In 1992, Danny Musico was penciled in for a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team. But three months before his first bout, he was struck by a cab that careened off the road and knocked him into a steel bench. Musico was sidelined for the next year, watching the Olympics from a hospital bed.
He eventually recovered and went on to a very successful professional boxing career in the 1990s, culminating in an IBC super middleweight championship. But since his retirement, he’s found a second career as a trainer for the stars, including those in a slew of movies about boxing. He trained Hillary Swank for “Million Dollar Baby,” Mark Wahlberg for “The Fighter” and Sylvestor Stallone for “Rocky Balboa,” among many other movies and TV shows, and counts celebrities from “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” as clients.
That makes Musico a perfect fit for a new series from espnW, called Trainer Tryout, in which we ask an expert every month to give us a look into his or her methods. (Of course, you should check in with your doctor to make sure you’re ready for any training program.)
For this edition, Musico gave us a look into what he calls HDT — High-Definition Training — and it follows a simple philosophy that Musico says delivers tangible results. “I named it High-Definition Training 10 years ago because that’s when plasma TVs came out,” Musico says. “They’re called high definition because you see the picture so clearly — all the details. It’s the same way when your body is in shape — you see every cut, all the definition in your body.”
Musico encourages his clients to go all out in intensive bursts.
Workout credo: I do interval training, where your body burns more fat in a quicker amount of time with less time spent in the gym. You can get a better cardiovascular calorie burn in four minutes of an intense workout than you do with 45 minutes on a cardio machine.
Start me up: With new clients, it starts with a three-minute run on the treadmill. Depending on the fitness level, you get 30 seconds to a one-minute rest before giving me three sets of 10 to 15 reps of curls or chest presses (it depends on what body part we are working on) with weights. After the third set, take a 30-second to one-minute rest to regroup, and then get back on the cardio machine for three minutes. (The objective is to maintain the highest running pace you can for as long as you can during the running interval and build on it.) Do that round-robin interval workout for 60 minutes to put your body through an unbelievable fat- and calorie-burning session. …
What’s in the workout?
HDT training focuses on hitting the entire body, but Musico customizes the workouts according to the client’s needs. He shared some of his favorite movements.
Four-minute drill: Start with 20 seconds running on the treadmill — then take eight to 15 seconds off. Run 20 seconds hard again and do that routine for four minutes straight. Your body will continue to burn fat for the remaining 24 hours. Do four minutes of any intense workout — whether you’re lifting weights, running or even walking — where you push your body to the limit for 20 or 30 seconds at a time with 10-second rest in between.
Hold the rope: Jumping rope is my forte. It’s a full-body workout and one of the most beneficial things anyone can do as long as you don’t have back, knee or ankle problems. Jump rope for 30-second intervals as fast as you possibly can, take 10 seconds off, then jump 30 seconds again. It’s a great cardiovascular interval workout.
Plank on it: Rest your upper body on forearms shoulder-width apart and feet close together up on your toes. Hold your body in a straight-line position for anywhere from 30 seconds to failure. Challenge yourself to the clock with this exercise, which can be worked into a round-robin type of interval rotation.
No matter what you’re doing, nutrition is the key to everything, Musico says.
Before a workout: As a professional athlete, I never worked out on a full stomach. … If you need something in your stomach, try a protein shake with no sugars 45 minutes prior to your workout. It can give you that boost of energy.
After a workout: It’s about keeping sugars low; water intake high. Everything else — proteins, fats, carbohydrates and starches — is on a low basis. You reset your body to recover and that means eliminating all the toxins in your system like coffee, soda and bread. These are things that work against you in obtaining your goal to be fit. Everything in moderation. I love Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I love carrot cake. I love Chinese food. I eat properly, but then I indulge one night for a treat. It will not offset your body if you’re doing the right thing all week long.
Find your best workout time, then make the most of it, Musico says.
When to work out: The best time to work out is when you feel the best working out. If you’re not a morning person, why get up early and go to the gym? You won’t have the energy for a beneficial workout. If you have more energy in the afternoon or evening, that’s best time for your workout.
Perfect sense: Only perfect practice makes perfect. If you’re doing stability ball crunches and grabbing the back of your neck and pulling it up, you’re never using your core muscles. I would rather see someone do six crunches correctly than 100 crunches where not one rep involved the abs. People have bad habits. You have to break them down and then teach them correctly.
Giving your all: You’re going to get exactly what you train for. All of a sudden like magic you’re body isn’t going to have more in the tank on the night when you actually need it to perform. So you need to perform the same way in the gym like you would on game day, like every round is your last round — all out — so when you call on it the night of the fight, it will be there for you.