- I worked out with Luke Worthington, who has trained Dakota Johnson, Winnie Harlow, and Naomi Campbell.
- Worthington’s “3 x 52” philosophy is three full-body workouts a week, with three tri-sets in each.
- I was so impressed by the approach that I’ve started training in the same way on my own.
Luke Worthington is one of the most in-demand personal trainers in London, with a roster of clients including Dakota Johnson, Winnie Harlow, Jodie Comer, and Naomi Campbell.
The qualified sports scientist, nutritionist, and strength and conditioning specialist has over 20 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry and in January 2023 will launch a training app for the first time, based on his unique “3 x 52” philosophy.
This is centered around doing three full-body workouts every week of the year. Each workout consists of three rounds of three tri-sets.
A tri-set is three different exercises grouped together and performed back-to-back, with no rest until you’ve completed all three. Each exercise in each tri-set works a different body part. For example, an upper body movement, a lower body one, then a core exercise.
Worthington uses this simple approach to train all of his high-profile clients.
I loved doing a strength workout that boosted my cardio
I worked out with Worthington following the format on his app, and was so impressed by the structure that I’ve started training this way on my own.
Worthington said his tri-set approach means you can keep your heart rate up and reap cardiovascular benefits while doing strength and conditioning work. Although not extensively studied, there is small scale research to support the idea.
“Moving between upper and lower body-focused resistance training creates a demand on the cardiovascular system to ‘shunt’ the blood from one end of the body to the other,” Worthington said. “This means that you can effectively train the cardiovascular system at the same time as the muscular system.”
This is an efficient way to get stronger and create a lean physique, Worthington said: “It means you can preferentially burn body fat while preserving lean tissue, which creates the ‘toned’ look that is often desired.”
Worthington’s workout app isn’t for complete beginners, but more for people who already go to the gym and want a program to get results, he said. Each workout is 45 minutes long including rest time and a warm-up, which Worthington prefers to call movement prep.
The workouts are designed to be everything the body needs, and easy to complete in a commercial gym, with exercises grouped together partly according to where equipment is usually found, Worthington said.
The workout challenged my whole body
Worthington started our training session by assessing my mobility. After spotting my lazy left hamstring, we performed an exercise to activate it, and some deadbugs to get my core firing.
Then we started the first tri-set: deadlifts, assisted pull-ups using a TRX, and wood-chops using a resistance cable machine.
I told Worthington the maximum amount I can deadlift so he chose a weight that I would be able to perform six reps of, while still being challenged.
From the deadlifts, it was straight into the pull-ups, which got my upper body firing, then into the resisted wood-chops to work the core. Worthington’s exercises are designed work the core in all three planes of movement: sagittal (forward and back), frontal (side to side), and transverse (rotation).
After performing all three, I rested for a minute or two before repeating the tri-set twice more.
The second tri-set featured sliding lateral lunges, suspended split squats using the TRX, and TRX push-ups.
I was certainly out of breath as I moved between movements, so I could tell my cardiovascular fitness was being tested as much as my strength.
In the third tri-set, the exercises all used the TRX, which felt slightly less daunting than moves that used barbells and weights — and I was glad as I was starting to fatigue. I did three rounds of lying down leg curls, TRX abduction, and then TRX roll-outs.
I thought I was finished, but then Worthington told me there was a finisher superset (two exercises back-to-back), with higher reps to really bring the burn. I did side-lying glute abductions and TRX pikes, both of which were killer but left me finishing on a high.
A couple of stretches later and I was done.
It was an effective workout that wasn’t grueling
After strength-training for five and a half years and having had the privilege of working out with many of the best trainers and athletes in the industry thanks to my job as a fitness reporter, I could tell I had just completed a highly effective workout.
It felt great having worked every part of my body, and was just the right amount of difficulty: I hadn’t annihilated myself, it hadn’t been grueling or brutal, three rounds of each tri-set doesn’t seem too daunting mentally, but I’d been pushed.
Strength-training is my favorite way to work out, but I know cardio is important for my health and general life. It’s always been a weakness of mine because I find most forms of cardio boring and unpleasant.
Worthington’s approach struck me as a brilliant way to sneak cardio into strength-training, without making it “cardio with weights” (which many trainers say isn’t really strength-training because it’s not an efficient way to build strength).
I’ve attempted to mirror his training structure in my home workouts, despite not having had access to a gym since we trained together.
It’s a fun, simple, effective way to workout, and now I understand why Worthington’s clients have the bodies they do — and keep going back to him.