Big Sean is having a zen moment.
It’s a bright morning at the multiplatinum rapper’s Beverly Hills mansion, and his trainer Jerry Ford, wearing a pair of focus mitts, is bouncing about. But for 30 seconds, Sean is silent, smiling at a five-foot-tall statue of Buddha that’s smiling back.
Then he’s ready, training his eyes on Ford, raising his gloves, and throwing MMA punches, elbows, and knee strikes as crisply as he was spitting rhymes in his recording studio just hours earlier.
“We’re in album mode right now,” Sean says during his next break. That means most workdays end at 4 a.m. Still, four mornings a week, he’s in the backyard with Ford. “You have to make it a priority,” Sean adds. “This is time to myself. That’s one thing I’ve realized I wasn’t getting enough of.”
Sean arrived at that realization two years and 30 pounds ago, when he was a skinny 125-pounder on the verge of depression. This despite having recorded two number-one albums. It was February 2018, around his 30th birthday, and, disconnected from friends and family, he inexplicably canceled a concert tour. Missing “clarity,” he started therapy.
He reemerged later that year prepared to tackle any challenge. And on January 1, 2019, he pushed that reinvention to the next level by taking on the world’s most oft-broken New Year’s resolution. “I wanted to boss up my life,” he says. “I said, ‘I’m changing my life and making it a habit.’ ”
The habit involved ditching late-night junk food for protein-rich meals and building four nonnegotiable weekly workouts into a packed schedule. He hired Ford with a strict edict: If Sean tried to cancel a session and hadn’t “won the lottery for a billion dollars,” Ford had to get him out of bed. “I’ve held him to that,” the trainer says.
Sean loves the results. He’s 155 pounds now, with chiseled abs and ripped arms, and he’s gained what he calls “confidence stamina” onstage. His lyrics typically leave him little room for inhales, but interval cardio has beefed up his lungs. “I find myself not running out of breath,” he says. “I get to deliver words closer to how they sound, as opposed to spitting them out.”
Progress and variety keep him coming back. On this day, his warmup is MMA; other days, he’s hooping on his backyard court. Then the pair head to Sean’s garage gym, equipped with a cable machine, a dumbbell rack, medicine balls, a chinup station—and a poster of Terminator 2–era Arnold Schwarzenegger glowering over it all.
“Were you even born when that movie came out?” an assistant asks Sean. “I was born in ’88!” the rapper yells.
Then he turns his attention to the chain-loaded barbell before him, ripping through deadlift reps. Curls and bench presses follow, and an hour later he’s done with his workout.
More to come tomorrow, though, because Sean believes training is the route to “more happiness, more money, and the best sex you could ever have,” adding, “If you want more, you need to do more.”
And every so often, appreciate the Zen.
BIG SEAN’S BODYWEIGHT BLAST
DIRECTIONS: Try this Sean-inspired circuit when you’re pressed for time. Do 3 rounds.
Wide-grip pullup, 15 reps
Dumbbell bench press, 15 reps
V-up, 15 reps
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