Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine Workout: Gaining Major Muscle While Staying Lean
Wolverine, a notoriously bad-ass superhero and wonderfully played by Hugh Jackman numerous times, is defined by his short temper and ridiculously ripped physique (He is a superhero after all). Oh you’ve seen him, I’m sure, but in case you haven’t, here he is:
Jackman has made the character on screen into what it is today. Because of his dedication in preparing himself physically for the role of Wolverine in each film, the expectations in subsequent films remains high.
In 2000 Jackman starred in X-Men and was undoubtedly in great physical shape, but in 2013 at age 45 he managed to have an even more impressive physique.
For his preparation of The Wolverine in 2013 his goals were simple: Gain more muscle mass while staying lean.
Here’s how he did it.
How do you create a superhero body? By working your ass off. Duh. But there is a little more to it than that.
To prepare for The Wolverine, Jackman worked with trainer David Kingsbury. They only had about 3-4 months coming off the filming for Les Miserables, where Jackman was already very lean, to help him pack on muscle to play Wolverine.
Kingsbury’s approach to Jackman’s training was as follows:
“I always encourage low, 1-5 rep heavy work to stimulate myofibril hypertrophy. Then after the heavy work is done we move onto the higher rep schemes to encourage sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. By increasing your strength with the low reps, you increase your capacity with the higher reps, so I always plan heavy sets of the compound movements. The combination of the two styles brings the best gains.”
Oh those sweet, sweet gains!
As is often the case when you’re focused on gaining muscle mass, you do gain some body fat as well. Jackman is no exception. However, because of the strategic approach his trainer used and his already lean physique he was still able get amazing results:
Can you tell he gained some body fat? Yea, me either.
Here’s what his trainer had to say about the process:
“He did put on some body fat. We broke the training into two phases: the bulk and the cut. I like to bulk as clean as possible, with a better end result in sight. I calculated his calories to achieve the leanest muscle gain possible and adjusted them to his requirements every day.We used a combination of low-intensity training and intervals to keep bringing the body-fat levels down while bulking. The weight training remained more or less the same during the whole process, the only changes in his body fat levels came down to the volume of cardio he was prescribed and the amount of calories consumed.”
A strategic approach is always the way to go if you have a deadline and ambitious goals. And if you’re trying to, you know, play a superhero.
The bulk then cut method is a classic approach to gaining muscle mass while staying lean. It’s been used by bodybuilders for years and stays true to what I’ve mentioned repeatedly: Break your training into different blocks with specific goals for the best results.
In the video below Jackman also mentions that he was working out about 3 hours each day, 2 in the morning and 1 in the evening, to prepare for the film:
An example of the workouts Kingsbury mentioned can be found below (From Bodybuilding.com):
THE MAIN LIFTS
- Barbell Bench Press
- Back Squat
- Weighted Pull-Up
|Set 1||5 reps||60% of W1RM|
|Set 2||5 reps||65% of W1RM|
|Set 3||5 reps||75% of W1RM|
|Set 4||5 reps||75% of W1RM|
|Set 1||4 reps||65% of W1RM|
|Set 2||4 reps||75% of W1RM|
|Set 3||4 reps||85% of W1RM|
|Set 4||4 reps||85% of W1RM|
|Set 1||3 reps||70% of W1RM|
|Set 2||3 reps||80% of W1RM|
|Set 3||3 reps||90% of W1RM|
|Set 4||3 reps||90% of W1RM|
|Set 1||10 reps||40% of W1RM|
|Set 2||10 reps||50% of W1RM|
|Set 3||10 reps||60% of W1RM|
|Set 4||10 reps||60% of W1RM|
Once the first block of four weeks is complete, add 5-10 percent to your working 1-rep max. Increase 5 percent if progress is slow, and 10 percent if you can reach your target reps comfortably. Use this rule to plan each new four-week block.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Nutrition is the most important part of any body transformation.
