4 Must-Have Fitness Tips From Famed Personal Trainer Jillian Michaels
We say it all the time here at mindbodygreen: The best exercise is the one you'll do. Period, full stop, end of story. So while we've waxed poetic on workouts for longevity, autophagy, metabolic conditioning, and so on, we realize that if you don't enjoy those workouts, you won't actually stick to them—and pointing out those health benefits isn't the best way to go.
No one knows this better than renowned personal trainer Jillian Michaels, who has worked with countless clients in the gym and knows what works—and what doesn't—to procure real results.
"You and I could have probably hours of conversation about how much intensity, how much stress is too much stress, and what are the most effective workouts for mitochondrial biogenesis," the New York Times bestselling author and Emmy-nominated television talent shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. "I could come up with an answer that I think is going to be scientifically superior with regard to utilizing fitness as it means for longevity, athleticism, and healthy body weight."
But if that doesn't get people up and moving, why not take a slightly different approach? Here, Michaels spills her must-have fitness tips—if you have only 10 minutes to spare, crave quick results, or just don't enjoy the gym, think of the below as your baseline:
Keep it consistent
"The No. 1 rule of fitness is consistency," says Michaels. Before you dive into strength training exercises, HIIT sessions, and the like, it's important to make regular movement a habit.
"Get a standup desk—I literally will go work at the kitchen counter," Michaels adds. "You can get a little treadmill walking [pad] with your standup [desk]. I would start people with a 5,000-step-per-day minimum, working up to 10,000."
According to Michaels, most of us are way too sedentary during the day (we would agree), so it's important to commit to consistency before embarking on any specific workout regimen. Not to mention, walking is absolutely free; your body is the best tool you have, says Michaels, so it's a great way to kick-start a fitness routine.
"We can get them to a healthy body weight, we can condition their cardiovascular system, we can make them less intimidated, and then we can start to bring them into the things that are a bit more aggressive," she says of her training method. "Stand up, don't sit, get your steps in, and we can accomplish miracles."
Add strength training
Once you incorporate regular movement into your routine, Michaels recommends adding some strength training. If you can, she encourages a minimum of three to four times a week, alternating between pushes, pulls, and total body work.
For example, if she's working with a client, "We would push on Monday and Thursday, pull on Tuesday and Friday, and then if I could start to make it a circuit and get the HIIT intervals in there, sure," she says. If you're a beginner, just focus on working the big muscle groups—here are some trainer-approved exercises to get you started.
Focus on form
Then once you get into the gym, make sure you prioritize form over reps. "If I say air squats, but they don't have the mobility to do them right, I'd be like, 'OK, let's go to the wall; we're going to do wall sits," she notes. Meaning, it's OK if you have to modify a certain exercise—if you find yourself compromising on form, that's a sign you may need to take it down a notch.
"You won't believe how many [people] can't perform a proper body weight squat or a proper lunge and can end up doing more harm than good," Michaels adds. So do your homework on modifications—just because you need to tweak the exercise doesn't mean you won't get the same muscle gains.
"You can do things like modified planks, Supermans, you could get a couple of bands and do your rows by hooking the band around the leg of your couch, you could do modified pushups… All of these things can be modified," she explains. "But educate yourself on form before you just start jumping into these things."
Know when to stop
While consistency is crucial, so is knowing your limits. Michaels, for example, has struggled with a very serious back injury—a fractured spine and herniated discs—so now, she must pay attention to her pain triggers at the gym. "Even [if I have a] tight lower back, I'm like, nope. Everything stops," she says. She'll treat it with ice, heat, perhaps a round of acupuncture, etc. "Other than that, I do nothing for three days until it's completely calm," she notes.
Even if you don't suffer from back pain, it's an important lesson to keep in mind. If you overwork your body, you can easily do way more harm than good, so listen to your body's own red flags. "You've got to learn what triggers [pain] and how to work around it," Michaels adds.
No matter your fitness level, you'll want to keep Michaels' tips in your back pocket. After all, even the most advanced workouts won't give you the results you want if you don't have the basics down pat. All the more reason to freshen up on the fundamentals, don't you think?
We hope you enjoy this episode! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon Music!
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.