A Conversation with Rob Parr: Madonna, Sharon and Demi’s Former Trainer

A Conversation with Rob Parr: Madonna, Sharon and Demi’s Former Trainer

Over the last two years, our founder Jena has been gawking over her addiction to her new fitness routine, and the results she has been seeing with her trainer Rob Parr. Not only has Rob left Jena painless in her endo journey, but he has also transformed the way she approaches fitness, and how she views the strength of her body.

And it’s no wonder Jena has been seeing such amazing, transformative results - Rob is One of a Kind!  For well over three decades, this renowned trainer has been the go-to fitness expert for celebrities looking to sculpt their bodies. His signature approach and unique training style have revolutionized the fitness world, gaining him a huge following and earning him a global reputation, not least when he was asked to train Madonna! He then worked with her for five years, with two-hour sessions, seven days a week. In addition to his training expertise, Rob is also the author of “Star Quality: The Red Carpet Workout for the Celebrity Body of Your Dreams”. 

We persuaded Rob to take a short break, to tell us about his training techniques, what sets himself apart from others, and the personal training routine he devised for Jena that has helped her so much. We all want to live a healthy and independent lifestyle for as long as we can, so we also asked him how exercise can help us stay fitter for longer, and discussed preventive steps we can all take to keep us strong and healthy as we age, to avoid the nursing home for as long as possible.  

How did you get started as a personal trainer and who did you train? 

I have been an athlete all my life. Fitness and training is something that has been present since I was a young kid. I got drafted for professional baseball and ultimately played professionally until I was 23. When I got released from pro ball, I started training for a triathlon. This was in the early 1980’s so personal training was not as popular back then. But people started to notice my fitness level and began asking me for tips. When they started getting results, I organically started building up a clientele. My career really took off when I got the call to train Madonna in 1987. From there I am grateful to have been able to build a solid and consistent client list of hard-working individuals for over 35 years.

Who was the most dedicated person you trained and what did their workout look like? 

Anyone who starts a training program is dedicated. Dedication is what creates results. When I build a program for my clients, I make sure to incorporate intentional variety. Their workouts include a mixture of cardio (riding the bike, running, swimming, hiking in elevation) and strength training that targets muscular growth and endurance. We round everything out with mobility and flexibility through stretching, balance drills and resistance band work.

And what about your own routine? What does your personal workout look like today vs 30 years ago?

My personal workouts 30 years ago were extreme because I did a lot of running and biking between all my appointments during the day.  I was running 120 miles and biking 75 miles a week.

My primary forms of cardio these days are the road bike, stationary bike and the concept 2 rowing machine. My strength work is very similar today, using free weights and machines.  My goal is 150-180 repetitions consisting of sets, ranging from 20-8 reps, and my cardio consists of 45-120 minutes daily.  I like to workout on VersaClimber for a minimum of 30 minutes. 

What supplements do you take?

Right now I am taking a B complex, C, D, Omega 3 fish oils and collagen peptides.

Do you follow a specific diet? 

I eat clean. Fruit and vegetables, protein in the form of lean meats, and plant based. 

What works for me is intermediate fasting. I typically start my day with coffee and water till 2-3pm when I have my first meal. I then have a five hour window for eating. I stay hydrated as well! 

Jena said you’ve basically helped cure her endo pain in the hips, legs and pelvis. What exercises do you do with her and how do you get her in shape?

I concentrate on lower body exercises that emphasize her outer thighs (adductors), inner thighs (abductors) and glutes.  So Jena will typically do exercises like lateral leg lifts, inner thigh leg lifts, glute circles, glute raises, clams, squats, alternating step ups, single leg step ups, narrow to wide jump squats, power skating and alternating lunges. 

Do you think running is bad for the knees? 

I think excessive running could lead to knee problems.  If you start a moderate running routine and build your strength and endurance correctly through cross training, setting limits with the time or distance of your running sessions, you can lessen the effect on the knee.

Do you think any exercises are being done today that people might regret in 20 plus years?

I think many people do advanced heavy lifts too soon. When you lift heavier than your ability allows, you risk serious injury. Learning to build a solid foundation before adding weight is essential.

What sets you apart from other trainers and what is the method you use?

I don’t really worry about what other trainers are doing. I think that is part of what sets me apart. I don’t pay attention to trends. I stick to the fundamentals and my life of experience and knowledge. I treat my clients like professional athletes training for the sport of life. We have a gameplan that we incorporate into daily activities. I also utilize the outdoors as much as possible - hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, etc. I engage in those activities with my clients, not just coaching them. My style is grounded in high intensity strength work with quick transitions between exercises. 

What's the best way to tone butt, abs and arms?

Through weight training and a variety of cardio workouts such as biking, hiking, walking, jogging, stair climbing and swimming. 

Weight training exercises should be performed with weights that challenge the muscle group you are working.  Exercises should be balanced between the front and back of the body.

I recommend higher repetitions for your legs, say 15-20 reps, and 8-15 reps for upper body exercises. I like to include ab work every day - alternating different areas of abs each day with upper-lower-sides full exercises, crunches, full sit ups and plank work is excellent.  And I recommend eating a diet of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and unsaturated fats - the "good fats”.

Jena loves climbing stairs. Can you tell us why it’s so great, and why we should all be doing this? 

Climbing stairs is an excellent way to workout your legs and it’s a great cardiovascular workout. You can easily change the intensity of your stair workout by running stairs, or skipping a step to create a larger stride which will emphasize your hamstrings and glutes. Or a quicker, alternating single step will emphasize calves and inner lower quad.

How many times should we ideally be working out in a week?

My recommendation is 4-6 days a week.  Strength work should be at least 3 days a week.  Cardio work I feel can be done at least 4 days but I like to push 6 days.  Choose cardio activities such as walking, running, biking, swimming, and stairs to keep variety in your exercises.


What are the most important muscles to strengthen as we age?

Strengthening the heart muscles, our legs, and core are essential as we age. It is also key to prioritize balance and flexibility. As we age, our body’s ability to build muscle becomes significantly more challenging, so maintaining a consistent regimen is essential to maintaining an active lifestyle well into our older years. We must stay moving, it is so important. You can adapt the intensity, but mobility is essential to maintaining our vitality and strength.