SKIP BAYLESS HATE Commercial breaks – especially now. He’s two minutes into a five-minute plank, the final exercise in his workout, and he needs something to take his mind off the burn.
Most mornings, that means a recorded sports game is playing on his iPhone—only that game has just switched to commercials. So Bayless refocuses by remembering his reason for training. He’s at the Fox Studios gym in Los Angeles at 5:30 today not just to build muscle. At 70, he’s also here to forge mental toughness he needs to hold his own Undisputed, the Fox Sports debate show he co-hosts every weekday morning. His job: verbal battles with NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe over the day’s sports issues. Every conversation should be combative. (That makes for good TV.) “It’s relentlessly intense because we’re trying to win,” says Bayless as he presses his abs a little harder into his plank, “and win in a way that embarrasses your opponent.” Because that’s what makes good television.)
Every episode of Undisputed will be filmed live, starting at 6:30 am and lasting two and a half hours. Bayless and Sharpe discuss a boatload of topics, everything from NFL Free Agency to the newest star on the LPGA Tour. So Bayless needs to be knowledgeable about any sport, and if he doesn’t know something, he needs to sound confident enough on the air to capture viewers’ attention.
This morning workout is the key to that confidence. It’s a workout that has remained largely the same for nearly three decades. Bayless began training in 1982 and has relied heavily on Nautilus machines in the weight room, but over the years he has turned to free weights and cardio. Long before his five-minute plank, he started this session with an hour of treadmill walking and cranking his cardio engine. He then struggled through a series of classic bodybuilder movements: cable chest press, hammer curls, and pull-ups. All of this is central to Bayless’ long-term goal: to further outsmart the aging process. “In the end, all I care about is staying healthy,” he says. “That’s the essence of what we’re talking about.”
He pushes himself through this workout in the weight room three days a week. He does this hour of cardio seven days a week. He hasn’t missed a regular cardio session since May 3, 1998, when he had a sinus infection, he says. (He was even training through a bout of Covid earlier this year.) According to Bayless, that consistency isn’t just fueling his lungs; His workouts are as intense as any session a pro athlete — or the chiseled Sharpe — could undertake.
And yes, Bayless says it’s important that he does his cardio preshow. In a way, he hints, that makes him tougher than Sharpe. “He does all his workouts afterwards,” says Bayless. “He couldn’t imagine doing anything before the show.”
Sharpe isn’t the only athlete Bayless can match. “LeBron always posts his training videos,” says Bayless. “Well, that’s great, but I promise you I’m doing so much. i go so hard I go hard on my weights. It’s not a picnic.”
Especially not now that his basketball game is still stuck in the commercial break with a minute left on his plank finisher. Bayless clenches his fists and holds them for the last few seconds of misery. When it’s finally over, his confidence is so high that he throws another diss at the king. “If LeBron came along and ran me eight miles on my run, I’d kill it,” he says, “because I’m 165 pounds and I do it all the time. I run like a madman and I’m pretty good at it.”
It must be show time.
Complete the plank
Nothing to see while you’re mid-plank? Distract yourself with these variations. Do this for 30 to 40 seconds at a time; Do 3 or 4 sets.
pat on the back
Start in the push-up position. Raise your right hand and touch it to your left shoulder; repeat on the other side.
Start in the plank position. Lift your left foot. Keep your leg straight and tighten your buttocks. Lower; repeat on the other side.
Get into the push-up position. Extend your hands as far as you can without arching your back. Keep your arms straight. Hold on as long as possible.
Start in the plank position. Extend your right hand out in front of you as far as you can, thumb up. Back to the ground; repeat on the other side.
A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2022 issues of Men’s Health entitled “6 AM WITH… THE HOT-TAKE CHAMP”.