Grow With Gunnar

Q&A With Celebrity Trainer Gunnar Peterson

Gunnar Peterson isn’t simply one of the top trainers in Hollywood – he’s one of the top trainers in the world. His list of past and present clients includes Hugh Jackman, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Brady, Matthew McConaughey, Pete Sampras and more. Here, Peterson offers his expert training and nutrition advice.

Q: What is the correct order of exercises for legs at the gym?

A: Depending on how you slice it, you could justify a number of approaches: Bigger muscle groups first, multi-joint movements first, pre-exhaust a particular muscle group to force recruitment from another, problem areas first when you have more energy, etc, etc. Try one approach for a month then switch, then switch, then switch again. Pay attention and see what YOU respond to and go from there. “T3”— Try, Then Trust!

Q: How often should you train hamstrings? Is once a week enough? My hamstrings seem to get sore when I work them just once a week. Is that normal?

A: It depends on your goals and the intensity with which you train! If you destroy them, once a week may be great. If running is a primary component to your fitness regime, I would say train with less intensity and go for two times week in order to stave off a gross imbalance between your hammies and your quads. Remember to add movements that emphasis range of motion (RDLs) as well as explosiveness (plyos). Complex muscle groups are like a complex woman— you have to think it through before you approach.

Grow With Gunnar - Q&A With Celebrity Trainer Gunnar Peterson

Q: I work the night shift and so I sleep during the day. Can you offer any advice on how to eat healthy and when it’s the best time to work out on this schedule?

A: I would still train when I get up. That’s just me, and I’ve tried many, many other approaches. That sets the table for how my day goes. It puts me in the frame of mind to make better food choices and to go to bed so that I have a shot at getting enough/quality sleep. The longer I wait, the more likely I am to cut it short or blow it off altogether. As for your diet, you are on the breakfast at dinnertime bus. Stick to the usual plan— breakfast when you get up, not when the clock says it’s morning. That’s what I do when my schedule is turned upside down. That’s just me… but I’m right. Just sayin’…

Q: I’ve been training for about a year and no matter what I do, I cannot seem to get low enough in a squat. What can I do?

A: Make sure you stretch your calves, stretch your hips and roll out your Achilles. Calves have the higher muscle (gastrocnemius), and the lower muscle (soleus). Pay attention to both when you are stretching and be thorough! Try “prying” your hips (as it is often called). Work on a split stretch using something to support you on each side and work down into the stretch, trying to get progressively lower. Focus on breathing through it as you drop deeper. Do equal work to both sides regardless of how imbalanced you are/feel. Roll out your Achilles, as that is part of the chain, too, and is often neglected. Show it some love and you’ll love how you improve!

Gunnar Peterson is a Beverly Hills-based personal trainer whose clients include celebrities, professional athletes, and everyday people. Certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a graduate of Duke University, Gunnar has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry and regularly offers his expert advice in numerous publications and in television appearances. For more information, visit