Dakota Johnson's Trainer Megan Roup Wants You to Work Out Less

Less really can be more, insists Megan Roup. The Sculpt Society founder spoke to E! News about training Dakota Johnson for her new role and why she tells clients to cut themselves some slack.

By Sarah Grossbart Feb 14, 2024 12:00 PMTags
Watch: Break a Sweat With Megan Roup's Sculpt Society Workout

Here's something you don't hear often from a trainer: You should be working out less. 

Yes, really, insists pro Megan Roup, who's built her entire fitness empire beloved by Sofia RichieDakota Johnson and more stars around her less-is-more philosophy. "We've been trained, especially women, like, we need to be doing an hour of cardio day," she explained in an exclusive interview with E! News. "And to be honest, it's bulls--t." 

She, too, once bought into the idea that she had to spend hours of her life at the gym "and it's really the complete opposite," insisted the former Brooklyn Nets dancer. "To me, building a habit around movement is all about committing to less so that you can show up more. It's not sustainable to work out hours a day."

Which is why she advocates both her celebrity clients and those that sweat through the on-demand and live routines on her platform The Sculpt Society "commit to shorter workouts so that they can consistently show up," said Roup. "I would so much rather them do a five- or 10-minute workout five days a week than one long, grueling workout once a week and then feel guilty that they didn't get movement in for the rest of the week."

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If your interest is piqued, you're not alone. 

Since launching her sculpting and dance cardio-based workouts, NYU Tisch School of Arts grad has developed a following that includes Shay Mitchell, Miranda Kerr and basically every model that's walked a Victoria's Secret runway

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

And most recently Johnson decided to give her one-on-one workouts a spin as she prepped for her newly released super hero flick Madame Web

Like most of the Internet, the 50 Shades alum logged on for Roup's daily quarantine sessions in 2020. "She told me that she had been working out with me all through COVID and had been using my app and The Sculpt Society daily," shared Roup, "and she was looking to train for this role and so wanted to start working with me in real life."

Johnson's biggest concern being to build up "just general endurance" for long days of shooting, said the pro, "We really concentrated on a light sprinkle of dance cardio at the beginning and end of our classes together, and then really focusing on a full-body, low-impact workout."

Already a longtime devotee, "Our first session, she was such a professional," recalled Roup, revealing that Johnson gravitated toward using equipment like ankle weights, sliders and a Pilates ball. "And she really loved using the bands for arms and during abs on back." 

But one of the best features of Roup's routines is that they're low-maintenance enough to be done on set—the pro mapped out two months' worth of videos for Johnson to do while filming—or in a tiny NYC apartment, much like the 350-square-foot space where Roup first launched her app.  

"It doesn't require a bunch of fancy equipment or a lot of space," insisted Roup. "Before this interview, I literally was working out in my sweatpants in my bedroom."

So (sweat)suit up and follow Roup's expert tips for achieving more results with less effort. 

Remember Every Little Bit Helps

"Sometimes pressing play on a 20- or 30- or 45-minute video feels overwhelming," acknowledged Roup. "So let's take the overwhelm out." It's for this precise reason that the mom of two (she and husband Morgan Humphrey share daughters Harlow, 2, and Mercer, 4 months) offers options like her quickie program packed with four weeks of what she calls "spicy, short workouts" that can be completed in 25 minutes or less.

"These are short workouts every day that you can consistently show up to," she explained. "I roll out of bed, I'm in my pajamas and I'm doing a 10-minute full body workout and then I move on with my day."

The way Roup sees it, good results can come in small, efficient packages. 

"These big, lofty goals, they don't last," she noted. "That's why New Year's resolutions happen, but then by February, you're back on the same train. It's actually smaller habits on a daily basis that build something bigger over time. And again, that's why I'm constantly saying commit to less so you can show up more when it comes to your workouts."

For those looking to create a regular fitness routine, she recommends squeezing in "little chunks of movement—10 minutes between a Zoom call and just continue to build off of that because that's what's really going to shift things for people."

Remove the Guess Work

As Roup put it, "The decision fatigue is real." So free up space to figure out what you're making for dinner by committing to a pre-set routine.

"My most successful clients and members are the ones that are following my weekly schedule or one of my programs that come with a calendar," she noted. "Here's the video you're going to do. So that you know when you wake, you don't have to make another decision. You're like no, this is on my schedule. I know what I'm doing."

And while, sure, she'd love to bring in more Sculpt Society acolytes, her advice for any fitness newbie is just "finding something that you enjoy," Roup said, "finding something you can follow that fits into your lifestyle."

Be Kind to Yourself

Once upon a time Roup was that girl going hard at the gym each day. Then she took it down a notch with her own brand of movement that she describes as "85 percent low-impact, full-body workouts" with just a "sprinkle" of easy-to-follow dance cardio. 

"My body almost sighed with relief," she recounted. "it was like, 'Oh, thank you for finally listening to what I need.' And I never saw better results." Which is why she insists workouts "don't need to be super long, they just need to be well-programed. And I really saw those results in my physical and mental health."

Ditch the Diets

Again, yes, really. After years of yo-yo dieting, binge eating, calorie-counting and constantly thinking about food, "I finally hit my low point," Roup said. "The mental space and thought that's going into everything I'm eating and how to burn off everything, I just got to that point where it's like, I don't want to do this anymore."

So she stopped. "I scrapped all of the quote unquote labels that you put on food being good or bad," she explained, "and just really allowed myself to look at food as food and to have nothing off limits."

With a diet culture mindset already firmly engrained in her mind, it was a bit of a struggle at first. "You're like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm just going to have, like, Snickers all day long and I'm going to eat all the things that I can't have,'" said Roup. "But after a week or two, that gets really boring." 

She's spent the past decade getting in touch with her body's cues, "Like, when am I actually hungry? What am I craving? What foods are giving me energy? What foods are making me crash and not feeling good?" she said. "And when you start to lean into that, it really simplifies food."

Granted, she acknowledged, it wasn't an overnight shift into intuitive eating. "It took me a really long time to unravel that," she said. "But I was just at my breaking point, like, I'm sick of following a stupid diet and feeling s--tty."

Don't Forget to Have Fun

Nope, it's not just a directive for pee-wee baseball players. "I want people to look forward to movement," said Roup of ensuring every step of her routines are done to the beat of a catchy track. "If we can pair movement with music, it just starts to lighten the mood."

Rather than create an intense AF and sometimes draining atmosphere, "My approach is really leaning into changing the way we work out," she said. "I really want this to feel joyful and fun."