How to work out like a trainer: 12 secrets, 3 sample workouts
What does it take to score the strong and sculpted body of a trainer? Three top Chicago Athletic Club pros share the secrets they sweat by, plus one of their weekly workouts. Steal their tips and/or moves to take your routine — and results — to the next level.
Warm up with your breath: "I take six to eight long, deep breaths during warmup, making sure I'm breathing down into my stomach instead of with my chest," says Paige Quinlan, an expert personal trainer at Bucktown Athletic Club. "Breathing is so important throughout your workout and starting with breath work can help you zone in and keep you in the right mindset."
Have cardio for breakfast: "The sooner I get done with cardio, the better I feel about the day; it clears my head, and I feel sharper and more focused," says Donna Walker, a specialist trainer at Lakeview Athletic Club.
Stick to basics: "People get caught up in details or new trends, but fundamental moves like squats, pullups and pushups always work," says Quinlan. "Simplify your workout and it is easier to make it a habit."
Make a plan: "If I write down my workout beforehand, I can make sure to balance moves that hit the 'beach muscles' like chest, biceps, and abs with those that hit the posture muscles, too — glutes, hamstrings, upper back, and triceps," says Matthew Hongosh, a specialist trainer at West Loop and Wicker Park Athletic Clubs.
HIIT it twice a week: "High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great workout, but it's taxing on your body," says Walker. "Your muscles need time to recover, so I do two HIIT workouts a week and keep them short — no longer than 30 minutes."
Be a class act: "My favorite classes are boxing and Thrive," says Hongosh of CAC's offerings. "I feel a part of something, and if I miss a day for any reason, there's usually someone who asks, 'What happened? Where were you?' It's important for me to have that accountability."
Maximize your time in the weight room: "When strength training, I pick one lower body exercise and pair that with an upper body exercise," says Quinlan. "It makes workouts more efficient because you work the lower body while resting the upper body."
Schedule Sunday sessions: "Having a Sunday workout planned ahead of time keeps me honest on Saturday night," says Hongosh.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable: "When I'm doing a HIIT workout or heavy lifting, I usually get to the point where I kind of hate it — but in a good way," Walker says. "If you want to stay comfortable, take a nap. If you want change, you have to push outside your comfort zone."
Measure your results: Want to slim down? Take your measurements — and photos — every two weeks. "Pictures tend to be the best motivator; compare them after a month and you'll be surprised," says Hongosh.
Get creative with cardio: "I find traditional cardio mindless and monotonous," says Hongosh. "I prefer to enjoy the outdoors and am competitive, so I'll play a pickup game of basketball or Frisbee with friends."
Speak up: "Tell people about your goal so they will ask you about it," says Walker, who is currently training for a fitness competition. "If people know you're working toward something, they want to see you succeed and will help and encourage you."
Rest: Trainers train hard, but they also take rest and recovery days seriously. All three trainers build two rest days into their weekly routines.
• Dynamic warmup (10 to 15 minutes): bodyweight squats, lunges, cat cow, plank, arm swings, neck circles, jumping jacks, butt kicks, jump rope.
• Kettlebell swings: 10 two-handed swings, 10 single-arm swings on each side, as many rounds as possible with good form
• Strength workout:
4 rounds of...
— kettlebell squats with heavy weight, 5 to 8 reps.
— pushups, 5 to 8 reps.
4 rounds of...
— pullups, 3 reps.
— ab roller, 5 reps.
• Medicine ball slams: 15 seconds on, 15 seconds rest; 5 rounds.
• 45-minute strenth-training routine: Focus on back and biceps with lat pulldowns, cable rows, dumbbell rows, dumbbell bicep curls, cable curls, barbell 21s.
• 30-minutes HIIT incline deadmill sprints: Crank up the treadmill's incline and set the machine to manual mode (ask a trainer or gym employee if you don't know how). Grab the front hand rail and manually power the belt by sprinting for short periods (30 to 60 seconds) interspersed with periods of walking or rest.
Boxing class at CAC: A full-body workout that includes boxing technique, punches, footwork and advanced boxing drills.
—Kelly Rowe for Chicago Athletic Clubs