Artist Luke James, in an undated photo. Over the years,...

Artist Luke James, in an undated photo. Over the years, James has dedicated himself to his music career -- he’s a Grammy-nominated artist who toured with Beyoncé on the European leg of her Mrs. Carter World Tour -- and also to his fitness regimen. Credit: Island Records

As a teenager, R&B artist Luke James remembers finding self-motivation in the music video by the singer D’Angelo. But it wasn’t just the soulful crooner’s music that inspired him -- it was his equally famous physique.

“That was everything,” said James, now 30. “I said OK, time to do some pushups.”

Over the years, James has dedicated himself to his music career -- he’s a Grammy-nominated artist who toured with Beyoncé on both the American and European legs of her Mrs. Carter World Tour -- and also his fitness regimen. James has been People magazine’s Sexy Man of the Week and appeared in GQ and Vibe.

His routine focuses on a mix of two ‘cs’ -- cardio and core -- two areas of exercise some may find unpleasurable. But not James.

“My idea is not to be big,” he said. “I just want to be really lean and shredded as I possibly can get -- a lot of cardio, light weight and a lot of my own weight to build up my endurance.”

James, who worked with Justin Timberlake‘s trainer, Jason Bonner, in his early 20s, uses skateboarding as a major cardio and core workout, including as his main transportation around Manhattan and to get from his Harlem home to where he works out at Chelsea Piers -- 111 blocks.

“There’s a lot of uphill kicks,” he said. “It’s great for the legs, calves and core -- all that jazz.”

His skateboarding adventure usually follows an intense workout, consisting of:

- Warm-up run of 10 laps up-and-down one of the piers
- Four sets of 25 fast-paced jumping jacks to begin the breakdown of his core (all of his exercises follow a strict four-set count)
- 20 weighted “Mayweather situps” -- a regular situp develops into an explosive full-body stand
- Crab walks with a manual resistance belt
- Freestanding squats with a 40-pound weight vest, including 20 repetitions with the vest and 20 with a sandbag, each incorporating an explosive jump at standing phase of each movement

James, who released his new single, Options, featuring Rick Ross, this summer, also implements kettlebells into his squats and for upper body movements, and rounds out his workout with fast-paced jumping jacks and a boxing session gelled with kickboxing.

When he’s on the road, James doesn’t allow his conditioning to falter. He said he uses whatever space he can, puts a timer on 30 seconds for each exercise and performs workouts consisting of squats, squat kicks, squat jumps and a pushup variation -- close-hand, wide-hand and incline pushups.

“If you’re truly serious about your physique and health, in totality, I think you need to pull out all stops,” James said. “You need to really just hone in on that warrior within. If you really want change, no one else is going to make that for you. It’s all mental, at first. Once you overcome that mental part, your body can do anything.”


Brian T. Dessart is a nationally accredited Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a New York State Critical Care Emergency Medical Technician and an FDNY firefighter. He can be reached at bdessart@strengthusa.com or on Twitter: @briandessart.

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