Trainer Gunnar Peterson knows a lot about A-list workouts. With clients like Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone and the Kardashians (to name a few), he’s helped sculpt some of Hollywood’s most coveted physiques.
Beyond the red carpet, though, Peterson has more than 20 years of experience working in all areas of fitness. Ask him a question about functional training and exercise techniques and he can rattle off a slew of valuable gym tips that’ll make your workout more efficient and effective. So that’s exactly what we did.
We talked shop with Peterson at an event for his partnership with Now Foods and their #LiveHealthyNOW initiative. Here are just a few of his secrets for how to better your workout, so you get better results.
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7 Gym Tips from Celeb Trainer Gunnar Peterson
1. Don’t skip the warm-up. (Seriously.)
For almost every workout Peterson leads, he suggests starting with five to 15 minutes of light cardio exercise. “The benefits are that you elevate the temperature of the body and lubricate the joints, so you are less likely to get injured,” he says. “It also gives your mind a chance to lock into your workout.” Start strong; finish even stronger.
2. Go heavy — because you can.
You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: Don’t be scared of heavy weights. Once you’ve mastered a movement, like a bodyweight squat or reverse lunge, Peterson says more resistance is the key to more gains. “Your body needs an external load — women especially for bone density, lean tissue and maintenance,” he says. “You need that so your body composition is working in your favor.”
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3. Better your bicep curl.
When using dumbbells for a bicep curl, make sure to grip them tight. Don’t get lazy and let them flop to a diagonal. You want to hold them in one straight line, palms fully facing you, Peterson says, as if you were holding a barbell. This better targets the bicep. When you tilt the weights forward or on a diagonal, it can take away some of the muscle-building benefits of the exercise.
4. Correct your kettlebell form.
When you’re doing a kettlebell swing, keep your chest up and shoulders rolled down and back. “A lot of times people pitch way forward so their body comes to almost a 90-degree fold,” Peterson says. “You want to keep your chest up and think defensive stance in a sport.” This will protect your back and better work your glutes, helping you magnify the payoffs of the explosive exercise — without aches or injuries.
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5. Drop it low with ropes.
Crushing calories with battle ropes? In a rope slam (when both hands bring the rope up and down), the biggest mistake Peterson sees is leaning forward — instead of getting low. “You want to engage your glutes; you want them to fire in that eccentric action,” he says. Think deep squat, dropping your hips and butt down and back.
6. Power your push-up.
If you’re a little unsteady in your push-up or if you’re adding a T raise to it, Peterson suggests positioning your feet wider than your hips or even a mat. This broadens your base of support so you have better balance and can execute the movement efficiently. (Plus, because it’ll help you keep your hips stable, it’ll fire up your core even more.) If you can’t get your chest all the way to the ground, don’t fret. Just go as low as you can, then work your way up to the full range of motion.
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7. Turn on your core.
Crunches, bicycles, ab twists — they all work your core muscles, as long as you’re using correct form. While doing all of these moves, Peterson suggests keeping your chin up high enough that you’d be able to put a baseball under it. This will stop you from pulling on your neck. Also, take a brief pause in the contracted (or crunched) position and inhale and exhale steadily as you go. Consider your core, carved.
For a glimpse at what Peterson’s full sweat sessions look like, check out his 30-minute routine in the video below, created in partnership with Now Foods. All it takes is five moves for a total-body workout.