Power player

Rapper and entrepreneur 50 Cent got jacked by focusing on functional strength rather than a one-rep max.


CURTIS “50 CENT” JACKSON IS STANDING shirtless in a fighting stance, wearing a pair of rare gold boxing gloves signed by the late boxing icon Muhammad Ali. The image does more than demonstrate 50’s love of the sweet science— it symbolizes the fight he put forth to escape poverty and crime to become a power player in both music and media.
50’s against-all-odds success story has inspired countless youths who previously thought of themselves as boxed in by disadvantage to strive for more: Jackson grew up in Queens, NY. His mother was a drug dealer who was murdered when he was 8. In his teens, he began rapping and, like his mom, selling drugs. In 2000 Jackson was shot nine times—in the face, chest, hand, arm, hip, and both legs. Investigators believe a New York drug lord orchestrated the attack after taking offense to lyrics in 50’s song “Ghetto Qu’ran.” The physical recovery took months but would give 50 a renewed focus on fitness and health as he continued to create music. In 2003, his first studio album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’—produced by Eminem and Dr. Dre—sold 872,000 copies in the first week.

Jackson still raps—he’s also an entrepreneur, investor, and actor and producer in both TV and film. Work on the fourth season of the Starz original series Power, on which 50 has a reoccurring role and is an executive producer, has kept him busy lately, but so have other green-lit projects: a variety show titled 50 Cent Presents and a scripted superhero-themed series, Tomorrow Today.

“My schedule is crazy,” 50 says. “When I film something, I have to sit still. I feel like I’m on vacation when I’m filming.” While we had 50 sitting still we talked about training, Power’s “invisibility,” and why he turned down a role in The Expendables.

How do your gunshot wounds impede your training?

My right hip is real tight. I had to really focus on stretching it. And doctors had to put a pin in my [right] leg from hip to knee, so my left leg is almost an inch longer than my right leg. When I run on the treadmill, my right leg kind of kicks out because my balance is off. Other than that, I don’t have any restraints.

What’s your training schedule?

Usually [trainer Jay Cardiello and I] train for about an hour and a half, five days a week. I don’t feel good if I don’t train. I think when a guy stops training, things start hurting. When I’m training I don’t feel the tightness or lower-back pain from sitting in a chair or from flying long [distances]. I think those things would show up and be an issue if I didn’t work out as often.

Do you ever skip the gym for other physical activities?

I might go play basketball or run. When you get to the point when [fitness] becomes part of your lifestyle and it’s about your health, you try different platforms. You get comfortable, and then you switch it up. I’ve been to hot-yoga class and I really fell into it. The experience was new, and I was pouring water in there. You’d see [the amount of sweat] and ask, “What the fuck’s going on?”

50 Cent Workout 50’s training focuses on building endurance and functional strength. Sets, reps, and rest change to fit his busy schedule.

Pullups or
5 10  30secs
Bentover Row
3 15,
12, 10
Superset with
Plank with
Sandbag Front
3 15,
12, 10
Battle Ropes 3   30secs
Superset with
Ball Slam
3 10   30secs
Rollout 3 15-25   30secs
Hollow Rock 3 15-25   30secs
Touchdown* 1 30

*Put back and heels against wall with hands in palms-forward “touchdown” pose. Keep tri’s parallel with floor and elbows bent 90 degrees. Slowly slide arms overhead, then to start position, and rotate shoulders forward so palms face down and arms are parallel with ground. Return to start position and repeat.

Do you get tired of hearing and performing your older music?

I think every [artist] gets tired of it, creatively. There is a point when a new idea is exciting. [But] when your first impression is the largest selling hip-hop album, then people want to hear that music. It’s the right balance and combination—the new song or energy is what I want to perform at that point. I’ll do that and blend in the hits.

So it’s not like your credo is, “I’ll play what I want, like it or not.”

It sounds like you’re talking about Prince’s career. He played what he wanted, and then he’d make you guess what he was going to do. But it would be sold out and have the same turnout. I mean, I could just play the first record. People love the material so much that it marks the time period. People tell me, “Yo, you are my college years.” Those people don’t move.

Power is the highest-rated original series on Starz. Do you compulsively monitor how many people watch it, record it, etc.?

I do. I’m only interested in the numbers because the numbers are my trophy. It’s the highest-rated original series, and it’s still invisible. It hasn’t even been nominated [for an Emmy]. It’s the way my career has gone. I had the largest-selling debut album and I got no Best New Artist trophy [either].

