Books, Fitness & Health, InterviewsTDO Interview: David Kirsch

To amp up for summer, I’m now going to the gym about 6 times a week.  But as I started paying more attention to working out, I realized that I didn’t know the answer to some very common exercise questions.  So I turned to David Kirsch, celebrity trainer to the uber hot and uber famous to settle once and for all those nagging concerns.

Kirsch has shaped some of Hollywood’s hottest bodies including Anne Hathaway (did you see how amazing she looked in her post-breakup pictures), Liv Tyler and Ellen Barkin.  He is also famous for getting Hedi Klum from baby weight to runway ready in three weeks for the Victoria Secret fashion show back in 2005, just eight weeks after birthing her child.  (The show was recorded November 9 and Kirsch arrived in LA to train Klum on October 13.)

Kirsch has also developed a series of workout related products.  His newest book, David Kirsch’s Butt Book, is out July 13, but we’re giving you a sneak preview of how to do one of his signature butt exercises. Read below for the tips this master trainer shares with TDO readers to make your own workout more efficient:

The Daily Obsession: I often hear that women shouldn’t use weights over 3-5lbs because it builds bulk. Yes or no?
David Kirsch: I think women can use up to 10 pound weights for exercises. It is important that they choose the proper exercises for their body type and they should keep the repetitions high – 15 to 20.

TDO: The world’s most fit women (Gwyneth, Madonna, even Michelle Obama) all seem to swear by yoga or Pilates. Those exercises do NOTHING for me. A mat Pilates class isn’t even a challenge – what’s the deal?
DK: I think Pilates is a great compliment to other forms of exercise – cardio sculpting, plyometrics training, and interval training. Pilates is great for strengthening the core. I know that Madonna and Gwyneth also weight train and do other forms of exercise and not Pilates alone.

TDO: I hate lunges. They make me feel like I’m going to fall over. Can I do something else instead?
DK: I think lunges are one of the better leg and butt shaping exercises. If you cannot stand the thought of doing them, then I might try some of my signature moves – plie toe squats, platypus walks and frog jumps – all are in my new book – The Butt Book.

TDO: What is the most effective way to get rid of stomach fat?
DK: The best way to get rid of belly fat is to combine a good, clean diet – low on processed carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol – along with 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least 4 times per week, and one of my express 10 workouts for abs found in my New York Diet.

TDO: Working out early AM on an empty stomach is more effective than any other time during the day. True or False?
DK: Working out early AM is the optimum time to train, but not the only time to maximize your workout. If you can do it in the morning, do it.

TDO: I work out in the evenings either before or after dinner and then get hungry again around 11pm. If I eat (even if it’s something healthy), is this sabotaging my weight loss efforts?
DK: 11 is definitely too late to be eating. Sometimes, when I am up late and still hungry, I will make a protein shake (blended with water) and that will take my hunger away.

In addition to working out, Kirsch also advises a strict diet of  No ABCDEF – that is, No Alcohol, Bread, starchy Carbs, Dairy, Extra sweets (including artificial), bad Fats or Fruits.  Sound hellish?  No one said looking model hot was easy.

For more tips, check out David Kirsch Wellness.


  1. Jane  |  10 July 2009 at 10:20 AM

    Very interesting interview. As a pilates instructor though, I will comment: if a mat pilates class is not challenging to you, but lunges make you feel like you’re going to fall over (indicating a lack of core strength and balance) then you are probably not doing pilates right….:)

    Pilates is hard when you do it correctly. However, it is very easy to fake.

  2. Carolyn  |  10 July 2009 at 10:25 AM

    Hi Jane, do you have any tips on what to focus on while doing Pilates? thanks!!

  3. Kristina A  |  10 July 2009 at 1:47 PM

    I bought a Pilates video once and I’m convinced it almost killed me. I couldn’t do half the things the instructor was doing and I’m not in half bad shape (at least I think).

    I’m going to have to check out the Butt Book and his 10 express workouts to lose all this baby weight I’m packing on. I’m NOT doing his diet though. I believe that Alchohol, Bread, Carbs, Dairy (mmm… cheese), Extra sweets, and Fats and Fruits are part of a happy and healthy life – most of those in moderation of course. (Did he really include Fruit as a no-no?)

  4. Carolyn  |  10 July 2009 at 3:11 PM

    He recommends only 1 serving of fruit per day. I have actually heard the same from other nutritionists. Too much sugar regardless of if its from an unprocessed source

  5. Jane  |  10 July 2009 at 4:43 PM


    Absolutely!!! And to preface this, I will say that for the first eight and a half months that I practiced pilates, I was flapping my arms thinking, “I don’t get it, I don’t get it, I don’t get it.” Then one day…I got it. And the next day I couldn’t walk:) I am not a natural born athlete, I had to work hard to get the body awareness I have, and now that I have it, I really can attribute most of it to pilates.

    I’ll focus on what I think are the harder parts of pilates to really get. Overall, you want to:

    Rib placement
    Shoulder stabilization
    Engage your pelvic floor

    1.) Breathing
    Pilates uses a forced exhale to try to help engage your abs. Put your hand right below your belly button and breathe normally. You probably won’t feel very much. Now cough. Did you feel the tightening up? THAT is what a forced exhale (pretend you are blowing out birthday candles) should help you achieve: engagement of a muscle called your transverse abdominis.

