Sometimes you have to lose something before you can truly appreciate it—and in pop musician Jason Derulo’s case, it was his body. An accident during a dance rehearsal for his show in 2012 fractured Derulo’s neck, putting him on the verge of paralysis. Flash-forward three years and he’s not only healthy again but also a confirmed fitness nut who you can find in the gym as often as you’ll find him onstage.
While executing a back tuck, Derulo slipped and landed on his head. In medical circles, the injury is known as a “hangman’s break” because Derulo snapped the same vertebra that usually goes when a person is hanged. Amazingly, he walked off the scene—albeit in agony—but doctors told him he came razor close to paralysis and even death.
“I think I survived my fall because I was in decent shape,” says Derulo, whose debut album spawned three Top 10 hits and earned him a BMI Songwriter of the Year award for 2011. “I always loved to work out, but I didn’t take it as seriously as I started to after my injury. It became an obsession.”
Being confined to a neck brace for seven months during his recovery made it difficult to move, let alone exercise, but Derulo didn’t allow that to stop him. “I wanted to make sure my facility was at its peak” (yes, he used the word facility—hey, he’s in hip-hop). “I started to work out a little even when I was not supposed to. It was frustrating because I could not do the things that I normally could. But when I had the opportunity, I just went full throttle, HAM, crazy.”
Derulo weighed about 180 pounds at the time of the accident, decayed to 163 while mostly immobile, and then, as his body healed and allowed for progressively more activity, he muscled back up to 183 pounds last fall while cutting his body fat to 9%—his leanest condition.
Derulo performed basic pushups and other bodyweight exercises that helped him master his own body again. When he returned to performing live in late 2012, he relied heavily on the popular Insanity workout DVD series, which he took on tour. “Three hundred pushups every single day, at least,” says Derulo. “It was Insanity before the show, then 30 minutes of abs, then the show, and then pushups. That’s what my tour life was like.”
The regimen remains, and these days, Derulo is hitting it so hard he doesn’t even plan an off day. “Days off happen naturally because of circumstance.” But there’s enough to keep Derulo busy that he’ll be forced to get some recovery time: In March, the first single off his new album (Everything Is 4), “Want to Want Me,” became the most added record in Top 40 radio history. “That means that most radio stations added it to their rotation,” says Derulo.
He’s also a judge on the new season of So You Think You Can Dance, premiering June 1, and unlike judges on some other reality shows, he promises you won’t hate him. “It’s a positive show. When you tell somebody no it’s not just like, ‘Get out of here.’ It’s more like, ‘No, the reason why is this, that, the other.’ And they can come back even stronger.”
Staying positive and paying it forward are the themes of his life, and Derulo, at 25, is contemplating workout DVDs of his own. “It’s the worst feeling to not have control of your body. But when you can change what you look like, you feel good.”
Derulo’s rules to live by
1. Drink green juices
“They keep you from being hungry,” says Derulo. “I drink them with spinach, kale, lemon, ginger.”
2) Learn to dance
“Just a simple two-step will let you be able to vibe in a club.”
3) Go to sleep
Puff Daddy told him that to be successful he should never sleep. “But I try to get those seven hours.”