This mini-guide is written specifically for women who want a lean, toned and firm body. My advice in this article is based on the lessons I have learned coaching Fashion Models.

Firstly, we should acknowledge that there is an infinite amount of aesthetically pleasing body shapes out there.. and every woman wants and requires something different from her body. I know so many women nowadays desire a strong-looking  ‘gym body’ and don’t think a lean, 90’s-esq Supermodel model looks good at all… if you also feel this way, then all power to you, but this guide will NOT be for you.

My experience and expertise are more geared towards creating athletic, lean and toned bodies. Ones that don’t look like they’ve been built in a gym, but instead have been honed and sculpted from a supremely active lifestyle. Aside from all the aesthetic sculpting stuff, I also love building up my clients’ body confidence, facilitating a healthy relationship with food and exercise and developing an athletic lifestyle. For me, these more long-term shifts in lifestyle and mentality are what make my job so rewarding.

I know you can have it all; a lean, fit body that you are 100% happy with, without becoming obsessed with looks and to be strong, capable & well conditioned without looking like you live in the gym.. or indeed actually having to live in a gym!.

In this article, I will share some of the training protocols I use with my female fashion model and wannabe-model clients and give you five big lessons to help you get more exacting results.

Lesson 1 | Blame Your Parents

Let’s start with the obvious. Can everyone (without extensive surgery) get the body of a Supermodel? Well… no.. usually not. Nor is this necessarily a bad thing.

Global fashion industry standards have not yet caught up with the rest of the world and are still very much skewed towards the ‘ideal’ of a young, white, tall and slim. Most women do not have bodies like this. There are many things we can say about this, but in the context of this article, the key thing I want to say is please be careful with your goals; make sure they are your goals (not societies, magazine editors or a group of random middle-aged men that run a fashion brands marketing department) and make sure that your goals truly serve YOU… so please have a long think about the process (not just the ‘result’) of making your body goals a reality – does the process seem fun or empowering? If so, great! But if the process seems like it’ll be detrimental to your relationships, career or mental health, then I suggest a little rethink. There’s no point putting all your energy into climbing a ladder… if you realise at the top that you’re tired, sore, bruised & bleeding, and the view is way worse than you expected .. all because you’re leaning against the wrong building. (I’m not sure that analogy works… but you get my drift!).

We all know that focusing on trying to look like someone else is potentially very toxic for one’s self-esteem, and I can assure working with countless’ beautiful women over the years as a trainer to many famous actresses and models, I’ve seen first-hand how looking a certain way has nothing to do with happiness, self-esteem or body-confidence.

However, in my experience, the process of training for a body goal, even a predominantly aesthetic one, when done in a mindfully holistic, strategic, playful, intelligent and athletic way, WILL OFTEN do wonders for self-esteem, self-love and general body image. If you want to look like a supermodel and to get there requires new healthy habits, discipline, commitment, dedication and some good old-fashioned hard work.. and you enjoy it…. then that’s cool… so read on my friend… read on.

Even though your Genetics are an undeniably big factor in how you look today, you can still dramatically change how your body looks by changing your training, diet and tweaking your lifestyle.

Before I go on, this may be of interest: Several years ago; The Daily Mail newspaper asked me to transform one of their Journalists (Poppy Cross) into a Victoria’s Secret Angel shape.

It took poppy and me just under four months to get there. Poppy worked hard, but to be fair, she was already lean to begin with. If she were a size UK 14 and hadn’t ever exercised before, it would have taken me 12 months to get her in a VS Angel kinda shape. Looking at what others have achieved can be quite inspiring as it reminds us that anything is possible with the right help and commitment. The key trick, as with all goals I find, is to be willing to make the sacrifice. For example;  training really hard when no one is looking, cooking rather than ordering a takeout and doing that final rep that you don’t want to do are all choices that are within our power.  Click here to read Poppy’s article. (You check out her “Poppy’s Secret” book about the whole experience, which I wrote the foreword for too). However, in the same way, that famous fashion models and actresses have workouts you can follow too – personally, I think you should care less about celebrity inspiration and focus on science and self-education if you want to want a plan that works for your body and your lifestyle.

I’ve had a very varied career as a coach, and in the last 25 years or so, I’ve trained all kinds of people with all types of bodies, personalities and goals. As you’re reading this article, I’m assuming you are female and would like the long, lean, and toned mid-naughties’ Victoria’s Secret Angel” look for yourself and want to hear my ‘expert’ take on this. Therefore, the following lessons in this little guide are directly informed by my extensive experience as a personal trainer working with the world’s top model agencies, and also an educator & mentor to other personal trainers around the world who specialise working with models and as the creator of the Methodology X™ workout brand, which has helped thousands of women get lean, model body.

