Celebrity trainer Holly Perkins is all about holistic health. “My philosophy on health and fitness is that the last thing it is about is fitting into a pair of skinny jeans or a bikini,” the Lift to Get Lean author exclusively tells GLAMOUR South Africa. “I really am a proponent of using fitness and strength training to help people live more life.”
Her words to live by have inspired her clients to embrace physical fitness and overall wellness, completely changing their lives for the better. She’s trained the likes of supermodels Karlie Kloss and Petra Eccelstone, comedian Howard Stern, actor Adrian Grenier, and even a United States presidential candidate while on the campaign trail. Needless to say, she knows her stuff.
The expert Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist opened up about her fitness journey, her forward-thinking approach to working out, and the supportive community of people she has built all working towards leading active and balanced lives.
GLAMOUR: What sparked your passion for fitness and living a healthy lifestyle? Was this always important to you, or did a certain instance in your life inspire it?
Holly Perks (HP): Oddly I really believe it was a gift I got at a really young age. When I was in sixth grade my best friend was a little overweight and her mom was making her go to the local YMCA to take dance aerobics classes and my friend didn’t want to go alone and she asked me to join her and my life changed. So starting at a young age I just love physical activity.
I wasn’t an athlete or super into sports but I just loved using and moving my body and it was always when I felt my best. It boosted my spirit, it’s when I felt the most whole, it’s when I felt the happiest, and it's when I felt the most in connection with god. It’s always been a really powerful role my entire life. When I went to college I studied physiology and nutrition because I was so passionate from a very young age.
GLAMOUR: What is your current fitness regimen, and your nutrition plan you use to stay in shape?
HP: The foundation of my program is always strength training. The first thing that has to happen every week is 3-4 comprehensive progressive resistance training programs that are truly focused on strength building. After that, I do a little bit of cardio simply for mood and energy support rather than for fat burning. I don’t use cardio for fat burning at all.
I really use it for recovery from my strength workouts, health, mood lift, and all of those other really beneficial reasons for doing cardio. I am a strong component of balancing out my macronutrients, it’s what I teach within my community as a whole, to really understand how the intersection of protein, fat, and carbohydrates really creates precision in terms of the fuel that your body uses.
I know that when I get the right balance of those 3 macronutrients everything about my body, creativity, energy, and mood just really get optimized so it’s super important to me to always be conscientious about incorporating all 3 macronutrients every single time I eat in an effort to stabilize my blood sugar. I then also really keep an eye out for foods that cause inflammation.
I have an autoimmune disorder and have to be really careful about certain foods that cause inflammation so I’m really responsible with alcohol, sugar, dairy, and caffeine. I have to keep an eye on them, I’m not a saint. I do include them but I have to be very conscientious about how much I ingest.
GLAMOUR: What one thing do you never skip in your workout?
HP: I would never skip glute training. I believe the 3 major glute muscles are the most important muscles in your entire body. I believe that and there is also a lot of research to back it up. If you’ve got strong glutes the rest of your body works a whole lot better. I never ever miss glute training and every single day I do glute activation exercise to keep my body in balance and to also undo all of the sitting that happens throughout a typical day.
GLAMOUR: How would you describe your philosophy on health and fitness, and how has it evolved?
HP: My philosophy on health and fitness is that the last thing it is about is fitting into a pair of skinny jeans or a bikini. I really am a proponent of using fitness and strength training to help people live more life.
I specifically focus on women but this message does extend to men. I really believe that your fitness and your nutrition and strength training, in particular, are a very powerful way for you to express yourself in full bloom as a human and when your body is really primed and strong and energized from fitness, strength training, and nutrition the rest of your life tends to fall in place. So my biggest philosophy is do it so you live bigger and better rather than doing it purely for aesthetics.
GLAMOUR: Who or what gives you the most inspiration and motivation to achieve your fitness goals?
HP: The women that are older than me that are really leading the way in the fitness movement. There are so many women in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s that are badasses in terms of their fitness and their strength training.
That’s who inspires me. Over the years I’ve always looked to the women who have gone before me and who are older than me in age to really inspire me because I think there has been a great misunderstanding for women over 30 and over 40 in terms of what happens to your body as you age and I know that when I approached my 30th birthday I got very worried about what was going to happen to my body and then when I approached my 40th birthday I was terrified.
So I used that opportunity to get in the best shape of my life at 40 and that is actually when everything started. My 40th birthday before and after photo is really amazing just because at the age of 40 I got in the best shape of my life and so many women feel that that can only happen in their 20’s and 30’s and that’s just not true.
GLAMOUR: What is the best fitness advice you have ever received, and from whom?
HP: It was from my mentor Pat Manocchia from La Palestra in New York City which is where I was groomed and raised and trained. He was a propionate of progressive resistance but also following a dedicated training program that is based on your specific goals. I think these days a lot of fitness enthusiasts program hop because workouts look cool or they just kind of do different exercises that seem trendy or interesting and the truth is if you want to change your body you have to first identify what is your specific goal and then your training program has to be built to support that.
This is called specificity and it really is a foundation in body transformation. You have to be specific about the goals that you’re going after and what you want from your body. A marathon runner is going to train very differently than a bikini competitor who's going to train very differently than someone who plays softball or someone who performs in CrossFit.
