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How Troian Bellisario Got in Pretty Little Shape


The highly-anticipated season five of Pretty Little Liars is back and better than ever tonight (premiering 8/7c on ABC Family) and we can’t wait to see all the juicy drama that ensues in the world of Rosewood, especially between Spencer and Toby. Will they repair their rocky relationship?

One thing’s for sure, the smart and fierce Spencer Hastings, played by Troian Bellisario, is a badass. And the 28-year-old super-fit actress has documented her love for aerial workouts on Instagram. She makes the intense hour-long sessions look breezy (and incredibly breathtaking too!). But make no mistake, aerial is extremely hard and takes a very experienced athlete to accomplish it. We spoke to her powerhouse trainer Mark Wildman of Wildman Athletica for the details on her gravity defying routine.

Shape: Tell us about what a typical workout with Troian entails and how long you’ve been working together.
Mark Wildman (MW): We’ve been working together over two years now. It is entirely dependent on her shooting schedule, but if we are lucky we can sneak in two sessions a week. Her time is very limited so we need to engineer our training to be as efficient as possible. Her current focus is on aerial silks and, if time permits, full contact self-defense fight training. These are both total body, core intensive training strategies. Before she came to me, she had done the standard Hollywood fitness designed more to make people look pretty. I train to keep people alive and teach them a highly complex physical skill. We’re not trying to look like a badass; we’re trying to make you into one.

Shape: For those that aren’t familiar with an aerial workout, what does it involve?
MW: Aerial is a perfect form of strength endurance training that moves the body in every direction the human form can move in, based primarily on pulling actions. It involves various climbing techniques, inverts, and crocheting actions that improve shoulder traction and core strength, with the ultimate goal of developing complex aerial movements out of a plethora of tiny controlled movements.

Shape: Aerial definitely doesn’t look easy, which is a testament to how incredibly fit Troian is! Just how challenging is it to master?
MW: Aerial is extremely challenging, even for many high level athletes. There are not a lot of training modalities or sports that develop the required specific grip strength and shoulder traction strength that aerial demands. Hanging from two chunks of fabric by your hands for several minutes at a time while moving your body through complex patterns is extremely demanding. To even be able to learn it, you need to be in very good shape.

Shape: What kind of training did you have to do initially to prepare Troian for aerial, especially to focus on her grip strength and shoulder traction strength?
MW: We initially used clubbells, which train the shoulder and grip to move in every direction under load to make sure we wouldn't damage her joints during the initial phase of aerial training. Her health had to be the primary concern, especially with her demanding shooting schedule. Kettlebell swings and deck squats provided additional hip and core strength to prepare her for rigorous climbing training, and BodyFlow allowed us to develop a movement language safely on the ground before we started putting her 20 feet in the air. It was three months of this training before we could even begin learning aerial.

Go to the next page to try a sample of Troian’s training with Mark Wildman 

Note: This workout is for intermediate / advanced athletes only. A deconditioned individual will not be able to do this workout safely.

How it works: Do the warm-up, workout, and cool-down as directed.

You will need: Kettlebells (light to medium weight), mat

Mobility Warm-Up
Perform each move for 1 minute to activate muscle chains and movement specific to the workout.

1. Rising alternating camel: Get in camel pose. Reach right hand back to grab right heel. Extend left arm overhead while simultaneously driving hips forward. Pull left elbow back to belly button while dropping hips. Return to camel and repeat with left hand. Continue, alternating sides.

2. Rolling like a ball

3. Mountain climber with rotation: Get in plank position. Bring left knee to right elbow so left hip points toward the floor. Return to plank and repeat with right knee and left elbow. Continue, alternating sides.

4. Double overhead arm circles: Stand and extend both arms directly overhead with locked elbows. Moving arms together at the same time, pretend as if you’re painting circles on the ceiling with hands. Switch direction of the circles after 30 seconds.

5. Rock bottom squat rotations: From standing, bend knees and lower hips until hamstrings touch calves, with butt close to the floor and tailbone tucked under pelvis. Verticalize spine and extend arms out in front of you, palms facing up. Pull shoulders back and down. Reach right hand back and place palm on the ground behind you with fingers facing away. Do the same thing with left hand. Return to bottom squat position.

Do each exercise for 90 seconds. Rest 30 seconds and repeat the circuit once more.

Kettlebell Swing
1. Hold a kettlebell in both hands with an overhand grip and feet shoulder-width apart. Bend knees slightly while pushing hips backward, keeping chest lifted and hinging torso until it is parallel with the floor. Allow kettlebell to drop between legs with arms fully extended.
2. Explosively push your hips forward while squeezing glutes. Let the momentum from this movement propel the kettlebell to shoulder-height without relying on arm muscles to do the work. Allow the bell to swing back down.

Basic Aerial Straight-Leg Spinal Rock
1. Sit with straight legs out in front of you. Rock back while maintaining straight legs until toes touch the ground.
2. Rock back down to starting position.

Base Switch
1. Get on hands and feet so they're in the shape of a box.
2. Moving left hand and right foot simultaneously, turn over, passing right foot under left leg so you end up in crab position with knees bend and butt close to the ground.
3. Reverse the movement back to starting position and repeat with right hand and left foot. Continue, alternating.

Kneeling Kettlebell Single-Arm Overhead Press
1. Kneel with left knee on the floor, right foot in front, and a kettlebell in right hand at shoulder.
2. Engage core as you press the kettlebell overhead, fully extending right arm. After 45 seconds, switch leg position and arms.

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Deck Squat
1. Stand with feet together holding a 6- to 8-kilogram kettlebell upside-down in both hands (hands are on the horn and the globe is up). Keeping back straight, lower down to a rock bottom squat.
2. Fall backward and gently rock across a rounded spine. Rock back up to starting position.

Hold each pose for 1 minute.
1. Camel
2. Plow
3. Floor scorpion
4. Single-arm locust (30 seconds with each arm)
5. Static hip flexor stretch