Strauss Zelnick isn’t sure he wants to do this strength circuit. Heck, he’s not even sure he can, even after the burpee quota was dropped from 20 to 15.
But this morning, the 61-year-old CEO of video game giant Take-Two Interactive has no choice. He’s the one who organized this workout, convincing three men in their 30s to roll out of bed before dawn to join him at Manhattan’s Harvard Club gym. So no, he can’t bail on this series of bench presses, kettlebell step-ups on a box nearly waist-high, and all those burpees.
“If I went to the gym by myself, I might have gotten there and thought, Yeah, I’ll do something else,” he says,chest still heaving. “The fact that we’re here together-that’s why I’ll finish.”
It’s Zelnick’s ultimate secret for never blowing a workout: Never go it alone. The man who revitalized the company behind the Grand Theft Auto and NBA 2K franchises has built a sexagenarian body that can pass for a decade younger by gutting out workouts like this six mornings a week - and always doing it with company.
He writes about that philosophy in his new book, Becoming Ageless: The Four Secrets to Looking and Feeling Younger Than Ever. Even at age 61, Zelnick has few aches and pains. “Get a lot of exercise and your body simply doesn’t age the same as others," he says. At this very moment, his philosophy is on display. “Gym work by its nature is relatively boring,” he says. “Being with someone makes it less boring.”
Zelnick’s too busy for boring. By 8:30 every morning,he’s all over Manhattan, rapid-firing emails on the subway between meetings. Need him? He prefers breakfast bench-pressing to the business lunches he’s attended for decades, first as CEO of music powerhouse BMG Entertainment and now as head of Zelnick Media Capital,which he founded 17 years ago.
Workouts rejuvenate Zelnick’s body-and serve a business purpose. He once went cycling with a potential business partner, then decided he’d never work with the man. “I just knew something because of the demeanor,the behavior, the engagement,”he says. “When you’re sweating, all barriers drop quickly.”
When Zelnick’s in NewYork, he usually works out with #TheProgram, a city-based group of fitness-focused friends he started seven years ago. When he hits the road, he insists on staying in a hotel near an Equinox (he’s a member there) or in a hotel with a top-notch gym (typical hotel gyms don’t measure up to his standards).He doesn’t train alone on the road, either; he’ll call friends in any city he visits to line up workouts.
That’s actually the plan on this day. After a meeting, he’s off to San Francisco. His first order of business? A cardio session. “I do this because I enjoy it and I have people to do it with,” he says.
And there’s no better way to survive 15 burpees.
One of Zelnick’s favorite workouts is this Tabata series that you can do with two 10-pound dumbbells,a chinup bar, and an adjustable bench.
Start things off with a quick ab circuit. Do 50 hollow rocks, 30 lying leg raises, and 20 hip bridges. Then do each of the following exercises in order. Perform each one for4 minutes, doing reps for 20 seconds, then resting for 10.
1) Goblet squat: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell at your chest.Push your butt back and bend your knees,lowering your torso as far as you can. Stand up.
2) Alternating shoulder press: Hold dumbbells at your shoulders. Press the right dumbbell overhead, lower it back to your shoulder, then press the left overhead.
3) Pull-up: Hang from a bar with an overhand grip, then pull your chest to the bar. Skip the 20-10 pattern here and just do 4 sets of 8.
4) Incline bench press: Lie on a bench set to a 30 degree incline,holding dumbbells at your shoulders. Press them upward, then return to the start.
5) Dumbbell row: Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, hinge forward at your hips,and place your left hand on a bench. Let the dumbbell hang naturally. Slowly row it toward your hip, pause, then return to toward the dumbbell.Walk back and forth for 20 seconds; switch sides every interval.
6) Single-arm farmer’s walk: Hold a dumbbell at your right side. Tighten your core so your torso doesn’t tip toward the dumbbell.Walk back and forth for 20 seconds; switch sides every interval.
7) Lateral/front-raise superset: Start by holding dumbbells at your sides. Keeping just a slight bend in your elbows, raise the dumbbells in front of you. Return to the start. Raise the dumbbells out to your sides.
8) Biceps curl: Hold your dumbbells at your sides. Perform a biceps curl with your right arm, then do a curl with your left arm.
9) Bench dip: Place your hands on a bench set up behind you, about shoulder-width apart; extend your legs forward and bend at the waist. This is the start. Bend at the elbows, lowering your torso until it’s near the ground; pause, then return to the start.
10) More core: End with the same ab circuit from the beginning.