When I think of Wonder Woman, I think of confidence, bravery and poise, but physical strength most of all. And the on-screen warrior doesn't get her strength from CGI and special effects. Gal Gadot, who assumed the iconic role in 2017, puts in the sweat sessions to become Diana Prince.
Curious if I could handle the rigours of her workouts, I enlisted her trainer, Magnus Lygdback, for his tips and expertise before embarking on a week of his tailor-made Wonder Woman workouts.
Officially, the regimen that Lygdback practises with Gadot is a six-week routine with five workouts a week, available on the free Playbook app. "This is all about making someone look a certain way efficiently," Lygdback told me. "To shred fat, build maximum amounts of muscle mass, and shape the body, high-intensity interval training combined with strength training is best."
I dove into the first two weeks with Lygdback's help modifying movements to match the home gym equipment I had, and I lived to tell the tale. Here's how my first-week training like Wonder Woman herself went.
Day 1: cardio and legs
I kicked off my first session with sprints, following Lygdback's instructions. Given that I didn't have a treadmill in my home gym, I swapped indoor sprints for outdoor sprints (five minutes running, plus three 30-second shorter speed bursts) at a nearby track and whizzed through the intervals. Sprints haven't been in my regular rotation since marathon training in 2019, so I didn't break any records, but I was definitely warm and ready when the last timer rang.
Once I was back inside, I wished I'd brought my band and dumbbell with me to the park. The rest of the workout could easily be done outside.
I started with front squats with dumbbells and walking lunges. Next up: a mini band circuit with a curtsy step and lateral walk on each side. The first few steps lulled me into a false sense of security that the moves would be easy for me the whole time, but by the last few reps my outer thighs were on fire.
The first workout wrapped with skaters for one more cardio burst, and windmills for abs. I modified the hanging windmill by doing leg lifts starting from lying on your back, from another day in the routine.
Cardio and legs workout (sets x reps):
Front squats with dumbbells (3 x 12)
Walking lunges (3 x 20)
Curtsy steps (3 x 20) and lateral walks (3 x 15) with mini-band
Skaters (3 x 20)
Windmills or dragon kicks (3 x 20) (Not familiar? Try one of these effective abs alternatives.)
Day 2: back, chest and core
I knew I'd been slacking on arm-strength workouts this winter, but I didn't realise how much I'd been neglecting them until after my first upper body day. So, I warmed up with cardio bursts on the stationary bike before grabbing the dumbbells.
Each movement (think lat pulldowns, eccentric push-ups, dumbbell rows, and flys) was straightforward, but by the end of the reps my muscles were on fire. Later that day, very specific fibres in my shoulders and chest were screaming at me. Talking to Lygdback, I learned that's exactly how it should feel. "The last two or three reps, you should be struggling," he told me. "It should be really, really hard."
I also quickly learned that core finishers are key to training like a superhero. This day included an oblique superset of crossover mountain climbers followed by rotational twists with leg kicks. Both easy to say, not so easy to do.
Back, chest and core workout:
Warm-up: assault bike or rowing machine (5 minutes)
Wide grip lat pulldowns (3 x 12)
Eccentric push-ups (3 sets to failure)
Alternating standing dumbbell rows (3 x 20)
Trainer tip: A superset means you move from one set of the first exercise to a set of the next without taking a break between the two.
Day 3: HIIT and arms
After my alarm jolted me out of bed, I saw arms were on the schedule again. Yes, it was painful to pick up my phone and water bottle, so I was less than eager to grab a dumbbell. But incredibly, the new muscle groups (triceps, biceps, and shoulders) all seemed to have some effort remaining.
I warmed up with five minutes on a stationary bike (still my swap in place of the assault bike). It didn't work my upper body as much, but still got the blood pumping. The real work started with alternating bicep curls and tricep skull crushers. Talking to Lygdback, I learned the number of reps are an estimate that you can adjust based on your abilities; the goal is to exhaust the muscle group and reach failure with each set, which came quicker with each move.
