I worked out like Carrie Underwood for a week — here’s what happened

 A photo of Carrie Underwood .
A photo of Carrie Underwood .

It’s true that American Idol-winner Carrie Underwood is known for her chart-topping hits like “Before He Cheats” and “Jesus Take the Wheel,” but she’s almost as famous for her incredibly sculpted physique. And while her high-energy performances would definitely count as exercise, you don’t get Carrie’s ultra-toned legs, arms, and abs from just singing alone.

I was interested to see what the country-pop star’s fitness routine looked like, so I did a bit of research. What I found was that Carrie’s longtime personal trainer, Eve Overland, doesn’t shy away from using heavy weights, supersets, and complex movements in order to keep her iconic client in enviable shape. She also doesn’t shy away from sharing her workouts with the public, so that Carrie’s fan base can squat, lunge, and push-up right alongside their favorite singer.

Since I’ve been getting a bit bored at the gym lately, I decided to mix things up by working out like Carrie Underwood for a full week. As a reminder, what’s right for Carrie may not be right for you and your body. If you’ve just begun an exercise regimen, consider meeting with a certified personal trainer so they can provide an appropriate workout program for your goals and current fitness level.

What is Carrie Underwood’s workout?

Our fitness editor recently gave Carrie’s leg day a try, so I already knew what was in store for my quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

Doing a little more digging into Carrie’s exercise regimen, I found that she and Eve Overland paired up to create a workout app called Fit52, which creates randomized routines based on a deck of cards. Each suit represents a different focus area (spades indicate cardio, hearts indicate lower body, clubs indicate core, diamonds indicate upper body), with card numbers representing repetitions. I downloaded Fit52 (which offers a 14-day free trial) and alternated those workouts with the supersets that Overland detailed in this interview with Women’s Health magazine. Here’s what my week looked like:

Day 1

Superset 1 (3 rounds)

Heel elevated dumbbell squats: 12-15 reps, rest 30 seconds
Dumbbell cross-over step-up: 10 reps on each side, rest 10 seconds
Touchdowns: 12 reps on each leg, rest 1 minute

Superset  2: (3 rounds)
Dumbbell deficit sumo deadlifts: 12-15 reps, rest 30 seconds
Bosu dome-up bodyweight single-leg deadlifts: 10 reps on each leg, rest 10 seconds
Bosu up-and-overs: 12 reps on each leg, rest 1 minute

Superset 3: (3 rounds)
Single-leg dumbbell box squats to forward lunge combo: 8-10 reps on each leg, rest 30 seconds
Log hops: 12 reps on each side, rest 1 minute

Day 2

Fit52 Workout

Day 3

Superset 1 (3 rounds):
Assisted pull-up, 5 reps
Kneeling single-arm cable lat pulldown, 10 reps each side
Renegade dumbbell row, 10-12 reps
Thread-the-needle planks, 30 seconds each side

Superset 2 (3 rounds):
Barbell bent-over row, 10 reps
Barbell wide bicep curl, 12 reps
Stability ball back extension, 15 reps

Superset 3 (3 rounds):
Dumbbell bicep curl, 10 reps
Dumbbell hammer curl, 10-12 reps

Day 4

Fit52 Workout

Day 5

Superset 1 (3 rounds):
Goblet sumo squat, 10 reps
Barbell lateral lunge into curtsey lunge, 6-10 reps each side
Squat jacks, 30 seconds
Skaters, 30 seconds

Superset 2 (3 rounds):
Bulgarian split squats with dumbbells, 8 reps each side
Single-leg deadlift with dumbbells, 8 reps each side
Repeaters, 30 seconds each side

Superset 3 (3 rounds):
Sumo jump squat, 40 seconds
Sumo squat pulse, 20 seconds
Burpee with tuck jump, 40 seconds
Squat hold, 20 seconds

Day 6

Fit52 workout

Day 7

Repeat Day 3

I worked out like Carrie Underwood for a week — here’s what happened

Truth be told, my regular workouts aren’t all that different from Carrie’s — I tend to lift heavier and keep my reps lower, but I’m definitely no stranger to dumbbells (check out the best adjustable dumbbells for lifting weights at home here), barbells, and supersets. So I didn’t really anticipate noticing many differences between a normal workout week and a Carrie Underwood-inspired one. Boy, was I wrong. Here’s what happened:

I was sore…really sore

Maybe it was the addition of equipment I don't often use (like Bosu balls), the interesting compound movements (like the single-leg squat into the front lunge), or the shorter rest periods, but after that first leg day, I woke up more sore than I’ve been in a long time. The kind of sore where you have to hold onto the wall to sit down on the toilet. The kind of sore where you question whether or not you’ll make the walk to the train station. The kind of sore where you forget what it feels like to NOT be sore. Yeah, it was rough.

Because of that, I had to modify most of the lower body exercises in my Fit52 workout the next day. Luckily, day 3 was all upper body, so my legs had some time to recover before the lower body supersets of day 5. Even though the soreness faded by the end of the week, those first few days were brutal.

The Fit52 workouts kept me on my toes

My main issue with fitness apps is that I frequently lose focus during the workouts – most of the popular choices (like Apple Fitness+ or Peloton) utilize timed intervals, and it’s very easy for me to space out or get distracted during the longer segments.

Since each of the exercises in the Fit52 app is presented as a card (like “5 of diamonds” or “10 of clubs”), you never really know what exercise is coming next, or how many reps of that exercise you’ll have to do. That forced me to pay attention the whole time, which made the workout fly by.

The single-leg work highlighted strength and balance discrepancies

Most of us have a stronger side and a weaker side, but those strength differences are usually unnoticeable in our everyday lives. However, once you start performing exercises unilaterally (or on one side at a time), those discrepancies become very clear.

This was the case for me, especially when tackling the single-leg deadlift variations and the Bulgarian split squats. These exercises have a pretty regular place in my existing routine, so it was a bit shocking to feel how much harder they were for my right leg than my left — I got fatigued and started losing my balance halfway through the set. I’m sure part of that was due to the aforementioned soreness I experienced, however, it was jarring enough for me to realize that my right side needs some focused attention.

I worked out like Carrie Underwood for a week — here’s my verdict

The verdict? After a week of working out like Carrie Underwood, it’s become clear that I need to start upping the ante in my supersets. I’ll be repeating these workouts in the near future, and returning to the Fit52 app when I’m traveling and don’t have access to my gym.

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