LeBron James, long the most dominant basketball player in the world, is facing a new challenge to his reign as King of the NBA. For the first time in years, he looks like he could be… mortal.
James made waves when he left his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time in his career ahead of last season and moved to L.A. to play for the Lakers. His first season in the Western Conference wasn’t quite at the level that everyone expected—for the first time in eight seasons, a LeBron-led team didn’t make the NBA Finals (let alone the playoffs). While James still posted gaudy stats when he played, injuries limited him to only 55 games, his lowest total over a storied 16-year career.
But this is LeBron. The Chosen One. King James. The player most have held up as the best of his generation, if not of all time. While others might be written off as hitting a downslide, most basketball experts still consider James to be at the top of his powers, with 2018-19 as an aberration.
That high regard is in no small part thanks to James’ remarkable longevity and durability, which is in turn due to his incredible commitment to physical fitness and training. James passed 30, which is often the beginning of the end for ultra-athletic players, and kept up his GOAT-level performance—and maybe even got better.
He hasn’t done it alone. James has worked with trainer Mike Mancias, NASM-CES & PES, for the past 16 years, spanning almost all of the player’s time in the NBA. The duo also paired up to start Ladder, the splashy supplement company that launched earlier this year with support from another iconic figure, Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to the company’s origin story, James and Mancias were fed up after struggling to find the right mix of high-quality supplements following a brutal postseason stretch in 2014. Instead of keeping with the status quo—and risking positive drug tests with sketchy supps—the pair decided to just create their own, formulated to James’ needs and within the NBA’s standards.
The MH crew met up with Mancias at Vitru Gym in L.A. to see exactly how the trainer preps King James for the court, from the night before a training session to the recovery afterward. Mancias stresses how important those aspects of James’ regimen are for his success.
“Just remember, some of the simplest routines and exercises are probably the ones that are most beneficial to you,” says Mancias. “As long as you focus on your intensity and focus on your movement, that’s when you’ll see the results.
That might not sound as exciting as high-flying dunks and no-look passes—but if that level of discipline works for LeBron as he enters season 17, it’ll work for you, too.
The LeBron James Workout
Mancias says that your workout really begins the night before. You need to make sure that you’ve fueled up with a nutritious meal, got some quality sleep, and, once you’re up in the morning, have a pre-workout shake about a half-hour before you’re ready to get started.
Foam rolling comes next, particularly focused on the quads, calves, hamstrings, and lower back. Them, you’re ready to get started on the movements.
1 set of 10 to 12 reps
Total Body Cardiovascular Warmup
3 sets of 30 seconds each (15 to 20 second rest)
1. Inverted Row
3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
2. Landmine Rotational Press
3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per side
3. Multi-Planar Lunge
3 sets of 3 rounds per leg
4. Cable Lateral Chop
3 sets of 10 reps per side
Mancias says that LeBron’s recovery, which has played a huge part in his career longevity, is three-pronged. The team focuses on nutrition, specifically with those Ladder supplements, mobility, and cryotherapy. You might not always be able to jump into a cryo pod, but you can use ice baths and bags if you want to recover like LeBron.
Brett Williams, an associate fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running.