“I feel incredibly at home while I’m touring,” she later told me when I met up with her in China (yes, I know, so casual). “I feel like I don’t really need to bring anything. I wish I could bring my seven dogs, but I can’t.” (You can read the rest of our Q&A with her here.) Okay, so first step in a jet-setting celeb’s life: pack lightly. Next step: wake up bright and early for a workout.
While walking to Hong Kong’s Quarry Bay Park with trainer-to-the-stars Harley Pasternak on my first morning in the city, I was fully expecting to be put through an hour-long bootcamp. After all, this is Ariana Grande’s trainer! He’s built some of the best bodies in the business (hello, Katy Perry and Adam Levine!) So imagine my surprise when the workout only involved 25 minutes and TWO moves.
Yep, you heard that right: Harley often sticks to the basics when it comes to his highest-profile clients. There are a few reasons for that, he told us. One is simply the time and space constraints his musicians deal with while touring. “The key to working with the kind of people like Ariana, is making the most of what we have, time-wise and equipment-wise and space-wise, without ever injuring her,” he says. Safety has to come first, Harley explained. “If I hurt [Ariana’s] knee, she cancels a show. She cancels two weeks of performing.” Even if you’re not a musician touring the globe, it makes sense. “If you hurt yourself exercising, not only are you not going to exercise for awhile, you might not be able to do a lot of the things you love,” Harley says.
So two simple-yet-efficient moves it is. And even though it seem overly simple, please don’t write this workout off just yet. Because, I assure you, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Tight on time? This quickie workout will help you squeeze in some exercise:
I started the morning with about five minutes of a cardio warmup around the park: one lap each of jogging forwards, then backwards, then shuffling to the right and to the left. So far, so good. Then the main workout began. The first move was walking lunges—a LOT of them. I lunged all the way across the field in the 87-degree heat, for two minutes. Once finished, Harley instructed me to jog back to the starting point and get ready for the the second move: hip thrusts. After two minutes of those, I caught my breath for a second, grabbed some water, and repeated the circuit two more times. And that was it.
I like to think I’m relatively in shape, but by the second time through, I was panting and sweating, unsure if I could make the final round. Harley said it was optional, but I pushed through. I was trying to do as Ariana would do, after all.
To turn this two-move total leg annihilation into an actual workout plan, Harley says to pick two new moves the next day and keep going. “Because we really only did the quads and the butt [with this workout], tomorrow, we can do totally different body parts and do that again,” he explains. “So rather than spending an hour and a half or two hours working out, let’s spend 20 focused minutes, and then tomorrow come back fresh for two totally different body parts, and the next day, and the next day.” (The Slim, Sexy, Strong Workout DVD is the fast, flexible workout you’ve been waiting for!)
And weights weren’t necessary for me to feel my glutes crying on the plane ride home two days later (did I mention it was a 15-hour flight?), but you could also take it one step further and apply this method using dumbbells at the gym or at home. Harley told me his other favorite power combos include a stiff-leg deadlift with a shoulder press, or a dumbbell row with a dumbbell triceps extension. All it takes is two movements for two minutes each. Repeat until you’re famous.
Of course, singing and dancing in front of crowds of thousands every night also helps keep Ariana in tip-top shape. When I saw her later that afternoon to continue the day-in-the-life experience with Reebok, I actually got to learn some dance moves straight from the “Dangerous Woman” herself.
Full disclosure: I can’t dance. Like at all. But when she started off with a warmup featuring stretches and squats, I started to think of it more like a workout (especially after a billion lunges, yikes). I eventually fumbled my way through the motions to the opening number of their show, “Be Alright”—a little Vogueing, a little arm stuff, a little hip action—to get a feel for what Ariana and her crew do on stage every night, and it became a workout for my brain, too. And I didn’t even do the hard part of the dance! After watching her final show of the tour in Hong Kong the following evening, I was seriously impressed by how active she was the entire time, while also managing to hit all the right notes. (Ariana, teach me your ways!)
But for regular people like you and I, Harley says we’ll start to see better results by “challenging your muscles for at least five minutes a day.” For his clients, depending on their time restraints, he prescribes at least one resistance move per day, seven days a week; two movements per day, five days a week; or three movements per day, four days a week—in addition to 12 to 14,000 steps per day. That may seem like a lot, but Ariana believes getting her steps in, dancing or otherwise, is the real secret. “For the longest time, I was like, ‘How is that more effective than doing a full-fledged workout?’ It really is,” she told us. “I feel better when I’m just moving around a lot. I could do a really hard workout and then sit around all day and not feel as good as if I am constantly moving.”
But that’s not to say the simple and quick workouts are too easy for her. Upon finding out that we had tried a Harley special earlier that day, my new pal Ariana totally felt our pain: “It’s going to reach you tomorrow morning. Tomorrow morning is when you’re going to feel it. Maybe even the next day.” Oh how right she was. Safely back home in New York, with “Be Alright” still stuck in my head, I can confirm: Stars, they’re just like us!