When it comes to workout inspiration, there’s one celebrity that stands out from the beautifully-sculpted crowd — Jennifer Lopez. Jenny from the block can dance, sing, and act, but she also works super hard in the gym to build a core that deserves its own Instagram account. To find out more, I dug out a JLo playlist on Spotify, braced my core, and went to the gym to give her ab workout a go.
Lopez’s trainer, Dodd Romero, shared her exact grueling ab workout in an interview with Oprah Daily (opens in new tab). Romero noted that Lopez loves to get a good workout in before she goes out on stage, and said she trains for roughly an hour, four to five times a week, focusing on a different body part each workout. She also eats well, according to another trainer that worked with JLo, she follows a balanced diet of high-quality protein and nutrient-dense food. Abs are made in the kitchen, after all.
It goes without saying that what works for Lopez, or me, might not work for you and your body. If you’re completely new to an exercise, it’s a good idea to check your form with a personal trainer before adding weight to the move to ensure you’re not putting yourself at risk of injury. Looking for more workout inspiration? Read what happened when I did 100 dead bugs a day for a week here. I also recently tried this viral anime ab workout — and here’s what happened.
What is J Lo’s ab workout?
Are you ready to work hard? Lopez’s ab workout is as follows:
50 hanging ab raises
50 rope crunches
50 incline sit-ups with a 45-pound plate
The same exercises, but with 35 reps of each.
The same again, but with 21 reps.
Romero said Lopez doesn’t take any breaks between sets — you heard it here first, the woman is a machine.
Let’s take a look at how to do each of the three exercises with the correct form:
Hanging leg raises: To do a hanging leg raise, start by grabbing onto a bar in an overhand grip, with your thumbs wrapped around the bar for stability. Engage your core (think about sucking your belly button into your spine), and raise your legs together until they are straight out in front of you. Pause, then lower your legs back to your starting position.
Rope crunches: To do a rope crunch, you’ll need to put a rope attachment on a cable machine, and set yourself up in front of it. Kneel down about a meter back from the machine, with the pulley above head height. Grasp the rope in both hands, with your palms facing inwards. Bend your body forward at a 45-degree angle to start, then squeeze your abs and pull your torso towards the floor. Control yourself on the way up — the movement should be slow and steady.
Incline sit-ups with a plate: Incline sit-ups, like its name suggests, involve doing sit-ups on an incline. This is usually easiest on a weight bench which has a foot bar you can hook your feet under. Lower the bench to a 30-45 degree angle. The higher the angle, the harder your core has to work during the exercise. Your feet should be on the higher end of the bench, your head at the lower end.
Holding a weight plate across your chest, squeeze your core and raise your torso off the bench, towards your feet, as you would do in a normal sit-up. (Here’s how to do a sit-up with the correct form, and what happened when I did 30 sit-ups a day for 30 days).
I did JLo’s ab workout for a week — here’s what happened
According to her trainer, Lopez only works abs once a week, which is pretty normal in most training routines, yet to really put her workout to the test, I did it for three days in a week. As a runner, having a strong core is far more than just an aesthetic goal — a weak core can lead to injury and less endurance on the run. As I’m currently in the first training block for the London Marathon this fall, I’m running around 25 miles a week, with three strength training sessions, so I used JLo’s ab circuit for all three trips to the gym this week.
The first thing I noticed was that 50 leg raises is a lot. I managed about ten before I realized I was swinging at the hips to raise my legs, rather than engaging my core. For the remaining reps, I switched to the bent leg version, where you use your abs and hip flexors to raise your knees up to waist level, rather than keeping your legs straight, to ensure I was working the correct muscles.
For the next two sets of leg raises, I got down from the bar and switched over to using the captain’s chair in the gym, which has back and arm pads to help keep you in position as you raise your legs. As I’ve mentioned before in workout stories, I suffer from sciatica after a horse-riding accident as a teen, so I have to be careful about putting too much pressure on my lower back when working out.
The rope crunches were also intense, burning into my oblique muscles along the side of my torso. The incline sit-ups afterward were torture. I soon put my ego aside and swapped the 10kg plate I’d originally grabbed for a 5kg plate — sit-ups at an incline are very different from sit-ups on a level.
Unlike JLo, I did take a two-minute break in between sets to sit on the exercise bench and contemplate my career choices. 106 reps later, my core was on fire, and I was in awe at JLo’s strength as I flopped down onto an exercise mat to stretch.
When I returned to the workout two days later, my core already ached a few minutes into the circuit — there’s a reason Lopez only does this killer workout once a week, and it’s because it’s so intense. The aching didn’t let up for the whole workout, and by the final set, I had to ditch the weight plate for the sit-ups and just use bodyweight. I left it a few more days before I tried the workout again, and again, found my core ached like never before for the entire workout.
Did I have Lopez’s abs after a week of trying her workout? Sadly not. The human body, as much as we’d like it to, doesn’t work like this and visible abs are completely dependent on your body fat percentage, not how many sit-ups or leg raises you do (here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage).
I did, however, learn three things, firstly, that Jennifer Lopez works incredibly hard to get her incredible physique. Secondly, she has some good gym songs — of course, it wasn't a requirement of the challenge to listen to her tunes while I did her workout, by why not, right? Finally, I really enjoyed the simplicity of the workout — only doing three exercises really forced me to focus on my form during these exercises, rather than getting distracted and rushing to the next thing. That said, it’s not one I’ll be repeating in a hurry.