Try Zoe Saldaña's Full-Body Isometric Workout

Plus, learn all about the "Avatar" star's fitness routine, according to her longtime trainer.

Zoe Saldaña
Getty Images.

If you've seen any films from the Guardians of the Galaxy or Avatar film franchises, it's clear Zoe Saldaña can hold her own when it comes to shooting physically challenging scenes. But how exactly does the 44-year-old actress focus on her fitness? It comes down to intrinsic motivation, according to Jason Walsh, Saldaña's longtime trainer and founder of Rise Nation.

"Zoe is always willing to put in the work," says Walsh. "She stays motivated by her own goals and understands what she needs from her body. It is not about motivation with Zoe; it is always there."

While finding the drive to move isn't an issue for the mom of three, fitting a workout into her busy schedule can be a challenge, notes Walsh. "She has so many important roles in her life that are not on a screen," he explains. "Watching her so successfully balance her life is truly amazing and inspiring." For Saldaña, that often means training at 4:30 a.m. when she has a 6:00 a.m. call time.

As for what that training typically looks like, Saldaña's workouts are focused on full-body functional training and are usually set to Lizzo and Bad Bunny playlists to power through those early morning workouts. The actress's background in dance also plays a role in her approach to fitness. "She trained for years as a dancer, so she really understands the body and the importance of it feeling powerful," says Walsh.

"Zoe is always willing to put in the work. She stays motivated by her own goals and understands what she needs from her body. It is not about motivation with Zoe; it is always there." — celebrity trainer and founder of Rise Nation, Jason Walsh, who has worked with actress Zoe Saldaña for years.

Isometric exercises are another main part of their workouts "because of the mind-body connection, tone, strength, and coordination [it provides] without the high level of muscle damage," explains the celebrity trainer.

ICYDK, an isometric exercise is a move that requires a muscle group to contract without moving, such as a wall sit. You hold a position without added weight and resistance, but your muscles are still engaged. This builds muscular endurance, is good for daily functioning, and is easy on your joints.

When done properly isometric training can be "healing," says Walsh, explaining that this type of exercise helped Saldaña recover from a "minor shoulder injury" she sustained while performing a stunt a few years ago. Isometric exercises are commonly used in rehabilitation programs following injuries or surgeries, Shape previously reported. That's because isometric exercises don't involve the lengthening or shortening of muscles, which typically lowers risk of pain. They're also great for modifying and progressing gradually during recovery.

Ahead, check out an isometric workout straight from Walsh himself, as demonstrated by fellow trainer and Rise Nation instructor Iman Karram to see what the hype is all about.

Zoe Saldaña's Full-Body Isometric Workout

How it works: Get into position as detailed below and hold each isometric exercise for about 30 seconds. You can increase or decrease the time of the hold as needed, aiming to hold the moves for longer periods of time as you get stronger. Think about bracing your muscles and activating the working areas — this is where your mind-muscle connection will really be important so the movement becomes (internally) active. Complete two to three rounds. Because the workout is low impact in nature, you can do the entire program as many as five to six days a week, according to Walsh.

What you'll need: Walsh uses a machine called the Isophit with his clients. It's a piece of equipment that supports isometric training with an adjustable bar you can use for a variety of exercises. However, you can do the following workout without it. Most of the exercises don't require any equipment and can be done using a wall. Others require a rack machine with a bar or PVC pipe (or a broom, in a pinch), a resistance band, and a weight plate.

Hip Abduction

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms at sides, right shoulder close to a wall, about one foot away. Engage core and shift weight to balance on left foot, keeping shoulders stacked over hips and chest tall. Clasp both hands in front of chest.

B. Lift right leg directly out to right side and firmly press outside of right foot into the wall.

Hold for 30 seconds, applying as much pressure as possible to the wall. Switch sides; repeat.

Deadlift

A. Stand facing a squat rack with arms in line with mid-shin. Position feet hip-width apart and bend knees slightly. Hold a barbell or PVC pipe in front of thighs, palms facing body.

B. Engage core and pull shoulder blades down and back. Then, keeping arms straight, send hips back to lower the bar down toward the floor in front of legs. Continue lowering until hips are fully pushed back and the bar is around shins.

C. Walk forward until the barbell or PVC pipe is positioned just below the squat rack's arms. Then, push through feet to drive the barbell or PVC pipe into the squat rack's arms.

Hold for 30 seconds, keeping shoulders engaged and hips back to feel a pull in hamstrings.

Prone Hip Extension

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and arms at sides, palms facedown.

B. Keeping core engaged and tailbone tucked, exhale and slowly push through left heel to lift hips off the floor. Lift hips up as high as possible without allowing the lower back to arch.