Lesson 2 | Gym time

Weight Training 

The first thing to note is that the young women I work with that need to get into shape quickly for fashion weeks, a campaign shoot, a movie role or upcoming auditions/castings ALL lift heavy-ass weights. Weight training is a shortcut to getting quick results, and being strong is the foundation of an athletic, fast-metabolising & well-functioning body.

The caveat is that the ‘fashion model look’ is rather specific and not in line with what most gym trainers think looks good nowadays. ‘Physique modelling’ is currently all the rage, particularly amongst fitness influencers and many female personal trainers which is fine if you’re into that, but for fashion models and women who prefer a more lean look, the popular ‘gym body’ vibe is just far too muscular and too bulky on thighs, upper back and shoulders. If you want an athletic, supermodel-lean look, you need to train a little bit differently from how most trainers/influencers will advise.

There are three key exercises I return to time and time again, and there are also three popular exercises that I pretty much never use with my female clients who want a fashion look or are preparing for a shoot/campaign/event

The three exercises I never use: 

  1. Barbell squats – as too much emphasis on quads.
  2. Wide-grip lat pull-downs/rows – as it builds too wide a back.
  3. Shrugs – as it builds up the neck.

My Top 3 Weight-Lifting Moves for Models

1. Romanian Dead Lifts – help to raise glutes and tone hamstrings (and strengthen lower back) without any thigh quad bulking. (Models’ hip measurements are taken lower than hip bone, so bulky/strong  Quads mean you won’t fit into sample sizes and do any catwalk work. Muscular legs and glutes are the opposite of the fashion model aesthetic.

2. Sumo Squats – firm your inner highs and shape the side of glutes, helping the ‘sweep’ (a.k.a. a strong and round) glute look. (again, without working the front of thighs. a.k.a the quads)

3. Posterior Deltoid Flies – improve posture and help give the top of arms and upper back more definition without the bulk of lateral flies or popular excessive (cross-fit style) pressing exercise.

Useful video via the MX Podcast 

Cardio 

Weights are great for burning fat as well as building muscles, so where does that leave cardio? Well, cardio is also good for fat burning… and the body needs variety or else the chance of in injury raises. Cardio also fantastic for the heart and lungs and just feeling energised! thankfully, unlike bodybuilding and ultra endurance sports, if we aim for an athletic, toned and lean look, we do not have to make choice between feeling fit & healthy and looking fit & healthy.

My Top 4 Cardio Activities

1. Versa-climber

2. Running / Treadmill

3. Cross Trainer 

4. Assault Bike

With cardio, I mix up HIIT (high-intensity interval training) with long LSD (long steady distance) training, and generally, I work to a 50/50 ratio. When done in the same gym session, always do HIIT first, then LSD straight after, as it’s better for mobilising the fat out of the body – and mentally, it feels nicer too. To achieve the model look, I tend to avoid too much uphill running and resisted cycling and rowing, as these are all very quad-dominant activities.

NB: for any gym junkies or exercise scientist-nerds reading this, for interval sessions, I blend sub-maximal interval training, Tabata and Fartlek.

In addition to weights and cardio, as you know, we have other ways of moving. Our client programs usually include a wide range of movement drills taken from athletics, parkour, stunt-training, ballet and numerous martial arts. The key unifying factor is that no fitness equipment is needed. Using your body as a gym is psychologically satisfying, and I would argue, inherently empowering for you.

Any exercise or movement is ’good’ for you in the general sense and is far better for the soul, brain and body than not moving. But if you want to achieve a long, lean, model-esque body I have four principles you should adhere to:

Principle One
Pick exercises that focus on posterior chain development. Your posterior chain is the important muscles on the back of your body, namely the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Working these helps to drop body fat and determines the way the glutes look.

Principle Two
Pick exercises that challenge the core. Getting strong from the inside out reduces injury and builds solid foundations for more advanced training.

Principle Three
Pick exercises that improve body awareness and athleticism. Essentially, when we train mindfully and athletically, we treat our body more like an instrument than an ornament. While you want to look like a model, I want you to FEEL like a superhero with real self-confidence and zero body hang-ups.

Principle Four
Pick exercises that improve posture. Improving posture reduces headaches, the chance of back injuries down the line and gives a taller, slimmer more confident appearance. Your physiology directly affects your emotional state, so having an amazing posture can also truly help you face the day and make it your own.

