How to get a body like Margot Robbie: Upper-body workout

 Margot Robbie Top10 Ultimate Performance

Margot Robbie

With her long, toned legs and washboard abs, Margot Robbie has a figure that many women would kill for.

The actor, who is perhaps best known for her roles in The Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, has built an incredible figure for her roles on the big screen. The Australian has made the all-action Harley Quinn character her own, with her stunning athletic characteristics evident for all to see in the hit film series Suicide Squad.

Robbie also gained popularity for her leading role in Australian soap opera Neighbours, playing the character Donna Freedman up until 2011. But it was Hollywood where her future lay, as Robbie’s meteoric rise to stardom began. Since her move away from Australia, she has married British film producer Tom Ackerley, popular for his production roles in Promising Young Women, Grimsby, and I, Tonya.

While Margot Robbie’s physique might seem like it belongs only with the Hollywood elite, it is more than achievable through well-directed training and nutrition. Forget hours of cardio, the most effective way to get a lower body worthy of the cinematic Duchess of Bay Ridge is through weight training. If powerful, strong legs are your goal, careful exercise selection and maximising your training volume are two crucial avenues to optimal results.

The Margot Robbie workout

How to perform the exercises

This guide is aimed at trainees with a good knowledge of the exercises and how to train safely and effectively.

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Dumbbell incline hip extension

The set-up

  • If the station angle is adjustable, then set it to a 45º incline.
  • Climb onto the machine and lie face down with your ankles pressed firmly up against the foot pads.
  • If the thigh pad height is adjustable, then set it to cover your upper thighs. If the pad is too high, it will restrict your range of motion on the downward movement.
  • Squeeze your glutes to fully extend your hips so that your body makes a straight line with the angle of the station.
  • Cross your arms over your chest if using bodyweight for resistance. Alternatively, if using dumbbells let them hang below your shoulders with palms facing inwards.
  • Look at the floor just in front of you.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Push your hips backwards and bend forwards at the waist. The movement should come entirely from your hips and you should feel a noticeable increase in hamstring tension.
  • You have reached the end of your range of motion when you cannot push your hips any further back without your lower back rounding or knees bending.
  • Pause for a moment in the bottom position and then drive your hips forward and squeeze your glutes to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • A common mistake is not leaning fully into the thigh pad for fear of falling. If you are worried about this, use the warm up to prove to yourself that the foot and thigh pads will hold you securely in place.
  • Start with bodyweight for resistance and only progress to using free weights once you have completed the target number of reps and are happy with your technique.
  • Be careful not to overextend at the top of the movement by arching your lower back.
  • Your lower back muscles will be engaged, but you should not feel that they are contributing more to the movement than your glutes and hamstrings.

Leg extension

The set-up

  • The first step is to adjust the machine settings to suit you.
  • Adjust the back-pad angle to a position somewhere between 75-90º.
  • Sit down on the machine and place your shins behind the lower leg support pad. Pull yourself back into the seat so that the underside of your knees touch the edge of the seat.
  •  Adjust the seat (in or out) so that your knee joint lines up with the machine pivot point.
  • Adjust the machine lever (up or down) so that your knees are bent at roughly 90º in the bottom position.
  • Sit upright, grip the handles and pull yourself down into the seat. Point your toes up toward the ceiling.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Extend your knees to straighten your legs.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your quadriceps muscles.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Grip the handles hard and keep pulling yourself down into the seat through the set, which will allow you to engage the quadriceps muscles more forcefully. Some machines even come equipped with seatbelts to help keep you locked into position.

Dumbbell split squat (alternating legs)

The set-up

  • Stand in an open space with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Place your hands on your hips and tuck your elbows in if using bodyweight. If using dumbbells, allow them to hang by your sides with the palms facing inwards.
  • Step backwards and place your toes on the floor, with shoelaces facing down and heel raised (stepping backwards is more stable than stepping forwards when using heavy loads).
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • Drop your back knee down towards the floor and drive your front knee forwards to close the gap between your hamstrings and calf (elevating the front heel with a wedge may allow a greater degree of motion if you do not have a great deal of ankle flexibility).
  • In the bottom position, your front foot should be flat and your back knee bent at 90 degrees and one to two inches above the floor.
  • Pause for a moment at the bottom, keeping the upper body braced and tension in your legs.
  • Push through the front leg to reverse the motion (imagine closing a pair of scissors) to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. Pause for 30-60 seconds before switching sides.

Trainer tips

  • Start with your weaker leg forwards first and perform the same number of reps on both sides.
  • The greater the forward lean of the torso, the more you will emphasise the glutes.
  • Pick a stride length that allows you to keep your front foot equally placed on the floor throughout without the heel lifting. The back foot should not be so far back that you cannot fully flex the back leg or the hips are pulled forwards.
  • Make sure to keep the range of motion consistent throughout. Try placing a small block under the back knee if you are unable to reach the floor.
  • Only pause briefly at the top position and do not rock backwards onto the back foot.
  • Use straps to prevent grip becoming a limiting factor when using dumbbells.

