Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine Workout and Diet

The Wolverine

The Wolverine (2013) Promo Poster

Wolverine is back!

Wolverine has now featured in the following movies:

  • X-Men (2000)
  • X2: X-Men United (2003)
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
  • X-Men: First Class (2011)*
  • The Wolverine (2013)

*OK, in First Class he was just seen sitting at a bar having a beer, and told Magneto and Prof. X to get lost. But he was in it!


If you have watched all the X-Men films you will note that as the story progressed Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman, really started to bulk up his muscles. In an interview prior to the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) he said that he wanted to take the Wolverine character to a new level and to show Wolverine to be the raw, aggressive beast that he is. Jackman decided that to do this he needed to get bigger and stronger.

There is no doubt that just like so many other character actors, Jackman worked very hard to reach his physical goal.

The latest movie, The Wolverine (2013), follows on from The Last Stand, but is a standalone film telling the story of what happens to Wolverine after the events on Alcatraz Island when Magento’s army is beaten and Phoenix, previous Jean Gray, is killed by Wolverine. In this story Wolverine is once again the lead role, and as expected there will be plenty of action.

The Wolverine is part action story and part love story. We see the sensitive and compassionate side of Logan, as well as the brutal. After watching the film it is clear that Hugh Jackman has not stopped working out, if anything his abs are bigger and harder than ever.

So, how does Hugh Jackman transform his body into The Wolverine?

Jackman’s Workout for Wolverine

Hugh Jackman carried out an advanced bodybuilding / strength training regime for his role as Wolverine. For Origins he hired Mike Ryan, an Australian personal trainer who has worked with many celebrities. Hugh has known Mike for many years as Hugh used to work on the reception at The Physical Factory in Sydney while Mike Ryan was a personal trainer there. Hugh and Mike became good friends and Hugh promised that if he ever made it big in Hollywood he would hire Mike.

Jackman used supersets for this, which means that rather than perform a set of one exercise, rest, and repeat, he would perform a set of one exercise, then move on to do another set of a different exercise immediately afterwards. Prior to any workout he would obviously warm up with some gentle cardio and then use an empty barbell and go through the moves to get the blood flowing.

Wolverine Chest Exercises

  • Bench Press supersetted with
  • Dumbbell Flyes

Wolverine Tricep Exercises

  • Dips
  • Cable press-downs

Wolverine Chest Pump

  • Cable Crossovers – an additional chest exercise to beef up the pecs – hit them from all angles

Wolverine Leg Exercises

Legs are as important as any other body part. Remember the criticism Brad Pitt had in Troy? Skinny legs just don’t do it!

  • Barbell Squat – classic and best leg exercise
  • Split Squats – similar to one-legged squats, keep one leg behind you and raised on a bench

Wolverine Back Exercises

  • Barbell Deadlifts – another classic strength builder and fantastic for building muscle
  • Dumbbell lunges – some say these are not required if you squat properly, some just love lunges.

These exercises would not all be done in the same session, Jackman would split them up into body parts, eg. legs and chest day followed by a back and arms day. Cardio is essential as well to keep the fat off, and ideally cardio should be done intensively, and not before weight training.

According to The Sunday Telegraph (Australia) “Jackman’s bouts included 3am starts, cold showers, 100kg weight squats and 280kg leg presses.

Remember to always aim to increase the weight that you lift in each workout, progressive overload build muscle and strength. Also remember to get rest as over-training can cause muscle decay and also weaken the immune system, and if you get a bad cold, you will not be able to train at all.

Each workout would take 60-90 minutes to complete, which would include a warm-up and some cardio too. Mike Ryan, Hugh’s personal trainer in 2009, told Mens Fitness that at least 10 minutes of cardio would be done before starting any weight training. This is to get the blood flowing and the muscles well oxygenated for the hard work to come. Each weight training session is also finished with around 20 minutes of additional cardio – this is to help burn more fat. The final 20 minutes is often a run or a swim.

However, another aspect of Hugh Jackman’s training is that he would mix up the workouts. Hugh told Men’s Health Magazine that every 3 weeks he would change from lifting heavy weights (low reps) to lifting lighter weights for more reps. He would also mix up slow lifts (4 seconds up, 4 seconds down) with plyometrics and more explosive lifting. So, mix up your training, do not do the same workouts every week.