Lesson 3 | Online Fitness

There are so many, and they can be a lot of fun! Well-known workouts such as Zumba™, Kayla’s BBG™,  Methodology X™,  Pvolve™ Barrecore™,  Bodycombat™, Insanity™ and P90x™ – all can have benefits for women, but what’s best for you? There are many new workouts dedicated to female well-being launching every year, as well as more generic classes that focus on boxing, Pilates, ballet or yoga – so how do you know if they are any good for you and your body goals?

Give everything a try as you don’t know what you like until you try it! But the number one rule is to do your research.

Trial and error is one way of finding out, but if your time is precious, I recommend reading up about the philosophy and credentials of those who created them and seek out real customer feedback about the workout. Personally, I rarely recommend doing excessive cycling, hill sprinting, and rowing-based workouts as most of us are very quad dominant (sitting at desks, to many squats and lunges cause this), thus doing more quad-based work is nonsensical from an athletic, functional and aesthetic standpoint. (note I actually love cycling, running hills, and have a rowing machine at home… and don’t have massive quads. Contrary to popular belief I actually find women’s quads/thighs bulk up far easier than guys).

 

Methodology X™ is an exercise system I created 8 years ago that is specifically designed to achieve a long, lean model figure along with a holistic & athletic mindset. I now have classes, and an online membership club, which offers you a gym-free fitness coaching solution. This online club (MX Home Workout Club) utilises a plethora of specific bodyweight moves taken from boxing, ballet, yoga and pilates and is endorsed by modelling agencies, many top models, physiotherapists and well-known trainers in the US and UK. The Club has over a thousand happy members and has been called ‘the bible for fashion models’ and ‘a revolutionary toning regime’ by the fashion press. If you fancy an online workout/program that specialises in getting a lean fashion model body… then it’ll work for you too. Watch the video to find out the story behind the workout, along with an in-depth look inside the club.

Lesson 4 | Eat, Sleep, Be Kind, Repeat

The next section is about eating. They say that 80% of results are diet-driven. This isn’t 100% true for people who are already slim or already eat pretty well, but there are definite things you can eat or avoid eating which can improve your health, mood and results.

Here we shall look at three areas of personal wellbeing that will help to achieve and sustain a ‘model body’.

Feed Yourself

This is a huge topic, and there is a plethora of real science, knowledge and informed opinion about correct eating for public consumption online. But alas, there is also a lot of pseudo-science, uninformed opinion and technically (and unethical) poor eating advice.

These are my top tips following my experience with female clients who are on the quest to get lean, fit and ready for bikini photo-shoots and the catwalk.

1. Sit down two to three times a day and eat a natural, nutrient-dense, colourful meal.

2. Don’t make a habit of snacking. ‘Healthy’ snacks are often very deceptive, e.g. gluten-free does not equate to healthy in any way (unless you are celiac), and the word’s natural and organic make us feel that it’s good, but we can end up eating way more calories than we realise and need.

3. Aim never to be full or hungry – feeling a bit of both throughout your week is fine, but always try to avoid extreme feelings.

4. Drink more water and less wine.

5. Create a routine and be good 85% of the time and relax the other 15% of the time – this will help to create balance, reduce cravings and help you feel human!

6. Don’t miss out on any food groups unless you have allergies. Pasta and dairy are not evil and cause zero problems for the vast majority of us.

7. Eat more veg. Go green when in doubt.

8. Learn how to cook. It’s empowering and valuable to know exactly what you put into your body. You will improve your relationship with eating and food generally when you learn to make it with your own bare hands.

9. Eat real food. If it has more than ten ingredients, half of which are crazy challenging to pronounce, I’d be slightly wary. Even if you don’t have allergies to them: E-numbers, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sulphites etc., can’t be good for us, can they?

10. When feeling bloated, make sure you are not dehydrated. Three litres a day of water/tea is a good rule for most of us. To naturally get rid of any annoying bloat, drink more Fesh lemon water & potassium-rich coconut water, eat more celery, have zero/low salt.. and avoid heavy carbs such as bread. p.s when on your period, I say relax and let your body do what it wants.. but when you have an event/casting, you want to look your slimmest, then tweak your diet (essentially making sure there is less sodium and more potassium in your cells)  is far better than other ways – namely skipping your period (if on contraception) or by messing around with diuretics.  Please never had for the dogy pills. Along with fat-burning pills, diet teas, laxatives etc. – stuff like that creates way more problems than solutions AND is unnecessary. In my 25 + years of experience as a coach, I have seen how shortcuts are NEVER as effective as adapting an intelligent, informed (and bespoke) nutritional & exercise strategy.

Sleep Well

We all need different amounts of sleep at night and actually, quality is more important than quantity. To improve your quality of sleep, go to sleep happy!

