We've all heard tales of the crazy workouts that movie stars go through to portray the spectacular superheroes we see on the big screen. It doesn't need to be said that the question crossing most of our minds is, "will they work for the average, noncelebrity male wanting the muscles of a Marvel character?"
In 2017, Brendan Jones hopped on the "Mutant Strength: Hugh Jackman's Wolverine Workout Plan" with the goal of packing on muscle in a way he hadn't been able to achieve before. Jones documented the journey and posted the transformation video to his YouTube channel, "The Goal Guys," which he now runs full-time with his brother. The video has gotten more than 6.2 million views and saw a resurgence over the past few months.
Surprisingly, it wasn't the workouts that proved to be the hardest part of the program for Jones, it was the eating.
"I really had to figure out how to manage the eating and time it right," he says. "Eating became a ritual. I was mindlessly eating because it was about getting the food in rather than enjoying. I was always full, but still eating."
Jones sums up his experience in the YouTube's video description: "I busted my ass for 10 weeks, working out more than I ever have. Eating more than I thought I possibly could. But it was WORTH IT."
By the end of the program, Jones had gained 16 pounds without taking any extra supplements. His goal had been to see what straight-up, old-fashioned diet and exercise alone could do for him. The results were visible and hard-earned!
Now that he is a few years removed from his transformation, we talked with Jones to get the full lowdown on what those 10 weeks entailed and how the experience shaped the way he approaches training now.
Here's Brendan Jones' Wolverine transformation story.
What made you want to start this program?
The reason was twofold. My brother and I had just started "The Goal Guys" YouTube channel, so we were trying to see what might make for a great video that people would want to watch. And I'd always had an interest in trying to build muscle, but before that I was working out just to stay healthy. I was curious to see what I could do by changing my diet.
At the same time, there was a big superhero movie wave going on and a lot of coverage on how they were taking average, skinny actors and turning them into Captain America in 3-6 months. I wanted to see how it would work for me, even without a trainer or the extra resources that an actor would have.
What was the diet like? Did you enjoy it?
It was an incremental process for me. On day one, I tried to jump to four meals a day. It was a lot of meat, and I felt sick almost immediately. By about week 5 or 6, I was doing 6-8 eggs and egg whites mixed together (sometimes with goat cheese), a whole bunch of multigrain toast, a lot of sweet potatoes, greens, brown rice, chicken, turkey, and seasonings to try to give everything a little bit a flavor. It was relatively bland for the most part, and there was usually about one meal a day where I would add a little barbecue sauce to ease up on the boredom. I definitely don't eat this way now.
What about the workouts? Was it a new style of training for you, or did you have experience in the gym?
I worked out for basketball in high school and continued to do so through college but kind of let it fall off in my early 20s. By the time I started this program, I was pretty much back at square one with how much weight I could lift. Looking back at the video, I can see how much I'd let my workouts drop off simply because I was working nonstop. The biggest challenge was rebuilding the habit of getting up early and getting my workout in, and if I didn't, I'd have to go later in the evening. Once I was in the gym, I felt pretty comfortable and generally enjoyed the workouts and pushing myself. The gym was the fun part for me.
What was the hardest workout you did?
The lower-body workouts were always the hardest. I did 1-2 of those a week, and after I did them, I didn't feel like doing much the rest of the day. They made me feel incredibly tired. With the program as a whole, there were times I questioned if it was working, or if I wasn't doing a good enough job pushing myself. I kept thinking, "What if I fail? What if I'm doing this wrong?" I didn't want to end up having crummy results and nothing to show for it in the video for the channel.
What was the most challenging aspect of your journey?
The constant eating of things that were not fun to eat. The fact that it cost a lot of money also kind of sucked. It was a meat-heavy diet and a lot of vegetables. I kept looking at the grocery receipts, thinking, "Man, is this worth it?" I was doing Costco runs to get 50 eggs for the week and having to go back for 50 more. That was a little insane. It took so much time to cook and prep meals, too. After I finished, I knew I couldn't sustain eating at that level.
What was your biggest lesson learned in this process?
In hindsight, I learned how much work it takes to sustain the muscle you worked so hard to build. I also learned that it's hard to keep yourself accountable after a transformation like this is done. You have to continue doing parts of it or find new ways to train and eat. Otherwise, all the hard work can go away really quickly.
Would you do this program again?
I would like to do another bulking program, but I don't think I would do this exact one. I'd love to try something similar with a trainer guiding me through the process. Everything you see in the video was just me going on my own instincts, and I would love to do a 6-10-week program where someone could show me exactly how hard to push or how to tweak the workout or diet for me specifically.
What does your training and nutrition look like now?
All of my workouts are home workouts now, so I've been doing a lot of calisthenics and jumping rope. I'd like to do a swimmer's marathon, so most of my training is figuring out how to build the cardiovascular endurance for that and training my shoulders and upper body for endurance. With nutrition, I'm definitely not eating nearly as much but enough to provide energy for my workouts. Back then I would guess it was between 3,000-4,000 calories, but it didn't really matter as long as I was gaining weight. Now, it's probably close to 2,500 calories most days.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about trying this program?
If this is really something you want to accomplish, pick a point in your life when you have the time to put into it. It's not just the workouts; it's the meal prep and the eating. It takes more time out of your days than you think it will. If you are someone with a demanding job or a family that you cannot take time away from, I would say to just take care of yourself and stay healthy with regular exercise and healthy eating.
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