Feel Like a Girl on Fire (in a Good Way) With Alicia Keys’ 3 Go-To Endurance Exercises

Anna Kaiser has trained her fair share of celebrities and regular exercisers alike over the years. But when she’s working with singer Alicia Keys, she knows she can expect something a little different.

“I’ve never seen her check her phone,” says Kaiser. “Every other celebrity I’ve ever worked with—and also non-celebrity—checks their phones, but Alicia has never done that. The minute she walks into the studio, she is present. She’s like, I’m here, this is my time.”

There is, of course, no shortage of pressing commitments Keys could be checking in on: Hot off her Keys to the Summer tour, Keys is putting the finishing touches on Hell’s Kitchen, a new, semi-autobiographical musical opening November 19 at off-Broadway’s Public Theater, which she’s been working on for over a decade. She’s also a mom, and has her own skincare line, Keys Soulcare.

“For someone who has to show up for so many people, she knows how important it is to get a workout into her day so she can be her best self,” says Kaiser, who has been working with Keys since 2015.

Training with Kaiser has also become essential to boosting Keys’ endurance for long, demanding concerts. It’s often her first stop after landing in New York, and she’s been known to take open group classes in addition to her private sessions. It’s even part of her pre-show routine, thanks in part to her vocal coach, who suggested she incorporate cardio into her warm-up. Now, Kaiser’s signature workout—which involves dance-inspired moves, stepping and jumping on and off a box, and exercises she calls “vertical Pilates”—happens before every show.

But you don’t need to have 15 Grammy Awards to work out like Keys. Here, Kaiser and Anna Kaiser Studios master instructor Jamie Golden share what we can all learn from Keys’ routine, plus some of the singer’s favorite moves.

Remember to make it fun

Keys may do Kaiser’s workout three or four times a week—and sometimes more—but that doesn’t mean she always wants to work out. (Golden says Keys sometimes expresses that she’d rather be reading, which, same.)

To get through her workouts, Keys relies on killer playlists with loud, motivational tracks and often some singing along, says Kaiser.

It also helps that Kaiser’s workout is literally built to be fun. “Instead of doing burpees and squat jumps and pushups, we’re doing a dance routine with similar elements, with the same amount of power,” says Kaiser. Golden says the fact that it’s choreography makes it more of a mental challenge, too, which helps Keys stay present. “She can’t think about the thousands of things she has to do today—you have to be so present or you’re going to stumble and miss steps,” she says.

Keep it short and sweet if you need to

With Keys’ demanding schedule, she often doesn’t have time for a prolonged workout session, but she makes good use of the time she does have. “She’s like, alright, I’ve got 25 minutes,” says Kaiser. “And she goes as far as she can.” That means no breaks, says Golden—from a “juicy” warm-up focused on actively stretching Keys’ tight hamstrings, to alternating cardio and strength sections, followed by a cooldown and some foam rolling.

Now, try some of Keys’ moves

Though Kaiser’s signature workout involves a box and overhead bands, this pared-down routine can be done at home.

Lunge series

Front lunge overhead press: In a front lunge with both knees bent to 90 degrees, hold a medium weight (Kaiser recommends 8 to 10 pounds) in both hands. Reach the weight up and towards the front leg, twisting slightly, then bring it back down to tap the front ankle. Repeat 20 times.
Side lunge to overhead press: In a side lunge, reach towards the working ankle with the weight, then push off to balance on the standing leg while lifting the weight above your head. Keep the standing leg completely straight throughout. Repeat 20 times.
Side lunge to jump: Drop the weight and add a jump to the side lunge press-off, reaching away from the working leg as you jump. Repeat 20 times.

Repeat on the other side, staying with the beat of the music—ideally 120 BPM—the whole time.

Stair circuit

30 seconds of stair runs: Go up the first stair on your right foot, the second on your left, and the third on your right, then come back down the same way. Switch sides.
30 seconds of switches: With one foot on the first step and the other on the ground, press off both feet and jump to switch.
30 seconds of single step ups: Step on and push off the stair with one foot, keeping the other leg straight behind you in a low arabesque as you jump, then land on the back foot and switch sides.
30 seconds of passé step ups: Advance the previous exercise by bringing your back knee in towards your chest and your foot to the side of your knee as you step up, engaging the core.

Repeat the whole circuit for three rounds total.

Side plank series

Weighted side plank: In a side plank on either your forearm or hand, hold a five pound weight in your free hand, with the arm outstretched directly above the shoulder. Slowly bring the arm down so that it’s parallel to the floor (*not* curving down like you’re threading the needle) and is acting as a lever against your core, then lift it back up again. Repeat six times.
Towel whip in a side plank: Still in a side plank, whip a towel around in your top hand for 30 seconds to the beat of the music for a stability challenge. Repeat, then switch sides.

Do this circuit twice all the way through.

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