Kerry Washington Reveals the Fitness Routine That Gives Her Flat Abs At 43
The Little Fires Everywhere star is a mega fan of Pilates.
By Nicol Natale Published: Mar 21, 2020
Karwai Tang // Getty Images
Kerry Washington has always approached beauty from the inside out. In addition to eating a healthy diet, cutting back on booze, and treating herself to the occasional massage, the Little Fires Everywhere actress is extremely dedicated to fitness. “I love to work out. It’s really important to me; it’s part of the culture of my family,” she told Allure.
And her commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed. “She stuns me and inspires me with her work ethic,” said Pilates instructor Juliet Kaska, who personally trained the star. Read on to find out exactly how she maintains her fit physique at 43.
1. She’s a loyal Pilates fan.
Washington told ELLE that Pilates is her go-to workout. When training Washington, Kaska says she combines Pilates and yoga principles during her workouts. “We’re in the gym using personal training equipment, but I’m coaching it like a Pilates teacher,” Kaska told Women’s Health. “That way our workouts can also be really diverse in what we’re doing, in what she needs, and where we can meet.” She also uses Pilates equipment, like The Reformer, The Table, and The Chair.
Kaska added that, unlike most weight-training programs, Pilates can be practiced every single day. “You really target the small muscles that get overlooked in weight-training,” she said.
But for Washington, Pilates is so much more than just breaking a sweat. “You don’t even want to be in your own body when [you] show up at the gym—I didn’t for years,” she told Women’s Health. “As women, we live in this culture where it’s like, ‘You have to fix this.’ Pilates has allowed me to be focused on my appearance and my health in ways that are not abusive or critical.”
2. She’s “obsessed” with water aerobics.
When Washington isn’t doing Pilates, she takes her workout outdoors. “My husband was a professional athlete, so we hike, we swim,” she told Allure. Nnamdi Asomugha and Washington have been married since 2013, and the couple loves being active together.
She also likes to go to SoulCycle and makes use of her Peloton bike. Dance classes, Gyrotonic training, and the elliptical machine are also a part of her fitness routine. “I do different things, but I’m most obsessed with water aerobics,” she said. “Now I do it with my friends on the weekends.”
3. She focuses on mobility.
Because she spends hours on her feet while filming, it’s important for Washington to work on her range of motion—especially when most of her roles require standing in heels. One of her Pilates trainers, Erika Bloom, had her exercise without shoes, to build strength and mobility around the feet and ankles.
“In standing in bare feet, we’re working on stacking the bones so that the muscles can work in a more balanced way,” Bloom told Women’s Health. “Heels change that component a little but you can still find the most ideal arrangement of the skeleton so there aren’t compensations that cause pain and tightness.”
Kaska also helps Washington maintain full range of motion in her neck and shoulders. “[Actors] work these crazy long hours and there is lots of built-up tension in her muscles just from standing on set. Our shoulders get kind of out of whack with that tension,” she told Women’s Health.
4. She targets her deep core muscles.
In addition to obliques and upper abs, Bloom focuses on engaging Washington’s deep core muscles, like the pelvic floor, diaphragm, multifidi (muscles that attach to the spine for stabilization), and transverse abdominis (the deepest layer of your abs).
“The beauty about working those muscles is that they actually will lengthen, narrow, and flatten your tummy, because those are the muscles that compress the organs and pull them up into the rib cage,” she told Women’s Health. “Whereas, with crunches and roll-ups, it’s just creating a six-pack on top of this poochy stomach.”
“It’s really been transformative for a lot of our clients,” she said, adding that strengthening the lower abs supports good posture and helps with back pain.
Julie Turner, who worked with Washington while she filmed Django Unchained, instructed the star to perform core exercises from a neutral spine position. “Kerry would lie on the reformer over a small ball underneath her lower back,” she told Women’s Health. “We did toe taps, marching, bicycles, and scissors that way.”
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Currently an assistant editor at Prevention.com, Nicol is a Manhattan-based journalist who specializes in health, wellness, beauty, fashion, business, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Houston Chronicle, Business Insider, INSIDER, Everyday Health, and more. When Nicol isn’t writing, she loves trying new workout classes, testing out the latest face mask, and traveling. Follow her on Instagram for the latest on health, wellness, and lifestyle.