Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gwyneth Paltrow's Workout Critiqued

Gwyneth Paltrow is back in the spotlight again, and as many of you know, her workout was recently featured on Oprah’s website.

The video clip features Gwyneth and her personal trainer demonstrating her two hour per day, six day per week, marathon workout routine.

The program consists of multiple exercises for toning her arms by using an elaborate elastic band set-up, resistance-free exercises, and a tiny set of 3 lbs weights for the remainder of the strength training routine.

This is in addition to a 40 minute ‘cardio dance’ routine that looks like something out of “Riverdance”.

Now, before you get excited and think “I can get a body like Gwyneth Paltrow if I just follow her workout program” - think again.

Gwyneth Paltrow's workout encompasses all that is wrong with celebrity fitness programs, and celebrity personal trainers.

It is a total disaster in every sense of the word.

Her workout program is fraught with physique ruining mistakes, and her trainer is completely out to lunch as to how the female body actually responds to exercise.

In a word, her program is…crap.

Due to the popularity of Gwyneth (and Oprah) this simple video clip has polluted the minds of women all over the world who will now think they need to workout for 12 hours a week just to get a lean and toned body.

And thanks to Gwyneth’s trainer, many women also now believe that if they lift 3 pound weights they’ll develop big, ugly, bulging muscles.

This is not Gwyneth Paltrow’s fault, in fact, she probably has no clue the damage she is causing to herself.

However, I’m not about to let you make the same mistakes.

The mistakes Gwyneth Paltrow is making in her fitness program, and how to make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Mistake Number One - Gwyneth’s workouts are too long.

At two hours, 6 days per week, the poor girl is going to run herself into exhaustion just to try and maintain her body. She has young children to look after, and an incredibly busy career that requires constant travel and long hours. Burnout is on it’s way if it hasn’t struck yet.

When your workout creeps past an hour in duration, your body starts to release hormones that cause decreased muscle tone, increased fat storage, and increased stress. It doesn’t take long for this to lead to exhaustion, stress, anxiety, lethargy, weight gain, and a whole host of other problems.

Not to mention it also takes a significant amount of time out of your day, and away from your family and the activities that you would rather be doing.

Who wants to spend 2 hours a day working out?

I certainly don’t, and I hope you don’t either!

My Solution - Keep your workouts short and sweet.

1 hour is the absolute maximum time you need to be training unless you are a competitive athlete.

Keep your intensity high. You should have a sweat going within the first 5 minutes, and you should be pushing yourself for the entire duration so you are working hard without long rest periods. The harder you work, the less time you need to spend.

You can work moderately hard for 2 hours, or you can work really hard for 20 minutes.

Pssst...take the 20 minutes.

Mistake Number Two - Gwyneth uses light weights or no weights at all, for fear of bulking up.

This is a direct quote from Gwyneth’s trainer “no woman should lift more than three pounds…less weights equals less bulk”.

Then I guess she shouldn’t be lifting her children anymore then should she? Not to mention she should never carry a shopping bag, a heavy purse, do a pushup, or even bend down to pick something up off the floor.

If it's true that women should never lift more than 3 pound weights, then all these activities are out, and you had better find yourself a nice assistant who will carry out your everyday tasks for you.

This type of ignorance is absolutely astonishing, especially coming from someone who should know better.

Obviously her trainer has absolutely no concept of physiology and how the female body responds to exercise.

In fact, in the same video, Gwyneth states how she carries her son in her left arm, and how that arm is much more toned and defined. In fact, her trainer has her spend more time working on her right arm to stop it from sagging.

Does anyone else see the irony here?

In one sentence her trainer is saying she should never lift more than three pounds, and in the other, Gwyneth states that the arm that is more toned and defined is the one that she lifts her thirty pound child with.

Heavy weights mean lean and sculpted arms, light weights mean saggy and droopy arms, period.

My solution - Lift weights that are as heavy as you can handle for 6-12 repetitions.

I have worked with many women who can lift incredible amounts of weight, and still have a lean, toned, and sexy body, and are still under 120lbs.

They aren’t big and bulky, and they aren’t gaining weight.

You can put a man and a woman on the exact same program, lifting the same amount of weight, and two very different results will occur: The man will build large and bulky muscles, and the woman will lean out and become more defined.

