I worked out like Beyoncé for a week. I fell on my face, almost threw up, and have never felt more sore in my life.
Beyoncé uses a mix of interval training, weight lifting, and calisthenics to stay in shape.
I spent a week attempting to replicate her workout plan with Beyoncé songs to keep me going.
Throughout the week, I felt incredibly sore and exhausted even though I did feel stronger.
Whether she's running around on stage, belting out her latest hits, showing off her dance moves, or doing a combination of all three, Beyoncé is one killer musician who seems to have considerable stamina, endurance, and strength.
And, for seven days, I decided to try training just like the hit-making musician.
One of her trainers and nutritionists, Marco Borges, has spoken a lot about how he helps get Beyoncé in tour-ready shape and her routine seems to include a mix of interval training, leg exercises, and some pretty intense core- and upper body-targeting moves.
For this challenge, I referenced the full-body "Formation" world-tour routine that Borges shared with Glamour in February 2015, some of Beyoncé's Instagram videos, and the four-move thigh and leg workout that Borges shared with Elle in March 2015.
To take advantage of my seven days, I mixed and matched different moves from Beyoncé and her personal trainer while taking time to rest in between.
Read on to see what it was like working out like Beyoncé for a week.
Also, keep in mind that just because a certain routine works for a celebrity doesn't mean it will work for you (or me).
Day one: I begin Beyoncé’s workout by targeting my upper body and core. I also quickly learn that I underestimated how difficult this was going to be.
I go into the first day of working out feeling pretty confident since I recognize all of the moves in Borges' workout plans. Admittedly, I'm not too concerned about my ability to do them, either.
In a 2015 Glamour interview, Borges recommended using boxing materials and big weight ropes for strength building.
I don't have either so I improvise by using his equipment-free suggestions and some tips from Beyoncé's "Let's Move" health-initiative Instagram video from 2015.
I start by attempting the weighted alternating-dumbbell punches that the singer showcased in her video.
I use two 5-pound weights and I make a point of keeping my core tight and twisting with the different punches.
My whole upper body starts hurting after just one set of 10 on each side. I manage to finish two sets of these punches before giving up.
After that, I am tempted to let my upper body rest by getting in a little cardio, but I know that I will be way too tired to finish the rest of my strength training if I do that.
So, I decide to tackle the "Lemonade" singer's full-body sit-ups and standing-side crunches next. These weren't too tough because I do Pilates often.
First, I do two sets of 10 of full-body sit-ups with a 5-pound medicine ball.
Then, I do 10 standing-side crunches on each side of my body, resting between reps.
Basically, for these, you stand with your knees bent slightly and your hands behind your head and then crunch to the right side while also bringing your right knee up toward your elbow. Then, do the same with your left side.
They were pretty easy.
But then, as my workout for the day comes to a close, I get nervous about what Borges seems to believe is the "holy grail" of the songstress's upper-body workout — explosive push-ups.
I can hardly do a standard push-up let alone these, which you end by springing up into the air.
To keep things easy for myself, I decide to aim for completing just five explosive push-ups.
My first attempt is a failure. After just one, my arms give out after I try to push myself into the air and I fall on my face.
My arms are pretty shaky, so I do the rest of the four push-ups on my knees before laying down on the mat and taking a breather.
At this point, I am really dreading closing out my workout with some cardio and interval training to build "stamina and explosiveness, which [Beyoncé] needs to move across the stage," according to Borges.
He has the singer sprint for one minute followed by two minutes of brisk walking, which she keeps alternating for half an hour.
About five minutes into this cardio routine, I start feeling faint and like I am going to pass out or throw up.
Needless to say, I definitely underestimated how hard this was going to be, and I lay down in the fetal position until I feel better.
Day two: I am so sore and Beyoncé's leg and thigh workout leaves my body burning.
When I wake up, I feel like my whole upper body is the sorest it's ever been. It's a struggle to get out of bed and put my gym clothes on.
At this very moment, I kind of look forward to my workout dedicated to replicating Beyoncé's thighs and legs.
After all, my lower body is way stronger than my upper body, so this should be manageable.
I decide to follow the four-step workout that Borges shared with Elle back in 2015. It's apparently responsible for the singer's "7/11" thighs, which refers to her toned legs seen in the music video for that track.
Today, I start with the single-leg pelvic lifts, which are already a part of my regular workout rotation. I add a medium-strength leg band to work the muscles more as I do a few sets.
When it comes time to do the jumping-plie squats, I made sure to focus on my form and ensure that my feet are slightly turned out and my legs are out slightly further than my shoulders before jumping. The last thing I want to do is injure myself mid-week.
Again, this is a move I am pretty familiar with, so I do three sets of 10 without feeling like I needed to stop.
The jumping lunges and the reverse-squat kicks are where things get a little tricky.
I assumed that these moves would be similar to the jumping-plie squats, but I definitely underestimated how hard it would be to keep my balance while jumping and making sure that my knees lined up with my heels.
My thighs and butt are burning by the time I finish these and I am dripping with sweat.
To finish the day off, I take a moment to stretch, which Borges has previously told Glamour is important for maintaining flexibility.
Day three: After doing a bunch of workouts with kettlebells, I am out of breath and sore.
I wake up and am somewhat surprised to notice that my legs and my butt are actually quite sore. I waddle around all day and choose the elevator over the stairs as much as possible.