    You also want to try to keep your abdominals engaged the whole time by breathing into the sides of your ribcage and your back instead of your belly. Again…this took me months to learn, so don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right away!

    2.) Mental Focus
    One of the hardest parts about pilates is that you really need to be thinking about what every part of your body is doing at every moment – it is like ballet. Your feet should be doing something, and so should your fingers.

    I know the above sounds extreme…and for the most part, when I train people, I just care about what they are doing from shoulders to hips. But to practice pilates to the fullest, everything is working. Some of the best videos out there are the ones that are primarily geared toward instructors; I like Stott’s videos the best ( If you watch them, you can see their models have very intentional placement of every part of their bodies.

    This is one of the harder things for people to get – you want to pretend that you are buttoning your ribs up. It involves muscle activation that takes practice. The forced exhale in your breathing pattern should also help with this.

    4.)Shoulder Stabilization
    Basically, this just means pulling your shoulders down away from your ears….but with meaning!:) It also involves keeping your chest open by drawing your shoulder blades slightly together. Where your shoulders should be exactly depends on the exercise, but the above is a good general rule. If you don’t have strength in this area, you probably won’t be able to control your ribs for very long. If you can’t control your ribs, you can’t control your abs. If you can’t control your abs, you can’t control your back. And then…well…you might as well be on the treadmill:)

    5.)Pelvic Floor
    One word: Kegels.
    Believe it or not, this is a big part of pilates that a lot of people don’t talk about because in a group mat class of 45 people, unless you are truly confident about your ability to teach and be professional, it can be scary to talk to people about engaging their pelvic floor.

    As I read all of the above, I am reminded again about how scary pilates can be!!!!! I teach both mat and equipment pilates. Everyone likes something different. But I will say that if mat pilates is not your bag, try a reformer class. Sometimes the support of the equipment can help you feel things that you can’t feel on the mat.

    Boy am I long-winded. It’s a good thing I’m a teacher:)

  6. The Pilates Room Ithaca  |  11 July 2009 at 8:35 AM

    Another Pilates instructor comment…
    My suggestion for anyone feeling “nothing” – try working one-on-one with a fully certified Pilates instructor before using the videos or participating in mat classes.

    Pilates is not just about core strengthening. What most people know of are the Mat exercises, which focus primarily on the “core” 85%-90% of the time. However, there is so much more to it than that.

    In contemporary methods of Pilates instruction we generally start people on the mat in order to teach participants how to activate and use their core muscles (spinal stabilizers) appropriately. Once core activation becomes relatively competent we begin work on the apparatus. Work on various pieces of specialized apparatus is done against spring resistance, so it is strength training. It is whole-body strength training that requires activation of spinal stabilizers throughout the entirety of each peripherally focused exercise. We work global movers (biceps, triceps, glutes, quads, hamstrings…) and deep stabilizers (multifidus, rotator cuff, scapular stabilizers, deep hip muscles) No muscle is left untouched.

    David is correct in stating Pilates is an excellent compliment to other work outs. The reason is that every move in the Pilates studio is done precicely and with intention. So, we are training our bodies to use the target muscles specifically and not allowing other muscles to help out (or cheat).

    With a well trained Pilates instructor, you can learn how to substantially intensify your workout in the gym or any group fitness class. I can not say how often I see people working out in the gym doing lat pulls, for example, and they’ve got the upper traps letting go in between each rep as the bar raises and the full weight of their bodies doing 50% of the work on the pull down. What is the point of doing 20 lat pulls if only the first 10 are working your lats and the final 10 are really targeting various other muscles in your body?

    Sometimes, “feeling the burn” is easy. Doing 6-10 reps of an exercise with light weight, and in proper form, is the harder option. Our goal is to ingrain correct movement patterns; to correct patterns that have, over time, resulted in muscle imbalances and faulty posture. (this is where overuse syndrome, injury and back problems begin)

    There is a misconception that Pilates is all about “core training”. You will certainly aquire “abs of steel” doing Pilates, but you can also get complete strength training workout in the Pilates studio without ever setting foot on the gym floor. Having said that, if what you want is hypertrophy (muscle mass), then Pilates is a great option “in addition” to the gym. It will speed your results as you are better able to target your workouts. In any case, I enjoy the gym and working with a personal trainer. It is always more fun to mix it up.

    One final note, Pilates will NOT satisfy requirements for cardiovascular fitness that is needed for weight loss. David suggests mixing Pilates with “cardio sculpting, plyometrics training, and interval training”. All of these offer significant cardiovascular benefits.

  7. Glamour Diaries  |  14 July 2009 at 10:16 AM

    Very good read. I’ve been working out 30-40 minutes (4) times a week for the last two weeks & am following NO ABCDEF diet religiously & have seen a HUGE difference already. I am well beyond pleased!

    I think there’s many of us who hate lunges (me being one of them!)

    Thank you for the great post =)

  8. Bonzo  |  26 August 2011 at 1:04 AM

    I have stuck to sit-up exercises to grow my stomach muscles but now with little to show, I am feeling very fed up. Any alternatives?

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