Trainer Josh Holland has helped create some serious fitness transformations. His most recent: Taking Oscar Isaac from the frumpy folksinger you remember from 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis to an über-ripped villain for the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse. With a background in martial arts and basketball, Holland’s method focuses on functional movements and challenging, animal-inspired bodyweight exercises. Here, he explains the better way to bodyweight-train, build muscle, and stay injury-free.
What’s your go-to cardio routine?
I do cardio a bit differently from what clients might be used to. I actually put quotes around “cardio,” because we often think of it as running or using cardio equipment. But instead of sticking someone on a treadmill for a long time, I like to use intervals as a way to get the heart rate up and down while we’re doing weight lifting and strength training. Compound movements like burpees — and anything that involves jumping and hopping — are a great way to do that. Lunge jumps, box jumps and burpees all build strength while providing a cardio challenge.
What’s your advice for strength training on the road, when you might not have a gym handy?
Bodyweight moves can be really effective — push-ups, handstands, jumps, planks. I’m a big believer in primal movements, like crawling and flying around on the floor, actions that challenge our body as a whole as opposed to segmenting different parts of the body and working on them one at a time. Calisthenics are great for that and can be done anywhere.
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What do you say to guys who think you have to lift heavy?
I disagree with that idea completely. We all have what we like to do, but our bodies adapt to what we do most of the time. So unless you’re perfectly happy with how you look and feel — and if you are, that’s great, of course — many of us could stand to change something and try something different. I’d challenge any big bodybuilder or CrossFitter or whatever to dance! Or get a dancer to try CrossFit. There are so many ways to change and challenge yourself, and mixing it up and stepping out of your comfort zone is my favorite way to do that.
What are some of your signature moves?
I love the bear-stance plank: Start on all fours, making a perfect square with the four points of your hands and knees, then lift your knees two inches off the ground and hover for a minute. You can rotate your knees from side to side or open and close them to work your abductors and adductors (see how it’s done here). As a partner warmup move, I like the jump-over/crawl-under: One partner starts in the bear-stance plank and the other jumps over them, then crawls underneath them. That’s a great functional warmup. It can also reveal imbalances and asymmetry that we want to work on.
How do you fix those imbalances?
I ask someone to sit on the floor and then stand up. Do they use their hands to get up? Do their knees cave in? I break movements down to the very basics as a way to improve coordination, strength and mobility.
What’s your advice for staying actually meeting your fitness goals?
Having someone, whether it’s a trainer or workout buddy, keep you on track can be so helpful. When you have someone there who says, “I saw that! You didn’t do all of those reps. Your chest didn’t get all the way down to the floor,” it’s so much more personal than trying to use a DVD or work out on your own. Skype can facilitate that when you’re not in the same city or too busy to meet somewhere in person. I’m using it more and more with my clients and finding a lot of success. It’s all about taking out excuses.