Les Mills Coach Lissa Bankston is a US fitness pro who’s spent years training some of the world’s best fitness instructors. Now she’s putting actress Nina Dobrev through her paces. Find out what goes down during their regular sessions, and learn her top training tips.

You’ve come straight from a training session with actress and social media star Nina Dobrev. What did you do?

Today was a great session. At the moment we’re focusing a lot on functional training, which means lots of balancing lunges, ankle stability and mobility moves as well as some upper body strength exercises and some posterior/anterior chain work. This type of functional training helps ensure Nina moves safely, effectively and fast when she’s doing her HIIT workouts.

Is that a typical session?

We often do a LES MILLS GRIT™ workout, and if not we do interval and circuit training that mimics the moves that you might do in a HIIT workout. I usually incorporate something I call “push, pull, rotate” where we train the upper body, lower body and core with those three modalities. And Nina loves working her core and her butt – so there’s always a little finisher of core and butt work too!

What’s surprised you about training Nina?

She’s actually quite competitive. If her friends come along to the workout she will always be the last man standing, always doing one more rep. She’s also so much stronger than she thinks she is. Her legs are quite lean but she is seriously strong, I think that’s because she’s always done a lot of dancing and yoga.

When you’re working with someone competitive and driven what’s the best kind of motivation?

I challenge Nina by joining in on the action and doing the workout with her. Or if we’re doing heavy weight training then I will challenge her by adding a cardio finisher at the end. And I just remind her how good it is for her body and how good it’s going to make her sleep that night. Nina respects the science behind the moves and the importance of good technique, so she likes to know when she’s really mastering the moves. I don’t think she’s lifted weights before and I think she’s a little surprised that it is not bulking her up – in fact, it’s making her look leaner and giving her some more definition.

What do you think is the best way for others to prepare for a challenging workout like the ones you do with Nina?

Knowing what you’re stepping into can be quite powerful – that’s what’s so good about all LES MILLS workouts, you can jump online and find out what they’re all about.

If it’s your first time doing LES MILLS GRIT you need to know you’re probably not going to love it, so don’t treat it like a standalone experience. Know that each time you do it you’re going to get better and you’ll soon be hooked. Failure is success. So push and quit as much as you can. You’re doing it right if you have to stop midway through a set of exercises. The aim is to quickly get back in the game. I challenge myself to take two breaths and then go again – even if I have to stop several times doing it that way. Remember, it’s not meant to be a workout you conquer – it’s a tool to get you better.

Do you have any secrets for getting the most from your HIIT training? What’s the best way to push yourself?

The one thing that changed my body the most was getting a Polar heart rate monitor. I started looking at my heart rate mid workout and realized I would stop right before I hit that max zone. I was stopping because I thought I was at my max, but my true max is a little bit of a scarier place. I now know that pushing on and doing that one more rep is what will probably bump me up into the high intensity zone. So the secret is to always do that one more rep that you don’t think you can – that’s what’s going to change you.

How do you recommend you recover from a challenging HIIT workout?

When you come off a LES MILLS GRIT workout you’re banging, you’re in that zone – so take a few minutes to bring your heart rate down and let your body catch up. Then it’s a good idea to stretch the muscles you’ve worked. And remember it can be a great window to get nutrients into your body. There are lots of different theories about this, but I’ve found having some sort of electrolyte, protein, BCAA or recovery complex to tide you over till your next meal can be good.

Is there a best time of day for this type of training?

Definitely mornings! Not everyone’s a morning person, but mornings make the most sense. We’re all busy and days can get way too stressful and tricky – even if you think you’ll do a workout at 2pm, when 2pm rolls around chances are something else will have come up! When you exercise in the morning you know you’ve got your workout in, any other activity you do is a bonus. It also focuses your mind – you think, I am not going to eat poorly because I have started the day on the right foot.

We know the optimal dose of HIIT training is two times a week. What other types of workouts do you recommend doing alongside LES MILLS GRIT?

BODYPUMP™ hands down. It’s a workout I have a love-hate relationship with, but I know that when you start to gradually increase the weights you lift during a class your body gets leaner. And then when you hit a LES MILLS GRIT Strength workout lifting those heavier weights your body will quickly transform. I typically aim to hit two BODYPUMP workouts a week, or I do high rep weight training session. Then I mix and match workouts like BODYCOMBAT™, BODYBALANCE™/ BODYFLOW® and even dance. Nina and I have been doing a ton of dance lately – she freaking loves it. And the good thing about dance is that it also challenges your mind, it takes you to a different space – it’s like a brain workout.

Nina Dobrev has worked alongside Lissa and a team of fitness professionals to develop her own signature LES MILLS GRIT workout. You can check it out here.

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