Terry Crews Workout, Plus Crews’ 5 Ways To Win At Life

No matter what his filming schedule demands, Crews makes sure he has a workout regime to stick to. If nothing else, he says, it keeps his mind clear. “I love running,” he told Men’s Fitness back in 2014. “I don’t have a typical runner’s physique, but I’m fast – I usually run four miles [6.5km] a day and I can do that in 30 minutes. Running makes me feel so good – the endorphin rush it gives has the same effects as an antidepressant. Once I get a good sweat on it helps to get the blood flowing to my brain and it helps me think clearly, which is why I use that time to learn my lines. I really notice the difference when I don’t run – I become irritable. I’m not the same person.”

Of course, you don’t get that ripped just by running every day. “I lift weights four times a week, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday,” Crews says. “Monday is usually legs day, Tuesday is back and Thursday is chest and arms. I know a lot of people do chest and back together, but that’s just the way it works for me. Friday’s my shoulder day, when I do barbell complexes called 24s. I like using basic exercises and big, powerful movements that work your whole body.

“It’s good to incorporate bodyweight stuff into your training and it’s a great way to get you started, but I believe resistance is important. You need to have some weights exercises on your workouts! Nothing can replace picking up something heavy. As human beings we were meant to move that rock or carry food from one place to the next. It’s the way we’re wired.”

Since we want to be Crews when we grow up, we’ve created a weekly set of workouts inspired by his training schedule. Do four sets of ten reps for each move, doing the lifts in order. Rest for 60 seconds between sets.

Monday: Legs

1 Barbell squat
2 Barbell lunge
3 Romanian deadlift
4 Glute bridge

Tuesday: Back

1 Pull-up
2 Bent-over row
3 Reverse flye
4 Gym ball back extension

Thursday: Chest and Arms

1 Incline bench press
2 Chin-up
3 Cable crossover
4 Dumbbell biceps curl

Friday: Shoulders

1 Overhead press
2 Upright row
3 Dumbbell lateral raise
4 Dumbbell shoulder press

Terry Crews’ 5 Ways To Win At Life

This article first appeared in Men’s Fitness in October 2014

For a man who can toss around a 40kg dumbbell like a toy, Terry Crews is making a meal out of the 2kg one we put in front of him during his Men’s Fitness photoshoot, straining while curling it with an intensity that makes his veins pop. Why? Because it’s funny. Why else?

This is typical Crews. While he’s as hardcore as any Hollywood action man – he spent four years as an NFL linebacker and still lifts with dedication that would shame most pro athletes – he’s also an art school graduate who doesn’t buy into the stereotypical tough guy image. “People think that because you look a certain way you should act a certain way,” Crews explains between on-camera grimaces. “I like to challenge that.”

This attitude has made Crews just as at home flexing his pecs in Old Spice adverts as he is playing the action star in The Expendables 3. Crews likes a joke, but he takes his work seriously – and he’s becoming one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood. Here’s what else you can learn from the big man.

1. Embrace failure 

Unlike, say, the typical Apprentice candidate, Crews embraces his mistakes as a learning experience. “Comedy is all about failure,” he says. “And you need to learn how to fail because jokes don’t always work. I’ve learned not to care and to be comfortable being embarrassed. As a football player I was an alpha male among alpha males, but I watched guys go straight to hell trying to keep up a certain image. So I just decided I was going to be me, and it changed my way of thinking.”

Crews says he wanted to challenge preconceived notions of what a tough guy is. “People have bought into stereotypes and rules. They need to realise it’s OK to like what you like and do what you want. So if you like me, I’m with you but if you don’t, it’s OK too. With my comedy, some people are like, ‘Ah man, Terry Crews grates on my nerves’. I’m an acquired taste. But no-one can please everyone, and you shouldn’t try.” Lord Sugar would probably agree. 

2. You’ll get better with age 

At 46, Crews still trains with savage intensity – but with decades of experience in the gym, he’s tweaked his workouts to suit his busy schedule and age. “I’ve felt the need to change my workouts a lot as I’ve got older,” he says. “As a young man I could jump off a roof, fall on my back and get up without a problem. But now if I stub my toe, I’m out for two weeks. It made me realise that instead of just working harder, I needed to work smarter. I used to lift lots of heavy weights for lots of reps, but it would wear me down. So I tried lowering the reps, and I found that if I just got two heavy reps in per set instead of five or six, I’d get more benefit from it. Plus I’d recover better and I wouldn’t feel as tired.”

