The Super Intense Workout That Got Shailene Woodley in Fighting Shape for “Divergent”

Photo:  Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment

Photo: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment

Opening in theaters today is Divergent, the dystopian action thriller based on the hit YA novel by Veronica Roth. (If you somehow haven’t heard of the trilogy, you probably will soon: It’s being billed as the next Hunger Games.) As Tris, star Shailene Woodley needs to prove she belongs in Dauntless, a group of fearless fighters. And though she’s fit in real life, “She certainly didn’t look ready to go fight in the UFC,” says J.J. Perry, her trainer and fight coordinator on the film.

Three weeks before filming, Woodley and her costar Theo James arrived in Chicago for an intense boot camp with Perry, a 5th-degree black belt and Army vet who helped beef up Hugh Jackman for his role in Wolverine. And Perry’s instruction went beyond the gym. “I also told them to clean out their hotel mini bars—no Snickers!” Perry says. “When they called me Sgt. Slaughter, I’d just say, ‘Welcome to Dauntless.’”

The tough love approach was well worth it: “The first week everyone was in pain and tired, reeking like Bengay, but by week two and three we could already see a major improvement,” Perry says.

Want to get your fitness on track, fast? Try this mega-workout he created for the Divergent stars to tone their upper and lower bodies and boost core strength. Or you can just steal a few moves if—unlike Woodley—you don’t have to be filmed in spandex anytime soon.

WARM-UP

Jog. Start with 25 minutes on the treadmill at a slow, relaxed pace, just enough to get your heart rate up.

CARDIO

Jump rope. Start with 90 seconds of jumping, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat the cycle four times. Work your way up to 4 minutes of jumping followed by 1 minute rest (yes, you still have to do it four times).

Box jumps. This CrossFit move means hopping up on a plyo box—its height is up to you—for 4 sets of 10 jumps.

CALISTHENICS AND PLYOMETRIC DRILLS

Single-leg balances. Stand on your right foot with your left knee bent at 90 degrees. Have a partner stand across from you with their hand extended at waist level. Quickly jump so your right knee touches their hand—while trying to keeping your left leg hovering—then land on your right foot again. Repeat 30 times on each leg.

Knee drives. Do this Muay Thai drill as quickly as possible; it should be an explosive movement. Crouch into a fighting stance (bouncy-knees, on your toes, with your right leg slightly behind you) and drive your right knee up to chest level; tap the toes back to the ground and do it again, 30 times on each side.

Burpees. A burpee is a compound bodyweight move where you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down to put your hands on the ground, kick your legs back into a plank, do a push-up, jump your legs forward, then jump upward with your arms reaching up. Start with however many burpees you can do before you collapse, and work your way up to 3 sets of 15.

Push-ups. Do 10 each of these three variations: standard push-ups, diamond push-ups (with your hands touching to form a diamond), and wide-arm push-ups. The close and wide stances help target different areas of the arms and chest.

Lunge kicks. Get into traditional lunge position (your left knee bent at a 90-degree angle, your right knee bent behind you). Then quickly stand up and kick your right leg out straight in front of you. Do 2 sets of 20 lunge kicks on each side to build leg strength.

ABDOMINAL WORK

Planks. Hold yourself at the top of a push-up position for 1 minute, working up to 90 seconds. Repeat, this time supporting yourself with only your left arm, then again with only your right. (You can extend your non-working arm forward for balance.)

Cross-crunches. Lie on your back with your legs in tabletop (knees bent at 90 degrees), then twist up so your left elbow touches your right knee, then repeat on the other side. Do a total of 30.

Old-school sit-ups. Do 10 regular ones, 10 where you go halfway up, and 10 where you lower yourself halfway down. Finally, hold yourself halfway up for 10 seconds. “It should smell like barbecued abs because you’ve torched them so much,” Perry says.

So, did you survive? You might be ready to join Dauntless yourself.

Photo: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment

Photo: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment


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