Watch Javicia Leslie, the First Black Batwoman, Crush Some Intense Muay Thai Training Sessions
Plus, find out how to incorporate her workout moves into your own fitness routine.
Actress Javicia Leslie is making Hollywood history after being cast as the CW's new Batwoman. Leslie, who's set to debut in the role in January 2021, is the first Black woman to play the superhero on TV.
"For all of the little Black girls dreaming to be a superhero one day...it's possible," she wrote on Instagram while sharing the news.
"I am extremely proud to be the first Black actress to play the iconic role of Batwoman on television," she added in an interview with Deadline. "As a bisexual woman, I am honored to join this groundbreaking show, which has been such a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community." (Related: What It's Like Being a Black, Gay Woman In America)
Her groundbreaking on-screen accomplishment aside, Leslie also happens to be a health fiend. The actress, who is vegan, is dedicated to sharing healthy eating tips and recipes on Instagram, with step-by-step breakdowns of how to make delicious meals like gluten-free fettuccine, cauliflower steaks, vegan gluten-free granola, and more. (Related: 5 Easy Vegan Recipes You Can Make with 5 Ingredients or Less)
Her workouts are seriously impressive, too. Just recently, Leslie shared a compilation of her rigorous training sessions where she's seen doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) using battle ropes, agility work, and strength training, while also working on her Muay Thai skills with trainer Jake Harrell, a calisthenic and plyo specialist based in Los Angeles.
Turns out, the actress just picked up the combat-style sport in March, since she had some time to kill while quarantining amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "I've decided to dive into a passion I've had for a while now," she shared on Instagram at the time. "Since there's nothing but time, I really have no excuse. So I am going to document my Muay Thai journey with you all."
"This is only the beginning, so be kind to me, lol!" she added.
If you don't know much about Muay Thai, it's a form of martial arts involving a super-intense type of kickboxing. The sport entails full-on hand- and leg-to-body contact, challenging nearly every muscle in your body. "Whether you're hitting training pads, the heavy bag, or sparring, in Muay Thai, you are constantly engaging every muscle group," says Raquel Harris, a world kickboxing champion and trainer at The Champion Experience. (See: Muay Thai Is the Most Badass Workout You Haven't Tried Yet)
The fact that Muay Thai is a killer full-body workout is actually pretty evident in Leslie's videos. The actress is seen throwing a series of punches, kicks, knees, and elbows on training pads—all great ways to develop accuracy and strength, explains Harris. "This consistent work improves your cardiovascular endurance and driving force, building some serious strength," she says, adding that the sport can help you build lean muscles sans weightlifting. "The variations of close-range strikes (knees/elbows), mid-range (punches), and long-range (kicks) make it one of the most versatile combat sports," she notes. (Did you know that Muay Thai could become an Olympic sport?)
But the sport goes way beyond just a physical workout, adds Harris. "It's a huge confidence booster," she shares. "Being able to push through a workout, leveling from beginner to intermediate, and feeling physically stronger will remind you that you can get through anything." (Related: This Video of Gina Rodriguez Will Make You Want to Kick Something)
The sport isn't just for super-serious fighters, either. Incorporating some simple Muay Thai moves into your current fitness routine can go a long way, says Harris. "Start with just adding three 3-minute rounds into your current fitness routine," she suggests, adding that, in each round, you can pick one set of strikes to work on. (One possible starting point: These kickboxing how-tos for beginners.)
More specifically, Harris recommends starting round one with two alternating front kicks. Round two can focus on two straight punches—such as a jab or cross—and round three can incorporate both upper and lower body movements, including hooks and knee strikes. (Related: The No-Equipment Cardio Kickboxing Workout to Make You Feel Badass)
Another tip from Harris: Try to move in between each round (as seen in Leslie's videos) to increase your endurance and keep the workout well-rounded. "For movement, you can either bounce, shuffle, pivot or step horizontal or lateral," she says.
Bonus: Since Muay Thai is a form of self-defense, it's a great skill for women to learn, adds Harris.
But most of all, the sport is simply a great way to let loose. "It's such a fun workout that doesn't neglect any part of your body," says Harris. "You will always walk out feeling like a badass."
Considering Leslie is the first Black Batwoman, it's safe to say she's already a certified badass—but hey, the Muay Thai only ups her BAMF status.