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I tried Dakota Johnson’s ‘Madame Web’ workout. The 30-minute routine left me dripping sweat

Working out with The Sculpt Society founder Megan Roup taught me the power of a quick workout — even when you're training to become a superhero.
TODAY Illustration / Getty Images / Jamie McCarthy
/ Source: TODAY

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When it comes to workouts, I like to stick to my tried-and-true favorites and I’m usually intimidated to try a new class. But when I got the chance to work out one-on-one with celebrity trainer and The Sculpt Society founder Megan Roup to see how she trained Dakota Johnson for her role in “Madame Web,” I jumped at the chance, nerves and all.

Now, I’m in no superhero shape, but it should be noted that I take a variety of classes during the week, ranging from HIIT workouts to reformer pilates and yoga. So I was cautiously confident that I could handle the workout that Johnson used to prepare physically to become a crime-fighting mutant. What I didn't expect was for the workout to change my mentality about hour-long workouts and convince me that you can get in a solid sweat in just 30 minutes.

What is Dakota Johnson’s ‘Madame Web’ Sculpt Society workout?

Johnson had been using The Sculpt Society app since 2020 when she personally reached out to Roup to help her improve endurance and strength for her role in “Madame Web.”

They met twice a week for sessions of the fitness studio’s signature 45-minute full-body class, which is a mix of low-impact sculpt exercises with minimal equipment and easy-to-follow dance cardio. The workouts focused on full-body movements that target multiple muscle groups at once.

When they weren’t doing one-on-one sessions, Roup suggested workouts on the app for Johnson to do on her own, ranging from 20 to 45 minutes depending on the actor’s schedule and energy when she was filming on set. Roup also encouraged Johnson to have, at minimum, one rest day.

Using light dumbbells allowed me to feel the burn, without getting too fatigued to make it through three full minutes of arm work.
Using light dumbbells allowed me to feel the burn, without getting too fatigued to make it through three full minutes of arm work.

Dakota Johnson’s 30-minute workout routine

Roup gave me a taste of the types of exercises that Johnson did to train by leading me through a “Spicy in 30 Min” class. The class is definitely more advanced and Roup suggests starting with the Beginner Program if you’re new to exercise.

The workout consisted of:

  • Warmup: Dance cardio
  • Arms with 2-3 pound weights
  • Standing legs with slider and 2-3 pound weights
  • Planks with sliders
  • Right side booty
  • Abs on back
  • Left side booty
  • Cool down: Dance cardio
We targeted the lower body by using gliders to perform a variety of sliding leg movements.
We targeted the lower body by using gliders to perform a variety of sliding leg movements.

I tried it: Dakota Johnson’s Sculpt Society workout

We started with a quick dance cardio warm up that consisted of step-touches, heel taps, kicks, jumping jacks, grapevines and turns. All of the exercises had accompanying arm movements. The moves were a bit intimidating, but it was easy to follow and I was able to jump right back in when I messed up. Roup told me that Johnson grew up dancing and she loved moving to the beat of the music. This warmup really got my heart rate up and I started sweating pretty early on. Incorporating dancing made the class start with a positive vibe (and also set the upbeat pace of the class!).

We then picked up 3-pound dumbbells and began the arm portion of the workout. For about 2-3 minutes we did a variety of arm exercises that included jabs, punches, overhead presses, side lateral raises and more. I was able to feel my arms working, but the light weight allowed me to complete the entire circuit without my arms fatiguing.  

We then continued the arm exercises, but got the lower body involved by adding a slider under one foot to perform a variety of sliding leg moves. We focused on one leg first, squatting and sliding the working leg directly to the side with the dumbbells in hand. The sliding section also included curtsy lunges — and this is where I learned that I have trouble stabilizing my knees. This was the toughest part of the workout for me because my legs started to give out and I was wobbly with all my weight on the standing leg.

I was sweating profusely by the time we headed into the plank portion of class. I’m going to be honest: I am not a fan of planks. I find any plank over 30 seconds torturous (apparently Johnson has the same love/hate relationship with planks). However, I was pleasantly surprised that this section flew by pretty quickly. In a high plank we worked one leg at a time by placing the slider under one foot. The first move was a cross-body mountain climber with my foot never leaving the slider. After that, in a wide plank, Roup had me bend my knees, tapping the floor and then back up. We then dropped down into a forearm plank for a few more exercises. The work with sliders reminded me a lot of reformer pilates.

