Check out the workout videos with her trainer, then get the details on how to perform these moves in your own gym.
Model Kate Upton isn't just gracing the cover of this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which is a serious accomplishment in and of itself, but her face and amazing bod is plastered on *all three covers.* That's pretty impressive. But here's what's even more impressive: her workout skills. It makes sense that most models (of all sizes!) work hard in the gym, but we didn't realize how truly badass Upton's sweat sessions were until we checked out her Instagram account. While we know many models are fans of workouts like boxing, spinning, and yoga, we haven't seen as many get really into powerlifting. Her trainer, Ben Bruno, has her doing some serious moves—the kind that not only require hard work, but also skill, balance, and strength. (If boxing is your thing, you can work out like a Sports Illustrated model with this partner boxing workout.)
After checking out her routine, we wanted to know: Can we do a workout like this on our own? Holly Rilinger, creative director of Cyc Studios and Nike master trainer, gave us the full rundown on the moves Kate has been doing and what to keep in mind if you want to do them at your own gym.
1. Assisted One Arm One Leg Row
#Repost @benbrunotraining ・・・ Kate Upton (@kateupton) demonstrates an assisted 1 arm/1 leg row with great technique. While rows are ostensibly an upper body exercise, this is more of full body exercise that also works the glutes, hamstrings, hip stabilizers, and core, giving you a great bang for your buck. I’ve found that for most clients, true 1 arm/1 leg rows become too much of a balance exercise to get much of a training effect, but using the foam roller for assistance helps just enough with balance that you can use substantial weights without worrying about tipping over. In fact, after getting the hang of the movement, most of my female clients can use almost the same weight on this exercise that they use for traditional dumbbell rows on the bench, so it’s by no means a foo-foo exercise. When you progress to more challenging weights, you’ll feel the glutes working like crazy, and as a nice bonus, I’ve noticed that as a byproduct, clients tend to improve their single leg RDL form, allowing them to progress to bigger weights there as well. There’s a tendency to want to open up the hips to the side of the working arm and flare the toes out to the side (I call this the “peeing dog”), but to get maximum benefit for the hips and core, the key is to keep your body as still as possible with your hips and torso square.
This movement is really tough because it requires a lot of balance. Luckily, you can use an upright foam roller to keep yourself stable. "The great thing about working the body unilaterally (one side at a time) is that the leg or arm is forced to complete the movement independent of the other side," says Rilinger. That basically means you can't use other parts of your body, even subconsciously, to help you perform the exercise, making it more targeted. "This full body move is great for hip stability while working glutes, hamstrings and lats," she says. As for your form, it's crucial to remember to keep your hips square to the ground, your back flat, and a slight bend in your standing leg. (Here's more on why you should do one-sided workouts.)
2. Landmine Leg Combo
Kate Upton (@kateupton) crushes this "3-Way Landmine Leg Blast", or as we like to call it, the "5/5/5 Thingy". Strong! Start by performing 5 RDLs, then 5 deadlifts, then 5 wide-stance sumo deadlifts all in succession without resting or putting the bar down. All three of these exercises are great for shaping and strengthening the posterior chain on their own, but when performed in this sequence, it functions as a great mechanical drop set whereby the load stays the same but you move to easier variations as you fatigue so you can blast your legs and glutes. Kate makes it look easy but she's very strong and has built up over time, so start very light until you get the hang of it and slowly increase the weight.
If you've done landmine exercises before, you know they can be challenging. If you're not familiar, these movements involve lifting one side of a barbell while the other is fixed to the ground. "This three-part move is all about hip hinging and front loading," says Rillinger. "This means two things: core strength and an emphasis on glutes and hamstrings." In other words, areas you probably want to target at some point during your workout. In this exercise, there are five reps of three different movements: Romanian deadlift, regular deadlift, and sumo deadlift. "During the first part of the exercise there will be little movement outside of your hips. Push your hips behind until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, and as you push your hips forward on way back up, squeeze your glutes," says Rilinger. For a Romanian deadlift, the barbell and plates should not hit the ground. "Parts two and three will require a slight bend in the knees," she adds. One thing to note is that as you move through each of the variations, your stance should get progressively wider." If you're not familiar with landmine or deadlift movements, it's a good idea to ask a trainer to help you with this one.
3. Band-Resisted Barbell Hip Thrusts
"This is a killer butt move!" says Rilinger. Traditional hip thrusts just use a barbell on its own, but here Upton's trainer has added a resistance band under her feet and around the bar to really drive the movement home. Because of this, "you have to really focus on executing a full range of motion," she notes. It'll be tough to get your lower half into a full bridge position, but that's the point. In this video, Upton completes 10 reps before doing a 10-second isometric hold. "This means the muscle is under tension for an extended period of time," explains Rilinger. "It's brutal but effective. Make sure to squeeze your butt at the top of every rep and keep your belly button pulled in to protect your lower back." (FYI, hip thrusts are one of the best exercises for a tight butt.)
4. Landmine Bench Squats
Kate Upton (@kateupton) crushes some heavy landmine bench squats with great technique. Strong! Taller lifters, and particularly those with proportionally longer femurs, tend to struggle to stay upright with traditional squats and often default to folding forward, which puts a lot of undue strain on the lower back. Using the landmine helps to stay more upright to protect the lower back, and the arc of the bar helps encourage more of a posterior weight shift to work the glutes more while also taking stress off the knees. As an added bonus, loading in this manner is also a great way to work the anterior core and upper back. Squatting to a bench serves the dual purpose of being a depth gauge to ensure a full range of motion while also helping to aid with form.
If you struggle with traditional front squats, where the bar rests on your shoulders in front of you, these heavy landmine bench squats are a great alternative. "The bench gives you a specific goal for range of motion," says Rilinger, which can be really helpful for those who are newer to squatting. "The moment your butt taps the bench you can drive back up to your starting position," she adds. Another major upside to this exercise is that it literally utilizes almost your entire body. It works your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core, all while the shoulders, lats, and chest are also engaged. (If you're tired of the same old squats, here's the new squat variation you should add to your butt workouts.)
5. 1.5 Rep Trap Bar Deadlifts
If you've never seen a trap bar before, there's a good chance there's one lying in the corner of your gym somewhere. Trap bar deadlifts are a great supplement for getting better at the traditional barbell deadlift, as they place less stress on your back and make the optimal starting position easier to get into. "Deadlifts of any kind are one of the best full body exercises out there when executed properly," says Rilinger. That being said, there's a lot to keep track of in terms of your form. Rilinger says you should have full tension throughout your body, a flat back, retracted shoulder blades and a proper hip hinge, for starters. (To check your form, read up on the three most common deadlift mistakes you're probably making.)
In this video, you'll see that Upton is doing a full rep followed by a "half" rep, where she doesn't fully extend her hips at the top. "This half rep trains and emphasizes the most powerful part of the range of motion," says Rilinger. "When you overload the most crucial part of the rep range there is a greater adaptive response, translating into greater strength." This is another complex move that you should have a trainer help with the first time around, but the strength gains will be totally worth it. (Want more from Holly? Check out how meditation fits with HIIT in her new workout class.)