So it's really important that whatever your goals are or athletic expression or fitness activities are that your training program supports that. I believe that’s why the women in my community get such profound transformations because I teach them to identify their specific goal, do you just want to lose weight and get skinny or do you want to look athletic or do you want to perform and your programming really should always always follow that.
GLAMOUR: What specific fitness goal are you currently focused on?
HP: Right now I’m working through some health challenges. I had a couple pretty substantial diagnoses come through in the past couple years so right now my goal is to just become healthy again and to feel strong and energized and then next year I’m going to go after yet another pretty powerful transformation in terms of my current fitness to reaching the next level in terms of my highest fitness level.
GLAMOUR: What's the best way for someone to motivate herself to get fit?
HP: The best way for someone to motivate herself to get fit is to get clear on the cost and the payoff of all your actions. Humans are driven by pain and pleasure. We do things because we’re going to get pleasure, like have a nice big double latte in the morning, or we do things to avoid pain, like pay our taxes and brush our teeth.
So when people get clear on the cost and the payoff of an action it's a lot easier to motivate yourself. If you learn the payoff for getting up early to workout is that you’ll have a better day, you’ll reach your goals, you’ll be energized and you’ll feel amazing, it becomes a lot easier to motivate yourself. If you come to learn the cost of your behavior and the pain that it’s causing you that can really shift motivation as well.
For example, a lot of women in my community enjoy alcohol, sweet treats, sugar, and staying motivated to keep that in check often comes down to really tapping into the cost and the pain that you feel when you overindulge in some of those things. I find that’s really the best way to help people, in general, stay motivated.
GLAMOUR: One of the key elements for staying consistent with working out is accountability. Who keeps you accountable for working out consistently?
HP: I really believe it’s everything. I think most humans aren’t great at staying accountable to themselves mostly because when we were raised someone was always keeping us accountable whether it be a parent, a friend, a school teacher, or even authorities.
I feel most people need accountability of some sort and the number one suggestion I have for all the women in my community is if you’re floundering with your fitness, if you’re not making progress, if you’re having a hard time staying on track, find something to be accountable to. Generally a real live human in the best way to do it. It could be a workout buddy, a partner, a best friend, a family member, or tapping into a community.
All of my programs offer accountability in one way shape or another and I find again that that is one reason my community has had such success with their body transformations because staying in touch with and being accountable to another human is so important. So for me, I’m finding someone like a workout buddy or my community keeps me accountable. I do a lot of live, free fitness challenges with my community and that helps to keep me accountable.
GLAMOUR: What tips would you give to someone wanting to live a more healthy lifestyle?
HP: Every little bit helps. One action leads to another positive action. Every little bit of healthy eating and exercise you can do adds up. Anything is better than nothing. Anything, drinking one glass of water is better than drinking none, eating one bite of broccoli is better than eating none, exercising for 5 minutes is better than doing none. Anything is better than nothing and if you just took one small tiny step forward the momentum is going to start to build behind you and help you move forward.
I always refer back to the good old physics law, an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless it’s met with an equal or greater force opposing it. You’re going to stay in action once you get the momentum going unless something stops you so I really believe once you take a little bit of action and start moving forward with one step that momentum is going to help keep you moving forward.
GLAMOUR: You have two fitness programs, the glutes project, and the comeback, what do these two programs consist of and what inspired you to use these methods to help people get in shape?
HP: The glutes project is a full-body strength and conditioning program that specifically focuses on the glutes for 2 reasons. 1) because you want an amazing looking butt or 2) you want all of the health benefits that come from strong glutes. In my experience, which is now 30 years of working 1 on 1 with clients and a heavy education, I have learned that weak glutes cause so many problems throughout the body.
It contributes to poor energy, body fat accumulation, and aches and pains so by improving the strength and conditioning of your glutes you really improve your body holistically on so many levels. Strengthening your glutes is everything and it has the added benefit of making your booty look great.
The comeback is a more comprehensive program that is based on what I call the trifecta of body transformation. I believe to really transform your body there have to be 3 programming elements in place, a progressive periodized strength training program is the foundation upon which is the focus on strategic nutrition and then the icing on the cake is effective and personalized cardio.
Those three things really have to be systematically programmed to work together in one united program in order for you to really get a transformation. The comeback is my ongoing community, once you join you’re in it forever, and it’s one of the best ways that I offer accountability to my community. Every 2 weeks I offer live group coaching calls for the women in the comeback so that I’m there for them accountability wise and so that they can get all their questions answered.
The biggest difference between the two programs is that the comeback is very comprehensive including very detailed information on strength training, nutrition, and cardio. The glutes project is really a heavy strength training program with some guidelines around cardio and nutrition and then later this summer I’m going to be launching the nutrition project. It is my first digital course that is all about my approach to nutrition which has been massively transformational for the women in my community. I’m so excited about it. It’s going to be a nutrition only course and there is nothing like it out there right now.
GLAMOUR: What's something most people may not know about you?
HP: I love doing laundry and I believe that Australian Shepherds are the best dogs ever. Also, if I was stuck on a desert island the one food I would have with me would be donuts. Donuts are my beloved cheat food. I love them so so much and I would probably give up all other foods if I could just survive on donuts.
This Article was written by Sebastien Lagree
Got a fitness question? Email Sebastien at [email protected] for his expert opinion!