NO SMALL ACHE can stop Mark Wahlberg’s legendary 4 a.m. workout energy.
“Today, even with the stiff and sore neck, I was still in there for about an hour and 15 minutes,” the Oscar-nominated actor told Men’s Health. The previous day, he’d tweaked his neck on the golf course, but was still up in the wee hours for one of his now-signature “4 a.m. club” training sessions. The day before, he’d run a group of fellow early-risers through a hellish ab sequence before dawn.
“We did a lot of ab wheel, a lot of leg raises, and some Supermans on the TRX—all at a pretty high pace,” he said of the session. In the video he posted to Instagram afterwards, Wahlberg called this crew “the A-Team.”
The star’s key to relishing discomfort before 5 a.m.?
“The big secret, gentlemen, is go to sleep earlier,” he says. “I’ve got my wife and four kids. Between my prayer time and reading scripts and doing all the things I need to do … if I also want to incorporate some golf or another ‘me time’ activity, you’ve kind of just got to get up before everybody else.”
Between his 2:30 a.m. alarm and his early bedtime, Wahlberg crams in an absurd amount of activity: Long sessions of prayer and fasting, videos and events repping his own tequila brand, reshoots for an upcoming film, Our Guy from Jersey, in which he costars with Halle Berry, and visiting locations of the F45 gym chain.
Wahlberg, who is an investor in F45 and now serves as the company’s Chief Brand Officer, is spearheading “Wahlberg Week,” a seven-pack of free workouts co-programmed with trainer Gunnar Peterson with titles inspired by the actor’s life. There’s “Swagger,” like his character in Shooter, and “Southpaw,” a nod to The Fighter.
The actor took some time—after sunrise—to offer tips on starting your own 4 a.m. crew, talk about how his training has changed over the decades, and to share one of his favorite challenges from Wahlberg Week.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
If MH readers want to join the 4 a.m. crew, what’s the secret? What tips do you have for becoming an early riser?
Just rip the Band-Aid off one day. Set the alarm, and don’t hit the snooze button. By the time you work out, eat, go on about the rest of your day. I would say, come 15 to 16 hours into your day, you’re going to be pretty darn tired. So if you get to bed early at night, you’ll still be right on schedule. You’ll be able to get eight hours and still be able to get up early enough to be in the 4 a.m. club.
I started doing it so early because I’ve got my wife and four kids. Between my prayer time, reading my scripts and doing all the things that I need to do—especially if I play golf or incorporate a “me time” activity—you’ve kind of just got to get up before everybody else.
Some people prefer working out at night, but for me, I’m always so busy and on the go that I don’t have any energy to do anything then. By the time I’m home and I’ve had dinner, I’m ready to crash.
You were fasting throughout Lent. Now that Lent is over, will you be continuing that regimen?
Intermittent fasting has really worked for me and help me stay lean. I used to do the kind of eight small meals a day [plan]—I’d have to work three times as hard doing cardio. I’d do cardio in the morning, then I would come back in the afternoon and jump rope again. And I certainly wasn’t digesting all the food or the protein that I was consuming. Once I started fasting, I had to do a lot less cardio. I was only going to the gym five days a week, and I certainly never had to go back in the afternoon to do cardio again.
I eat my first meal at noon and then I eat again at 3 p.m., and then I would eat again just before six. And that would be it. But [during Lent] I did a couple of fasts where I did 24 hours. I did 48 hours, and I got as lean as I’ve been a long time, pretty quickly.
Has this been one of the biggest changes to your training in the past few years?
Absolutely. I mean, I was so hardheaded, I wouldn’t listen to anybody. I thought I had it all figured out. I was doing that old-school bodybuilder mentality where you eat small meals every two hours or so. I just wasn’t able to digest all that food. So I was having gut issues and things like that. With the fasting, I had more energy. I got leaner quicker. It’s not for everybody, but certainly it works for me.
Has fasting helped you lean out for roles? Is there anything you’ve been training for recently where it helped?
Yes, it’s a movie with myself and Halle Berry called Our Guy from Jersey. It’s kind of a blue collar version of a James Bond—a guy who gets thrust into this world of secret agents and everything. He’s just a guy who would do anything to impress his high school sweetheart. And she comes back into his life and kind of pulls him into this world. It’s a lot of fun, but I had to be lean and in fighting shape.
I started this movie shortly after Father Stu. So I had put on all the weight [for that role]. So that was quite a challenge. For me, it was easier to take weight off than it was to put it on. But I just wanted to get as lean as possible. And once I started fasting, it actually came off a lot easier. It’s taken me from 15-ish percent body fat to single-digit, while still being able to build lean muscle.
Are there other changes you’ve made in how you train as you’ve moved from your 40s into your 50s?
Especially as you get older, you want to be able to move. Any kind of dynamic movements and exercises have been a game changer for me. Instead of being on any kind of stationary equipment… it’s movement, lateral movement.
Those things are the most important. Getting on a stationary bike is good for bodybuilding, sculpting, shaping, all that stuff. But getting out there, doing lots of lunges and things like that—that’s what’s going to keep me going.
Next week is “Wahlberg Week” at F45. Are there any challenges from the signature workouts that you really enjoy?
The pullups: A slow, disciplined pullup for 40 seconds, trying to do as many of those as possible.
Anybody who’s done F45 knows that you can challenge yourself at any time during any part of the workout. You just have to push yourself. … [And during Wahlberg week,] there’s a little something for every day of the week for your different body parts to push yourself a little harder.
Wahlberg Week runs from Monday, April 17 to Sunday, April 23 at participating F45 locations.
Greg Presto is a fitness and sports reporter and videographer in Washington, DC.