Why the disrespect from critics?

I’ve gained respect from the public. But I think some people were afraid of me from the very beginning [of my music career]. The trophy would mean that maybe the kids would want to be 50 Cent. But kids bought [Get Rich or Die Tryin’] or it wouldn’t have been so successful. But they didn’t want to give trophies to it.

Is that partly why you’re so down on Empire? It’s on a major network, gets critical praise, and has more visibility. Empire just borrows marketing ideas [from Power] because they have the same target audience. I’ve said it over and over: I don’t have a problem with the cast, I think that they’re going to be great in some of my new projects. It’s not like I don’t see myself working with them. But I don’t see Empire sustaining itself. This season has lost viewership every episode. The people look at it and go, “Oh, he’s bad-talking the show.” Nah, check the ratings.

Have you been cast in the Predator remake?

I’ve met with the writer and director. [Shane Black’s] one of the guys who’s really sought after in Hollywood. But it’s a Hollywood thing— hurry up and wait. It’s why I took a different approach in my involvement with film and television. In this case, it’s just scheduling and moving around the film.

Any role you regret turning down? I could’ve done The Expendables, but the time period that they wanted to shoot it was too long. We talked about the project, explained it—I was playing the role Terry Crews played—but I couldn’t actually do it when it came time to go shoot.

50’s GAME PLAN 50 Cent’s trainer, Jay Cardiello, highlights the approach he uses with celebrity clients: “We focus on sleep, nutrition, hydration, and setting up strategies to decrease stress or handle stress.”

SLEEP TO RECOVER “Many people don’t realize that sleep not only has effects on your eating but also shifts your hormones. When I first got with 50, he was sleeping two to three hours a night. I was like, ‘Dude, you can’t recover. That’s why you’re not hitting goals.’ Now he sleeps six to eight, hopefully.”

DON’T DIET “I don’t believe in diets. Food is a habit, not the root cause. With 50, we focus on non-inflammatory foods, including tart cherry juice, natural melatonin, broccoli, and spinach.”

CHANGE THE ENVIRONMENT “Set your shoes and clothes out the night before if you are going to work out in the morning. And your protein shake should be pre-made. If you can’t find your sneakers or you’re looking for something, that disrupts the pattern or the focus that you want to implement. Preparation is success. Success doesn’t happen at the gym, it happens way before you get there.”

SEE THE FUTURE “Whenever I’m coaching I do a lot of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP), which is about anchoring in and focusing on the future self. For example, with 50, his goal when shooting for M&F is focusing on how he’s going to feel the following morning when he gets up. So we’re connected with a current self and the future self. It’s not about training harder; it’s about training your psyche.”

USE MENTAL IMAGERY “Create a goal, figure out why you want it, what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and then give yourself a time frame. People don’t usually know their purpose. That’s why there are 155,000 self-help books on Amazon right now.”

“When I film something… I feel like I’m on vacation.

Scheduling conflict? I had a new album, a new fragrance, and I had three new brand-extension opportunities happening that were probably going to spin off into about $38 million. You don’t not do what allows you to make $38 million to go film a project that may change things. Common sense would say that I have to go and do what I do.

Have you worked with any actors who intimidated you? Following my performance in Freelancers with Robert De Niro and Forest Whitaker, I haven’t been on set with anyone who made me feel like I should question my choice. I didn’t go to school for acting, [and] on Freelancers, I got two Academy Award winners. And I wasn’t nervous or questioning anything that I was doing at that point. When I was put on Power, at that point, no one on the show was an Academy Award–winning talent or even worked on that level.

TIPS TO TRAIN LIKE 50 CENT Cardiello uses an “application over aesthetics” approach with 50.

CAR DRIVER “Doing plate push-outs simulates actions used in fight scenes. With car drivers, keep the elbows bent a little as you turn the weight.”

PULL-UP “50 likes ‘the wheel.’ He pulls himself up, making a big circle. Besides that, we avoid regular pull-ups and do chin-ups. I don’t want that type of stretch on his shoulder.”

SANDBELL SLAM “These work your posterior chain, and training with closed-chain exercises means you’re treating your body like an athlete.”

ROLL-OUT “We do rollouts at the end of our workouts because it’s such a strong core move. And 50 needs his core strong throughout the whole day.”