Dakota Johnson liked using a resistance band during the ab work for an added challenge. (I felt the burn without one!)
Dakota Johnson liked using a resistance band during the ab work for an added challenge. (I felt the burn without one!)

Next came the booty section. After a round of donkey kicks and straight leg kicks, my glutes were on fire and I knew I would be feeling sore the next day. I was grateful that we broke up the glutes with some ab work on the mat. All of the moves in this section can be done with a light resistance band placed around the ankles, which Roup says Johnson loved doing since it really helped her feel the burn. Then it was back to the booty section, completing the donkey and straight leg kicks on the opposite side.

Before I knew it, the class was almost over. We finished the way we started with a similar dance cardio routine. This time I felt more comfortable following along. I had sweat trickling down my face, messy hair and was slightly out of breath, but I finished with a huge smile.

Fitness tips for finding motivation to workout

During the workout, Roup shared her favorite fitness mantras and tips for staying motivated:

  • “Eliminate the excuses.” Roup says to make workouts as accessible as possible to make it less likely you'll find a reason not to do it. All of Roup's workouts can be done with minimal or no equipment. She also gives at-home substitutions like using a paper plate, sock or hand towel as a slider and a roll of toilet paper or small pillow if someone doesn’t have a Pilates ball at home.
  • Commit to less so you can show up more. Roup says she lives by this mantra. “I would so much rather all levels, all clients, commit to shorter workouts more consistently than a couple long, grueling workouts where they feel fatigued, they feel burnt out and they can’t stick to it,” she explains. “To me, there is power in a quick workout,” which will energetically shift how one feels mentally and physically all day long, she says. Doing the shorter workouts over and over “really builds a sustainable habit around the movement,” she adds.
  • Choose movement you enjoy. Above all, Roup stresses the importance of just getting some movement into your day and making it enjoyable. “We can get amazing results if it’s well programmed, if it’s efficient, and you enjoy it,” she says. “Because your body knows and your brain can tell that connection of like, I’m enjoying this.”
Bookending the class with a dance cardio routine set a fun, positive vibe from start to finish.
Bookending the class with a dance cardio routine set a fun, positive vibe from start to finish.

What I liked about the workout

The joy of this workout was that it’s not just for celebrities like Johnson who need to get fit for a role. This really felt like a workout that I could incorporate into my everyday life.

I also loved how much energy the quick 30-minute workout gave me the rest of the day. I work nights and had to get up earlier than usual to make our appointment. There are times when I hit a mid-day slump, where I feel physically and mentally exhausted by 5 p.m. with half of my shift still to go. However, on this day, I didn’t feel the same fatigue.

The 30-minute workout itself reminded me that I don’t always have to push myself extra hard to burn calories and that I can get just as good of a workout in with a shorter, more concise session. The next morning, my body was the perfect amount of sore: I wasn’t hobbling around, but was sore enough that I felt proud of the workout I had accomplished.

What I didn’t like about the workout

Isn’t it unfair that we can’t all have a celebrity trainer there to lead us through every workout? That was the biggest downer of the experience. (Though, Roup does teach a weekly group class in West Hollywood for locals to enjoy.)

Having Roup coach me one-on-one and give me corrections in real time was so helpful. She noted if my shoulders were raised up to my ears or my hips weren’t stable, made sure my spine was aligned and, just as I suspected, pointed out that my knees have a tendency to angle out instead of moving straight down. Without her there to help when doing this workout at home, I would need to be extra vigilant on keeping an eye on my own form.

As for the at-home workouts, the biggest battle for me is, well, doing it. Aside from having to pay a monthly or yearly fee to get the workout videos, there’s also the process of trying to watch the videos on a bigger screen instead of a cell phone. But, that really is just an excuse, isn’t it?

I would recommend this workout to:

  • Anyone who want a simple, at-home workout routine to work the entire body.
  • Someone looking for low-impact workout options.
  • People who want someone to take the guesswork out of exercise and tell them exactly what to do.