54D, a “human transformation” program founded by former professional soccer player Rodrigo Garduño, isn’t new. It took Mexico by storm in 2012 and the first U.S. location opened in Coral Gables, Florida, in 2019.
But the popularity of Garduño's free Instagram workouts during the pandemic increased the brand's awareness and inspired a new digital offering, 54D ON, allowing people all over the world to join. Endorsements from big names like Alex Rodriguez and Adriana Lima and plans to expand with studios in Miami, New York and Los Angeles have the brand gaining even more traction in the United States.
At first glance, the program may seem like it's about conquering a physical feat. But Garduño credits the success of the program to the mental change that every participant undergoes: It is about community, breaking mental barriers and “giving yourself wings,” he said.
The concept behind 54D
Garduño became a professional soccer player at age 17. “I dedicated my entire life to playing soccer in Mexico. I retired at almost 30 years old and when I retired I didn’t know what to do,” Garduño told TODAY. “I was down for two or three months with a kind of depression, thinking what’s next for me? How am I going to deal with my life for the next 30 years and support my family? I realized that the only thing that could help me was myself.”
Garduño was always the guy in the locker room motivating his teammates, so he decided to take those skills to public speaking. He translated what he learned as a soccer player into seminars about how to use mental strength to get out of tough situations.
But after a few years, he realized that he was all talk and no action. “I was only helping people half of the way,” he said. "You empower people with the ideas and motivation, but when they go back home they go to the same place they were before. For real life to change you need to go through the active process.”
And so the 54D program was born. It is an “intense program that will change the way they look and feel, but most importantly, how they think, their mindset. That, to me, is the only thing that really changes people's lives,” said Garduño.
What is 54D?
So what does following the program entail exactly? The nine-week program is built around three pillars: high-intensity fitness, a strict nutrition plan and recovery therapy. The in-studio program has a hefty price tag of $3,900, but the virtual version is more accessible at $385.
- Fitness: The body-weight workouts are one hour a day, six days a week and get progressively harder as the weeks go by. They are modeled after athletic training — taking cues from soccer, volleyball, running — and draw from 15 different modalities, including high-intensity interval training, anaerobic training and isometric positions. “It’s very hard, but very fun, because you never repeat a class during the 54 days,” said Garduño. Optional add-on classes that utilize weights have a specific focus like lower body, upper body and core.
- Nutrition: All participants follow a diet plan that is developed by nutritionists and corresponds with where you are at in the training program. The first 10 days of the plan is a detox period where you will cut sugar and saturated fat. The plan focuses on the importance of eating protein and veggies, drinking water and avoiding alcohol, and takes into account any dietary restrictions.
- Recovery therapy: There is a strong emphasis on recovery and the studios have state of the art equipment like cryotherapy machines and compression booths to help aid in recovery between workout sessions.
There’s also a strict attendance policy. To ensure commitment, the classes are only accessible for 24 hours. If you are three minutes late to a class, you aren’t allowed in and if you miss three classes, you’re kicked out of the program — yes, even if you’re a celebrity, said Garduño.
“If you’re not ready to do this, go and do a regular gym, because this is not for everyone,” said Garduño. "You need to be absolutely sure that you’re ready for a program that will push you to your limits, not only in the training, but in your habits and the way you deal with your daily life.”
It may seem strict, but Garduño said the program is designed for people who are ready to make a life change. “If you follow the rules, the results you’re asking for are going to come,” said Garduño.
Why 54 days?
Before launching the brand, Garduño held trial groups, experimenting with the nutrition and fitness plans, before settling on nine weeks as the sweet spot.
They determined that 54 days was long enough to see a real transformation physically and mentally, but not too long that it would be difficult for people to commit to.
The hope is that after nine weeks you have the tools to “fly on your own,” Garduño said. But, he added, the majority of participants actually re-enroll and start the 54 days all over again. Since the classes are always unique, the program doesn’t get stale. Say, for example, the first 54 days helped you lose excess fat, the second time around your goal may now be building muscle, so you may choose to add weighted upper-body workouts. The company is also releasing a second track for those who have completed the initial nine-week program and want to continue on.
The program is modeled after a university, not a gym
“When you go to a gym you pay a monthly payment, but nobody wants to go,” Garduño said. “People don’t have the discipline or commitment that they need. How can we help people to achieve that? We create a program where people cannot skip a day, it's mandatory to come daily or you are kicked out. If I want to offer you real change, you have to be committed.”
Another important component of the program is the community. “It’s like a university, you enroll with the same people that will finish the program with you,” said Garduño. “It’s not a program you can start whenever you want; like a school we have one start day where everyone begins for that training class. You start and finish with the same group.”
A new training class begins every two weeks. In the app, you can chat with your entire group (typically about 25-35 people), as well as your coaches for the entire length of the program.
“This is a support group. Everyone has their own goals, but everyone suffers the same, is eating the same, struggles with the same soreness and is always pushing through … Every time you’re not in the mood to do your training, you open the app and you see everyone in your group saying ‘we are in this together.’”
Why are celebrities so drawn to 54D?
We’re often convinced to try programs touted by celebrities. After all, they have access to pretty much any trainer or program, so if they choose one it must work, right?
Garduño said that many professional athletes use the program as their training during the off-season, since the workouts are designed to help improve coordination, strength and flexibility. All of the trainers are required to be former professional soccer players, which gives them special insight into the mindset of pushing through tough hurdles and overcoming setbacks.
For other celebrities, this mental component is the biggest draw, he said. The workout is also very easy to fit into your routine, he added, making it appealing to actors and models, since it requires no equipment, just your phone and sneakers, and can be done while traveling.
The mental transformation
It’s this emotional work that is the most important to Garduño, because he once was standing in the shoes of every participant on the first day of the program who is looking to change their lives.
“I started this nine years ago because I felt that. When I retired from soccer, I felt exactly in that same situation of not knowing what else to expect. I felt without wings. Alone. Desperation. Depression. And I know what that feeling does to us. You think there’s nothing else in life for you.”
Today he defines the principle mission of the 54D program as helping people to live a better life.
“Life is difficult and as the years go by, everybody stops dreaming, stops thinking that it’s possible to be better and achieve goals and be successful in something. Our program helps them to rise again," said Garduño. "People say ‘I have wings again.’ Maybe they lost someone or separated from their husband or were in depression, and with this they feel strong again and ready to start dreaming again; to try again. This program has what people need to stand up and start fighting again."