In the post-supermodel era, Joan Smalls is as super as it gets. But the Puerto Rican-born beauty known for those enviable cheekbones and that gorgeous caramel complexion is just as sought after for her killer body, which is thanks in large part to one man: Marc Gordon.
"He's actually the first trainer I've ever had in my life. I was lucky to meet him," Smalls says of Gordon, the proprietor of Marc Gordon Fitness. She has been working with him for four years—and affectionately refers to him as her "big brother." Gordon, who typically only trains models, is tasked with the unique challenge of improving bodies that, by most accounts, need little improvement.
Gordon's hour-long training sessions are not for the faint of heart. "It's a lot harder than people think it is," Gordon insists of the exercises he designs for each of his clients, and Joan definitely agrees: "I like to work on my glutes and my legs because you feel the burn."
EL: Tell us a little bit about the approach you take when training models.
MG: It's tailored. I look at their structural weaknesses, and make them strengths. That's really the best way to take what most people think of as the perfect body and make it better. Most [models] have beautiful faces, but the body is really one of the things that you can manipulate. And nutrition is a big part of it.
JS: That's something we argue about. I think he's basically given up on me. He tried to have me write down my daily diet, and I never filled it out because I felt guilty if I had pizza for lunch, and rice, and this meat, and that meat, and pancakes, and bacon. And he would be like, "Joan, where are the vegetables?!" (Laughs). But one thing I did learn with [Marc] is portion control because a lot of people tend to overeat even though they're already full. And I started drinking juices that contain vegetables. Baby steps!
EL: Marc, what exactly is a "great" model body, in your estimation?
MG: A great model body for me, is a body that has curves. You want to see this kind of healthy, womanly body; that gaunt look isn't in anymore.
EL: Joan, have you always had an active lifestyle?
JS: I've always been athletic. Growing up in Puerto Rico, and being in the countryside, I was always running around. I also played volleyball, basketball, and I ran track. I was always very conscious of my body, even at a young age, because I was really thin, so I never wanted to seem unhealthy or weak.
EL: Marc, when you started working with Joan, how did you design a program for her specific needs?
MG: I always go with the butt first. Most women try to get to their butt through their legs, but when you do that, you tend to get more size in your legs because you're doing the same redundant exercises over and over again. I've found that it's always better to get to the glutes creatively. So most of my stuff does not involve weights. It involves body weight movement so I can get the body to think. I generally start with interval work, which for me, means a few minutes of some type of cardio activity; then I will generally do some type of lower body—what I call "model strong"—movement; then I'll do some type of core movement. And I'll repeat that process.
JS: His workouts really push you to do things that you wouldn't normally do. There were certain parts of my body that I needed to work on because I have scoliosis, and he noticed that, so he worked a lot on my lower back, and my butt to alleviate a lot of the pain I have because of my condition.
EL: Joan, what were some of the positive changes you noticed after starting to work with Marc?
JS: My posture changed a lot. My body became more toned, without being built. I wasn't bulking up, but I was getting more cut, and more lean. The improvement was evident after two weeks.
EL: Marc, you've stressed the fact that you only train models—and predominantly only women. Why?
MG: I like the challenge and creativity [of training models]. I go to great lengths to get their muscles to go, "Oooh, I've never done that before." Girls are super strong because their base is cardio. Guys just want to know how much they can bench press. They don't have the same endurance as women, either—and they whine like babies!
For more, visit Marc Gordon Fitness.