Taraji P. Henson's Trainer Is Breaking Down What Her Typical Workout Looks Like—and It's Intense
Her weightlifting sessions last for an hour. And then she does an hour of cardio.
Taraji P. Henson is giving everyone a sneak peek into what her workouts look like. The 50-year-old Empire actress posted a video to Instagram on June 23 that showed herself doing squats at the gym.
"Workin," she captioned the clip.
The comments filled with muscle, fire, and peach emojis, as well as words of encouragement. But perhaps no one showed as much support as Henson's trainer of more than seven years, Mike T. He reposted the video on his Instagram, writing "𝘚𝘈𝘔𝘌 𝘛𝘏𝘐𝘕𝘎 𝘋𝘐𝘍𝘍𝘌𝘙𝘌𝘕𝘛 𝘋𝘈𝘠 𝘈𝘓𝘞𝘈𝘠𝘚 𝘎𝘙𝘐𝘕𝘋𝘐𝘕𝘎 𝘓𝘐𝘒𝘌 𝘛𝘏𝘌 𝘜𝘚𝘜𝘈𝘓.."
In fact, Mike T's Instagram (@forcefitnessinc) is filled with photos and videos of Henson's workouts—along with bikini and glam pics that show off the results of her hard work. The celebrity trainer, who owns Force Fitness Inc. and counts actresses Storm Reid and Meagan Good as clients, has been working with Henson since the first season of Empire. Health talked with Mike T about the most recent exercise Henson posted—as well as what else she does to maintain her physique.
First, the squatting video. What Henson is doing is called a landmine squat—a variation of a squat so that the weight is at your front rather than on your back. It's one of the exercises Mike T does with Henson to "shape her up pretty nicely," he tells Health. "It focuses on her quad muscles and her glute muscles. And it's a great exercise for being able to kind of do a squat leaning; it's really like putting the front of your quads at more work. And then also, you activate the glutes at the bottom of it because you're doing it very deep."
Typically, Henson will do about five sets of 15 reps of the landmine squats. Depending on what weight is being used or what she's trying to accomplish for that week, sometimes it can be as many as 20 reps.
Taraji P. Henson's Workout
But the clip she posted is just one part of a usually hour-long weight lifting session and an even longer total workout. Here's what a typical workout with Mike T might look like for Henson.
To loosen her legs, Henson will start with the elliptical machine or treadmill.
First up are regular squats, with the bar at her back. Henson will squat up to 135 pounds—150 pounds on a heavy day. She'll do between 10 to 12 repetitions. Landmine squats are next.
Leg press machine
"I like to hit the quads and stack those muscles together," Mike T says. So after landmine squats comes a leg press exercise: Henson does 10 reps with her feet wide apart, and then 10 with her legs together, four times.
Next, he focuses on her hamstrings. "To start attacking that, I'll usually start with the medium-weight kettlebell and do dead lifts," Mike T says. "And I'll also do a deadlift combination where I'll do a deadlift squat-combo for about 20 repetitions using medium to heavy weight for her deadlifts."
"Following that, I'll go into one of the areas really shaping her hamstrings...I do what's called a 7-7-7 series for hamstring curls," he continues. For this, Henson will do a lying or seated hamstring curl where her toe position is straight, pointed in, and then pointed out, seven reps each, to hit all the different areas of the hamstring. "That gives a complete shaping to our hamstrings," he explains. Henson then might do isolated hamstring curls, singling out one leg at a time for 12 to 15 reps.
Mike T zeroes in on two key things when it comes to shaping her body with hamstring curls. One, he'll have Henson hold the contraction longer to really break that muscle down. Two, he'll have her do drop sets. For example, if Henson does 15 reps of a hamstring curl at 30 pounds, her next 15 reps will be at 20 pounds. This "really fatigues and shapes that muscle," according to Mike T.
Her workout doesn't stop after weightlifting. Henson will then do an hour of cardio, which Mike T says primarily consists of the StairMaster. "It puts your body in a fat-burning zone more efficiently; it allows you to really hit every area of your body faster," he explains. That's especially key for Henson, since the goals with her workouts are to "tone and tighten," not necessarily to lose weight. "To keep Taraji lean, we do that fat-burning zone on the StairMaster for about an hour," he says.
Henson works hard to maintain her tone, exercising a minimum of 5-7 days a week. Her work ethic in the gym is an inspiration to people, according to Mike T. In fact, he'll soon be releasing a "Force Fitness 30-Day Challenge" video series that features Henson doing her workouts. Viewers can follow her fitness and nutrition routine from home.
For anyone who finds it difficult to get motivated to work out, consider this advice Mike T uses with his clients:
One, set short-term goals. Often when people go into working out, they have their mind focused on the end result. "But you know, life happens," he says. "Most people have a work schedule and families and things that might deter them from always being consistent at the gym. So I often create smaller goals for my clients to reach because [those goals are] closer. And when you reach one goal, you can set the next goal. So what you do is, you string that along, and that gives you the ability to see the change and the progress and not just wait for the end result that might take several months."
Two, don't be so hard on yourself. "When you set your intention to work out and get in shape, be realistic about the timeframe that you give yourself," he says. "And it's OK to fall off a little bit. But just be consistent as you can."
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