Mutant Strength: Hugh Jackman's Wolverine Workout Plan
Wolverine is a badass. There's no doubt about it. He's more than 100 years old, fluent in more than seven languages, and has trained as a samurai in Japan. His claws and bones are made of adamantium, an indestructible metal that can cut through any known substance.
The only guy who could possibly be more of a badass than Wolverine is Hugh Jackman. This is how he looks at age 44, and how he looked at 31.
Find me another guy who can boast a similar before-and-after during that age range. It won't be easy.
Jackman has always been a stud, but he didn't take the leap to "specimen" until he started working with trainer David Kingsbury. I recently got the chance to sit down with Kingsbury, who prepared Jackman for his role in "The Wolverine" and has been his trainer ever since. Kingsbury gave me an inside look at the overall approach he took to create the Wolverine physique, and, of course, the details: his diet, supplementation, and training plan.
Name: David Kingsbury
Location: Iver, United Kingdom
Occupation: Former MMA fighter, now owner and head trainer at The Fitness Room. He also offers online coaching and is the author of the e-book "Advanced Fast Nutrition."
QTell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved in the celebrity training business.
Originally my intention was to work with athletes. I trained Muay Thai in Thailand for a few years and had seven pro fights. When I returned to the UK, my original goal was to open up an MMA facility near where I lived. One day I was talking to one of my clients about my options. He's a successful businessman, and he told me that he worked at Pinewood Film Studios. He put me in touch with the property team, and before I knew it I had a small personal training space in the film studio.
After a few years, the business had grown to the point where I opened a full gym in the studio. At this point, I was working with many people in the film industry, from producers to office workers. One of my clients, a producer, said he had a film for me to work on after experiencing great results himself. That was four years ago, and I've been back-to-back on films ever since.
How did you get hooked up with Hugh Jackman?
I was just finishing up a film at Pinewood and got a call from the production coordinator from "Les Miserables." She said there was an actor she wanted me to meet later that day, and that if he chose me, I would be working with him. At this point there was no mention about who it might be.
About 20 minutes prior to the meeting, she called me and said, "Hugh Jackman is on his way over." I have always admired Hugh and have a massive respect for the shape he gets into for roles, so I was excited.
Hugh came in and we chatted about the goals of "The Wolverine" and what he was hoping to achieve. He then booked his first session for 8 a.m. the following day. We did a quick assessment and got to work.
What kind of shape was he in when you guys first started working together?
He was in great shape coming straight from shooting for "Les Miserables." He was very lean, but a bit smaller than usual; he had just come off a Broadway show. The goals for "Les Miserables" were to have him as lean as humanly possible while retaining the muscle mass and strength that the character needed.
What was the goal for the Wolverine?
To exceed any of his previous films in terms of muscle mass and leanness. We had about five months to meet this goal but were a bit limited on time due to him still filming for "Les Miserables." It was really in the last 3-4 months that the major changes happened.
How was your relationship
I have been working with Hugh for almost two years now, and we are currently on our fourth project, "X-Men: Days of Future Past." We're both easygoing and share similar interests. As a trainer, if you don't get along with your clients, they generally won't want to train with you for 1-2 hours every day, six days a week, for two years!
In terms of training with him, he's very motivated and adherent, so he doesn't require a drill sergeant or babysitter. We train together, and I always push the intensity. The sessions are very focused and we use each other for motivation. We have similar strength and endurance levels, so we have a health rivalry, seeing who can push the limits further.
What was the biggest problem you faced in preparing him for "The Wolverine?"
Lack of rest. We trained very early in the morning and worked long days. Some days we were limited to 5-6 hours of sleep per night. On those days, I encouraged naps during the day when possible.
What kind of training approach did you take with him?
Hugh hadn't done much direct strength work prior to training with me. He mostly worked in the 8-12 rep range. 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.
How did he get so muscular while adding virtually no body fat?
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.
What were you feeding him?
The food varied through the different stages. However, we followed one nutrition principle throughout the entire training: carb cycling. We had carbs on weight training days, and went low-carb on rest days.
The most important part of dieting comes in calculating the amount of calories and macronutrients for the specific goal. He ate very clean throughout the entire film, but more importantly, he consumed the right amount of calories for his goal.
In terms of meals, we did nothing new or exciting. Here's an example for a training day:
The Wolverine Diet
Sounds delicious. What about supplements?
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.
Working One-Rep Max Calculator
Tell me about the program you used with Hugh.
