Could You Survive the Ginsburg Workout?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 08, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns 84 next Wednesday. But if you're worried about her health, don't be.

The Notorious RBG isn't just eating her kale -- and urging her colleagues to as well -- she's killing it at the gym. And this feminist octogenarian's regime might be too tough for you.

The Notoriously Fit Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ginsburg may be the oldest jurist on the Supreme Court bench, but she's doing her best to not let her age slow her down. In a lecture on living a meaningful life (spoiler alert: the key is serving one's community), Justice Ginsburg assured nervous liberals that she's staying fit and healthy.

"A very important part of my life is my personal trainer who has been with me since 1999," Justice Ginsburg said last month.

That trainer would be Bryant Johnson. Recently, Politico's Ben Schreckinger tracked Johnson down, in order to test out the RBG workout. Here's how he describes the man tasked with keeping some of the judiciary's most famous members in shape:

You could think of Johnson's sturdy limbs as a fourth branch of government, grafted onto the judiciary, keeping it aloft. When Johnson is not helping run the District courthouse or fulfilling his duties as a Sergeant First Class in the Army Reserves, he moonlights as a physical trainer to local jurists, including not only Ginsburg, but also Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, two of the high court's other three reliably liberal votes, as well as several appeals court judges.

How Tough Could a Supreme Court Workout Be?

Schreckinger tested out the workout Johnson gave Justice Ginsburg twice a week. A "young and reasonably fit" reporter, Schreckinger thought the experience would be "pattycake."

Schreckinger should have known better than to underestimate RBG. The workout "nearly broke me," he writes.

Here's a sampling of what RBG goes through twice a week:

  • A warm up with 5 minutes on the elliptical, followed by light stretching
  • Machine bench pressing 70 pounds, three sets of 10-13 reps
  • Leg curls, leg presses, chest flies, lat pull-downs
  • Three sets of seated rows, followed by three sets of standing rows
  • One-legged squats, 10 for each leg
  • 20 pushups. ("Justice Ginsburg "does not do the so-called 'girl pushups,'" according to Georgetown Law's Mary Hartnett.)
  • Planks, 30-seconds three times over
  • Dumbbell curls, with 12 pounds
  • Some burpee-like thing, involving stepping onto an 18-inch high platform while "raising my knees and performing a variety of movements to promote leg strength and hip flexibility."
  • Squatting on an upside-down bosu
  • Finally, tossing a medicine ball while alternating between a seated and standing position.

Note, Johnson doubled the weight for Schreckinger, so that his bench press would be 140 pounds, his dumbbell curls 24. Since the workout took place on government property, Schreckinger writes, "this was arguably a violation of the equal protection clause."

The exercises left Schreckinger "sore, disoriented and cranky" but hopefully fit enough to serve on the Supreme Court for at least four more years.

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