Viola Davis, 55, Shows Off Toned Arms After Losing 'Ma Rainey' Weight

Women's Health Editors
·3 min read

From Women's Health

  • To prepare for her starring role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Oscar winner Viola Davis gained weight.

  • The actress, 55, is working to get back to her size pre-Ma Rainey and shared a glimpse of her workout with trainer Gabriela Mclain on Instagram.

  • Viola works out with Mclain three times a week, doing hourlong sessions around 6 a.m.

To prepare for her starring role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Oscar winner Viola Davis gained weight, because the real Ma Rainey was an unapologetic woman who took up a lot of space onstage.

鈥淚 didn鈥檛 want [Ma] to physically look like she was apologizing for herself. I wanted her to switch," Viola told Zora. "If those breasts were hanging out like that? They just hung out. She was unapologetic about her sexuality. I just feel like in playing her, I had to honor that." Now, Viola is working to get back to her size pre-Ma Rainey and shared a glimpse of her workout with trainer Gabriela Mclain on Instagram today.

Usually, Viola works out with Mclain three times a week, doing hour-long sessions around 6 a.m. "Most of the time it's a little cooler and the muscles are stiff and she may be working the night before," Mclain says. They always start with a 10-minute warm-up of stretching and light cardio, and mobility drills like butt kicks, high knees, and pli茅 squats. Each week, Viola gets in one kickboxing workout, one strength-training workout, and one sculpting workout.

Related: Viola Davis buys birth home, a former plantation, for 55th birthday

The kickboxing workout is all about cardio. "We focus on burning fat and speeding up the metabolism, letting the blood flow, keeping the body agile, and warming it up for the week," Mclain says. The routine includes punches with sidekicks, uppercuts, jabs, roundhouse kicks, culminating in a routine of 10 or so kickboxing moves. It's like Tabata, but more targeted.

Viola's strength workout is a series of exercises using weights between 10 and 25 pounds, like squats, chest presses, and deadlifts, among many others. The circuits are super-intense, and Viola only gets about 30 seconds to rest between each one. (WHEW.)

In a sculpting session, Mclain uses lighter weights and resistance bands to build Viola's endurance. There's not a lot of rest time! "We're resting by switching muscle groups," Mclain says. "I'm just flowing from muscle to muscle until every muscle on our body is exhausted." Using a large, looped resistance band, Viola does a squat to overhead press, side lateral kicks, triceps extensions, and close-grip biceps curls. She also does some work with ankle weights and light dumbbells.

Every workout finishes with a few minutes of core training. "The abs are such a big muscle and there's so many of them," Mclain says. Then, Viola stretches or uses resistance bands.

On the off-days between workouts, the actress uses a foam roller or massage ball to target the tight muscles in her hips, or sits in a sauna or jacuzzi to release the post-workout tension. Once a week, she meets with a physical therapist to loosen up her muscles.

You can see Viola's full workout routine here.

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