Ace Hood is no stranger to the gym, but you don’t need to look far for signs that the 33-year-old rapper has been stepping up his workouts in recent months. Even a quick glance at his Instagram will reveal the hip-hop star is looking more shredded than ever, thanks to a rigorous and highly regimented workout routine that includes boxing, ab raises, sled pushes, and much more.
Maybe that’s no surprise for the man behind “Hustle Hard,” an essential weight room anthem. All that effort seems to be helping him generate career momentum outside of the gym, too: Hood’s new EP, M.I.N.D. (Memories Inside Never Die) featuring Killer Mike dropped in February. On the side, he’s also developing #Shredded, a personal platform to help others achieve a similar physical transformation. “I’m a warrior at heart,” he says. “I’m one of one in my field and what I do.”
Here’s how Hood stays motivated to keep hustling—and why you might just want to follow his example.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why is staying fit so important to you?
The body is a sacred space. I believe that’s where it all starts—with the individual. Finding yourself and figuring out ways to make yourself feel better, living at your highest frequency. All of that is really what got me into fitness and locked it in. It’s everything, man. I find that trauma can be stored in the mind and body. Focusing on fitness helped me get the best out of myself and give the best of myself to those around me.
For the beginner that’s just starting out, what advice would you give them to stay motivated and successful?
Clearly identify your goals first. Define your “why.” Why are you training? What’s on the other end of this for you? Define what you want to be like and what you want to look like. Also, be patient. It’s going to take time in order to build yourself up. Set it up so you can have fun with it as well. Once you identify your goals, define your “why,” and set up a solid plan, it’s then just a matter of moving forward.
Most people reading this presumably have full-time careers, families, and other serious commitments—like you do. How do you make the most out of the time you have so you don’t fall back and struggle on a busy day?
Prepare in advance. Fitness is a big part of who I am, so I need to get it in. Even when I’m doing a show and I’m at a hotel room, if I’ve got 15 or 20 minutes, I get a quick workout in. Scheduling when you have time to train, preparing the smoothies or meals in advance so you have them when you need them can be really big. Fitness is a lifestyle. So, find ways to work it into your life.
Nutrition is obviously a big component, too. How do you stay fueled and what advice do you have to help someone figure out how to eat properly?
Find someone that knows what they’re doing and seek guidance from an expert. I’ve been talking to the guys at BPI, for instance, and they have helped me quite a bit. I’ve been doing a program called “Blitz” that Mike O’Hearn does, and it’s been beneficial. Learning from someone that has done what you want to do or has worked with people that have had similar goals can make it easier.
Do you have a go-to smoothie recipe to fuel or recover from your workouts?
I start my day with a smoothie. I add nuts, goji berries, hemp seeds or flax seeds, walnuts or almonds, a banana, and protein powder with water. After that, I go do my workout. It fuels me for the training I’m about to go do.
What about post-workout?
I recover with food after—I have a small meal like chicken, broccoli, and rice after my workout. Over the course of a day, I try to get five meals in overall. I think others could do that too. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and smoothies or some small snack in between. I have snacks like almonds and coconut yogurt throughout the day.
Do you keep your diet consistent or how often do you mix it up?
I rotate things in and out—fish with chicken, then I may go with beef. What matters most is that I get protein from actual protein sources first. That’s most important to me because I like balance and going to the roots of what I need. I’m going to be going with more protein sources now that I’m trying to add a few pounds of muscle. I want to be 195, and I’m 186 now.
How much sleep are you getting and how important is that to your recovery?
I’m a late nighter because sometimes thoughts enter my mind, and I want to do something with them. Now, when I do lay down, I make sure I get quality rest. When I don’t train, I might actually find it harder to rest because I still have that energy. If I don’t exert it, it may be tougher, but I just lay still and try to relax. Normally, I drift off before too long. Simply staying in bed and relaxing with your eyes closed can help. If you’re having trouble going to sleep, doing that beats staying up and finding things to do.
What are some of the most beginner-friendly ways to get into weight training that you’ve found?
