Interviews / August 16, 2012

Rob Parr

By Charles Platkin, PhD

For more than 20 years, superstars have been calling on trainer extraordinaire Rob Parr to fine-tune their physiques. Known for getting his clients off the couch and into the great outdoors, Parr makes a point of mixing up routines so no one gets into a fitness rut. He is also the author of Star Quality: The Red Carpet Workout for the Celebrity Body of Your Dreams.

Diet Detective: Rob, thanks for agreeing to do an interview. Could you tell us a bit about how you became a fitness expert — was it your calling?

Rob: Exercise has always been part of my life. Having been a professional athlete, I viewed training as an integral part of improving myself. Being impeccably prepared and strong would improve my abilities on the field and reduce my chances of injury. I started in the fitness industry 25 years ago, gradually building my client base. I have never advertised. All my business has been from word of mouth. I think my reputation is my calling card. My biggest opportunity came when Madonna contacted me to oversee her exercise program to prepare her for a world tour. In 1987 the Who’s that Girl tour began, and the coverage of Madonna’s “new” body was tremendous. I continued to oversee her program for another four years. That helped put me on the map.

Diet Detective: What makes what you do different from what other fitness experts and trainers do?

Rob: My ability to continue to challenge my clients with a variety of exercises and keep their programs feeling fresh. I am a great motivator. I help them push through their limits when they think they can’t. I run, bike, and swim. I participate in my clients’ conditioning to ensure that they maintain proper training intensity.

Diet Detective: How do you keep your clients and yourself motivated? How does “fun” play into this?

Rob: I keep motivation levels up by changing workouts daily. Changing the environment and exercises seems to keep my clients motivated and engaged. A challenging workout gives them a sense of accomplishment. Results are also a huge motivational tool. My clients see and feel that all the effort they put into their workout programs pays off.

Diet Detective: How do you get a body by Rob Parr? What do you need to do each day?

Rob: You have to be consistent. Try your best. Some days you may feel better than others, but keep at it. You have to condition yourself with both aerobic and strength-training programs. Nutrition plays a big role. My motto with regard to diet is, Fuel your body with clean food. This will provide you with the energy and the proper building blocks you need for success. In a daily routine, I spend a minimum of 30 minutes on aerobic activity and strength training. I vary the intensity level to maximize the time spent training.

Diet Detective: Of all the celebrities you’ve trained, ­who is the hardest working? And why? What can we learn from her or him?

Rob: Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many highly successful people. They achieve a lot in their lives because they all possess the determination to work hard. If I had to choose one person, I feel Madonna has been the hardest worker. Day in and day out, she gave her best effort in all the different formats I put her through. Even when she didn’t feel like exercising, she did, and she gave her best effort. In five years of exercising with her, she was consistent and committed to her program.

Diet Detective: How did you help Naomi Watts get into bikini shape so quickly after her baby. and how did you work with her both pre- and postpregnancy?

Rob: Because of Naomi’s schedule, I wasn’t able to work with her prepregnancy, but I did work with her postpregnancy. I started her on a very intense exercise program. Initially, I was told she had to be in front of the camera in five days. Due to scheduling, the date was pushed back to two weeks, which helped me out. Her program consisted of high-intensity exercises in a cycle format that kept her moving throughout the 60 minutes of strength training. She is another amazing woman.

Diet Detective: Describe some of your “multimoves.”

Rob: Here are four of them:

1. Dumbbell squat to biceps curl to military press.

2. Front dumbbell squat to shoulder press. As you squat, the dumbbells are at shoulder level; as you stand, you press the dumbbells upward in one continuous motion, then repeat.

3. Power skating. In a skating motion (side to side at least 5 feet) while holding dumbbells, you swing your arms outward as you power yourself from side to side.

4. 3-count burpee with push-up and jump squat. Standing with legs shoulder-width apart, you lower down to a deep squat, then drive your legs behind you so you end up in a push-up position. Perform push-up, then pull your knees up to return to the low squat position; once in that position, jump as high as you can, then repeat.

Diet Detective: What are some of your favorite 5-minute workouts?

Rob: 5-minute cycles, which incorporate both lower- and upper-body exercises, such as:

1. Single-leg step-ups

2. Push-ups

3. Jump squats

4. Pull-ups

5. Squats with medicine ball (upward toss)

6. Planks

This series can be performed one right after another, without rest. Start with 10 reps and work your way down to 1. If you want to speed up the cycle, skip 2 reps: do 10, 8, 6, etc. Or you can design your own sequence.

Diet Detective: In all your years of training, what do you consider the three best core exercises? Can you also explain how to do the exercises?

Rob: In my opinion, the three best core exercises are:

1. Slow-motion bicycle: Lie on your back, hands behind your head to support your head and neck, knees up at waist. Slowly alternate your elbows to opposite knees, lifting your shoulder up toward your knee while your opposite leg fully extends. This movement is performed in alternating manner. The complete sequence should be performed in approximately 4 seconds.

2. Turkish get-up: Google “Turkish get-up” and get loads of info. It would take too much space to write that one up!

3. Plank: Start in a push-up position and slowly lower yourself down so that your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold that position by tightening your core, glutes, hamstrings, arms, shoulders, and chest. Remember to keep your back flat and head down so your body resembles a plank of wood.

Diet Detective: What’s the worst thing about your job?

Rob: Getting just 6 hours of sleep. I wake up at 4:15 to start my day at 5.

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite “junk food”?

Rob:Smoked-meat sandwich from Smoke Meat Pete’s in Montreal, Canada.

Diet Detective:What’s your favorite healthy breakfast?

Rob: Cream of wheat.

Diet Detective: Which historical figure do you relate to the most?

Rob: Well, Teddy Roosevelt inspires me, but I don’t put myself on the same plane!

Diet Detective: Okay, now I want a few very quick one-word or one-sentence answers — pick only one of the choices, please.

  • Yoga vs. Pilates vs. stretching — which is best? Rob: Yoga; it connects the mind and body.
  • Free weights vs. machines? Rob: Free weights; muscle coordination.
  • Cardio vs. strength training vs. flexibility/core work? Rob: Cardio; works the most important muscle, the heart.
  • Swiss ball/physio ball vs. exercise bands? Rob: Physio ball; it’s great for balance.
  • Treadmill vs. walking outdoors? Rob: Walking outdoors; fresh air.

Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?

Rob: Construction job.

Diet Detective:What’s your motto?

Rob: Be impeccably prepared and do your best.

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