The country superstar's trainer reveals the secrets to those rock-hard abs

By Alicia Dennis
Updated January 31, 2013 01:30 PM
Credit: Ramey; Nino Muñoz

The good news: Tim McGraw is shirtless in the new issue of PEOPLE, showing off an impressive set of abs. The bad news: It takes (a lot!) of hard work to get the country star’s rock-hard eight-pack. And when the 6-foot star, 45, gets ready to go out on the road, he turns up the workout to a whole new level.

“No one wants to grow up to be a rock star to sing the same song over and over again in a studio,” says McGraw, who has maintained a 40-lb. weight loss in recent years. “The reason you want to do this is to be in front of thousands of people, playing that guitar and doing what you love. And when I’m on stage, I want to feel good.”

McGraw will hit the work-out sessions hard in the upcoming months to prepare for his Two Lanes of Freedom tour in May; the new album hits stores next week. To make sure he has all the right moves, he trains with martial arts expert and stunt man Roger Yuan, 52, three times a day five weeks prior to hitting the road.

“We work with pulleys, bars and do core training, strength and balanced movements to build up the muscles between the ribs and connective tissues,” says Yuan, who also got Daniel Craig in shape to play James Bond. “I have trained a lot of people and many are hard workers. But Tim is another animal. I have to rein him in and have to tell him, ‘You can’t do that much.’ There is no quitting in him.”

Though McGraw says he still indulges occasionally, he trains and diets before tours because “it’s part of my job,” he says.

“I’ll eat a cheeseburger now and then, and I love sweet tea,” says McGraw, who works out around four hours a day when he’s not performing. “I like to eat. I like food. That is one of the reasons that I throw that extra hour of working out in.”

Tim’s Pre-Tour Routine

7 a.m. Wake up
8 oz. Hot water, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, manuka honey UMF10+

Fresh berries (blue, black, straw), muesli, natural yogurt, mixed in a regular cereal bowl
Organic oats/bran porridge with raisins, sliced banana, maple syrup

8-9 a.m. Morning training session

10 a.m. Protein break
Fresh made Spelt flour pancakes made with soy milk, egg whites, powdered linseed/goji berries/flax seed
Optional toppings: fresh fruit compote or almond butter, or natural yogurt, and maple syrup

12-1 p.m. Midday training session

1:15 p.m. Lunch
Tuna mixed with chopped onions, celery, lemon juice and zest, Bragg’s Aminos (soy sauce), chopped pickled sushi ginger, natural yogurt, and 1 teaspoon maple syrup
Served on halved avocado with side of alfalfa sprout/beetroot/spinach and rocket salad seasoned with rock salt, ground pepper, balsamic and olive oil

3 p.m. Snack
Handful of nuts almonds, pecans, or walnuts with a fruit smoothie

4:15-5:30 p.m. Afternoon training session
Specificity training, including stretch, warm down and 10-minute physio-massage
After training snack: apple or handful of grapes

7:30 p.m. Dinner
Grilled salmon marinated with lime juice, ginger, Vietnamese fish sauce, paprika, brown sugar and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, chopped coriander and basil mix
Serve with blanched or stir fry green beans, or asparagus (olive oil and balsamic dressing) and sliced lightly fried polenta slices