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I tried working out like Nicole Kidman for a week — here’s what happened

a photo of Nicole Kidman on the cover of Perfect Magazine, and at a premiere
(Image credit: Perfect/Getty/ANGELA WEISS / Contributor)

As a fitness editor, there’s nothing I love more than digging into the workout routines of Hollywood’s most famous faces. From Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel workout, to Tom Holland’s Spider Man workout, I’ve tried some of the most talked about routines out there. Yet following that Perfect magazine cover, one celeb who has received a lot of attention is Nicole Kidman — in particular, her amazingly toned biceps. 

The actress can be seen posing on the magazine cover flexing her chiseled arms and Google searches for ‘Nicole Kidman workout’ went through the roof. But how does the Big Little Lies actress stay in such incredible shape? In the name of good journalism, I set out to find out more, and exercise like Kidman for a week. Read on to find out what happened. 

Looking for more workout inspiration? Check out what happened when I tried Khloe Kardashian’s workout, or when I added Lily James’ 600-rep ab workout to my training routine. A reminder that what works for Nicole Kidman might not be right for you and your body — if you’re new to exercise, or you’re returning to exercise post-injury, it’s worth talking to a PT or your doctor before taking on a new workout routine. 

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What is Nicole Kidman’s workout routine? 

So, what do we know about Kidman’s workout routine? On the surface, it looks relatively low maintenance. Kidman grew up in a family that runs long distances for fun. In an interview with Los Angeles Times (opens in new tab), Kidman said, “I never really thought about it when I was growing up, but I think it instilled in all of us the importance and pleasure you get from staying fit and healthy. Growing up in Sydney, we were always running around as kids, and we all just thought this was totally normal, and to be honest it is.”

Talking about her own training routine, Kidman told the LA Times, “Variety is the best way I’ve found. If you think you are going to wake up and run five miles every morning for the rest of your life, you’ll get bored and hit the snooze button after a week. So I try and mix it up with sports, running, yoga and even just going for a walk with my husband and the kids. I also love Spinning.”

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The actress prefers to do her exercise outside rather than slogging away in the gym on a treadmill. "I’ll go for a run or a hike or I’ll get out and swim with the kids in the morning and then go to work," she told Byrdie (opens in new tab). "I’ll go jump in the ocean when we’re in Monterey shooting Big Little Lies. I would literally go down and get in that freezing cold ocean, even just for one minute." 

She also doesn’t follow a restrictive diet, telling Women’s Health (opens in new tab), “I’m just not someone that believes in denial. It’s walking a path that’s ultimately 80 percent healthy, 20 percent…sometimes it falls to 70.”

I tried working out like Nicole Kidman for a week — and it was surprisingly simple 

With all this in mind, I set out to work out like Kidman for a week. To do this, I started my day with my normal hour-long hike with my cocker spaniel and an oat milk latte, then opted to do a run or a Peloton spin class once I’d gotten back. Kidman told Women’s Health (opens in new tab) that when running, “I just put my music on and off I go. I go into the woods and that’s why I love living in Nashville. And in Sydney, you’ve got the beach, which is absolutely beautiful to run on.” Unfortunately, I don’t live anywhere near a beach, but I did swap my usual runs along the sidewalk for a more scenic route along the Thames path. 

In the afternoon, I’d do a Pilates class, or an upper body weights workout, as there’s no way Kidman built those arms without touching a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. I kept things short and simple, opting for supersets of dumbbell rows and dumbbell chest flys to torch my arm muscles, before moving on to a set of plank rows and push-ups. On other days, I’d follow a simple bodyweight arm workout, such as this blogilates weightless arm workout. Kidman is said to be a fan of Pilates, which focuses on building long, lean muscles, not building guns like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I already follow a pretty healthy diet, but during marathon training cycles, I often allow myself more sweets than Kidman probably does when she’s getting in shape for a movie. I didn’t really change my diet, I just cut those treats out during the week, and saved them for the weekend, following the actress's 80/20 approach. 

Did I notice strong arms and visible abs by the end of the week? Sadly not, the human body doesn’t work that quickly, and visible abs are down to a low body fat percentage, not endless crunches in the gym. I did enjoy Kidman’s simple approach to exercise, however, and as a runner, I tend to neglect my arm muscles in the gym, and I enjoyed the challenge of adding some upper body sessions to my routine. After a week, I did notice some slight definition in my arm muscles, although I’m definitely a ways off getting Kidman’s guns. Either way, this was a celebrity workout routine I can get on board with. 

Next: I just ran 10 miles with the Apple Watch Ultra — and this feature is a game changer.

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.