Barbell hip thrust

The set-up

  • Position a flat bench in an open space (or in a rack/cage) and secure it with something heavy to prevent it sliding forwards.
  • Sit straight legged on the floor with your upper back resting against the bench. The edge of the bench should be just underneath your shoulder blades or bra line. If the bench is too high, it may be useful to place a plate underneath your buttocks to position you correctly.
  • You can perform this exercise with bodyweight only, use a single dumbbell or barbell for added resistance (if you’re a beginner, we advise progressing in this order).
  • Make sure you’re using a hip pad or folded up matt over the hips and roll the barbell into position so it is situated directly over your pelvic bones (not over the abs or upper thighs).
  • Tuck your feet in towards your buttocks and keep your feet roughly shoulder-width apart (a slight external rotation of the knee favours the abductor muscles).

The movement

  • Drive your hips upwards towards the ceiling, pushing through your heels and squeezing your glutes. Keep your knees in line with your toes.
  • In the top position, your hips should be fully extended and your torso parallel to the floor.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting your glutes (imagine you are trying to crack a walnut between them!), with a slight upwards rotation of the pelvis.
  • Lower your hips down towards the floor. You have reached the end of your range of motion when you cannot move any further without your lower back rounding or knees rocking backwards.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • If the bottom of your range of motion is higher than floor-level, place blocks or plates underneath the barbell plates to standardise the range of motion.
  • Keep a solid brace throughout and do not relax the tension at the top or bottom of the rep.
  • Focus on ‘pivoting’ on and off the bench, do not allow your pelvis to rock backwards and forwards as this will strain the spinal erectors.
  • Be careful not to overextend at the top of the movement and you should not feel this in the lower back.
  • Keep the head in a neutral position by keeping your eyes on the bar pad at all times.

Lying hamstring curl

The set-up:

  • Adjust the ankle pad so that it is just above the ankle joint.
  • When you lie down on the machine, your knees should be just short of full extension (this set-up will vary between machines).
  • Position yourself so that your knees line up with the machine pivot point.
  • Grip the handles, lift your chest up slightly and engage the lats by tucking your armpits down towards your hips. Point your toes up towards your shins.

The movement:

  • Push your thighs down into the and curl your legs up towards your buttocks.
  • You have reached the end of your range of motion when your knees are fully bent or you cannot move any further without your hips or thighs lifting off the pad.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your hamstrings.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer Tips:

  • Keep your abs braced to limit movement of the hips at the top of the movement.
  • Avoid ‘swinging’ the weight; as your feet near your buttocks, the movement should be slowest as this is the shortest and weakest position.
  • Keep the range of motion and tempo consistent throughout.

Goblet squat

The set-up

  • Set up the wedges so that they are about hip-width apart and stand on the back of them so that your heels are slightly lifted off the floor.
  • Keep your chest up and core engaged.
  • With both hands, hold a dumbbell in front of your chest like a goblet using your palms under the actual weight rather than holding the handle.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • Keeping the back straight and core engaged, sit the hips back and bend your knees to lower down into the squat position.  Allow your knees to track forward over the toes.
  • You should be aiming to squat to parallel or lower in order to fully engage the muscles of the lower body, so you may need to play around with your set up to get this right.
  •  Keeping the weight in the heels, straighten the knees and drive the hips back to the starting position and contract the glutes.
  • This is one rep.

Trainer tips

  • The set-up of a squat will vary significantly between individuals depending on your leg proportions and range of motion.  Finding the right set up for you may take some trial and error so you may find it useful to enlist the help of a PT to check you are using correct form or video yourself from the side.
  • Keep tension in the legs and glutes throughout the set by not locking out at the top of the squat.
  • Keep your bodyweight distributed evenly between both feet.
  • Focus on keeping your knees pushed out so they are tracking over the front toe.
  • Maintain a proper brace throughout and don’t let the back arch.
  • Make sure to keep the range of motion consistent throughout.

Abductor machine

The set-up

  • Set up the machine so that the outside of your thighs are in contact with the pads and your legs are as closed as comfortably possible.
  • Create a slight lean forward at the hips and take hold of the handles.
  • Place your feet on the lowest point on the footholds (you can use blocks to raise your heels if you cannot reach).
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • Hold the handles, engage your core and slowly drive your knees outwards.
  • You have reached the end of your range of motion when you can no longer drive the knees outwards without rotating your thigh bone.
  • Pause for a second then slowly return to the start position under control.
  • That is one rep.

Trainer tips

  • Don’t rely on momentum and focus on keeping control all the way through the movement.
  • Keep your torso braced and a slight forward lean at the hips throughout the movement.
  • Don’t allow the weight plates to touch down between each rep, stop just above the plate stack to keep tension throughout the set.

Why this workout works

This workout includes a range of free weights and machine exercises that work the glutes and hamstrings in a variety of ranges and across different rep ranges to build a rock-solid posterior chain. This workout would work best as part of an upper-lower split, performed at least twice a week.



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