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LeBron James Explains His Training Approach Heading Into Season 20

The four-time champ shares his take on strength training, time-efficiency and being vulnerable.

LeBron James trains on Tonal.

LeBron James has seen it all—especially when it comes to training. For more than 20 years, the basketball superstar has trained in countless gyms, tested different workout methods, tried various exercise machines, and watched fitness fads come and go. 

“I’ll literally try anything if it’s going to improve me, improve my body, improve my game, improve my lifestyle,” he said. “That’s just how crazy I am about it.” 

Over the years, those efforts have garnered plenty of headlines and media coverage, as fans and competitors try to unlock the secrets to one of the world’s greatest athletes. But James knows that the real keys to success are more fundamental than fitness trends.

Part of that commitment is working with longtime trainer Mike Mancias, a partnership that has helped James remain as one of the most durable players in any sport over the last two decades. 

“When it comes to me and Mike, he works with me; I work with him. He knows what I need; I know what he wants,” James said. “We’ve been doing this for so long that it becomes second nature, and he’s another efficient guy. He’s straight to it. Let’s get in. Let’s get our work and—boom—let’s get out.”

It’s that efficiency that keeps James at the top of his game, even at age 37 and heading into his 20th professional season. As part of his partnership with Tonal, James sat down for an exclusive interview to talk about his approach to the upcoming season and the key components of his training—including how he treats strength training like a lifestyle, how he jams to Frank Sinatra during workouts, and how he recovers with a Sunday full of football.

On Approaching Year 20:

Every season presents a new and unique challenge for the four-time champion, but James’ workout routine, his preparation, and his mindset remain consistent—they have just evolved. By now, it’s all built into his player-DNA, molded by years of experience. 

“I think 2023 LeBron compared to 2003 LeBron [are different] in the sense of just experience,” James said. “He’s just experienced more. He’s seen more. He’s learned more, and he’s also continued to be coachable. When you’re coachable, you allow yourself to be vulnerable. You allow yourself to open up to new things that you might not have done in the past.” 

James may be open to new things or new ways to train, but building endurance has always been a major part of his game. The former league MVP currently sits third all-time with 52,138 total minutes played.

He is No. 14 on the all-time list for regular season games and has played in more playoff games (266) than any other player in league history. His focus remains being in the best shape of anyone on the basketball court. 

“The one thing that I’m doing right now is continuing to work on my conditioning, where I can play as many consecutive minutes [as possible] out on the floor and not get tired or if I get tired, being able to get my second wind faster than my competition,” James said.

LeBron James training on Tonal.

On Strength Training: 

Keeping his heart rate elevated is just one of the ways that James focuses on maintaining his endurance. Strength training is just as important, and it’s as built into his life as any other task. 

“It’s like waking up. It’s like brushing your teeth. It’s like not leaving your phone when you leave the house,” James said. ”It’s been a long time since I’ve woken up, and I didn’t think about doing something as far as strength training or figuring out a way I can improve my body when it comes to just being as great as I can be.” 

That relentless pursuit of improvement is what’s helped James continually evolve his approach to training over the years. Whether he’s working out on his own, with his team, or with Mancias, James explains that at this stage, he needs to be smart and productive to get the most out of his workouts. 

“You know, I have three kids. That takes a lot of my time. So when it comes to training, I want to get my work done,” James said. ”I want to get the most out of it, and I want to be very efficient.” 

Tonal gives him exactly that kind of workout productivity. “The efficiency of Tonal is second to none when it comes to strength training,” he said. “[It’s] easy in a sense that everything is literally right there. You don’t have to move all across the room to different machines or racking weights—everything is literally right in front of you at an arm’s length.”

The LeBron James Workout Routine

When asked how he incorporates Tonal into his training regimen, James explained how the trainer clears any potential barriers. Even with all the access he has to exercise equipment, it’s difficult to match the convenience of Tonal, where Mancias programs custom workouts directly into the trainer. And even those sessions are centered on maximizing efficiency. 

Below, Mancias shared a straight-forward, total-body workout inspired by LeBron’s real workouts and focused on hitting your upper and lower body in less than 25 minutes. 

“We’re looking for efficiency in time, load, and stress so that he can continue to stay healthy,” explained Troy Taylor, Director of the Tonal Strength Institute. “The focus is on doing the basics well.”

Here is LeBron James’ workout routine on Tonal below. You can also find this custom workout here. On Tonal, simply tap Explore > Workouts > Filter > Format > and select Custom by Tonal.

LeBron James Workout Routine on Tonal

On Motivation: 

Finding external motivation to workout is helpful for many, but when asked what drives him to stay focused and put in the work, James responded matter-of-factly: “myself.”

“I’m the first one to get up in my household,” he said. “I put in the work. I challenge myself. I’m on myself every day to be the greatest I can be and reach heights that even I didn’t believe.”

But if the motivation starts from within, James was quick to clarify that it doesn’t stop there.

“When I leave the house, I’m representing my kids, my wife, my mom, my friends, my city, the kids in my I PROMISE program,” he said, adding that it’s a responsibility he takes very seriously. “I just don’t want to let them down. Even when I lose a game, I still don’t want to fail them.” 

Music also helps James get in the zone. While he loves a lot of different genres and artists, he said he listens to hip hop during workouts because the “cadence that a lot of hip-hop artists use when they’re making music, it just puts me in a rhythm of the training that I’m doing.” 

And when Mancias is there, James adds that they like to occasionally slow it down. “Mike will throw on some Frank Sinatra, and we will get down with the Rat Pack,” he said. 

LeBron James performing front rack lunges on Tonal.

On Achieving Goals: 

When it comes to good advice on overcoming your challenges, James said he’s found that there’s no better teacher than experience. “Everyone has to experience things to learn from [them]. There’s no teacher or book when it comes to preparing yourself for whatever obstacle you want to take—only experience,” he said. “When you experience things, you learn the course you want to take the next time or [what] you should have done differently.” 

When pursuing your own goals, he acknowledged that it’s important to remember that everybody’s journey is different, and the most important thing to do on your own journey—whether that be strength training or simply navigating life—is to stay the course. “Just stick with it,” he said. “No matter if it makes you turn in a direction that’s off course. You can always get back on track if you just stick with it.”

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