The primary goals of this plan were to improve strength and size while keeping body fat to a minimum. We used a program that included progressive overload to ensure continual strength gains. The system may look complicated at first, but once you get started and have your numbers recorded, it becomes a very easy system to follow.
The training program is designed on a four-week schedule. During these four weeks the reps for the main lifts are changed each week. For the first three weeks the weight should increase each week. Then, during the fourth week, the weight is reduced to be able to perform 10 reps.
We worked off a percentage system to figure out exactly what weights we should be lifting each week for the main lifts. For all of the weeks, the percentages are calculated from your working 1-rep max. To figure out your working 1-rep max, take 95 percent of your 1-rep max.
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.
The Wolverine Workout
Here are your marching orders for the next four weeks. Eat like a mutant and give your body plenty of space to heal and grow. You're not Wolverine, after all.
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It is definitely interesting to read about how celebrities are transformed! Of course, all the "regular folk" transformations are motivating, but seeing how fast Hugh transformed in such a short period is motivating and highly interesting! Thanks for getting this interview and information!
I've been wanting this article ever since I first saw The Wolverine back in August. It's super cool to finally get some insight into how Jackman made the startling transformation from Les Miserables to The Wolverine.
Animal pump and nitro are awesome to stack together no better workout combo that I've tried.
I think it's a bad angle in the before picture more than anything else. He has gotten progressively more jacked with each successive movie, though.
Wait, why was there no mentioning of Hugh Jackman doing Intermittent Fasting? When he was training for his Wolverine movie, he did a 16 hour fast/8 hour eating window everyday. His diet, training and intermittent fasting is what got him so ripped for that role. But of course Bodybuilding.com doesn't want people knowing that because they recommend the 6 small meal eating approach which is B.S.
Just look up "hugh jackman intermittent fasting" on Youtube and/or Google. You'll find a lot on this topic.
i cant handle 6 rabbit meals a day, give me the big meals
dude this is sooo true. Intermittent fasting doesn't get the publicity it deserves because supplement companies wouldn't make bank off of the people that believe that meal frequency can somehow speed up metabolism(which it doesn't) and stay in an anabolic state(which if your eating enough protein, your pretty much always anabolic except right after fasted training) and buy meal replacements and such. Same goes for pro bodybuilders who are sponsored by these companies.(END OF RANT)
Yeah reading this article made it seem like he was doing Intermittent Fasting (maybe Leangains) without directly saying that.
They mentioned that when he was cutting, he would workout in the fasted state.
hey I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't work for bodybuilding.com however I will say that if you will read the passage that says sounds delicious what about supplements you will see it does state there that he did fast. I doubt very seriously that adding or subtracting this type of information would boost the read of this material for bodybuilding.com. may I suggest that you re read bodybuilding.com is doing a wonderful job presenting information to us.
What's everyone's thought about reducing to eliminating creatine during a cut? I thought taking creatine was beneficial during a cut. And I also noticed that he had Jackman on L-Carnitine too which I thought wasn't that beneficial.........
Creatine pumps the muscles with water and gives them a softer look. So obviously to look crazy lean and vascular they cut out the creatine.
Hmmmm...never heard that but okay.....I have to do more research about this. I use creatine practically everyday and like the benefits. That's why I was asking but thanks my friend.
Depends on what type of creatine really creatine hcl doesn't have water sit on top of the muscle like creatine monohydrate does but creatine hcl still pulls water into the muscle making it look bigger but without the bloated look :)
Dont stop taking it... The only purpose would be to cut some vanity lbs off the scale. Water in the muscle is not the same as holding water in the skin...
creatine is one of the most complete supplements out there. it has no recorded negative side effects, helps in brain function as well as muscle growth (not directly but helps in creating more ATP so we can push harder during workouts for longer) , and although it doesn't make you veiny it doesn't have any INSANE water retention that the old versions of creatine used to have although during a cut it isn't the most sought out supplement. however, specifically monohydrate is one of the cheapest and most beneficial because of its atomic structure and yes L-carnitine is useful in the sense that it helps essentially transport free fat cells towards mitochondria where they can be oxidized and used as energy. however, what they fail to mention is that the pre-workout is the only way these fat cells could be freed. carnitine to be used to its fullest potential needs a thermogenic, likely caffeine in the pre-workout, to free these fat cells at which point the L-carnitine could work its magic otherwise it isn't as useful on its own. hope that helped. optimal combo for fat loss is green tea (EGCG), L-carnitine and caffeine. CLA is optional.