C. Then, lift right foot off the floor and extend right leg into the air, keeping right leg straight and right foot flexed. Body should form a straight line from head to right heel.

Hold for 30 seconds, keeping glutes engaged and driving left heel into the ground. Switch sides; repeat.

Split Lunge

A. Stand facing a barbell or PVC pipe racked at shin height with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Step left foot forward and over the barbell or PVC pipe. Bar should be directly under torso in between legs.

B. Keeping core engaged, chest tall, and shoulders stacked over hips, bend both knees to 90-degree angles to lower body down to the floor and pick up the bar with both hands, palms facing behind you.

C. Take one step back to unrack the bar, then walk forward until the bar is positioned just below the squat rack's arms.

D. Keeping knees bent at 90-degree angles, push through mid-foot and heel of left foot to drive the bar into the squat rack's arms. Right knee should hover a couple of inches off the ground and right heel should be lifted.

Hold for 30 seconds, keeping shoulders peeled back and spine long to prevent arching. Switch sides; repeat.

Hip Extension with External Rotation

A. Stand directly in front of the wall, about one foot away, with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms at sides. Engage core and shift weight to balance on left foot, keeping shoulders stacked over hips. Clasp both hands in front of chest.

B. Lift right leg directly behind body and firmly press heel of right foot into the wall.

Hold for 30 seconds, applying as much pressure as possible to the wall. Switch sides; repeat.

Pike

A. Lie faceup on the floor with legs fully extended and arms at sides, palms facedown.

B. On an exhale, engage core to lift upper back and arms off the ground to a 45-degree angle. Simultaneously, lift both legs off the ground to a 45-degree angle, keeping thighs together and feet flexed, creating a "V" shape with your body.

Hold for 30 seconds.

Seated Trunk Rotation

A. With a wall on your left side, sit on the floor with legs fully extended in front of body, 45 degrees from the wall. Shoulders are stacked directly over hips. Knees can be slightly bent if necessary.

B. Lift arms up in front of body to shoulder height, arms fully extended and hands clasped together. On an exhale, engage core and rotate torso to the left. Firmly press both hands into the wall.

Hold for 30 seconds, applying as much pressure as possible to the wall. Switch sides; repeat.

Sprinter's Push

A. Stand directly in front of a wall, about two feet away with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides.

B. Lift both arms in front of body, hinge forward at hips, and press palms firmly into the wall. Simultaneously, extend left leg behind body, toes resting on the floor, and bend right knee to a 45-degree angle.

Hold for 30 seconds, applying as much pressure as possible to the wall. Switch sides; repeat.

Superman

A. Lie facedown on the floor with legs extended straight, tips of toes touching the floor, and arms extended over head, palms facing the floor. Grasp a PVC pipe in both hands, keeping hands wider than shoulder-width apart.

B. Keeping neck neutral and gaze toward the floor, engage back, core, and glutes, and slowly lift arms and legs a few inches off the floor.

Hold for 30 seconds.

Push-Pull Plank

A. Anchor a resistance band to a sturdy object and grasp the end in right hand. Come into a high plank position with wrists stacked with shoulders, legs fully extended, and feet shoulder-width apart. Right shoulder should line up with the resistance band anchor point.

B. Step backward until the resistance band is extended and under tension. Lift right hand off the floor and drive right elbow toward the ceiling until tricep is parallel with back. Right elbow is tucked against right side. Avoid letting the resistance band pull right arm forward.

Hold for 30 seconds, keeping core engaged. Switch sides; repeat.

Horizontal Row

A. Lie faceup on the floor beneath a squat rack with the arms raised just one to two feet off the floor, knees bent to 45-degree angles, feet hip-width apart and flat on the ground. Chest should be directly underneath the racked barbell. Hold the bar with palms shoulder-width apart and an overhead grip.

B. Keeping legs bent and feet flat on the floor, pull chest up to the bar to lift hips off the floor and, keeping elbows in tight to sides. Gaze toward the ceiling. Body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.

Hold for 30 seconds, keeping shoulder blades squeezed back and down.

Push-Up

A. Start in a table-top position on the floor with hands directly under shoulders, knees under hips, and a weight plate resting in center of back.

B. One at a time, extend both legs back behind body to enter high plank position on the floor, hands directly underneath shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Hips and shoulders should be level to keep the weight plate in place.

C. Engage core by tucking tailbone and drawing navel in toward spine. Lock in lats by drawing shoulders down and away from ears. Engage glutes and quads. Push elbows out so arms form a 45-degree angle to body.

D. Look down to keep neck neutral, engage core, and ensure body forms a straight line from head to toe. Slowly bend at elbows to lower body, stopping about 3 inches above the floor.

Hold for 30 seconds, keeping hips tucked and engaged to prevent arch in the low back.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles