Getting Super for Summer: We Tried Kumail Nanjiani's Workout to See If We Could Get Ripped Too (Part 2)

In the second installment of our four-part series, we track our progress with celebrity trainer David Higgins' #SuperHe and #SuperShe programs--aka the regimen that got Kumail Nanjiani Marvel-ready.

By Billy Nilles, Alli Rosenbloom Apr 01, 2020 2:00 PMTags
Super For Summer Feature, Kumail Nanjiani, Gal Gadot, Scarlett JohanssonWarner Bros./Getty Images/Shutterstock; Melissa Herwitt/E! Illustration

Are we ripped yet?

That's the question we keep asking ourselves as we headed into the first two weeks of this more aggressive training in our quest. Welcome back to Getting Super for Summer.

As we detailed in part one of this four-part series, we've both begun a massive nine-week undertaking to transform our bodies by following the teachings of celebrity trainer and author of The Hollywood Body Plan, David Higgins. You may know him better as the guy who turned comedian Kumail Nanjiani into a shredded action star for Marvel's upcoming adaptation of The Eternals. After completing David's 21-day body rehab program, detailed in his book, our paths have begun to diverge as we've each begun our gender-specific #Super programs. Sold by David in the wake of the Australian wildfires to raise funds for his homeland, the supplemental six-week training regimens come in three varieties: #SuperHe, #SuperShe and the gender-neutral #SuperMe. (All are available for purchase here, and the nice thing about #SuperMe is that it requires zero equipment, so if you're stuck at home with nary a loose kettlebell lying around, you can still get in shape while social distancing.)

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As we made the decision to do follow #SuperHe and #SuperShe before coronavirus brought the globe to a grinding halt, we stuck with our plan and made some minor tweaks, which you'll read about below. But the basic structure of the regimen has remained intact. For the fellas, we do our Heavy weight-lifting circuit (with three sets of each exercise) on Mondays and Thursdays, our Volume circuit (one set each, with most performed as a superset with another) on Tuesdays and Fridays, and our Mobility and Care circuit (mat-based and requiring no equipment outside of resistance bands) on Wednesdays, with Saturdays and Sundays for rest. And for the ladies, it's the Full Body Circuit on Mondays and Thursdays, the Lower Body circuit on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the identical Mobility and Care circuit on Wednesdays, with weekends off. 

As for diet, that's changed a bit, too. You'll recall during part one that we had a trio of days where we only ate 500 calories. Those are over. For the remainder, we simply perform intermittent fasting (eating within an eight-hour window of our choosing, fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day) Monday-Thursday, while eating on our own schedule the remaining three days.

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While the regimen is indeed tough, it's gotten us wondering: Could this really be all we need to do to get ripped just like Kumail or were we fooling ourselves? So, we went to the man behind the plan and asked him ourselves.

"It's definitely possible to achieve results following that program," David told us. "As long as you're consistent with the program you will absolutely get results."

When we asked if there was a natural point that he noticed most of his clients, which have included the casts of Wonder Woman 1984 and Black Widow, hitting a wall and needing encouragement to continue on, he surprised us. "Most of the time it's actually the opposite, it's 'I can do more.' And I'm like, 'Nope, stay back,'" he said with a laugh. "'Keep the pace.' Weirdly, that's been the most difficult to manage ego, as in don't push too hard. You can have a rest day, relax. It's not that crazy. I think we get fed it has to be an all or nothing kind of thing to get results and that's not true at all. It's just a consistent mindset. Everyone knows what we should eat, everyone knows that we should probably exercise and it's just that we just don't. There's no on or off switch, it's just a consistent situation."

With that in mind, we got to work. What follows are our diary notes from the first two weeks of our transformation period (the fourth and fifth overall).

Getting Super for Summer: We Tried Kumail Nanjiani's Workout to See If We Could Get Ripped Too (Part 1)

What changes did you have to make to do this strictly at home? And how are you feeling about transitioning this to an at-home training program?

Alli: First thing was making sure I had all the equipment I needed (dumbbells, kettle bell, bands, etc...) and I had to make space in my, let's say, cozy apartment. There were also two exercises that required gym equipment that I had to amend to do at home: replacing TRX bands with a bed sheet secured in a door frame for TRX rows in the full body circuit, and using my resistance band around my thighs for the barbell glute bridge in place of using a barbell in the Lower Body day. As far as how I feel about the at home transition, being my own cheerleader and holding myself accountable is what I was most nervous about but so far so good! I almost like it better this way, I have more room mentally to get comfortable with each exercise whereas at the gym I would maybe try to hide or hold back by feeling embarrassed or intimated by the other people who make it all look so easy. I know that once gyms in CA open back up again, I'll have built up that gym confidence I've been lacking after getting comfortable with these exercises at home.

Billy: I started to see the writing on the wall well before California made the call to shutter all gyms (among many other places) for the time being while we work to flatten this curve and keep the most vulnerable among us alive, so I began sourcing equipment I was going to need to do everything at home. I found a set of adjustable dumbbells with enough weights and a bench in my sister and brother-in-law's garage, who graciously let me bring them to my house for the time being. And I purchased a barbell at Target. Luckily, none of the exercises in the SuperHe program required specific gym equipment aside from the aforementioned weights, so everything can be done in the safety of my garage. Like Alli mentioned, I also prefer the privacy of doing all this away from prying (and in my mind, judging) eyes and, honestly, might not even transition back to my gym once it's re-open.

What was the hardest aspect of each week for you? Specific exercise, finding motivation, etc.

Alli: Week 1: Working out through the soreness was tough, but all my fit friends keep telling me that eventually will either go away or I'll just get used to it, so I'm banking on that. Also, I think just finding my groove with the flow of each workout each day. 

Week 2: This week the hardest part for me wasn't really the working out, it was more of sticking with the intermittent fasting. On a day that I chose to begin my eight hour window a little earlier than usual, I would get hunger pangs in the evening around 7 or 8pm. Dealing with that was definitely a challenge and one night I caved and ate a snack (albeit a very healthy snack of cucumbers…) around 8pm. To make up for it, I gave myself an extra day of intermittent to temper the guilt I felt about it.

Billy: Week 1: So, there were two things that kept tripping me up this week. One: Remembering to warm up. I work out after my work day is done, and most days, I just rolled into the main workout, realizing I'd forgotten to do any warm-up at all about halfway through. Clearly, there was a lot of other s—t on my mind this week, what with—looks around—everything going on. And two: The first day I had to do a minute ski sit, I thought my legs were going to explode. By 30 seconds, they were shaking so hard, they looked like rockets about to take off to the moon. Overcoming that is one of my immediate short-term goals.

Week 2: For me, this week I struggled with feeling like I was doing enough and like I was eating as healthy as I could. I started to feel the guilt over my decision to do weekend small business take-out to help some of my favorite restaurants in business during this remarkably tough time. And the idea that the weight-lifting program was enough of a workout when we're stuck inside the way we are began to weight on my mind.

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How did you surprise yourself this week?

Alli: Week 1: Productively finishing exercises that seemed daunting that I didn't think I could get through. I'm not saying it's perfect quite yet but knowing that each day and each week I'll build strength keeps me motivated. I also found myself wanting to keep up the momentum, despite the soreness, by taking an extra long walk with my dog around my very hilly block on Saturday (a rest day), which was great cardio but mostly just nice to be outside.

Week 2: I am surprised by how quickly again my body is adjusting to the movements in each work out, so much so that I found myself wanting to go beyond the respective reps per exercise. I didn't end up going beyond what each work out called for this week just to stick to the program the way it's meant to be done, but I know that I could've done it. That's an exciting feeling to not just see results starting to take shape so quickly but to FEEL myself getting stronger too. 

