Maximize your strength training routine by cutting out these time wasters.Read article
David Morin was lying in a hospital bed with a thick tube stuck down his throat and wires running off him into various medical machines. Things were not good. He was in a coma, and he’d been like this for five days. Ironically, it was the early hours of his 41st birthday—Oct. 9, 2015.
No one is supposed to fall into a coma, but Morin really wasn’t supposed to. As one of the world’s most sought-after fitness models, he was literally the picture of health. People paid good money to put his handsome mug on the cover of their magazines or shoot his shredded body for their instructional fitness videos. He was one of 10 men featured in a documentary, now on Netflix, called The Perfect Physique. (The title says it all.) He had even shot some scenes with Mark Wahlberg in the bodybuilding-themed Michael Bay film, Pain & Gain. (That’s Morin in the turquoise Miami Dolphins cutoff tee and purple Zubaz pants.)
Now here he was in a hospital bed—motionless, breathing with the assistance of a ventilator, given a 50% chance of survival. His condition wasn’t the result of some catastrophic injury, either. He had just been working a lot, traveling from his home in Florida to various parts of the world, when he found that he could barely breathe. He was headed to the gym with his girlfriend when she studied his unusually pale face and remarked, “You don’t look so good.” “I don’t feel so good,” he replied. Then, boom, he blacked out. He didn’t even remember being rushed to the ER.
At the hospital, doctors discovered a large blood clot in his lungs—a pulmonary embolism—stemming from a cyst on the side of his heart. This is why he had found it nearly impossible to breathe, and why he ended up comatose. Then, on the fifth day, Morin says, he began floating above himself—staring down at his lifeless body and the other people in the room.
As dire as this situation was, it was by no means the first big challenge Morin had ever faced. Born in Germany to an Air Force pilot, he was a self-described “military mutt” who grew up in three countries (Germany, England, and the U.S.) and a handful of states (California, Hawaii, Virginia). As a child, he struggled to make deep friendships with other kids, knowing he would be saying goodbye soon enough.
He didn’t have the gym to escape to yet, either, though he was certainly active. He spent much of his youth on a skateboard or in a martial arts dojo, and as a teenager he played competitive basketball—notably backing up future NBA MVP Allen Iverson at Bethel High School in Hampton, VA. But at the time, the heaviest thing he’d picked up was his guitar. “Back then, I saw bodybuilding as a gross exaggeration of physiology,” Morin says. “I didn’t see the artistry of it. I just saw a bunch of insecure people trying to be more attractive to each other.”
In an attempt to be like his parents, Morin married his high school sweetheart, quickly fathered two kids, and found himself working 60 hours a week as a financial manager at a car dealership. But when his wife left him for his physical opposite—a big, muscular guy whom she met at the gym—Morin’s life started to fall apart. As he battled for custody of his children and strained to pay off his debts—obstacles that “try to choke the man out of you”—he felt helpless and angry. That’s when he started lifting weights.
“When you feel like you’ve done everything right, and yet you go home to an empty house, you feel completely powerless,” he says. “I wanted to go to the gym and feel the pain—or feel something. I wanted to get better, get stronger, be more like this guy that my wife left me for.”
But while his muscles were expanding, his bank account was shrinking. For a short time, Morin was homeless, sleeping in his car. It was around this time that he shared his story and images on a Yahoo Personals profile. The account caught the eye of some Yahoo marketing personnel, who flew him to San Francisco and featured him in an ad campaign for their dating site. This got Morin an agent and launched his modeling career.
Soon enough, he was doing work for such clients as the Vitamin Shoppe, Men’s Health, Dymatize, and this very magazine. Over the years, he added other pursuits, including personal training, wellness consulting, and creating his own workout equipment brand, Lynx Fitness. Morin’s schedule was crazy, but he was feeling good about life. And then…he was comatose.
At three in the morning on his 41st birthday, after five days in a coma, Morin awoke. “I saw myself above myself,” he recalls, “and I jumped back into my body.” When his girlfriend informed him that he’d been out for five days, he was shocked. “It had only felt like a few minutes.”
Morin left the hospital three days later and recovered quickly. He regained the 47 pounds he had lost and was back in the weight room two weeks later, despite doctors saying he’d never lift more than 40 pounds again.
There was a silver lining to the ordeal, too. To aid in his rehab, Morin began practicing daily meditation and breathing exercises “like a Shaolin monk.” He also started incorporating what he calls “oxygen saturation” into his training—basically breathing deeply between sets to lower his heart rate and boost productivity and fat burning. He even created a product, FLO2, to help people breathe easier and optimize their training. In this way, his health scare was a blessing.
“That was the start of this profound journey into realizing how important breathing is,” Morin says. “From that point on, I have talked to so many people that struggle with anxiety, respiratory problems, and headaches. They don’t fully realize what they have at their disposal simply by breathing properly. If you do it right, it’s an incredible resource.”
This routine is designed to boost your heart rate and improve lung capacity, while also burning fat and stimulating muscle.
Complete 3 rounds of the circuit.
1. Do Mobility Work
Every morning, Morin stretches on the beach, does yoga, foam-rolls, or warms up with bands. Sometimes he’ll even perform tai chi with a 20-pound sledgehammer.
2. Hit the Big Muscles
Morin lifts weights three to four times a week, targeting his larger muscle groups. His go-to moves: squats, deadlifts, bench presses, dips, pullups, and seated rows.
3. Get Shredded, Not Huge
Now in his 40s, Morin doesn’t try to grow or get puffy. Instead, he trains to burn calories and hit a bunch of muscles quickly—think time under tension, not heavy weight.
4. Don’t Forget Cardio
Three nights a week, Morin rides a bike, jumps rope, or performs burpees. But he keeps it brief—around 15 minutes. “Very short, very fast, get the heart rate up, and I’m done.”
5. Live in the Sauna
Morin swears by the sauna to get him lean and boost recovery. After most workouts, he luxuriates in its dry heat. “Your testosterone gets higher when you use the sauna.”
6. Practice Intermittent
To keep his body-fat percentage around 5 or 6% year-round, Morin typically eats one or two big meals a day, between noon and 6 p.m.
7. Pound the Water
Before a photo shoot, Morin might do a 24-hour or 36-hour fast, consuming gallons of water and not much else. “If you want a flat stomach, drink water and don’t eat.”
8. Always be Ready
You never know when a photographer might call, so your body always has to be on point. “There is no off-season when fitness is your business. Chance favors the prepared.”