WATCH: SA king of squats: Nkululeko Dlamini

06 Dec, 2023 - 11:12 0 Views
WATCH: SA king of squats: Nkululeko Dlamini

The Sunday News

… Viral sensation is the unexpected fitfluencer of 2023

The product of his signature squat routine scored with maskandi music, Nkululeko Zane Dlamini’s incredibly toned thighs and glorious glutes — combined with the power of social media — have grabbed the world’s attention.

One rainy afternoon, walking into the Bertha Solomon Recreation Centre in Marshalltown, downtown Joburg (South Africa), I’m fascinated with how Dlamini has hooked the world from a modest community hall with a handful of chairs and a low-budget gym. When he arrives, shortly after I do, he is greeted with excitement by both members and employees at the community hall.

He is wearing a black coat, gym tights, and his trademark “Tserelife21” durag. Unlike many fitfluencers, his physique matches his TikTok presence. And while we can safely say he has one of the best bodies in South Africa, what makes Dlamini the fitness influencer we never knew we needed is the way he’s helping to make fitness accessible to all. The misconception that starting a fitness journey has to cost a fortune is now a thing of the past. Once we settle down, I’m intrigued to learn about the man behind the profile.

“My fitness journey started with soccer. I grew up playing soccer at home and my dream was to end up as a professional soccer player,” Dlamini says, talking about growing up in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal. “I played in the Mayor’s Cup, then got scouted by AmaZulu FC. I was meant to sign with them, but they held off and said they’d get back to me. I carried on with school and told myself if it was meant to be it would come back to me.”

At the time, he was studying towards a BEd at the University of the Free State and found himself in a series of back-and-forth with management and coaches in his quest for a place in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).

“The second time, both AmaZulu and Jomo Cosmo approached me, wanting to sign. I was speaking to Jomo Sono personally. I remember arriving in Joburg on a Tuesday afternoon in 2009, not knowing anyone, and waiting the whole day for him. That’s when I signed with them [Jomo Cosmo].”

Although Dlamini had plenty of talent, which led to his nickname “Nyawolomshini” (because of his ability to score), most of his time in the PSL was spent in the gym or on the bench. When the season ended, he found himself loaned to a team in Eswatini, where he shone. “They saw I was scoring there and brought me back. That’s when I realised I was more appreciated in another country. I couldn’t deal with the instability. I was educated as a teacher and loved fitness, so I decided to go into personal training.”

Personal training then became his calling, and he often found himself training his teammates in the PSL, as well as the Swazi king’s son and his wife. His technique inspired the exercise routine we now see on social media, which he defines as “core train”.

“Core train is inspired by an actual train and its movement. A train is made up of a head, a middle, and an end. It is a whole body that cannot function or move without the other parts. This is why the exercises are full body and performed in a group. We follow each other like istimela,” Dlamini explains, emphasising that, although we mainly see the squat variations, core train consists of a number of different exercises that use body weight, ladders, steps, cones, and even chairs.

“People who do not work out do not realise squats help you get a flat stomach. You get a 45- and a 90-degree squat. A 45-degree squat focuses on your whole body and engages your core, while a 90-degree squat focuses on your thighs. The more you go down the more you engage your stomach and your entire body.” Dlamini advises doing 45-degree squats before any other exercises to activate the whole body.

A core-train workout can take up anything from an hour to an hour and a half and is a non-stop workout.

“When I train you, you see results. I don’t train you to make you happy. I train you so you really feel like you worked out. I train you to look like me — anything you want from my physique you’ll get. If I can run 10km at a certain speed I want you to be able to beat me or at least be as fast as I am,” he says. He also points out that genetics play a huge role in how your body will look, so embracing this is the first key to your body goals.

If you can’t get yourself to the Bertha Solomon Recreation Centre, following Dlamini’s videos at home is an option, although he says many have been doing the famous squat-walk incorrectly. “People don’t understand that I need to show them the correct technique because then I can see which body part is weak and help them correct it in order to prevent injuries.”

Now, we all know nutrition plays a huge role in fitness, but when asked about his diet his offbeat response is, “Thina, training is 80% and nutrition is 20%. We don’t eat small meals every hour, when we eat, we eat.”

He hopes to open his own Tserelife21 gym to help people who have been training for years without seeing results, as well as shape up a PSL team one day. In the meantime, you can book him to perform at your wedding — “this routine is not just training, it is entertainment!” This October he and his crew performed at the SunBet Arena in Pretoria alongside musician Sjava. ( source:

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