Billy: Week 1:  I surprised myself in a number of ways in this first week. For starters, I found myself actively looking forward to my workout every day as a means of coping with the stress and the uncertainty of our new normal right now. I've never been one to turn to exercise for that, but now I see why so many people do. It gives you something you can control when you feel like you have very little elsewhere, it preoccupies for you for at least 30 minutes a day, and the endorphin rush at the end carries you through the rest of your day. I was also surprised by the fact that, on Saturday and Sunday rest days, I found myself feeling lazy by not working out. I, too, made sure to go for long walks in the neighborhood to get myself some fresh air amid the self-quarantine, but it still didn't feel like enough. And then there was the food. With the program changing to simply four days of intermittent fasting and three free, I'd made the decision to allow myself to eat somewhat "normally" on the weekends, to give myself a bit of comfort right now and not stress myself out over food supplies and the like. But by Sunday night, I felt like I'd eaten way too much and was questioning my food choices, looking for ways to do better next weekend. All of this points to a new Billy. I guess I really am changing.

Week 2: Like Alli, I can actually feel myself getting stronger. Where I would have normally done the lower end of reps suggested for each set last week, I found myself capable of doing more this week. Not only that, but I wanted to do more. I never went beyond what we were told to do, keeping David's words about not pushing it in mind. But knowing that I felt like I could and had the urge to, that was new.

What changes are you noticing about yourself this week?

Alli: Week 1: I felt a small improvement in my endurance each day, so I think just how quickly I already feel myself responding to conditioning and building endurance. I also put on my favorite pair of jeans this week (let's be real, I'm living in workout clothes or cozy loungewear these days) and they're definitely fitting much looser. 

Week 2: A little bit of definition in my abs are starting to take shape. It's not much, but it's there! I'm also able to execute tougher exercises that were a little harder at first, like the Swiss ball roll outs in the full body circuit. The first week I had a hard time keeping my balance and getting my form right but now that I've built up some muscle in my abs and arms, I find myself having a little more control on those roll outs. 

Billy: Week 1: Aside from everything mentioned in my previous answer, I could actually feel my notoriously scrawny arms getting stronger throughout the week. Exercises like the barbell skull crushers, which workout the tricep, a muscle that had apparently atrophied in me based on how weak it was on Monday, and the seated dumbbell Arnold press felt impossible when I first tried them, but have only grown more manageable. I'm not all the way there yet—it's only been a week—but I can tell that I will get there as long as I don't give up.

Week 2: I've already begun to notice more visible muscle in my biceps and my quads. And I can feel my core strength growing day by day. 

What are you most proud of this week?

Alli: Week 1: Honestly, just rising to the occasion by waking up and working out hard five days in a row - just showing up. This has definitely been a formative experience and I really do look forward to working out every morning... even when I just want to keep sleeping. I always feel so good when I finish up my workout and start my day knowing I already accomplished so much.

Week 2: I can now officially do the plank for a minute straight! It may not seem like it's that hard but personally this really challenged me. So I consider this a win and will take any small victory where I can get it. I also made sure to get outside and get some cardio on Saturday by taking a nice long walk around the block again. Consistency is key. 

Billy: Week 1: I'm really proud just staying committed amidst everything that's going on. It was a really s--ty week, full of bad news and even worse weather. It would've been very easy for me to just say "F--k it" and plop myself down on the couch once I was done working. But I didn't. And making that simple decision every afternoon to go put on my workout clothes, get in the garage and do the damn thing? It's doing more to keep my sane right now than anything else.

Week 2: On Monday, I was able to do 25 of my 50 crunches as full sit-ups. By Thursday, it was 50 of 50. I've literally never done 50 full sit-ups at once in my entire life.

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What's something you learned/did this week that you think you can improve on next?

Alli: Week 1: The mountain climbers and the plank. The plank is the only exercise that I wish I could hold straight for a solid minute but I will get there!

Week 2: While I feel like I am working every muscle in my body and that I am definitely building strength, my arms are still probably the weakest and I'd like to really continue to build up those muscles. A goal I have for the coming week is to graduate from doing the cheater push-ups to trying at least a few regular push-ups. It's tough for me to complete a full minute of push-ups on the mobility & care day too so I hope to at least hit that minute mark next week with no stops. 

