and one goal alone. No, not getting rock hard abs. And nope, not even making it through an hour long HIIT class without collapsing. (Though both of those would be big perks). But rather, this and this alone is what I set my eyes on: Take a Hard Candy Fitness Classes at Broadway Dance Center. Craig Smith, Hard Candy’s Creative Director and the man behind Madonna’s matchless physique, was nice enough to teach me some of his fitness secrets. And when it comes to getting that killer body, the first indispensable piece of Madonna’s success? “No matter what goes on with Madonna’s schedule no matter her travel schedule, she never misses a workout. She made a lifestyle choice to be in optimal health and that means show up and work out (and that’s why she partnered up with Hard Candy Fitness to give that kind of motivation to other people).”
1. Avoid the #1 workout pitfall.
Craig Smith sees his clients overtrain all too often. “It’s a huge problem,” he shares. “People overwork themselves or go too hard and then don’t take the proper time for rest and recovery.” He explains that while it’s fine to workout seven days a week, it’s important to make sure that some of those days are more low-impact. “You should look to have two days a week reserved for recovery time. I recommend my clients do things like swimming, yoga, mediation and even horseback riding or light outdoor bike riding on those days. Just make sure you do something different on your non-training days.”
2. Splurge for one session with a personal trainer.
Even if you’re not looking to make it a regular thing, signing up for one session (and many gym memberships include a free training with sign up!) is well worth it. Craig explains that whether you’re a newbie or seasoned pro, without professional guidance many folks make form and technique mistakes that don’t help maximize calorie burn or even could put them at risk for injury. Sure, video tutorials and fitness apps are great, but they won’t replace the real deal: “Get a professional to go through the ropes with you once which will give you the proper workout mechanics. You can always do a consultation without having to commit to anything!”
3. Vary your workout—and not just the physical aspect.
Sounds obvious, but it bears repeating, as nothing beats the workout blahs like a new routine for a jolt of energy: “For Madonna, we don’t do any particular thing twice!” exclaims Craig. “Madonna has had previous serious injuries so we also want to do therapeutic things while also supporting her work on tour. We like body weight training, Ashtanga yoga, and using resistance tubes and pilates for stability and mobility work.” But don’t underestimate the power of mixing up other workout time standards to reinvigorate you. “Music is a key factor in the type of energy that you get from clients, Madonna’s no exception. With yoga we use more mind meditation and relaxation music, and militant energetic high BPM music for interval bursts,” shares Craig. “We switch up Madonna’s smoothies too so she doesn’t get bored.” And you’ll wanna do the same with your pre- and post-workout snacks. Superfood smoothie calling, anyone?
4. Follow these moves for swoon-worthy arms.
Light weights can pack heavy power when it comes to sculpting strong, beautiful arms. “Madonna uses weights from about 2 pounds to as heavy as 5-7 pounds,” offers Craig who has Madonna keeping things exciting with interval burst training with lighter weights, dumbbells, compound weight exercises and more. “I’ll have her do basic bicep curl for 10-15 reps and then immediately go into something bodyweight focused, using your own body as resistance. You can then add cardio bursts to burn more calories and increase heart rate. This way she’ll be burning out muscle fibers in her arms and getting results more quickly.” Looking to take it up a notch, follow Madonna’s lead and “add dance pilates, yoga, barre method, and regular workouts with just wrist weights on and no weight.” (Check out the examples from Craig below for some quick #fitspo)
5. And for strong shoulders, do this:
“For lean, muscular shoulders, use your own bodyweight as resistance. We do bicep curls into shoulder presses, lateral raises and dumbbell swings into chess flys which hits the delts. Then tryplanks and planks walkouts, along with narrow, wide and diamond push ups for shoulders.”
6. Hectic week and low on workout time? It’s okay.
“Don’t be afraid to be flexible,” stresses Craig. “Turn a 60 minute workout into 30 minutes…Be open to working out at different times of day and create a plan that works for you and your lifestyle. Be sure to set realistic goals so you have the discipline and fortitude to follow through.” And c’mon, even if you could only squeeze 20 minutes in, when was the last time you ever regretted going to the gym? Outdoors junkies, rejoice! You can still make it work in the heat, too. Above all, Craig reminds us of the true secret that underlies all of Madge’s physical prowess: “ [You have to] focus on doing something for yourself, and not for someone else. Do it for you and show up for you.”
Arm & shoulder toning exercises that are two ‘go-to’ favs of Madonna:
Lunge to Curl to Triceps Press
Starting in a stationary rear lunge position, drive back knee forward and in line with hip bringing arms into a biceps curl. From here, drive into supporting heel while stabilizing on supporting leg and engage core, extend leading leg pushing heel to front of space and bring arms into a triceps pushdown. Return to starting position and repeat for required repetitions.
Tip: Complete this exercise for 30 seconds on both right and left sides. Use a set of 2.5lb to 5lb dumbbells.
Wide Plié Squat to High Y Press
From a wide plié squat position, track knees over toes keeping feet in a slight dancers turn out position, criss-cross arms down and in front of thighs contracting muscle fibers in arms. From here, engage core and drive into balls of feet while lifting heels and press dumbbells into a ‘high y’ contracting throughout the shoulders. Return to starting position and repeat for required repetitions.
Tip: Complete this exercise for 2-3 sets and for 15 – 20 reps.
Inspired yet? Read on…