If you neglect to lift heavy weights, then you won’t build the lean muscle tissue that is so important for giving you a high metabolism and making your body burn off calories while you rest. This means you will have to constantly restrict your diet and starve yourself because your body simply will not be capable of getting rid of extra calories.

Remember - heavy is a relative term. Heavy is considered any weight that YOU can handle for 12 repetitions or less - and if that’s only three pounds for now, then so be it. As you get stronger and you can lift more weight, then do it.

Mistake Number Three - Gwyneth is not utilizing the after-burn effect.

Something incredible happens when you work out with heavy weights and high intensity: You create a shift in your metabolism that stokes the calorie burning fire. You force your body to increase the amount of calories it burns during your workout , and more importantly, during the entire day.

When you work hard, you ignite your fat-burning furnace for the rest of the day, and you are torching away body fat and calories even while you sit at your computer. This is the after-burn effect.

This does not happen with low or medium intensity workouts like Gwyneth Paltrow’s.

My solution - Workout at a high intensity to take full advantage of the after-burn effect.

Set yourself a time limit of half an hour and make every minute count. Don’t take long rest periods, make sure to lift weights that are as heavy as you safely can handle for 6-12 reps, and do short duration, high intensity interval cardio training. This is exactly how the workout programs in Go Sleeveless are set up, and that's exactly why they are so effective.

By following these three steps you will ensure that you turn on the after-burn effect and transform you body into a 24/7 fat burning machine.

Here's what to do.

Here’s a simple workout to get you started sculpting your entire body. This will take you about 20 minutes, you don’t need any fancy equipment, and it will get you better results than Gwyneth Paltrow’s workout.

For more details on how to perform these exercises refer to the Go Sleeveless program.

The “Better Than Gwyneth Paltrow’s Workout”
by Rylan Duggan RK, BHK, CSCS, NSCA-CPT

Skipping 3 minutes continuous + 2 minutes of alternating between 15 seconds as fast as you can + 15 seconds slow.

1a) Weighted Step-Ups (20 steps up and down)
2a) Forward and Reverse Lunge (10 lunges front and back - each leg)
3a) 2 minutes of continuous skipping


1b) Plie Squat to Overhead Press (8-10 reps)
2b) Good Morning with Forward Reach (8-10 reps)
3b) 2 minutes of continuous skipping


1c) Swiss Ball Wall Pushups (8-10 reps)
2c) Left-To-Right Moving Elevated Pushups (8-10 reps each side)
3c) 2 minutes of continuous skipping


1d) Band Curl To Press (8-10 reps each arm)
2d) Bent Over Reverse Band Flyes (8-10 reps)
3d) 2 minutes of continuous skipping

There you have it. This better than Gwyneth Paltrow's workout routine will get you burning tons of body fat, revving up your metabolism, and sculpting your entire body in less than half the time that Gwyneth spends swinging her 3 lb weights around.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Rylan:

I'm glad to hear you were able to see the interview I was mentioning. I actually feel really sorry for her. She'd probably be devastated to learn she could see even better results from a workout in only 30 minutes instead of the two hours she's doing now. She's definitely going to burn herself out the way she's going.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rylan

Can you tell me why you put each circuit and exercise in that order, would it change the outcome if they were done in a different order? If you could explain that would be great.


Anonymous said...

Search the Internet for information on the trainer and you will find some rather unsavory past business dealings when she was getting her start in Indiana. Gwyneth and Oprah aren't the only celebrities being taken in either. Always do your homework!

Jan said...

Not only wouldn't I want to work out for 2 hours, I wouldn't want to look like her. She looks way malnourished and frail. Jan

Michele said...

I can't believe her trainer actually SAID that about 3 pound weights - what a joke! Who doesn't want to be stronger (not to mention that girls who lift heavy always look best)?!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rylan ! Tracy Anderson is also Madonna's trainer. This is actually the workout I was doing before I purchased yours. To be honest it has made a lot of great changes in my body but it IS tough. It does not take me two hours at all though , about 45 minutes and that is for legs, butt , arms , abs and stretches so I did not think that was excessive time wise. My DVD of hers does not include cardio per say so I ride a recumbant bike for that. She is an ex ballet dancer. I also ula hoop a lot , lol !! Anyway , I thought the same thing you were stating about the 3 pound weights though, to me you may as not be holding anything. I actually like her workouts but the light weights was why I looked for something else and purchased from you.