I suggest weight training combined with calisthenics. That’s what I do. I like to do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and I’m a dog in the gym. I keep my rests short, and I like to rest by doing wall sits. So I suggest learning how to use your bodyweight before you do anything else, but weights are a must too. If you want to try something for legs, I do four or five sets of squats, and I may do split squat jumps in between.
I also like combining things to do more work in less time. If I’m pushing something, I’m also pulling something. Once you get into a routine and you feel ready, doing high intensity workouts like that can be good. That might not be for everybody starting out, though, because I’m a dog in the gym, man. I’ve been doing this hardcore for a while now.
That’s a “me” approach, too. I don’t think everybody should do it that way every day. I don’t think exhausting yourself is absolutely necessary. You should go in, get what you need, and get out.
My workouts generally don’t need to take longer than 45 minutes or an hour at the most. You can get a really good workout with that amount of time. Make sure you do what you went there to do, and then replenish. Make sure it has balance. I love doing full-body workouts myself that include things like burpees and running up hills too. Most people can benefit from doing something that works the whole body in a session.
How important is it for you to have a training partner?
Recently, I’ve been training on my own, but I’ve had my homie jump up on a sled while I’m pushing it, and then we’ll switch. We’re going to be working on a community space so we can all support each other. I’ve done it both ways and found success with it.
I’m such an advocate of positive reinforcement. It really goes a long way. Dapping each other up, saying “great job,” and reminding each other where you’re going is important, especially if you’re just starting that fitness journey. It’s good to have someone that’s been there and done that to guide you and help you in a positive way.
How do you get past doubters and other sources of negativity that people tend to encounter early on in the gym?
Finding ways to stay positive yourself and being that positive person for those that are positive for you is big. That person is reminding you of the work it takes and what that looks like, reminding you of your “why,” and saying that it’s important. I love being around like-minded people, man. We attach philosophy to our workouts, saying that it’s important to push or pull that weight. Being that person and having that person to say one more rep, one more set, or “you got more in you,” will help you as well. Sometimes, when we can’t push ourselves, having those people to do it for you can go a long way.
Many people probably do it without knowing it. It’s as easy as saying “oh, you got five more in you? I need ten, though.” Then, after they get those, say “get two more, just two more.” Then, spot each other to get those if they can’t. That’s how we push ourselves. That feeling of doing more than you thought you could, there’s nothing like it.
Everybody who has taken fitness seriously has had days where the enthusiasm isn’t there like we want it to be. How do you stay motivated and push through those inevitable plateaus?
For me, this comes naturally, but I still find ways to feed the passion daily. We want to look a certain way, but we also want to feel a certain way internally. That takes reinforcement every single day. What has helped me repurpose that passion is noticing how I felt when I got it done compared to days I didn’t do it. You may be different on days you did versus days you didn’t get the training in. I might be shorter with people, I might be a little more aggravated in certain situations. That’s when I know it’s time to reinforce that passion?
What are some specific ways you reinforce it?
It can be reinforced by what I’m reading or what I’m seeing or the program I might be taking on. It can stem from the nutrition space or simply getting more knowledge and learning. There are several other ways that can help other people, but they have to find them and stick with them just like the workout itself. For me, the workout is also energy for everything else I do. I expend that energy in the workout so I can take more energy in to take care of what I have to do that day.
You’ve mentioned a couple of times now about the importance of how you feel on the inside. Does that include getting checked out regularly with physicals?
Hell yes! Yes, yes, yes, and I want that emphasis kept in. It’s so important because that is the real key. The inside of our bodies matter most. My wife and I both had physicals recently, and we got everything checked out. We want to know what we have enough of or what we may need more of. Please get that checkup and make sure your internal is right.
How did getting involved in fitness at such a young age impact your life as an adult? And what might other parents and kids learn from that example?
The greatest gifts fitness gave me are discipline, giving my best effort, and commitment. I got all of that from playing sports when I was younger. It taught me how to fall and get back up, keep going, and do one more. These are all things that training and fitness can teach that next generation. This is a personal gift that fitness can give you. No one can take it away from you. Getting into fitness can impact your life, your children’s lives, for kids, it can impact their future. What I want is for everybody getting into fitness to reach their highest version of themselves. It’s the key to longevity and quality of life. Most importantly, please know that you’re worthy of it as well.
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