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One may hesitate to call Shaquille O’Neal fitness goals. But the retired NBA superstar has a better physique than many people realize. While he might not be the pinnacle of human health, the 7-foot-2 giant played two decades in the NBA despite a reputation for being lazy and out of shape. Over 10 years after retiring, Shaq is sharing the two things he focuses on to stay in shape without a vigorous basketball schedule.

Shaquille O’Neal is more than an athlete

NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal appears on the ShopHQ channel for his cooking show
Shaquille O’Neal presents his cookware on the ShopHQ channel | Manny Hernandez/Getty Images

According to Basketball-Reference, Shaq was drafted into the NBA in 1992 after a successful stint at LSU. Starting with the Orlando Magic and moving on to the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, and beyond, O’Neal built a reputation as one of the most unique players to ever grace the NBA.

From his ferocious, rim-shattering dunks to his deceptive passing skills, O’Neal was a bona fide superstar in an era dominated by Michael Jordan. However, one cannot talk about Shaq’s brand without talking about his non-basketball career.

From his rap career to acting, being one of the most prominent spokespeople on the planet, and general charisma, Shaq has become as much a celebrity as he was a professional athlete. Now, 10 years after he retired from the NBA, the 50-year-old still finds a way to connect with people personally. 

Shaq has a simple diet strategy 

GQ recently spoke to O’Neal about his fitness journey. According to the longtime Laker, a simple dietary mindset and workout help keep his weight at bay. He still eats his favorite meals. But he tries to balance it out by focusing on the endgame rather than the meal in front of him. As such, Shaq provides a rare, attainable way to stay in shape without feeling helpless. To him, it’s all about the mindset. You must understand that while you can cheat on certain meals, a lifestyle is more important

“I tell them to imagine how you wanna look, then get all the necessary information, and really understand and focus. It’s all about the diet,” O’Neal explains. Because even now, if I do 500 sit-ups a day, my six-pack ain’t right like how I want it, ’cause it’s all about the diet. So diet, preparation, focus, and belief. You just have to stick to your routine. That’s it.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean he sits around and focuses on his diet. Despite an active lifestyle that consistently has him flying across the globe, Shaq keeps a dedicated fitness regimen that is easily transportable anywhere in the world. 

How Shaq stays in shape


Shaq Doesn’t Want His Daughters Dating NBA Players

O’Neal still hits the gym, though he doesn’t do it as often as he did in the NBA. However, while a 7-foot-2 frame may be hard to recreate, his simple workout might be what some people need to get back in shape. GQ asked about his workout, breaking it down in simple terms that don’t require personal trainers, just a simple piece of readily-available equipment. 

“Cardio — 30-40 minutes — then chest, arms, biceps, triceps. A simple old man workout. I can’t do all that CrossFit stuff,” said the four-time NBA champion. ‘Well, I tried to run the other day and I’m like, ‘How was I the greatest athlete in the world?’ I just lost everything. So: The elliptical.”

Now, in his fifties and as public as ever, Shaq notes that he still eats his favorite burgers, sandwiches, and wraps. He even claims to have a “4.9” pack, which lets him go to the beach without feeling shame or fearing wayward paparazzi. However, don’t accuse him of being out of shape. 

“I don’t have no dad bod. I’m looking real nice. But once I turn that knob and get to full discipline, then I’m gonna be looking super shredded. I just have to get there again,” the NBA Hall of Famer told the publication. 

Shaq is known for his size. While his fitness fluctuated from time to time, reports of him being out of shape were greatly exaggerated. At over 7-feet-tall and built as sturdy as a rock, Shaq’s shape was never going to be “in.” However, being so public about this from an early age helps to normalize different body types — even if it is mostly unattainable.

Many big men play basketball, but few had ever had the physical dominance Shaquille O’Neal continues to possess today.