For today's routine, I decide to cover some of the moves that I've ignored so far, such as the kettlebell squat and press that Borges told Glamour is a good workout in itself if you don't have time for anything else.
Considering that my thighs and chest muscles are still burning from their efforts over the past couple of days, the kettlebell squat and press — which basically consists of you squatting with a kettlebell and then lifting it over your head when you stand up — sounds like an absolute nightmare.
I sort of cheat and use a pretty light 10-pound weight and do only two sets of 10 reps instead of the four sets of 15 that Borges recommends. I figure I'll try working up to that in the coming days.
The rest of the workout, which consists of two sets of single-leg step-ups and forward lunges, is hard enough without extra free weights, so I do the moves without them.
I end my workout by trying the 30-minute sprint and brisk walk alternation, but am out of breath, lightheaded, and dripping with sweat after just 10 minutes.
I definitely need to work on my cardio.
Day four: I don't know how Beyoncé does explosive push-ups and this continues to be harder than I expected.
This morning, I try to forget about the fact that I am repeating the workout from the first day, which has been the hardest routine I've tried thus far and includes the bane of my existence — the explosive push-ups.
I take my time warming up and stretching before starting things off with a set each of the full-body sit-ups and the standing-side crunches.
I tend to procrastinate on things I don't want to do, so it's hard concentrating and being in the moment when I am dreading doing those darn push-ups. So, I decide to get them over with.
I don't know if it's because I am mentally psyching myself up for it, but they are just as hard as I remember.
Immediately I feel myself sweating after my first one and manage to do one more before giving up. I have literally no clue how Bey does multiple sets of these.
I'm feeling pretty disappointed in myself and frustrated, so I only do one set of 10 weighted alternating-dumbbell punches on each side before ending the workout.
This is a lot harder than I expected.
Day five: I psyche myself up with Beyoncé music and power through even though my entire body is burning with pain.
It takes every ounce of willpower that I have to set my alarm clock for 8 a.m. and actually roll out of bed to work out.
At this point, my whole body is hurting from a few days of intense routines. So, before I get started, I put on some Beyoncé tunes to get myself in the mood.
Again, I start with the single-leg pelvic lifts with a high-intensity leg band and do three sets of 10 on each side, alternating with three sets of the jumping-plie squats.
I end with two sets each of the jumping lunges and the reverse-squat kicks. This time, I go slowly to make sure I do them correctly. I do 10 on each side for two sets.
Day six: I don't know what it's like to not feel sore anymore, but I still focus on getting the interval training down.
Maybe I'm just being dramatic, but I've forgotten what it feels like not to be sore all over.
I decide to skip the step-ups and regular forward lunges and instead focus on a good kettlebell squat and press session. I also finally tackle the 30 minutes of sprinting and brisk walking to sweat it all out.
With the help of some Beyoncé tunes, I find myself in a better mood as I grab a 10-pound kettlebell to begin my squat and press moves. I try to focus on breathing and do three sets of 10 each.
My favorite part of the day is the half-hour of alternating between 1-minute sprints and two minutes of brisk walking. It actually feels pretty good after a few days of lifting weights.
I turn up my Beyoncé playlist and focus on my favorite songs so that the half-hour doesn't seem too long. I actually feel amazing and am riding the endorphins after I'm done.
Day seven: My goal is to close out this challenge by doing five of the explosive push-ups. I sort of achieve it.
I wake up feeling pretty motivated to do my initial goal of five explosive push-ups ... but I've altered my plan a little bit.
I think I was being too ambitious before so, this time, I'm going to try an elevated explosive push-up that will take some of the strain from my body's weight off of my arms and chest.
It might not be perfect or pretty, but I've decided it's going to happen.
To warm up and get into the swing of things, I start with the full-body sit-up and standing-side crunches, adding a 5-pound medicine ball to help me focus my core strength.
Next, I grab a bench and get into a push-up stance, keeping my core tight while avoiding sticking my butt up too high.
I'm able to do three explosive push-ups and I feel like I'm in control and actually working the correct muscles instead of just flinging myself into the air and trying not to fall flat on my face.
I take my time between each and let myself rest until I'm ready to try the next one.
That said, I still have no idea how Beyoncé does sets of these.
After that, I attempt to do three sets of weighted alternating-dumbbell punches to finish off strong. My shoulders, chest, and arms are burning at this point.
My last few reps are pretty halfhearted, so I stop and lay down on the floor while I contemplate how I'm going to get through 30 minutes of interval training.
I settle on 15 minutes of alternating sprints and brisk walking, followed by a well-deserved stretching session, most of which is done on the floor because I can't bother to get up right now.
Reflecting on this experience, I don't think this fitness routine would be sustainable for the average person to keep up. I am also even more impressed by Beyoncé.
For the record, Borges did tell Glamour that the full "Formation" World Tour routine should be done three times weekly and that people would see the results in about six weeks.
Instead, I opted to spread out a lot of his moves over multiple days while combining them with other mixed-and-matched routines from his other workouts and Beyoncé's Instagram.
Although I'm glad I did my own Frankensteined version of Beyoncé's routine, I can also admit that I've never been so sore in my life and the moves, although simple and easy to learn, were grueling in practice.
This experience was a wake-up call that maybe I should start doing some more work on my upper body because I was definitely struggling to do exercises that focused on it.
Still, I'm ending this week feeling a lot stronger. That said, I don't think I'll be doing this again any time soon.
This story was originally published on September 10, 2019 and most recently updated on May 16, 2023.
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