Astronaut Hall of Famer Michael LOpez-Alegria's Morning Routine - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Astronaut Hall of Famer Michael LOpez-Alegria’s Morning Routine

LÓpez-AlegrÍa is prepping for his next trip into space by boldly taking his muscles where they’ve rarely gone before.
Shawn Hubbard

Michael LÓpez-AlegrÍa has spent 257 days outside the earth’s atmosphere and performed 10 space walks totalling 67 hours and 40 minutes, more time than any other American. But right now, on the backyard deck of his Washington home, he’s found a new frontier. He’s on all fours, one end of a resistance band wrapped around his left foot, the other held in his right hand. He tightens his abs, then extends arm and leg. He’s doing a banded bird dog, an exercise that pushes the bounds of his core strength – and one that may help him reach new heights during his next trip into space. 

That trip comes next year, when López-Alegría, 63 years young, blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS). He’ll command the 10-day Axiom Space Ax-1 mission, the first private spaceflight to the ISS, which will be launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. It’s a giant leap for mankind (and space tourism), and it starts with López-Alegría’s small wellness step. The  US Astronaut Hall of Fame inductee says he has never loved “working out for a workout’s sake”. But he knows his body needs it.

Shawn Hubbard

This isn’t about biceps or abs, though. “You don’t need Olympic-athlete fitness to be an astronaut,” he says. “You just need to be healthy.” Still, he has to pass a battery of medical tests, and, 14 years after his last trip into space, he worried that he wouldn’t be able to. So he started working with trainer Emiliano Ventura, who designs workouts for F1 race-car drivers. “Your cells break down, your body breaks down,” López-Alegría says. “Now it’s like ‘Geez, am I gonna pass this thing?’ ” 

When he left NASA in 2012 after four spaceflights, López-Alegría thought he was done star-trekking. After years consulting for various space-industry firms, he joined Axiom Space, a company that has designs on space vacations and manufacturing, as an exec. He quickly discovered a problem: few customers wanted to join a mission without someone who had been in space before. “We kind of looked around the room,” he says, “and I was a guy who was still able to fly and had been there and done that.”  

So to get in mission-ready shape, he embraced workouts like today’s session, a six-exercise, bands-only circuit. He does 20 reps of bird dogs on each side, then sits on his deck with his legs straight, wraps the band around his feet, and grasps its ends. He starts doing 20 reps of rows, strengthening mid-back, biceps and forearms. Arm and grip strength and stamina serve astronauts during space walks. “You’re in a pressurised suit, which wants to maintain its [shape],” he says. “Think of a surgical glove that’s blown up and inflated. So in order to bend the fingers of the glove, you have to exert some force.” Things get even more challenging if he has to grab a wrench or other tool. “Grip strength is important,” he says, “and [so are the] lower arms, upper arms, shoulders and chest.” 

Shawn Hubbard

 LÓpez-AlegrÍa has spent 257 days outside the earth’s atmosphere and performed 10 space walks totalling 67 hours and 40 minutes, more time than any other American. But right now, on the backyard deck of his Washington home, he’s found a new frontier. He’s on all fours, one end of a resistance band wrapped around his left foot, the other held in his right hand. He tightens his abs, then extends arm and leg. He’s doing a banded bird dog, an exercise that pushes the bounds of his core strength – and one that may help him reach new heights during his next trip into space. 

That trip comes next year, when López-Alegría, 63 years young, blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS). He’ll command the 10-day Axiom Space Ax-1 mission, the first private spaceflight to the ISS, which will be launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. It’s a giant leap for mankind (and space tourism), and it starts with López-Alegría’s small wellness step. The  US Astronaut Hall of Fame inductee says he has never loved “working out for a workout’s sake”. But he knows his body needs it.

This isn’t about biceps or abs, though. “You don’t need Olympic-athlete fitness to be an astronaut,” he says. “You just need to be healthy.” Still, he has to pass a battery of medical tests, and, 14 years after his last trip into space, he worried that he wouldn’t be able to. So he started working with trainer Emiliano Ventura, who designs workouts for F1 race-car drivers. “Your cells break down, your body breaks down,” López-Alegría says. “Now it’s like ‘Geez, am I gonna pass this thing?’ ” 

“Every single day he’s in space, he’ll train. ‘It’s all about preparing yourself for when you come back to earth”

Shawn Hubbard

When he left NASA in 2012 after four spaceflights, López-Alegría thought he was done star-trekking. After years consulting for various space-industry firms, he joined Axiom Space, a company that has designs on space vacations and manufacturing, as an exec. He quickly discovered a problem: few customers wanted to join a mission without someone who had been in space before. “We kind of looked around the room,” he says, “and I was a guy who was still able to fly and had been there and done that.”  

So to get in mission-ready shape, he embraced workouts like today’s session, a six-exercise, bands-only circuit. He does 20 reps of bird dogs on each side, then sits on his deck with his legs straight, wraps the band around his feet, and grasps its ends. He starts doing 20 reps of rows, strengthening mid-back, biceps and forearms. Arm and grip strength and stamina serve astronauts during space walks. “You’re in a pressurised suit, which wants to maintain its [shape],” he says. “Think of a surgical glove that’s blown up and inflated. So in order to bend the fingers of the glove, you have to exert some force.” Things get even more challenging if he has to grab a wrench or other tool. “Grip strength is important,” he says, “and [so are the] lower arms, upper arms, shoulders and chest.” 

BAND CAMP

Forge upper-body strength with this 3-round circuit built from moves LÓpez-Alegría does often

Band Pull-Apart

Stand holding a resistance band in front of you, arms straight. Squeeze your shoulder blades and pull the band apart, keeping your arms straight.

That’s 1 rep; do 20. 

Seated Row

Sit on the floor, legs straight, a band wrapped around your feet, hands holding its ends. Squeeze your shoulder blades and row your elbows back to your torso.

That’s 1 rep; do 15.

Banded Push-up

Hold a looped resistance band in both hands, wrapped around your back. Get in push-up position and tighten your core and glutes. Do 15 push-ups. 

Brett Williams

By Brett Williams

Brett Williams is an Associate Fitness Editor at Men's Health. He's a former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. You can find his work elsewhere at Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.

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