You've been there before: You're scrolling through your Instagram feed when you see your favorite celeb post about their favorite new product — a face serum, vitamins that will make your skin brighter, or a specialty food service. You can't help but want to be like the stars, but are the products worth it? In Elite Daily's new series, I Tried, we put it all to the test. We're trying those products as well as celebrities' health and wellness tips, recipes, and life hacks. We'll do the leg work and tell you what living like your fave star is really like.
I'm pretty down to try new workouts. You could call it a hobby of mine, in fact. Seriously, I'm the kind of person who actually goes to workout classes just for fun. But when I was invited to try weightlifting like Hilary Duff, who has often praised strength training as her go-to workout (and who happens to be a body-positive queen, IMO), I was actually pretty nervous. Going into the experience, I had this preconceived idea that my body would crumble under the weights, that my joints would snap like dry twigs, or that after a few sessions, I would come out looking like The Rock. Well friends, I'm here to tell you that none of these things happened when I trekked out to JDI Barbell in Long Island City, New York to start my month of weekly weightlifting sessions. In fact, I came out of the experience feeling pretty empowered, and with a deeper understanding of what my body's truly capable of.
According to an interview Duff did with Shape back in 2016, the Younger star is a big fan of squats, hip thrusts, deadlifts, and medicine ball slams in her weightlifting workouts. If that sounds like a lot to you, don't worry, Duff knows it: "I'm a pretty strong little gal," she told Cosmopolitan in a 2016 interview with the outlet. So am I as strong as Duff? Well, there was only one way to find out.
I won't lie to you: I was pretty stressed out on my first day of weightlifting at JDI Barbell. Like I said, I was already nervous about throwing myself headfirst into a workout that, TBH, kind of scares me, and of course I'd just so happened to have forgotten my gym clothes on that first day. To say the least, I was very much not feeling like Hilary Duff when I began my weightlifting journey.
But when I met my trainer, Jesse Irizarry, who's the founder and head coach at JDI Barbell, all of my worries were put to rest. Irizarry is a former D1 strength and conditioning coach, and he's competed in both powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting competitions. Apparently, he's even held a world record in bench-pressing (which he never mentioned to me, because he's just that humble, I guess). But most importantly, he was super approachable and easy to work with. So with a borrowed pair of men's gym shorts and the feigned confidence of Hilary Duff, I started training.
On day one, after a quick, but thorough stretch routine, Irizarry and I went through some of the basic lifting movements I would be doing, without adding any weight yet. Similar to Duff's routine, we did a lot of squats with kettlebells, but to start, we used a non-weighted pipe so I could try out the motions of deadlifting and presses before I actually had to pump any major iron.
According to Irizarry, it's important to start with these really basic movements if you're new to weightlifting because it helps you figure out the safest ways to move your muscles and joints, what your body's range of motion looks like, and what you're really capable of in this type of workout "You're building awareness of how to use your body," he tells Elite Daily. "People who are weight-training are more resilient and understand how to move."
With each one-on-one session, Irizarry slowly started adding more and more weight to my workouts, but he always checked in with me and made sure I wasn't pushing myself too far. We mainly focused on squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and bench presses. BTW, four workouts may not sound like a lot, but trust me, it is.
By about the third one-on-one session, I started to feel a bit more comfortable with the workouts. I'm a textbook overthinker, but Irizarry always made sure to encourage me and guide my movements, even when I obsessed over whether or not I was doing everything correctly. In fact, any time I expressed those hesitations, Irizarry would remind me that the goal wasn't really to do everything "right," but instead, to learn how my body works, and how to move in a synchronized manner so that all my muscles are really working together in an effective, strong, supported way.
As challenging as it was to continue to add more weight with each session, I noticed I was also feeling more and more confident with each workout. The movements no longer felt foreign or scary to me, and dare I say I was starting to channel some serious Hilary Duff vibes.
Duff has said that one of her favorite parts about weightlifting is how it's changed her body — more specifically, her butt. "It literally changed my whole butt," she told Cosmopolitan. "I've always had a pretty good butt and some meat there but it's made it so much higher than it was, so I'm loving that."
TBH, Duff's not wrong. While I don't necessarily care too much about what my butt looks like, I couldn't help but notice how much stronger my lower body felt after a few weightlifting sessions, and yes, how much perkier my butt was, too. But seriously, it wasn't just a perky butt: I also realized I was moving more fluidly and easily in other workouts I was doing outside of my sessions at JDI Barbell, like yoga and dancing. Overall, I felt better aligned in my body during these other workouts, and I noticed I was more conscious about supporting myself from the inside out while I moved.
Another change I noticed was one that I totally did not expect: Despite the fact that Irizarry and I weren't really doing a big variety of movements during each session, nor did I feel particularly tired during the actual workouts, I was beyond exhausted each time I got home, and I'd always sleep soundly after training (which, BTW, is rare for me). According to Irizarry, this exhaustion is totally normal after weightlifting, especially when you're just starting out, because you're basically stressing your nervous system in a way that your body simply isn't used to. "It makes you recruit a larger amount of muscle and a larger amount of force, and that really fatigues your system as a whole," he tells Elite Daily.
Before I knew it, it was my last day of training with Irizarry. I couldn't believe how quickly the time had passed, not to mention how much I'd learned in each session. Before we parted ways, I asked Irizarry for any advice he has for beginner weightlifters. For one thing, he strongly recommends working with a trainer when you're starting out, not just because it'll guarantee you're doing the workouts correctly, but also because there's a real sense of community to enjoy at most weightlifting gyms.
"[Weightlifting] has nothing to do with being a brute," he says. "It has to do with being strong. And that translates to outside of the gym as well. You start feeling more competent and strong as a person, too."
And if there's anybody who knows what that inner strength feels like, it's Hilary Duff. She told Well + Good, "Working out is just really good for my brain, my mind. As much as I want to stay in shape and I think [working out] is good for me, it keeps me in a good mindset."
To say the least, the girl we used to know as cute little Lizzie McGuire is now a seriously strong woman, mother, and role model. And when it comes to weightlifting, Duff is definitely on to something. As far as I'm concerned, this won't be the last time I pump iron.