Sometime in 2021, Shaquille O’Neal set about revolutionising his fitness routine. Perhaps, like so many of us, lockdown had taken something of a toll on his midsection and fitness goals and, in an attempt to reboot his health and wellbeing, he decided to go all in. Cue the Rocky soundtrack and desire to enter the best shape of his life.
At seven-foot-one, few names are as revered in the annals of NBA history as that of Shaq. After retiring following the 2010-11 season, Shaq boasted a career total of 28,596 points (the seventh highest total in NBA history at the time of his retirement), along with 15 All-Star Game selections. Naturally, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. But since stepping away from the court, Shaq has cemented his place as an icon larger than the sport of basketball itself. A businessman and something of a philosopher when he gets to talking, his is a household name even amongst those with little interest in sport.
As he revealed to Men’s Health last November, his weight during lockdown crept up to 188kg, despite his playing weight being around 147kg. It prompted Shaq to enlist the services of a trainer and double down on his fitness, training four days a week for an hour with sessions that included 20 minutes of cardio and 40 minutes of strength work. Then, he revealed his desire to be ripped enough to “go topless” and post a thirst trap to Instagram. Ultimately, his fitness goal was one in which his stomach wouldn’t hang over his belt. But aesthetics aside, Shaq also wants to protect his endurance and vitality, things he had in excess back when he was dominating on the court.
What really made Shaq embark on his fitness journey though, was a visit to a doctor. As he told GQ UK, “When they hit you with that three-letter word that starts with D and ends with E, it changes stuff up.” Struggling with nutrition and exercise, Shaq decided he had to make some changes if he was to live a long and prosperous life. “I was waking up and going to work, chilling, eating whatever. I wasn’t paying attention. I looked down one day, I was like, ‘Damn’,” says Shaq.
In an effort to be more health-conscious, Shaq did a complete overhaul of his diet. His breakfasts became one of fruit, then chicken and fish. “I eat a healthy breakfast just to hold me for the day. Three turkey sausages and about four or five egg whites. Meal two is gonna be some fruit. Meal three is gonna be a shake and fruit. Meal four is probably gonna be a light salad and then meal five is gonna be chicken, fish, or steak,” he told the publication.
Like so many of us, a struggle for Shaq is eating healthy when on the road where eating out isn’t just a luxury, but something of a necessity. “I’m a creature of habit: I love sandwiches; I love wraps; I love burgers. With the full discipline to where I’m not doing that, I’m gonna have the body of a 19-year-old,” he said.
As for the workout, Shaq’s cardio is largely done on the elliptical trainer. Then he does chest, arms, biceps and triceps in what he calls “a simple old man workout,” adding “I can’t do all that CrossFit stuff.”
Since upping his workout routine, Shaq isn’t taking his recovery lightly. It’s led him to invest in a hot tub and Normatec boots. “That’s what I do. Whenever I get tired, or my legs start to swell after I fly, I just sit in my Normatec and I get in the hot tub and I just try to stretch. I’m not even a real stretcher. I just go down, go to the left, go to the right, floor, try to touch my toes. Basics.”