‘Jennifer Lawrence’s PT set me 2 weeks of workouts, and he’s totally changed the way I exercise’
Jennifer Lawrence is definitely not down for any real-life Hunger Games. She’s known for her no-BS approach to health that certainly doesn’t include ‘dieting’ (as she told Glamour, ‘You can’t work when you’re hungry, you know?’), but she doesn’t mess about when it comes to training for a movie role.
In prep for X-Men, she recruited PT Dalton Wong (also trainer to Amanda Seyfried and Vogue Williams), who she now credits for ‘changing her life’.
She even contributed to the foreword of Wong’s book, The Feelgood Plan, writing: ‘[Dalton Wong] changed my body for that movie but gave me the skills to change my life. I could never live on a “diet.” Dalton taught me how to eat, move, and live a delicious but healthy life. I will always thank him for that.’
I’ve been wondering what those skills were ever since the book was published, so it’s safe to say I was buzzing when Wong agreed to train me himself. He then shared J Law’s full workout with me, which I did three times a week for two weeks. Here’s everything I learnt, and my honest results.
1.Always include postural exercises
Wong and I did a 40-minute full-body workout together, formed of a dynamic warm-up, three postural circuits, two metabolic circuits and a cool-down (full breakdown below). I’ve followed workout plans that include a couple of ‘posture resets’ here and there, but never any that include three entirely postural sections. When asked why he does so, Wong tells me: ‘Posture work is so important to prime your body and set it up for the movements to come; they help you to maintain form.’ I’m particularly conscious of the rounding in my shoulders, and Wong reassures me his exercises will help with that. ‘Pull your shoulders back and in,’ he cues.
His posture work isn’t just about upper body, either. Two sections are targeted specifically at hip alignment; we do a series of resistance band moves including moving alternate knees in and out and squatting. The exercises are easy enough with Wong there to point out when one or both knees are caving in, but it’s something I often forget and need to keep an eye on in the mirror when I come to do the workouts on my own.
By the fourth time I do the workout, I can really notice a difference. I am naturally more aware of how rounded my shoulders are, and although thinking of my alignment (hips stacked, shoulders back and in) as well as everything else does make some exercises more challenging, at least I know I’m doing them correctly.
2. Full-body workouts can be more efficient than workout splits
Workout splits definitely have their place; studies show they give each muscle group time to recover, therefore aiding in the process of hypertrophy (growth), as your muscle fibres are able to sew themselves back together before you exercise (and tear them) again. I’m not loyal to them, but they are something I’ve dabbled in previously – and it seems like basically everyone on IG is doing them – so I’m surprised when Wong tells me full-body sessions can be just as effective.
‘They give you more bang for your buck, as you work every muscle group in one session. When you split up your workouts into body parts, life may get in the way, meaning your body could become imbalanced if you miss some workout days and don’t train certain body parts,’ he explains. He’s not wrong; there are often times when I can’t (read: could but CBB) work out as much as I intend to in one week.
Over the course of these two weeks in particular, following Wong’s plan, I do manage to stick to three workouts per week, and I’m pleasantly surprised that I never feel too sore by the time the next workout day comes around.
In an ideal world, however, Wong tells me J Law’s workout week would look like this:
- Day 1: Lower-body pull workout
- Day 2: Upper-body push workout
- Day 3: Lower-body push workout
- Day 4: Upper-body pull workout
- Day 5: Horizontal push and pull workout
- Day 6: Vertical push and pull workout
- Day 7: Rest day
He caveats that there were times where they weren’t able to stick to the plan above, and so J Law would do full-body sessions, including the exact one he set me. As for the science, a 2016 meta-analysis of all existing research showed that full-body workouts could be 48% more effective for building strength than doing a push/pull/legs routine.
3. Cover all movement patterns if you want to build strength
For those of you that do prefer to use workout splits, Wong tells me it’s not all about body parts. ‘I focus on movement patterns, i.e., pushing and pulling, and doing so in a horizontal and vertical way,’ he explains. For example, a horizontal push exercise might be a press-up, whereas a vertical pull exercise would be pull-up. ‘These allow you to strengthen your body for all of the everyday movements, which will contribute to your overall strength,’ says Wong.
4. Workouts don’t have to be long to be effective
Wong’s workout takes me about 40 minutes to finish, and he tells me all of J Law’s workouts were 30-55-mins long. This is music to my ears. I’ve never been one to enjoy spending hours in the gym, and J Law’s transformation for X-Men is proof that you don’t need to.
Sure enough, one study showed that people who exercised for 30 minutes per day, five days a week, lost more weight and body fat than those who worked out for an hour per day. In fact, the study showed that the hour-a-day exercisers actually gained weight. Take my word that after every 40-min session, I had worked up a serious sweat.
5. You can get results without cardio
Something that surprised me is that Wong’s workout plan for J Law is purely strength. When asked if she ever did cardio, he tells me: ‘No, she had no time.’ Now, don’t get me wrong, I know first-hand that strength training can veer into cardio territory (try doing a big leg workout without getting seriously out of breath), but I’d still assumed that J Law would do at least one pure cardio workout.
Wong’s full-body workout does, however, include two metabolic circuits. I ask him if these could count as cardio. ‘They’re similar in that they do get your heart-rate up, but you’re building strength at the same time,’ he says. Said sections also include two rounds on the Versaclimber; for the uninitiated, this is not too dissimilar from a Stairmaster, (but potentially more intense IMO). This was without a doubt the most taxing exercise for me, and I can see how it ticks the cardio box.
6. Equipment isn’t necessary
There were times when I didn’t fancy going to the gym for my workouts, but Wong reassures me there are easy equipment swaps that mean I can still hit all the muscle groups I need to. Here’s what he recommends:
- Box – switch for a chair or bench
- Cable row – switch for a dumbbell or heavy water bottle
- Sliders – switch for a towel on a non-grip surface
- Versaclimber – choose a high-intensity exercise, like burpees
After two weeks, I’m pleasantly surprised I’m not more knackered. I’ve followed routines involving three strength workouts per week before and had no choice but to cut back because I felt so damn tired. The difference here is that Wong’s workout isn’t as taxing on my nervous system; they don’t involve as many compound exercises, which recruit more than one muscle group at a time and therefore require more effort from your nervous system to fire them all up. Wong’s workout manages to target all of my muscle groups enough to feel a burn without being so exhausting.
Interestingly, I felt more of a burn during Wong’s workouts than I usually do when doing heavier compound workouts, but less DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) afterwards. Wong tells me this is because I’m more able to perfect my form without such heavy weights during the sessions, so I’m really targeting all the tiny muscles that I don’t typically get to, while the reason I probably didn’t suffer with major DOMS is that I did the same workout over and over, so my body became conditioned.
Something I would do in future is switch up my workouts. Doing the same workout three times a week became tedious after week one, but it was useful to really get to grips with each exercise, especially while simultaneously monitoring my posture.
I can see why J Law said Wong has changed her life: his workouts are totally different to anything else I’ve tried, and they really work. Some takeaways I’ll be implementing in future:
- Include at least one postural section to help maintain form
- Don’t focus so much on cardio
- Full-body workouts can be more effective than workout splits
- A 30-minute workout is enough
- Home workouts can be just as effective as gym workouts
Big up Wong for his tips!