The majority of your results come from your consistent diet. While kicking ass during workouts helps greatly, the big difference in results is going to come from your nutrition. Jackman agrees, saying he believes about 70% of results is your diet:
Jackman also talks in the video above about just how strict he was with his diet, the 8/16 fast he tried, and the affects the diet had on his social life. Getting amazing results doesn’t come without sacrifice!
His diet varied in calories during his preparation for the film, but he ate basically the same foods over and over – Chicken, fish, steak, steam veggies, brown rice, and protein shakes. He did have a few other foods, but those were the main ones. Along with that he drank no alcohol, consumed basically no sugar, and in his words ate “pretty much nothing that’s fun.”
While in the bulking phase of training he’d consume 4,500+ calories, but by the time he was cutting he’d be in the 3,000-3,500 range, comparable to the amount that Chris Pratt consumed preparing for Guardians of the Galaxy but much higher than what the cast of 300 ate to get ready for their film. Which makes sense considering that Chris Pratt also was focused on building muscle, while the guys in 300 just wanted to cut as much body fat as possible.
Watch Jackman talk about his ever changing physique and some of the preparation it takes below:
“We used a pre-workout product called Animal Pump. I prefer this pre-workout because it has no sugar or sweetener, and it also comes in tablet form so you can adjust the creatine content. While bulking, we used creatine in the product, and when cutting, we reduced, and then removed the creatine.We also used about 5-10 g of Animal Nitro BCAAs pre- and post-workout. We trained fasted in the mornings, so the BCAAs were important to preserve lean muscle mass. While cutting, we used Universal L-carnitine to help metabolize fatty acids.”
Not to mention that Jackman was also utilizing a carb cycling approach and his trainer was keeping tabs on his macros – the amount of protein, carbs, and fat he ate each day.
Carb cycling simply involves having days of higher carbohydrate intake and days of lower carbohydrate intake each week. Typically high carb days are reserved for heavy lifting days while low carb days are saved for days with less intense training without weights. For the vast majority of people this method of nutrition isn’t needed to get results, but when you’re already as lean as Jackman is you need more advanced methods to make further progress.
An example day of eating for Jackman can be found below (From bodybuilding.com)
Jackman’s diet isn’t overly complicated, but the consistency is what breeds success.
Things to Consider When Pursuing a Superhero Body
- Using a short, intense, period of training to get things started. In a matter of a few months, a superhero body can be achieved, but this is a few months of dedicated training, focused completely on that goal and nothing else. That’s exactly what Gerard Butler did for 300, Chris Pratt did for Guardians of the Galaxy, and Bradley Cooper did for American Sniper.
- The social ramifications. If you are completely focused on getting the best physique possible in the shortest amount of time don’t expect to be a social butterfly. Drinking beer with your buddies? Nope. Pounding burgers and fries during the game? Nah. It won’t be the most fun thing you ever do. Accept this and understand the cost of getting lean.
- Maintainability. Getting into extreme shape is an admirable goal, something to strive for, but consider the difficulty in maintaining that physique. Even when you do achieve this goal you may not want to continue to do all that is necessary to keep that body. That’s not to say you can’t maintain an excellent physique, but it’s something to consider.
- Choosing the right supplements for your goal. Some supplements, like whey protein, fish oil, multivitamins, and a greens supplement, are staples with any goal. However, if you’re trying to gain lots of muscle mass, you’ll also want to consider using creatine. BCAAs are another supplement you could use, but simplification is a good policy. Remember, supplements come after a solid diet.
- Is a superhero body what you really want? Did you ever consider that you may not really want a superhero body? Even more, what happens if you hit your fat loss goal and hate it? Whoa. But before you just say “f*$k it” consider the difference losing even 10 pounds of body fat or gaining 10 pounds of muscle can have on your physique.
Personally, I think you should pursue ambitious goals. I mean why not? Go for it, train your ass off, stay committed, and make it happen!
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