Two things I know: I’ve been a fan of Vanessa Hudgens for *a while* (read: since I first saw High School Musical) and the celeb is looking super fit. Just check out her Instagram to see what I mean.
So I figured, when my editors posed the idea, why wouldn’t I exercise like the star for a week? And, TBH, the task came at the perfect time. In the months leading up to this assignment, I’d pretty much been sticking to cardio workouts, alternating between indoor cycling and outdoor runs. It was about time I mixed it up—Hudgens style.
Quick disclaimer: I don’t know exactly what a week of workouts looks like for Vanessa lately, as I couldn’t actually shoot her a quick text and join her in person (a girl can dream, though!). Instead, I created a plan based on Instagram posts, her past interviews with Women’s Health, and advice from celebrity trainer Isaac Boots, who’s worked with the star firsthand.
Let me walk you through *everything* I did, and how badass and strong I felt after.
The Workout Regimen…
Five Torch’d Workouts
Isaac pointed me toward three of his Torch’d workouts (here, here, and here), which he and Vanessa did on Instagram Live to raise money for No Kid Hungry. They’re about 50 minutes long, and while each is unique, all of them include dance-based movements, jumping, and plank drills to start, plus arm exercises with dumbbells and/or resistance bands. At Isaac’s recommendation, I did one Torch’d workout every day for five days in a row, completing all of them once before repeating the first two.
Vanessa tries to practice yoga threetimes per week, WH reported in March 2020. So, for this week, I did three yoga workouts fromthe Peloton app.
I tried a 15-minute standing yoga class first. Then, Iprogressed from a 20-minute Vinyasa-style session for beginners to a30-minute intermediate flow.
Two Resistance Band Workouts
I came across videos of Vanessa working out at Dogpound with looped resistance bands, ankle weights, and battle ropes. I had plenty of ankle weight work to doin the Torch’d workouts, and right now I don’t have access to battleropes. Hello, resistance bands! Luckily, Dogpound trainer Julia Brown has posted some banded booty workouts on Instagram. I did this one, which includes moves like glute bridges, frog pulses, and leg raises, but I used a chair instead of a bench. I also did this HIIT workout, which has more stepping, jumping, and squatting.
All of this took place over six mornings, since Vanessa previously told WH that she likes a.m. exercise and fits in at least six workouts per week. Obviously, this meant that I had to double up most days. I don’t know that Vanessa pulls doubles, but what can I say? I wanted to try as much as I could in just one week.
1. Ankle weights are heavier than they look.
Confession: I was a bit too ambitious the first time I tried a Torch’d workout. When Isaac and Vanessa grabbed their ankle weights in the video, I went ahead and strapped five pounds on each leg—even though Isaac reassured viewers that they’d still get work done without any weight. Big mistake! Luckily, my weights are adjustable, so I quickly scaled down to 2.5 pounds per leg.
Beginners should actually hold off on adding ankle weight until they acclimate to their new fitness routines, Emily Diers, a certified personal trainer and the founder of Bodycraft, previously told WH. Once you’ve mastered bodyweight exercises, she says, you should start with 1 or 1.5-pound ankle weights.
Luckily, I had four opportunities left to try those Torch’d sequences with toned-down weight. I even did two of the remaining workouts without ankle weights. (And they still kicked my butt…in a great way.)
So, why wear ankle weights at all? For one thing, they’re great additions to exercises that work leg and hip muscles, like leg lifts, according to Harvard Medical School.
“Adding resistance to any movement is going to ask more from your muscle,” Diers told WH. “And if you’re doing it without rest it’s going to add a cardiovascular element to it.”
But remember, don’t just throw on ankle weights for any kind of training: They’re not so great for walking or aerobics workouts, according to the same Harvard article. In fact, they can pull on your ankle joint (which may lead to other injuries) and cause a muscle imbalance by forcing you to use your quads and not your hamstrings.
2. Morning yoga helped me feel calmer.
Vanessa previously told WH that her yoga practice is like therapy, and after this week, I just might add it to my morning routine. At the outset of my second yoga session, I was feeling super stressed about everything I had to get done that day. But slowing down and focusing on my breathing really seemed to help: By the time I finished the 20-minute flow, my outlook on the day was noticeably more positive.
As it turns out, science may explain my mood-boosting experience. Though all exercise can improve your mood, yoga might have additional benefits, according to a recent article from Harvard Medical School. Specifically, it can increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain chemical associated with better mood and decreased anxiety.
3. Resistance bands became my favorite piece of equipment.
For these workouts, I used the kind of resistance band that basically looks like an oversized rubber band. Mine came in a pack of three, with varying levels of resistance denoted by color. (Side note: I learned my lesson from going too hard with the ankle weights and started with the purple, ultra-light band. This was a good call.)
I’d never used looped resistance bands before this week, but I’ll be incorporating them into future workouts. I love how versatile they are: Isaac brought them into a few of the Torch’d arm sequences that had my shoulders burning. And, of course, they were the stars of Julia’s banded booty workouts.
The bands have plenty of other benefits, too. Since they’re small and lightweight, they’re easy to bring with you while traveling. Plus, they can help build muscle endurance and even out muscle imbalances, WH previously reported.
4. Working out really is more fun with a buddy.
Another confession: I’m usually more of a solo workout kind of person. So although I knew that Vanessa likes to exercise alongside friends, I did all of my workouts alone for the first three days of the week.
But as I watched Vanessa and Isaac (and, in one of the workouts, GG Magree) interact during Torch’d, I started to question my lone wolf mentality. After all, it looked like they were having way more fun together – even virtually.
So, in the spirit of working out like Vanessa, I invited my partner, Brent, to join the fun on days four, five, and six. We found ourselves groaning and laughing together during the most difficult parts of Torch’d, which was much better than sweating it out in silence. We also put on some of our favorite songs for Julia’s HIIT workout and danced/sang our way through all the banded booty work. Bottom line: You’ll for sure catch me celebrating National Workout Buddy Day in the years to come.
5. Most importantly, working out like Vanessa gave me a major confidence boost.
This week helped me, a total perfectionist, to feel strong and proud, even when my workouts totally weren’t perfect. Let’s be honest: I had to take *a lot* of breaks during Torch’d. But Vanessa inspired me. Not only did the celeb put herself out there by doing those workouts live on Instagram, but she also owned how hard they were. Her vulnerability gave me permission to jump in and give it my all, even if that sometimes meant struggling to keep up. I’m excited to keep trying Torch’d, and to feel myself getting a little bit stronger each time. My next goal? Make it through a session with no breaks.
Here’s the thing: I’m no trainer, so I won’t endorse the workout plan I made as the *best* way to work out like Vanessa Hudgens. But I will say that I had a lot of fun—and worked hard—with Torch’d, yoga, and those banded booty workouts. If you’re interested in giving any of it a try, remember to consult a health care professional before getting started, and, as Isaac once said, get ready to carve that real estate, baby!
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