Neen Williams has redefined what “old” should look like in skateboarding’s youth-infused culture.
At age 35, the pro skateboarder is crushing his sport’s all-party, no-training stereotype by proving that you can be shredded while you rip out kick-flips and ollies.
Williams has reshaped himself—literally—through a full-time dedication to fitness. Millions who have watched his board-flipping videos over his nearly 20-year career, now check out his YouTube and Instagram pages for workouts and recipes.
Making life-altering changes often follow life-changing trauma, and Williams’s story is no different. His kettlebell commitment may have come too late or not all, if it had not been for a devastating knee injury that nearly ended his career almost seven years ago. The injury also forced Williams to make other tough choices, most notably ending his unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Now sober for more than six years, his goals go beyond aesthetics and prolonging his skateboard career, but also showing others in his industry to not wait till injury to start taking an interest in their physical health.
“No one ever posted a healthy side of skateboarding, just the grunge lifestyle—no rules, no obligations—just drinking, partying, eating pizza, never changing your clothes, then waking up and skating again,” Williams says. “I just started posting my workouts, my diet, my regimen, and little by little, it became a new norm for me. I felt like the people needed to see this side.”
When it’s you versus the concrete pavement, skateboarding becomes as much the contact sport as MMA or football.
Oftentimes the pavement comes out the winner, as for every heelflip off a stairwell he’s nailed, Williams has an even longer injury list for every crash, wipeout, and other skateboarding fails. Williams says he’s undergone plenty of PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy shots to treat most of his injuries, which include reconstructive surgery on both knees, a host of muscle tears, bulging discs as well as breaking both wrists, to name a few.
“My wrists are really jacked,” Williams admits. “They don’t go fully back, which kind of messes up some of my workouts because I can’t rest anything on my palms. It’s either on my fingertips or on my fist. But I get by.
Looking back, consuming alcohol as a preworkout wasn’t great for optimal performance, especially in the California sun, where Williams and his crew would skate from morning to sundown, then party and start all over the next day.
“We would drink as we’re skating,“ Williams said. “We’d get a quick buzz in the morning, then switch to beer. Our CNS is firing, and instead of drinking water, we’re drinking beer. And from there, it would build courage.”
When he wrecked his knee a second time while attempting a trick while buzzed, Williams immediately knew that loose and unstable feeling in his knee, meant that age 28, a third chance at returning to skating was becoming bleak if changes weren’t made.
“I decided that I needed to try and better myself at this point” Williams says. “This was the catalyst that switched my whole life around. I was partying super hard. I hurt myself and I decided that I was going to clean up my act and try to get everything I could out of my career while I could, because I’ve worked so hard to build this career for me, for myself. And, um, you know, after that, I started rehabbing my knee back to health.”
ONNIT FOR THE LONG HAUL
With skating temporarily on the shelf while rehabbing, and drinking no longer a part of his regimen, Neen Williams went all in on rebuilding his body. He used the time wisely, getting to learn the intricacies of fitness and nutrition.
“I’d stay in the gym for an extra hour and learn things from my trainers on how to enhance my performance and reach my optimal level,” Williams says. “That kind of sparked a whole new interest of bettering myself and being the best I can be.”
That enthusiasm carried over from weights to also creating a healthy diet. His kitchen, once littered with empty pizza boxes, was now fully stocked with protein powder and glutamine supplements to build and replenish muscle after intense workouts, something unheard of prior to his injury. You could say it’s not only where he got his first taste of Onnit, it’s how he began sharing his transformation on Instagram and YouTube.
“We’d put a bunch of fat and protein in my NutriBullet,” he says. “And I’d make these high-fat, high-calorie shakes that would last me throughout the day. Then I’d post my meals on social media.”
While his knee was recovering, Williams’ body was responding to his new routine. Williams went from skinny skateboarder to a ripped, muscular athlete. Before shaking up his routine, Williams estimates he’d burn close to 4,000 calories daily, while taking in less than 50 grams of protein on a diet mainly consisting of beer and whatever fast-food was nearby.
“Once I started getting into the dieting aspect, that’s then that’s when I noticed this huge physique change,” he says. “It’s like one big science project.”
Seeing his results inspired Williams to entrench himself further into fitness. Having incorporated kettlebells slightly into his routine he expanded his training knowledge by enrolling in Onnit’s Kettlebell Academy, working with one of the brand’s instructors, Eric Leija, known to IG followers as Primal Swoldier. He became kettlebell certified, then increased his knowledge by adding went on to add a steel mace certification as well.
“I got kettlebells from them, but I really didn’t know anything other than like, swings,” he says. “I took the certification and I got certified for kettlebell training.”
GET SKATEBOARD FIT
His physical changes were remarkable, but Williams’ ultimate goal remained to enhance his power and explosiveness to his skateboarding career.
For a skateboarder to consistently and successfully nail video-worthy flips and tricks day in and day out generally requires a ton of rotational strength as well as core and leg strength and stability.
To do this, Williams’ six-day workout split includes two heavy strength days, usually consisting of squats and deadlifts. Because Neen Williams takes a wider stance on his skateboard, he often incorporates sumo deadlifts into his routine.
For power days, Williams adds in a ton of supersets, like ending each set of light squats with either a vertical or broad jump.
“You’re working both muscle fibers,” he says. You’re keeping that explosiveness and power, but you’re also building strength to protect yourself from injury.
To help preserve his body during those long skateboarding shoots, Williams spends two workouts on strictly conditioning, he says.
While recovery no longer includes hangovers, Williams says staying physically ready for the next day’s skate session on the streets of his new home near Dallas, TX, requires a daily dose of massage guns and foam rolling.
The routine works for him, now Williams hopes his transformation can be the blueprint for a healthier generation of skateboarders.
“I am a pro skater first and foremost,” Williams says. “It’s what I love and do for almost every day for the past 20 years. But then, I’ve also become a life and fitness coach, because I help with health, wellness, fitness. And I have my workouts there to help people live their best lives and gain longevity.”