Billy: Week 1: The ski sit, without a doubt. I will become a pro at it. I'm not giving myself any other choice.

Week 2: While I've managed to do the front plank for a full minute on Wednesdays, those side planks at the end of the workout are still a struggle. I want to get myself up to a full minute without falling out of it ASAP. As for the ski sit, that's already checked off the list.

What's a tip or trick you've picked up?

Alli: Week 1: Breathing correctly and not holding my breath when I'm trying to get through a challenging exercise (don't do that!). Also the amendment to the TRX rows to do at home - I certainly didn't think a bed sheet could help me tone up my abs and arms so that's been fun to learn. 

Week 2: To find a spot in the room or on the ground to focus on when doing exercises that demand balance, like the dumbbell BC single leg RDL's in the lower body workout. When I find a spot to focus on, it's easier to keep my balance and execute the exercise to the fullest.

Billy: Week 1: With a limited amount of weights, I have to take off what I have on the dumbbell to put onto the barbell, which makes the process a bit time-consuming when following the flow as laid out by David, as the barbell/EZ bar exercises are bookended by dumbbell lifts. By holding my barbell stuff until I'm done with the dumbbell entirely, I save myself a lot of time and frustration. And I stay in a flow a lot better.

Week 2: Having someone hold your feet in place when doing sit-ups actually makes them easier, believe it or not. (Is this common knowledge? Have I been in the dark all this time?) It forced me to activate my core and not just fling my body, using whatever power I could to get myself off the ground. And I could feel them exercising my core more acutely, as well.

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Sample daily menu for one of the intermittent fasting days:

Alli: My intermittent fasting eight-hour window is from noon to 8 usually, and I do like to eat three meals within that window otherwise I get too hungry at night. Sometimes in between meals, though, I'll snack on an orange because vitamin C right now is extra important! 
Breakfast: sugar free oatmeal with a sliced banana sprinkled with cinnamon 
Lunch: shredded Soyaki chicken brown rice bowl
Dinner: Baked salmon with lemon, dill and mustard aioli with a spinach and tomato salad drizzled in olive oil 

Billy: Since my eight-hour window on fasting days is noon-8, I don't eat breakfast and start my day with lunch.
Noon: Turkey meatballs and a bowl of mixed greens dressed in a simple lemon and olive oil dressing.
2 p.m: Celery with peanut butter
After workout: A banana
Dinner: Cauliflower fried rice with chicken
Snack: Spicy peanuts

What was your cheat meal?

Alli: As a quarantine treat, the lovely folks at Casamigos partnered with The Nice Guy restaurant in Los Angeles in an effort to support local businesses and sent over their "Date Night" dinner package, which included a spaghetti with tomato sauce, a salad, a small pizza, chocolate chip bread pudding and a bonus liter bottle of Casamigos Blanco. So my cheat meal was definitely that delicious plate of spaghetti with the salad and a bite of bread pudding.

Billy: So, like I said, I loosened the reins over the weekend. My husband and I wanted to do our part to help out some of the local restaurants we love in our town, so, between weeks, we did take-out for lunch and dinner on Saturday and again for dinner on Sunday. Saturday's lunch involved a cheese enchilada and a crispy beef taco, Saturday's dinner was a teriyaki chicken bowl with rice and veggies (the lone healthy take-out meal) and Sunday's dinner was BBQ chicken with steamed veggies, mashed potatoes and mac & cheese as sides and two of the restaurant's delicious garlic rolls. The mac & cheese felt like a lead balloon in my stomach, but the bread felt like a hug from an angel. Next time, I just won't eat them all at the same time.

If you're inspired to get started on David's program, you're in luck! He's guiding daily workouts on Instagram Live, leading people through his 21-day body rehab regimen. Be sure to check out his profile page for details! 

We'll be back in two weeks for another check-in!

For the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic and for tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov. To plan your vaccine, head to NBC's Plan Your Vaccine site at PlanYourVaccine.com.
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