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This transformation was long overdue,” says the man born Ariyan Arslani but better known as Action Bronson. At his heaviest, the 37-year-old MC weighed more than 180kg. Thanks to an ambitious fitness regimen and an overhaul of his diet, he has since lost a third of that – but it has been a lifelong struggle. “I was born heavy. I was a heavy child,” he says. “This journey started long ago.”
One reason that it has taken Bronson so long to reach this moment is his love affair with food. Before he was putting out songs with Chance the Rapper and ASAP Rocky, Bronson was a high-school dropout who found purpose in the kitchen, attending culinary school and working as a chef in New York.
After breaking his leg and finding himself unable to work, he shifted his attention to rap, releasing a series of well-received mix tapes and gaining props within the hip-hop community. Rapping about food – “Shiraz”, “Brunch” and “Jerk Chicken” are tracks from his 2011 debut album – became something of an Action Bronson signature which he parlayed into a Vice TV show called Fuck, That’s Delicious.
The lifestyle of a touring rap artist and stoner TV host focused on sharing decadent meals with his loyal viewers eventually caught up with Bronson. “There was a lot of shit like pre-diabetes, eczema, asthma – all kinds of fucking dumb stuff that I had given myself,” he says. He mostly struggled with portion control. “If I made something that was a big, round dish, I would eat the big, round dish. I wouldn’t just have one piece.”
But the birth of his son in 2019 convinced Bronson that he needed to turn things around. “You always want to be around for your family,” he says. “It wasn’t going to happen unless I made that decision myself and, you know, it takes some soul-searching and some shit to really bother you – something that really gets under your skin to make that change.”
The first step was completely re-imagining his daily routine. Bronson wakes up at 4am and starts his day with a protein shake. His breakfast is consistent: two eggs, three egg whites, one piece of sprouted rye bread and an avocado. “I’m kinda like a boring eater, at this point,” he says with a laugh, though he claims to be “more interested in food now than ever” because he is fascinated by nutrition.
After breakfast, he drives half an hour to Impact Zone Fitness in Norwood, New Jersey. He boxes for 45 minutes, then gets into his sweat session with trainer Dave Paladino. “I’ve already got my workout in while everyone else is snoozing,” Bronson says. “Putting in big gains, big protein, you know?”
Bronson is a fan of HIIT workouts, preferring athletic circuits that test his entire body. He rattles off his favourites like he’s about to spit a verse. “Like 50lb [23kg] medicine-ball throws, you know, down a 50-yard track, throwing it as far as you can, all the way down the track and back.” Slams. Carries. Presses. Sled pushes. He finishes with a hundred burpees “or some sort of ridiculous thing”.
Though he has been able to pull off a staggering physical transformation in just a few months, he is loath to talk too much about the future; “This is a day-by-day play,” he says. But Bronson comes across as a man who is focused on continuing his progress. “If you’re blessed with abs and 5% body fat, you’re gonna be grinding to make that happen your whole life. You just have to realise that’s what it is. You keep your eye on the prize and don’t let yourself fall down.”
Bronson's Fast Fat Burner
Take on three rounds with no rest between moves. Rest for two minutes and repeat twice.
Go 600m on a SkiErg or burn 250kcal on an air bike.
15 reps (Bronson uses 2 x 22kg)
Bring dumbbells to your shoulders, squat and explode upward.
Med Ball Slam
15 reps (Bronson uses a 45kg ball)
Raise the ball and use your arms and core to slam it to the ground.
Dumbbell Bench Press
15 reps (Bronson uses 2 x 22kg)
Keep your back flat, feet on the floor. Don’t go too heavy – no squirming.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatch
10 per side (Bronson uses 18kg)
Hinge at the hips to pick up the weight, then lift it above your head.
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