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
- 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.
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.