Jackman’s Diet for Wolverine

Jackman spoke about his preparation for the X-Men Origins in an interview that appeared on the DVD extras. In it he spoke about his diet and eating regime. He basically followed a bodybuilding diet for bulking up, which combined with his weight training and cardio training helped him build bigger muscles while still staying lean.

Jackman consumed a lot of protein drinks, starting the day at 6am with a whey protein shake before doing his weight training, and then consume another afterwards. One to boost glycogen then another to replenish and provide proteins.

Micro Meals

He ate micro-meals throughout the day, small protein rich meals to ensure that his muscles had a constant supply of proteins and amino-acids throughout the day. Mike Ryan recommends eating 6 to 7 meals a day to ensure that your body is constantly being fed proteins for muscle growth. If you consume large meals you digest slower and there are longer periods with limited amino-acids in the system for muscle growth.

Jackman consumed a lot of eggs and chicken throughout the day as part of his diet – these are popular choices as they are relatively low in fat and provide a healthy source of protein. Eggs also boost testosterone which helps to increase muscle growth.

Protein is not everything though. Too often people who start bodybuilding hear that they require a lot of protein, and then exclude other essential food types. Jackman snacked on foods such as oats, seeds and fresh fruits and berries during the day to provide a rich source of carbohydrate. For bodybuilding diet is all about quality. Quality of carbs, quality of proteins and healthy fats – yes, fat is essential for healthy muscle growth.

Mid morning Jackman would have another protein meal of stir fried meats (usually turkey) with plenty of green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and cabbage. Then lunch a few hours later would consist of a larger portion of meat, served with wholemeal rice and greens.

Mid-afternoon would see him eating more nuts and seeds with some dried fruits to supply energy to the muscles.

For dinner Jackman would eat another meal consisting of lean meats such as chicken, and it will be served with a generous helping of vegetables.

Before bed Jackman would have another protein smoothie to give his muscles all the protein they require to repair while he sleeps. Sleep is vital for recovery.

Hugh Jackman puts a lot of hours into his fitness and bodybuilding regime, and also follows a very strict diet. If you wish to look like Wolverine you need to do the same.

The 16-8 Diet

Hugh has talked about following a 16-8 diet, which is simply eating as much as you can for 8 hours a day, and then nothing for the rest of the day – a 16 hour “fast”.

“For sixteen hours of the day, I fast, so I don’t eat. Between ten in the morning and six o’clock at night … I eat 5,000 calories. And then I eat nothing … it’s more about, ‘This is a disgusting amount of food, I can’t eat another bite.’ I literally talk to myself like I’m training – ‘One more mouthful, c’mon man! You can do it! Just one more mouthful! Half a chicken breast to go and then you’ve got it! Just two meals left!'” ~ High Jackman talking on Sirius XM radio.

Here is the full interview where he talks about “the Wolverine diet”.  He speaks about how bland the diet is – lots of plain food with no salt.


Keep a Diary

Mike Ryan recommends that we all keep a diary to log all meals and exercise. By keeping a log you can monitor your progress and adjust food and weight training to meet your goals. Without a log, you are essentially flying blind and guessing what changes are needed each week. In fact, a common mistake is not to make changes as you get fitter and stronger.

This article was originally written in January 2010, and then updated in May 2013.

References and Further Reading

Look like Wolverine for $350 by Brendan Hills, The Sunday Telegraph, 5th July, 2009.

Michael Ryan reveals personal training secrets of Hugh Jackman and Lara Bingle – News.com.au, 5th July, 2009.

16-8 Hour Intermittent Fasting – MotleyHealth, 2nd Feb 2012

Exclusive Hugh Jackman Wolverine Meal Plan – Men’s Fitness, 24 April 2009.

World’s Sexiest Man Hugh Jackman Builds Mass With 6-Day Blockbuster Workout! by Brian Bullman, Bodybuilding.com, 20th February 2009.

More like this in the Celebrities section

  11 comments for “Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine Workout and Diet

  1. Patrick
    March 21, 2010 at 6:08 am

    Hey Jon,

    this is Patrick from fudw.. I’d like to ask you a question..maybe you have an idea:

    I started lifting weights at 16 years old and had pretty much accomplished my goal by age 20. I worked out 4 times/week doing basically what bodybuilders do to “bulk up” – then thought..okay I have enough muscle by now, I’ll only maintain it. Actually for the last 3 years or so I havent eaten any additional protein (while bulking up I made sure I drank a ton of low-fat milk and the light to get enough protein (2g/kg bodyweight).

