Anderson’s approach, in a nutshell, is about targeting what she calls the “accessory muscles” that line large muscle groups like biceps and quadriceps to achieve an effect that makes your limbs lean and your body teeny-tiny. “They’re the beauty muscles,” she says. Anderson perks them up with “thousands and thousands” of moves that get progressively more difficult to perform.
During the next few weeks, I put the theory into practice with Anderson and three of her trainers. The first hour of my workout is spent toning and reshaping, while the last 30 minutes are reserved for cardio. Anderson’s recipe for my arms begins with pumps and punches while I hold tension bands that are strung from the ceiling, and ends with “arm dancing,” which involves whipping my limbs in every imaginable direction. There are variations on the sit-up and leg kick that I never imagined possible, and just as I start to feel like I’ve mastered a few, I do them with one-and-a-half-pound ankle weights, while balancing on my side or atop industrial-looking silver bars, 40 reps at a time. Anderson believes in adding repetitions or destabilizing the body while performing an exercise to make it more difficult, rather than increasing resistance, which she believes bulks up muscles.
She claims that, with these moves, she’s re-engineering my body by pulling muscle closer to the bone and bringing fat to the surface (where, she says, cardio can eliminate it more easily), but Jordan Metzl, sports medicine physician for the Radio City Rockettes, is skeptical. “You can definitely change your fat-to-muscle ratio,” he says. “But the body is built in layers that are fixed. It’s not like quicksand.”
Anderson’s preferred form of cardio is dance. As she hands me off to Courtney Ortiz, a 20-year-old dancer who prefers to work out barefoot, she says, “This is Jamie. She’s not a dancer. So you have to teach her like it’s Kinderdance.” Ouch—but she’s right. It takes me six weeks to master skipping and hopping, and my knees and heels hurt so much that I spend two weeks performing the dances on a mini trampoline. Four weeks in, after observing me doing several combinations, Anderson informs me that I know the dances, but that I’m not performing them at an explosive, nonstop level. I must act like 70,000 people are paying $400 apiece to watch me. This is how Paltrow, alongside whom I find myself chasséing one February morning, does it. (I can attest that her dance moves are as annoyingly perfect as her body is.)