Hugh Jackman’s transformation into the mutant Wolverine has been superhuman. Since first appearing on the big screen as the comic book icon in 2000, Jackman’s turned his skinny frame into a dense physique of powerful striated muscle. How’d he do it? A not-so-science-fiction approach of hard work, unwavering dedication, and years of effort.
- Introduction: Mastering the Wolverine Mindset
- The Wolverine Workout Plan
- The Workout Routines: Mutant Muscle Bulking Workout & Fat Clawing Cutting Workout
- Feeding the Beast: Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine Diet
- Conclusion: The Closing Word on Becoming Wolverine
Introduction: Mastering the Wolverine Mindset
Unlike many actors who hit it hard for one specific role, Hugh Jackman has played the long game. Rather than party in the Hollywood hills and let his body slip, he’s stayed so shredded he’d put most pro athletes to shame.
As Jackman himself likes to say, ‘it’s easier to stay in shape, than get in shape’, which explains why he always looks like an animal. By staying on top of his training and diet the Aussie is able to make micro adjustments rather than have to commit to a complete physical overhaul.
However, it wasn’t always that way. As a young man, the jacked movie star was known for being lanky and skinny. His past personal trainers even called him ‘chicken legs’ for his lackluster wheels. The truth was, Jackman didn’t see the point in lifting weights. He thought all that muscle was superficial and good for nothing.
Today, Jackman is a sucker for big ass lifts, and he’s no stranger to tapping into what he calls his inner Wolverine for tackling those last soul-crushing reps. When speaking to Men’s Health, the Australian born man-machine revealed, “if I’m training on my own I scream – people look at me.”
Not bad for a guy who previously scoffed at the thought of bending iron with his bare hands. Maybe it has something to do with those deadly adamantium claws?
The Wolverine Workout Plan
Bro, we’ll be brutally honest. There’s no quick fix for looking like Hugh Jackman. Becoming Wolverine is a never-ending process of turning a mortal man into a non-aging mutant warrior. However, the entire process so far has been based on established principals of both diet and training.
Regardless of which trainer he’s used, Jackman has always focused on two methods to craft his physique. These are employing progressive overload to bodybuilding style lifts, alongside embracing both bulking and cutting phases. So, not only does he smash the iron to get big, but he’ll crush his cardio too.
Plus, throughout his transformation, Jackman has focused on short sharp workouts. In interviews, he’s explained he rarely works out for longer than an hour and always listens to his body. “If you train too hard and too often, you’ll burn out,” says the star.
To build a mutant body like Wolverine, work each muscle group with superhuman focus. Center your workout around the main big lifts, but then move onto specific isolated exercises. Jackman and his trainers have left no stone unturned or fiber untouched to create a lean, functional, yet imposing physique. This has been done by supporting big compound movements with smaller isolation exercises.
Finally, build your mass first before mercilessly clawing away the fat. According to the man behind Wolverine himself; “I started training a year before the film [X-Men] began. When you’re changing your body, it takes that sort of time to make permanent changes.” That means embrace the process, keep your nose to the grindstone, and don’t look for shortcuts – you’ll get there bro, trust the experts.
Related article: Deload Week: How to Deload and The Importance of Recovery Week
The Workout Routines
The only way Hugh could fit in his workouts around hectic filming schedules was to go hard in the morning. It isn’t unheard of for Jackman and his trainers to be in the gym at four AM, ripping heavy deadlifts without excuses.
According to Jackman’s former trainer Mike Ryan, “research suggests that people who train in the afternoons consistently do workouts of far less intensity than those do to train in the morning.”
So, for the full Wolverine effect, tear your workouts apart in the early hours, but only if you can get enough sleep.
Here are two Wolverine workout examples like that used for Jackman’s most infamous Hollywood role.
Mutant Muscle Bulking Workout
Whilst bulking to become Wolverine the actor altered his training to center around lifting heavy. Whilst blasting cardio is great for revealing existing mass, lifting big is king for crafting slabs of lean muscle.
When building your Wolverine bulk-split for the week, start out with your main big lifts. Embrace the power of the deadlift, squat, and bench press, by constantly evolving them with variations. Keep the rep range low between 1-6 and don’t hold back the intensity. Unleash your inner Logan and stack the plates, bro.
Once the big lifts are demolished, move onto laser-precise accessory exercises. These are additional hypertrophy movements, so ignite those sarcomeres by sticking to 10-14 reps. Run your final two sets to failure and don’t fear supersets. In the past, Jackman’s trainers used supersets to employ planned overload and push his muscles to the limit.
Check out the example chest and shoulders session below. Build your own workouts following the same formula of low rep compounds followed by fiber thrashing hypertrophy sets.
Remember to keep it razor sharp like Wolverine and maintain intensity for a short yet effective workout.
Here’s a Hugh Jackman style bulk day:
Warm up: 10-20 mins Rowing – 3-5 RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)
Mobility: Dynamic stretching and muscle activation
- 1.a Deadlift: >85% 1 RM – 6 reps / 3 sets
- 2.a Eccentric bench press: >85% 1RM – 6 reps / 4 sets
- 3.a Military press: 60-80% 1RM – 10-12 reps / 3 sets
- 4.a Dumbbell bench flye: 60-80% 1RM – 10-14 reps / 3 sets
- 5.a Cable crossovers: 60-80% 1RM – 10-14 reps / 3 sets
- 5.b Dumbbell lateral raise: 60-80% 1RM – 10-14 reps / 3 sets
Related article: What Is Muscle Hypertrophy and How to Cause It?
Fat Clawing Cutting Workout
Once the bulk had been piled onto Hugh Jackman’s body it was time to sculpt his frame. However, rather than nail the cardio, to pull away the pounds the star and his trainers knew they must maintain lean mass. The cut is all about revealing the intricacies of every single muscle fiber, not wiping it out completely.