    So now Im 6 years older, still in the same shape…but I’m a bit concerned about some things. To keep it brief, I want to change my work out…not using really low reps anymore as I have during the previous years+switching to exercises that are considered safe,etc. …

    The main thing Im wondering about however is protein consumption. I realize I did everything in a somewhat extreme way back then.

    I do not really have to ever push myself to eat lots of protein every day anymore the way I did it back then (in case I ever have to take time off from lifting b/c of illness, injury or w/e)…I also plan on losing a bit of muscle overall and going for nothing but a toned body. The way many athletes look who lift weights only on the side (not as their main sport)…think Michael Ballack for example, or what many swimmers look like (not as ripped, though).

    So what I wanted to ask you is this – do you know of any people (e.g. people who you train martial arts with maybe) who have some visible muscle on their frame (really just mean some gains..as mentioned above, nothing extreme..as in that it shows that they lift regularly), who just eat healthy and lift properly, but w/o making an effort to get enough protein every day?

    thanks!

  2. MotleyHealth
    March 21, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I think that you can do pretty well without huge amounts of protein, by well I mean maintain your muscle and keep reasonable trim. If you are doing your regular weight training with a some intensive cardio thrown in too then this should give you a Michael Ballack look (although his arms area bit small). I think a healthy diet is the key, plenty of fish, pulses, salads, chicken, eggs etc. with less of the red meat / saturate fats and refined carbs. This is probably more important than just getting more protein, because as you know, the muscle is usually still there, just covered in a layer of fat. But, protein is easy to get in moderate amounts – a few eggs at breakfast, chicken for lunch etc. plus a protein drink after a big workout. A lot of the fit martial artists at my old club are working out pretty hard, and doing loads of bodyweight exercises as well as boxing workouts. Not sure about many of their diets, but it is a different workout to just lifting weights, so not sure how easy it is to compare.

  3. Jo
    May 31, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Are you aware that Hugh didnt do any of the above. He followed Lean Gains and was trained by Martin Berkham. Its a 16 hour fast followed by 8 hour feeding window. Timing is crucial and he only worked out for an hour 3 days a week.

  4. MotleyHealth
    May 31, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    No, we were not aware that that fasting and 3 hours exercise a week could produce such amazing results. But that is not what either Hugh Jackman said, or his personal trainer for X-Men Origins, Mike Ryan,

    Also, we cannot find any information at all to support your claims that Hugh Jackman uses the LeanGains system. In fact, Lean Gains does not even mention him on their website. Where did you get this information from, it sounds complete nonsense.

    I am sure Leangains is not a bad way to lose fat, but nobody will build muscle like Hugh Jackman did with less than 30 minutes of exercise a day, it just is not possible. The 16-8 intermittent fasting is a becoming more popular, and Leangains appears to also promote this method of eating, but I cannot see any reference to Hugh Jackman specifically following this plan.

  5. Jason A.
    July 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    LOL, he absolutely used Lean Gains and he has mentioned it in every piece of press on the web. Why would you call something complete nonsense before you even research? Y U Haz no credibility?

  6. MotleyHealth
    July 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Research was done and no results found. The leangains.com website was searched and they do not mention Hugh Jackman at all, which is odd if he was following and endorsing their diet plan.

    Credibility relies on providing reliable information – so far the only references to Lean Gains and Hugh Jackman we have found is on comments left on various websites.

    Please share the press articles. We cannot accept something as fact simply because somebody says it on a website comment.

    He is on record saying (see the video link in the article) that he followed a “16-8 diet”, however, he never mentioned any diet by name. Even if this is the exactly same as lean gains, we cannot conclude that he specifically followed the Lean Gains system. We do know that he had a different personal trainer and nutritionist.

    Also, he certainly does more than 30 minutes of exercise a day. I have not found any reference to back up Jo’s claim that he only exercised for 3 hours a week. He has said that he exercises for 1 1/2 hours a day though:

    “I do an hour and a half a day in the gym and eat a thousand calories more a day than I would normally.” Hugh Jackman, MensHealth.com.

