Machine Gun Kelly tightens his grip on his kettlebells and fights to straighten his back, finally standing tall after a three-second battle with gravity. He’s midway through his last set of offset-stance deadlifts during this Friday workout, legs wobbling as he struggles to stand upright.
And then he does one more, because he isn’t quitting now. These workouts are critical, forging mental toughness and explosive athleticism. As you might guess given his over-the-top moniker, MGK (real name: Colson Baker) is prone to over-the-top statements. “I have no desire to just be a muscly version of myself,” he says. “It’s the moments onstage that will define my live-performance legacy.”
It’s also the moments onstage that MGK loves, but both body and mind have to be ready to survive them. He’s planning to go on tour as soon as concerts are allowed again (his next album, Tickets to My Downfall, drops September 25), and he’s also flexing his acting muscles, including in the new Netflix sci-fi thriller Project Power (streaming August 14). His music lies somewhere between that of blink-182 and 50 Cent, and every gig is a blend of rock, hip-hop, and calisthenics: He climbs rigging, hangs by one leg, leaps on and off speakers, and basically never stops moving. And he wants to do more.“I’m looking for the next thing,” he says,“where people will think I’m a Terminator onstage and say, ‘That can’t be human.’ ”(See? Over-the-top.)
So five days a week, the six-foot-four, 180-pound 30-year-old works with Los Angeles–based trainer Nic Shimonek. Before they met, MGK’s training amounted to pickup hoops at a neighbor’s house. Then nearly two years ago, he was contacted by Shimonek on Instagram and noticed that he worked with Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.
“The universe, I trust it,” MGK says. “If it leads me to click on somebody’s name, there has to be a reason.” Shimonek’s workouts push MGK to develop muscle and stamina. He typically does two upper-body sessions and two lower-body sessions weekly, with an active recovery day in between. Today he’s fighting through a total-body blast. Before the deadlifts, he did incline presses with Fatbells, basketball-shaped weights that alleviate the wrist pain he has from years of playing guitar.
Now he’s battling through pushup shoulder taps—and casting occasional glares at Shimonek. “He has a love-hate relationship with everything we do,” the trainer says. “He hates a lot of things that we just have to grind through. But he loves what it does for his body.”
MGK and his band frequently perform for longer than their contracts mandate, sometimes staying onstage for two hours.
“When you physically feel good, mentally feel good,” he says, “we want to play more.” He also puts in late nights in the studio working on more music.
Aside effect of his hard work: He may add some action-hero muscle, too. One of his final moves in this session is a seated row with explosive Jammer arms, an exercise that helps his posture. But MGK loves how it focuses on his massive back tattoo, which the paparazzi routinely shoot. “The more I see pictures of my back, the more I want to add muscle to it,” he says, “to change the landscape of how it looks over time.”
He’s already changed plenty about his body, and he hopes people notice. “I’m not Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” he says. “But people should look at me and think, If this guy can get into the gym, I can, too.”
The Road Session
Do each move for 40 seconds, then rest 20. Do 4 rounds.
1. Spider-Man Lunge with Rotation
Set up in pushup position, then move your right foot alongside your right arm. Raise your righthand toward the ceiling. Reverse.
2. Shoulder-Tap Pushup
Do a pushup. Lift your right hand and tap your left shoulder. Return to pushup position and repeat on the other side.
3. Staggered Stance Squat
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, then shift your left toe to lineup with your right heel. Lift your left heel. Lower into a squat; stand back up. That’s 1 rep.
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