The key to doing this is by maintaining high levels of resistance training. By still lifting weights Jackman’s muscles stay strong, utilized, and defined whilst the fat is stripped away. Yet, according to his trainer David Kingsbury, the volume of cardio had to be increased to achieve the desired result.
Cardio for a killer body is no longer about endless hours on the treadmill. For a physique worthy of the Wolverine role, it’s all about short-sharp bursts of furious intensity. Easy for a mutant with heightened animal-like athleticism and senses.
We’ll use sprints on the rower just like Jackman, but you can complete them on foot, on the bike, or even in the pool. Just use the concept of intensity over duration and you’ll see striated single-digit definition in no time.
Here’s an example of a cutting workout performed on leg day, including additional core and cardio exercises:
Warm up: 10-20 mins Static cycling machine – 3-5 RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)
Mobility: Dynamic stretching and muscle activation
- 1.a Back squat: >85% 1 RM – 6 reps / 3 sets
- 2.a Leg press: >85% 1RM – 6 reps / 3 sets
- 3.a Bulgarian split squat: 60-80% 1RM – 10-14 reps / 3 sets
- 4.a Dumbbell lateral lunge: 65-85% 1RM – 6-10 reps / 3 sets
- 5.a Medicine ball slams – 10 reps / 3 sets
- 5.b Hanging leg raise – 10 reps / 3 sets
- Cardio: Rowing sprints – 30:30secs / 4 sets
Feeding the Beast: Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine Diet
When not crushing workouts week in week out, Hugh Jackman is consistently eating clean to stay Wolverine ready. Neither he nor his trainers believe in ‘dirty bulks’ and focus the Australian actor’s diet around lean proteins, high-quality carbs, and essential fats.
That doesn’t mean Jackman doesn’t enjoy himself, but he’s disciplined enough to stay on track. A typical day of Wolverine fueling would see Jackman eat mostly like a stereotypical athlete, not a Hollywood superstar.
Here’s what the insanely shredded actor would fuel his workouts with:
- Meal 1 – Eggs and Oatmeal
- Meal 2 – Steak, Sweet Potato, and Broccoli
- Meal 3 – Chicken, Brown Rice, and Spinach
- Meal 4 – Fish, Avocado, and Broccoli
- Supplements – Creatine (when bulking), BCAA’s, and L-Carnitine
Related article: Oatmeal Benefits – 4 Muscle Building Breakfasts for Bodybuilders
Carbohydrates – Carb cycling to crush excess body fat
On screen, Wolverine takes shredded to a whole other level. His powerful wrecking-machine of a body represents an animalistic beast — razor sharp and streamlined for the attack.
When you see a predator such as a wild alpha-male wolf the first thing you notice is their lean powerful shape. So, the man behind Wolverine could be no different either. After all, he is a never-aging mutant and not your average guy in the gym.
Maintaining single-digit bodyfat like a ferocious predator is no easy task. However, Hugh Jackman has since revealed to interviewers that he cycles his carbohydrates to keep them away from his fat stores.
After 3 PM all carbohydrates are kept off limits because this is when his metabolism slows down. Once the training stops, the carbs stop, otherwise unused sugars could end up stored as fat for later. “If you just made that one change and did nothing else, you’d lose 11lb (5kgs) in the first month,” says Jackman when talking about this common approach.
Related article: Carbs and Weight Loss in Bodybuilding: A Complete Guide
Protein – Amino acids for animalistic muscle
Building impressive and sustainable muscle can only be guaranteed by eating enough protein. Without the essential macronutrient, any muscle fibers torn and damaged by intense workouts cannot recover, leading to muscle wastage and malnutrition.
For these reasons, the Aussie actor takes no chances with his daily amino intake. “I always keep a protein shake by my bed,” he says, “if I happen to wake up in the night, I down it before I go back to sleep.” According to Jackman, this helps to keep his muscles repairing and metabolism ticking over.
“You need 1.3 g or protein per 1 lb of target bodyweight”, says the Wolverine star when talking about daily intakes. The best way to get enough protein in your diet is by including it in every meal.
Rather than filling a meal with carbs, always include a high-quality protein source or at least a shake. In the evening opt for a casein powder over whey for a slow release whilst you sleep.
Related article: Protein Guide: Eating for Your Goals
Conclusion – The final word on becoming Wolverine
Becoming a beast like Wolverine didn’t happen overnight for Hugh Jackman. Rather than taking the easy route of dirty bulking, chemical gains, and CGI, he committed his life to becoming an actual animal.
Even when not preparing for the screen he’s still under the iron. “There is nothing on my radar to train for at the moment, but I’m in the gym five days a week,” he’s said between roles. So, smash your workouts on the double and play the long game. Be sustainable in your approach and listen to your body for recovery cues.
When building your own Wolverine worthy physique embrace the bulk and shave down with the shred. Spend a month or two solid stacking mass before spending six weeks shredding down. After a total of 12-16 weeks, you’ll have transformed from mere man to muscle mutant. That’s the Hugh Jackman way after all.
Finally, keep it clean in the kitchen. High-definition slabs of lean mass aren’t just made in the iron house and that’s what makes Jackman stand out from the rest. Cycle your carbs around training times and feast on protein at every meal. Don’t feel like you can’t enjoy yourself though, as a well-timed cheat is proven to keep you on track whilst kicking cravings to the dirt .
See you under the bar, bro.
Coelho do Vale, R., Pieters, R. and Zeelenberg, M. (2016). The benefits of behaving badly on occasion: Successful regulation by planned hedonic deviations. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 26(1), pp.17-28.
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