I also subbed a heavy resistance band hooked to a door for cable bicep curls and tricep push-downs. The real challenge was a superset of double bicep curls with a flat back and lateral raises. The hollow hold finisher had me staring at the seconds ticking down on my phone before collapsing back on the mat.
HIIT and arms workout:
Warmup: assault bike (5 minutes)
Alternating biceps curls (3 x 15)
Triceps skull crushers (3 x 12)
Cable biceps curls (3 x 12)
Triceps push-downs (3 x 12)
Superset: double bicep curls with a flat back (3 x 10) and lateral raises (3 X 12)
Hollow hold (3 x 45 seconds)
Day 4: HIIT, legs and core
Leg day didn't seem as daunting the second time around. Instead of resistance band work, this lower-body routine included more weighted moves targeting the quads and hamstrings, and I felt extra motivated. If you have a full gym, you can do treadmill sprints to warm up and then load up the leg press. I went back to the park for sprints, on a hill this time for extra resistance.
In place of the leg press machine, I grabbed my heaviest weights and swapped in squats, which felt just as tough. Then, I went straight to Bulgarian split squats, alternating which leg was elevated on a chair.
The lower-body routine also held some surprises: not one but two supersets to burn out the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. The first included knee tucks on a stability ball, which looked deceptively easy, and side-to-side hops using a chair. I lost count of how many times I nearly toppled over from the very unstable ball. Superset number two used the stability ball for hamstring curls, and hip thrusts on a bench, which went much smoother.
The ab finisher, a hands-to-feet stability ball pass, got so tough so quickly that I double-checked the reps. No question about it, I hit my failure point multiple times.
HIIT, legs, and core workout:
Warmup: treadmill running (5 minutes) and deadmill sprints (4 x 30 seconds with 30 seconds rest in between)
Leg press (2 x 5)
Bulgarian split squats (3 x 20)
Hands to Feet Stability Ball Pass (3 x 20)
Day 5: Chest, back, and core
I warmed up on the stationary bike, upping my resistance to kick my heart rate into working mode in five minutes flat. Then, it was all about chest and back supersets.
The first superset focused on strengthening the back with close grip pull-downs (3 x 12) and side shoulder raises. Again, I used a heavy resistance band with handles to mimic the cable machine and quickly dropped my dumbbell weight down to make it through the shoulder raise reps. Superset number two targeted all the upper body with dumbbell rows plus oblique twists and incline push-ups on a bench. I pushed through to the third superset with straight arm pulldowns and dumbbell straight arm raises. The final core crusher included accurately named dragon kicks (3 x 15).
Chest, back and core workout:
Warmup: assault bike (5 minutes)
Superset: Dumbbell rows with oblique twists (4 x 12) and incline push-ups (4 x 12)
Dragon Kicks (3 x 15)
Yes, Wonder Woman gets rest days. On my two very-needed off days, I opted for active recovery (walking). Lygdback encouraged proper rest days - as in, lie on the sofa and watch Wonder Woman - to maximise your benefits from the tough program. "You're totally fine with laying on the sofa," Lygdback said. "If you follow that program, five days a week. Trust me, you're going to need it." I second that.
He explained why: "You should never work through your muscles more than twice a week. You should work each muscle group between one-to-two times per week. It's that perfect balance between really targeting and stressing every muscle group as much as it can and then allowing you to rest."
My biggest takeaways
I knew one week wasn't enough time to actually transform into a superhero. However, that was plenty of time to feel stronger. My wimpy arms were pushing through more reps by the second week, and I was sprinting faster and further on the HIIT days. It took a while, but I did begin to embrace rest days.
I also became more mindful of my nutrition. Lygdback stressed the importance of eating a post-workout snack or meal of carbs and protein within 30 minutes of every sweat session. This is key to muscle recovery and real results. The last thing I wanted to do was derail my hard work by not feeding my muscles right.
Did I become actual Wonder Woman in a week? Maybe not — but I did feel that much closer to superhero status.
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