On your Better than workout you list a few exercises that I don't see in the information I have from you , maybe I missed them, I will have to look through my manual again. I really like your band exercises. I have had all kinds of bands for a long time and never used them. They are great ! Hope you have a great day today !


Anonymous said...

No kidding! Who has that kind of time to flounce around! 3 pound weights only – sure if you want to look like Olive Oil! My clients and I were shocked! Healthy no BS regards, Amy Peacock

Rylan Duggan RK, CSCS said...

All very good points, and thanks for commenting everybody!

I have gotten used to seeing bad celebrity training programs, but this, by far, is the worst.

There are just so many things going wrong I had trouble deciding where to start.

And yes, I was aware that this trainer also works with Madonna, but for simplicity sake I wanted to keep it focused on just Gwyneth this time.

If you ladies know of any other bad programs out there you want me to review, just let me know and I will do my best to check them out.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you brought this up!I too have all of Tracy Andersen's videos and have been doing them for the last 3-4 weeks. I do actually think that I have sculpted my legs and arms a bit with her very low intensity workout. However, I don't just rely on those workouts to get me in shape. They are something I do while making dinner and waiting for something to boil, finish cooking, etc... In any case, I don't understand why she says "never" to use more than 3 lbs weights, but it does make sense for her video. I am in pretty good shape by circuit strength training 3 time a week, running 8 miles at least 1 or 2 times a week and doing other cardio but even with that, when I get to the end of her arm part of her mat video, my arms kill. Her series of arm rotations without weights does tire out your arms...but I guess that happens anytime you hold your arms up for that amount of time. The same things goes for her series with the weights, my arms are killing and I could not get to the end using more than 3 lb weights.

It would probably be a little wiser of her is she clarified her statement.

Yes, her cardio video is very difficult to do. A LOT of dance steps to memorize!

On another note, she is also opening a studio in NYC which I contacted. I received a form email back asking for money if I wanted to join. I sent a reply with some questions. I have yet to hear anything back, and it's been 2 weeks.

So, my suggestion is to stick with what Ryan is advising in his workouts. And just as a side note, I also very impressed with the amount of information he is able to get to all of us, on a regular basis:). Amazing!

Rylan Duggan RK, CSCS said...

Thanks for the comment.

I should really clarify something here.

Of course your arms would 'kill' after doing her routine because she makes you do soooo many reps (albeit with 3lb or no weight at all) but this DOES NOT MEAN it will get your sculpted arms.

Pain does not always equal gain.

What I am saying is that you could get a BETTER workout, in less than half the time if you were to use heavier weights.

THERE IS NOT A CHANCE that you will build bulky arms if you lift heavy weights. NONE! You simply do not have the genetic makeup for it.

The reason her workout is so horrible is because she refuses to use heavy weights and high intensity cardio, and therefore relies on sheer volume to burn calories. Her diet isn't mentioned, but I can pretty much assume that she would have to severely restrict her calories to keep her progressing on a plan like this - because it is not helping her metabolism at all.

I'm not saying that it isn't difficult, but what I am saying is that you can get BETTER results, in LESS time if you follow the proper plan.

And who doesn't want that :-)

Thanks again ladies, love the interaction here and getting everyone involved in the conversation.

Rylan Duggan RK, CSCS said...


The order won't make a massive difference, but I do purposefully place them in that sequence.

They are ordered from larger muscle groups to smaller because you will get a better fat burning effect by working them that way.

Essentially, you will have the most energy at the beginning, and that's where the harder exercises are placed.

Hope that clears it up!

Christine RN, BTech SN (OHN) said...

I am with Jan on not wanting to look like that! For those of you old enough to remember it is back to the Twiggy days. I used to be Twiggy like and hated it and am much happier having tone and curves.

Michelle hit the nail on the head about the three 3 lb weights. If I put that limit on myself I would have to have a body building companion to follow me everywhere to carry my purse and the many other items I carry on a daily basis over 3 lb. Hmmm wait a minute – that might be fun..no really we haven’t been the weaker sex for a looooonnnngg time.

Rylan. You better get busy on helping Oprah. We are doing great with your help.

She on the other hand has had more bad advice that anyone I can think of. She deserves better than that. I can’t understand why with all her millions she can’t find a qualified trainer. I just does not make sense to me at all!!!