This means avoiding stressful situations, arguments and all those boring yet stimulating activities like reading work emails on your phone or mindlessly scrolling through strangers’ filtered lives on Tiktok. Experiment with different tactics –  when you are training hard, I advise sleeping an extra 30 minutes a night but do whatever feels normal and right for you.

For more info, you can listen to Episode 12 of the MX podcast, where I chat with J-Lo’s Trainer, Jay Cardelio, all about Sleep and Mindset.

p.s My recommended products page on this website includes a weighted sleep blanket. If you want to sleep better, it really is a game-changer!

Be Kind

Self-improvement can become self-indulgent if we are not careful. Sometimes we can commit so much to exercise, eating healthy and living strictly, that we become self-obsessed and even judgmental about other people’s life choices.

We are all in different places when it comes to our wellness path, spiritual development and general adulthood-ness. We should strive not to judge. Be nice and support others so we can make the world and society more positive. No matter how ‘hot’ our bodies may get, narcissism is ugly, and kindness is the most attractive quality any person can possess.

We rise by lifting others

Lesson 5 | It’s All In The Mind

Think Like An Athlete

When You Next Train,
Enjoy The Struggle

Your Body Wants to be Challenged

Mindset

In this final part, I want to share the secret of why some people make (and maintain) tremendous changes and get impressive results while others do not. This secret is mindset.

The coaching company I established in 2002 (which this website showcases) has the tagline ‘Live the Athletic Life’.  Having an athletic mentality is a choice where we decide to love our bodies today while striving for them to be better tomorrow (the older I get, the more I realise that happiness and gratitude are synonymous). An athletic mentality also makes you appreciate and use your body as a vehicle of self-expression.. an instrument, not just an ornament! This is far healthier, useful, truthful and effective than seeing ourselves as pieces of meat.

Focus on performance, not just the aesthetic results.

While we should always have easy days and hard days when it comes to exercise intensity… in my experience, most of us don’t train hard enough and are missing out on how amazing that feels! so this week, work harder than the person next to you, work harder than everyone else in the gym, and most importantly, work harder than YOU did last week. Don’t count reps; go to your max and only start counting when you want to stop, and then do five more no matter what! Don’t take too many gym selfies; concentrate on what is important, be focused, be intense and aim not just for good form but perfect form and stay focused with every single rep. This will get better results for you, and it’s more fun and better for your mental resilience.

I always remind my clients that they are athletes. They will be kickboxing, ‘MX-ing’, lifting heavy weights and pushing hard, learning new skills and generally working their butts off. You are also an athlete, No matter your age, size, shape or current fitness level. Please celebrate this fact as you train for your goals. If you want help with mindset, I have something for you you may like: 90 days of daily mindset lessons – sign up here to receive them. It’s 100% free.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this little article has given you some things to think about, and you’ll incorporate some of these exercise, nutrition and mindset ideas into your training. If you want more assistance a great way is via the Methodology X™ brand which has an online program – known as the MX HOME WORKOUT CLUB, group classes, instructor qualifications and an official podcast. Find out more here. 

 

Methodology X™ has featured in:

“What a brilliant programme! I have really enjoyed following Dan on Insta and knew from my friend, model and trainer Sophie Thomas, that she really rated him. Wow! It has helped in ways I wasn’t expecting. I have modelled for 19 years so there was no pressure for me to change my shape for anything and I was a toned size 8 already, but aesthetically I did see a difference. I had a lingerie show and at my great age (34) I actually felt the best I’ve ever felt. I find this to be a very comprehensive, 360 approach to fitness by a man who is extremely passionate about instilling a love for fitness with a unique approach.”

Rebecca Pearson, Model (England)
 (@1rebeccapearson)

“I’ve been lucky enough to have had the experience of having PT with Dan in London and use his MX workouts, which I still use to this day. I’ve travelled a lot and worked with a lot of PT’s around the world and Dan Roberts sets the bar of exceptional in his work and as a person. I still use his MX workouts to this day, I can take them anywhere with me and I know as a model for 15 years that I don’t need to ever stress of being injured or doing the wrong exercises for my body. I’ll get an amazing challenging workout in and it’s all catered to. He’s covered every question you need to ask. You will never regret a workout and this is true if you ever experience one from Dan Roberts”

Kailah Ng, Model (Australia)
(@kailah.ng)

“Methodology X has been a lifesaver. Unlike most programs I have tried, Methodology X sessions are quick, effective, and can be done absolutely anywhere since there is hardly any equipment needed. There is not a program I could recommend more for other females, especially for fellow models.”

Michon Van As, Model  (Netherlands)
(@michonvanas)