What workouts do fitness trainers actually do?
As it turns out, they practice much of what they preach, do some interesting sports on the side and many of them maximize their time with HIIT (high-intensity interval training). After surveying more than 40 trainers, gym owners and other fitness professionals, we compiled a list of the workouts that fitness trainers actually do themselves.
“I’m a former competitive weightlifter turned rower, I still lift weights to stay in shape but my primary exercise these days is indoor rowing, which is also a growing sport that I now compete in. With more than 25 years of experience in the fitness business, I’m convinced that indoor rowing can be the most efficient, effective and challenging workout for the whole body,” said Mike Creamer, an NSCA and ACSM personal trainer and owner of the personal training gym Anatomically Correct. He said rowing is beneficial for building endurance and strength and it’s also ideal because regardless of age, anyone can do it. His workouts mainly consist of intervals. “I do this type of rowing workout three days a week. Typically the intervals range between two mins and 10 mins with rest periods of about half that time. The total workout time is usually between 20 and 40 mins and sometimes I do longer duration continuous rows.”
“My favorite routine is the Push/Pull/Legs routine, commonly called PPL. The reason I love this routine is due to the flexibility it allows,” said Nick Brennan, founder and CEO of Unbeaten Fitness. “On Push days, the chest, shoulders and triceps are emphasized. On Pull days, the back and biceps are emphasized. And, on Legs days, the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves are emphasized. The flexibility comes into play because the routine gives you the ability to [shift] around your schedule, rotating through the days. For example, many lifters, myself included, will do two rotations of PPL in a week, with one rest day before repeating the cycle. Others who don't have the time or need to lift as often, will turn this into a Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine. The possibilities really are endless based on a lifter's availability to get into the gym and ability to recover from lifting sessions.”
“For me it’s all about boxing. Boxing is my go to workout as well as my primary mode of training my clients,” said Warren Bloom, a personal trainer with 13 years of experience. “Whatever your goals are, a boxing program can get you to where you need to be—you don't need much equipment and you can do the workouts anywhere.” Warren says some of the biggest aspects of the workout are footwork drills and shadow boxing (which teach balance and coordination), heavy bag drills (which is a great cardio and strength combo) and sparring (which is the “ultimate workout in real time”).
“I swim three or four times per week. When I’m in the pool, I alternate my workouts between just swimming 200s alternating strokes and doing a kick-pull workout,” said Kim Evans, an ACE certified personal trainer and fitness specialist. “In the kicking, I generally use my fins so that I can really get a leg workout, with the kickboard, and I use a pull buoy for my arm workout, focusing on a long reach and strong pull.” She said swimming gives her a break from the type of work she does with clients and allows her to think clearly.
“My other go-to work out is getting out on my stand-up paddleboard,” said Evans. “Depending on the water conditions, I may just do a hard paddle, or I will sprint, where I pull hard for 15 strokes and then easy and then repeat. Sometimes I will do a fitness workout on the board, [like] squats, burpees, pushups, etc.” But the best workout, she said, is combining sprints with strength and balance work. “SUP has given me buff shoulders and arms and helps to keep my core strong.”
“[Jump Rope] is the number one cardio exercise [you can do] with minimal equipment,” said O2 Fitness Group Instructor Chris Mitchell, who uses this form of sprint training because it’s “very effective and offers great results.” Mitchell said it’s good for your heart, overall balance and mind and body coordination. “Plus it's easy to do anywhere—[but] be careful with choice of ground surface you jump on to protect your joints and impact.”
“Right now I am focused on a full-body strength training program that utilizes the ‘big five’ (staples in strength training that emphasize the largest muscle groups for the greatest impact—barbell squat, barbell deadlift, pull-up (assisted), bench press and parallel bar dips,” said Jamie Eason Middleton, an ACE advanced health and fitness specialist, Gold’s Gym fitness institute expert and blogger. “I focus on this style of training twice a week (Monday & Wednesday) with a third day (Friday) that emphasizes shoulders, arms and calves. For cardio, with the weather being so nice, I like to take it outside and either do Tabata training, which involves performing a particular exercise or exercises at a high intensity for 20 seconds (go all out), followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated eight times for a total training time of four minutes, so definitely not time consuming and burns lots of calories.”
“Pilates provides me with stability, strength, core work [and] flexibility,” said Samira Shuruk, a dance and Pilates instructor. “The Pilates that I do, and teach, is so very much like physical therapy, I find it’s the perfect balance for being an active dancer well into my 40s. I add therabands into my mat work, to get more strength and toning gains.”
“One of my favorite lower body workouts is a High Intensity Interval Circuit (HIIT) that includes a combination of all-out effort and active rest,” said Kristina Portillo, a certified personal trainer and founder of BusinessTravelLife.com. “The reason that I love the HIIT circuits is that they can be done just about anywhere, including a hotel room or at home. My circuit includes jump roping, different styles of squats and lunges, bench steps ups and bench jumps, and other plyos such as burpees and squat jumps.”
“Since I own a training facility my workouts are really dependent on when I can get a free moment,” said Alison Roessler, the founder and CEO of Truve, a private training facility. “However, [my] workouts tend to be anything from a Brazilian dance or cardio Hip Hop class to HIIT. The dance classes, she said, are great for getting rid of stress and fitting in some cardio, while HIIT is a super-efficient way to build muscle and burn fat.
“I'm a professional adventure athlete [and] this time of year I do a six week cycle focused on muscular endurance,” said Patrick Sweeney, who holds a world record in mountain biking, finished second in the Olympic trials for rowing and hosts adventure shows. “I choose 10 exercises and do 30-40% of my 1 rep maximum in weight. Then I do 50-60 reps of each exercise. The only rest I get in between each exercise is switching from one exercise to the next. This is an awesome off-season workout for bikers, skiers, mountaineers and climbers and really keeps power going at the end of long races and helps prevent injuries.”
A sample of his workout:
1. Leg press or Squats
2. Leg Curls
3. Incline sit ups
4. Back Extension
5. Hip Adduction Machine
6. Front pull-downs
7. Upright rows
8. Kettlebell Bench Press
9. Bosu ball curls
10. Side box jumps