Daniel Munday - Sydney's Fat Loss Expert said...

Wow! 3 pound weights. I guess I better trade in all of my heavy kettlebells and get some of these little babies if I want my female clients to get toned and sexy arms. If a celebrity trainer says it is must be true right Rylan?

Seriously, thanks for another great post. You are definitely seperating the BS from the truth when it comes to womens fat loss

Anonymous said...

Hi Rylan,
I ordered the Go Sleeveless book last summer, but never get past the first 3 days. I feel like I should be working out longer. Will working out 1/2 hour with your exercises really help me loose weight? I am fat all over, not just in my arms!! Please, advise!

Rylan Duggan RK, CSCS said...

Yes, but you'll have to make it past three days!!

Don't over analyze it, just follow the program exactly as outlined and you will have great success.

Trust me, I know what I'm talking about ;-)

Christine RN, BTech SN (OHN) said...

I feel like I have to comment to the lady who only did Go Sleeveless for 3 days because…...am I getting it right- it was too short?

Umm..I am trying to get my head around that.

I used to buy the most expensive item in the store because I figured if it cost me a lot it must be good. I have smartened up.

So I guess you are saying that you feel it is too good to be true so you can’t stay with it?

The blog article is about working out harder and smarter not longer.

The trainers to the Stars are celebrities and sales people. They have an interest in making fitness hard and long – it secures their paycheck. Can you imagine how much Gwyneth pays for the 2 hours per day 6 days a week gig? Stars are shielded by layers from the public eye. They don’t have time to do their research and don’t go out shopping for personal trainers someone else does it for them or they go with the flavor of the month because Madonna or someone else is trying it. Their staff do not necessarily know how to scrunintize the credentials of a trainer either.

Like you I once thought more was better. I was in a fight for my health on more meds than you can imagine and had more ‘health conditions’ than you can imagine.

I was extremely obese and tried for two years to lose weight. I did cardio for hours a day and fluctuated back and forth by 10 lbs that was it! AND from all the exercise I had chronic back pain, Achilles tendinitis, knee tendinitis, chronic neck pain and a rib cartilage injury from a brief attempt at yoga.

I decided to do my research and work with someone who knew what the heck (s)he was doing. From my RN experience I knew I needed to find a kinesiologist who was a personal trainer and had the appropriate credentials. I did found one. You are looking at him on this blog site.

I followed his instructions EXACTLY. I was patient. I had been obese for 20 years so I did not expect to get results overnight or in 3 days. I set goals for each segment – each 6 weeks or so and each time I exceeded my goals. It is not helpful to keep looking waaaayyyyy ahead because positive success is achieved one step and one goal at a time and believe me before you know it you are there.

I was over 170 lb waist 37" + and other measurements similar – I was an apple - size 16 dress. I am now around 108 lb size 2 - waist 26 – and I am not skinny. I was not a big person to be carrying around all that weight.

And in the first few weeks all my injuries were gone and I have never had a fitness injury since.

I also see your concern about being obese all over and you don’t just want to lose on your arms. We usually are obese all over with apple or pear distribution being common.

The name came about because I wanted to wear a strapless gown to a formal and I wanted my bat wings gone. That was the next goal in one of my programs. Turns out other women wanted the same thing –so Rylan ran with it and the Go Sleeveless name was born. But don’t worry.....

You can’t spot reduce. If you are going sleeveless with toned arms, it is because you are toned all over.

The only way you can have toned arms and still be obese everywhere else, is to have your arms surgically removed and replaced with ummm..lets say Madonna’s arms.

You can continue to think about it and fail to launch because it is too good to be true and remain the way you are.

Or get going and you will be there in no time. Summer is coming.

xlisax said...

I'm confused.
My left side, the side I carry anything heavy, is bigger/curvier than my right side.. isn't this a build-up of muscle because of the heavier weights?
I wanted to tone my arms, so was doing the arm rolls Gwyneths trainer used now I don't know how best to do this..

Esther said...

Hello Rylan

Went to a friend's computer so that I can read and view the video. O man I enjoyed every minute of video and the reading.

Keep up the great work you are doing to help out people like me. I thank you again. Esther

Jen F. said...

I am just currently watching this Oprah episode that I have recorded. What about the recommendation that it can be easier to change your muscular structure if you get used to training in a very warm room; i.e. heated to about 80F?