His approach to squats is a perfect example. “I used to squat all day long, but afterwards my knees would be sore and I’d blow my back out a lot. So I went to an Olympic training centre to see how Olympic lifters were squatting, and I realised that squatting with correct form is a lot like a ballet plié – you need to bend your knees outward with a straight back. That massively reduces the pressure on my knees.”

Crews’s one key lesson? When training, “you need to experiment and see what works for your body. Your workouts should always make you feel better, not worse.”

3. Play with your food

As with his training, Crews has adapted his diet as he’s got older to deal with what his body can handle. The good news? There’s pizza and ice cream involved. “When I was younger I bought in to the concept of eating five or six times a day, but it turned out I was eating too much, so I had to work out even harder to burn it off.”

Recently he’s been experimenting with intermittent fasting. “Most days I’ll eat my first meal at 2pm and my last meal at 10pm. I like to work out in the morning – I’m a big ‘wake up, hit it, get it done’ kinda guy – then eat my biggest meal in the evening.”

The concept isn’t complicated. “I find that restricting the times when I eat means I eat less,” Crews says. “For the first four or five days I was so hungry it was unbelievable, but all of a sudden my body adapted and the hunger pains went away. Now I don’t eat as much, and I get full a lot faster. I also save my carbs for my evening meal. That means I end the day with a wonderful meal with bread and potatoes that I can look forward to, and it never feels like I’m depriving myself.”

Especially since that’s only six days a week… “On Sundays I have a cheat day, where I eat whatever I want – pizza, ice cream, anything I’ve been thinking about during the week. It’s changed my life. I’ve managed to maintain all my muscle and burn away all my fat. And because I’m eating more at night, my body produces more testosterone and growth hormone while I sleep – and gives me more fuel for my workout for the next morning.”

Those aren’t the only benefits. “I get more randy too,” Crews says with a grin. “My wife is like, ‘All right buddy, I like your new workout!’”

4. Run and lift

No matter what his filming schedule demands, Crews makes sure he has a workout regime to stick to. If nothing else, he says, it keeps his mind clear. “I love running. I don’t have a typical runner’s physique, but I’m fast – I usually run four miles [6.5km] a day and I can do that in 30 minutes. Running makes me feel so good – the endorphin rush it gives has the same effects as an antidepressant. Once I get a good sweat on it helps to get the blood flowing to my brain and it helps me think clearly, which is why I use that time to learn my lines. I really notice the difference when I don’t run – I become irritable. I’m not the same person.”

Of course, you don’t get that ripped just by running every day. “I lift weights four times a week, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday,” Crews says. “Monday is usually legs day, Tuesday is back and Thursday is chest and arms. I know a lot of people do chest and back together, but that’s just the way it works for me. Friday’s my shoulder day, when I do barbell complexes called 24s. I like using basic exercises and big, powerful movements that work your whole body. 

“It’s good to incorporate bodyweight stuff into your training and it’s a great way to get you started, but I believe resistance is important. You need to have some weights exercises on your workouts! Nothing can replace picking up something heavy. As human beings we were meant to move that rock or carry food from one place to the next. It’s the way we’re wired.”

5. Keep on believing 

The most important part of being Terry Crews? Enjoying life. “Sly [Stallone] is my mentor – he taught me how to be an action star,” says Crew. “The guy’s a force of nature. And when we were on set filming the first Expendables movie, he pulled me to one side and said, ‘Terry, when that camera’s on you, the whole movie is on you. So enjoy it, take it and live it, because you don’t get these opportunities all the time.’ That blew me away, because sometimes on set I was so nervous, I’d almost want to just hurry up and get it over with. But Sly was like, ‘No, no, no, this is your moment, this is your time. When you’re on camera, you take it.’

“Afterwards we’d look at my footage together and he’d say, ‘You see right there, you see how you’re taking it?’ He was showing me what it is to be a superstar, and he knows it more than anyone. He’s a guy who’s been counted out so many times and has brought himself back from the brink. He wrote this whole franchise and everybody said, ‘You’re too old to be an action star’ but he stuck to his guns, and now we’re on the third Expendables film and it’s a worldwide sensation. Sly built that from the ground up. He taught me so much, and above all he taught me you should never ever give up on your dreams.”

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