Whether you’re a big fan of Linkin Park’s music or not, consider two things. One: In two-plus decades of playing together, Linkin Park has sold more than 70 million records and has toured worldwide consistently, and soundtracked millions of gym workouts. Two: Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, isn’t your run-of-the-mill frontman. The tattooed vocalist (okay, tattoos are fairly typical) is a self-described “gym rat” who hates going a day without working out in the weight room—plus, he’s a major NBA fan.
“I’m hardcore about the gym—I love working out, it’s a daily thing for me, a huge part of my life,” Bennington tells Men’s Journal. “I do weight training, multiple types of Pilates, spin, and lots of quick movement and balance stuff. I’m in the gym for at least two to three hours a day. I like to push the sled, do squats, leg presses, deadlifts, and variations on those moves, too.”
Bennington’s usual daily routine takes him through a mix of moves that help him build endurance and total-body strength, including kettlebell swings, shoulder presses, hammer curls, Turkish get-ups, bear crawls while hitched to a sled, single-arm exercises, push-pull exercises, and lots of “animal movements.”
The workout doesn’t just help him get through Linkin Park’s physically demanding shows, it also helps Bennington when fans get a little too wild.
“I do a lot of active movement work with my trainer to help hand-eye coordination and my reflexes,” Bennington said. “We do a workout where I’ll have my back to him, he has a ball and calls out left or right, and then I’ll spin and grab the ball, turn back around quickly and hit a target of light we have on the wall. That move actually comes in handy when you’re at a festival and people are starting to throw bottles and stuff at the stage.”
Bennington is committed to staying in shape so much that even when the band is playing sold-out shows to thousands of fans, he’ll still find time to get in a few muscle-building moves.
“During breaks in our show, [Linkin Park bassist] Dave Farrell and I will have a pushup or pullup contest on the side of the stage,” Bennington said. “He beats me in pullups because he kicks—but I do ‘em straight.”
So, yes: Regardless of what you feel about Linkin Park’s music, you have to respect its members’ commitment to staying in shape.
Bennington isn’t just hardcore about working out: He’s a huge basketball fan, too. That’s one reason why Bennington and Linkin Park teamed up with the NBA to have the song “Battle Symphony,” from the band’s upcoming album One More Light, be part of the soundtrack of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. “We love it,” he says. “We’re huge basketball fans—[Linkin Park multi-instrumentalist] Mike Shinoda and I, in particular. The song works well with the vibe and the emotional intensity of the playoffs.”
As for who Bennington’s watching? The Arizona native’s favorite team, the Phoenix Suns, aren’t in the tournament—”I loved Walter Davis, he was my man”—but admits he’s “super stoked about the Clippers.” He’s also keeping an eye on the Chicago Bulls (“crushing right now”) and Golden State Warriors (“Draymond Green is the heart and soul of that team”).
But, as a musician, Bennington brings a special understanding of how music animates the game he and millions of others love so much. “I’ve met some fans who say, ‘All I do is work out to your music.’ It means a lot to them, too. That pumps me up. It makes us want to make music that’s meaningful, but also make music that makes people want to kick things, or gets their blood pumping.”
“But, hey, people mosh all the time at our shows to ‘In the End,’ so what do I know?”
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