    That’s 9 to 10.5 hours a week (depending on how many days he exercised), a lot more than the 3 hours that Jo claimed.

    I am not convinced that a 16-8 method of eating can really be called a “fast” anyway. Many people are having their final meal at around 9pm and then a big lunch – so are going 16 hours without a meal – but they are taking around 20g of BCAA supplements in the morning, which do contain protein and therefore energy, so that is strictly not a fast, just a long gap between dinner and lunch with a small snack!

  7. The Sicilan
    July 19, 2013 at 7:54 am

    I do not think it is fair to leave out the absolute key ingredients for massive amounts of lean muscle growth in such a short period of time. I have trained for 25 years, and between the ages of 20 and 40 I kept an average of 6% body fat year round, all while eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, even at all hours of the night. We’re talking candy , donuts , cakes etc at midnight then straight to bed. I am not a drinker, but I am a sugar holic, and have been all my life. I am lucky with genetics and have built lean bulky muscle over the years.

    The secret is consistency and intensity in your work outs, period. Now that I am in my late 40s with children that are my first priority and haven’t touched the inside of a gym in over seven years I am struggling to keep the “gut” at bay.

    I will not lecture anyone on diet and exercise and supplements when I know for a fact that if you do not have youth on your side, and a single lifestyle, you cannot maintain a bulky, lean build without the help of growth hormone and testosterone supplements (steroids) to the average person reading these fad diets and diets of the stars, do yourself a favor and understand the reality of what you’re being fed, smoke and mirrors is the best laymans term I can use without getting mean and scolded for laying it out bs free.

    These multi millionaires have personal doctors that deal out a catered smorgasbord of steroids and growth hormone that are well researched and proven to blast the celebrities body into almost any size and shape in no time at all.

    If you ever get the miracle to see them a few weeks or months after the filming has completed, they will have either ballooned up or shrivelled up, depending on their natural body type and genetic make up, plain and simple, period. They may even keep the gains longer for ego or another movie deal, but eventually they have to get off the drugs and growth or suffer side effects.

    Anyone on here trying to feed you anything lees or more is totally FOS. It’s fine that Hugh jackman tries to maintain a pure innocent “don’t do drugs kids” image, that’s cool, but just like WWF, football, pro bodybuilding, geez it’s all sports now actually, even celebrities that have gotten known and work by their physiques they’re ALL “juiced up”, bottom line.

    You can reach a level of fitness without the crutches, but again, it would have to be a selfish, single lifestyle where you’re only looking out for number one, combined with the gift of great genetics. Plus as I said, consistency and intensity 5-7 days a week of 2 hrs a day devotion to weight training. It’s just sad to see all the Hollywood fad diets and training methods all the celebrities and even celebrity trainers that lecture all their “secrets” for a high price that a fool and his money are soon parted from.

    It’s actually annoying, because as I said, it’s for the young and selfish lifestyle if you want to get into that 1% that few ever reach, let alone maintain for a long period of time. You can name any celebrity you can think of that you think is all natural, and I will tell at a glance if it was even a possibility of being accurate.

    Most celebrities are pumping the GH like its VIT C during cold and flu season, even the young and beautiful ones, it’s such a shame what the cocktail of fame and ego fed my media madness will do to the young impressionable and gulab lie minds of stars and even the poor fools who will do anything to just look like one.

    I write this because in the long run its so unhealthy, both physically and mentally, but I know I know, it will never change in my life time, but at least I tried and spoke up with the knowledge that I will be assaulted by more than supported by.

    It’s late, I’m tired, time to get off the soap box and get the key to good health, SLEEP, AKA REST. Good night and stay tru to yourself your body type and your health, forget the fad diets from foneys.

  8. MotleyHealth
    July 19, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Thanks Sicilan, that will hopefully prove to be very valuable information for our readers.

  9. MotleyHealth
    July 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I watched The Wolverine today and it was a blast. Great fun all round, some excellent visuals and action packed all the way. Also, it has a very interesting teaser clip in the closing credits – do not leave the cinema early! Spoiler – both Magneto and Professor X are back!

  10. August 1, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    “The 16-8 intermittent fasting is a becoming more popular, and Leangains appears to also promote this method of eating”
    This honestly made me LOL. Martin Berkhan pretty much INVENTED this method of eating as a part of the Leangains regime in 2006-2007!

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