Hugh Jackman's Workout: Strong, Lean & Powerful

Hugh Jackman Wolverine Body Workout
Get ripped like Wolverine by applying the same underlying training principles Hugh Jackman did while working out in preparation for his role on the big screen.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Split
Intermediate
4 weeks
4
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines, Medicine Ball
Male
download pdfDownload Workout

Workout Description

Hugh Jackman’s physical transformation over the past years has made him one of the most impressive Hollywood physiques to cross the red carpet in the last decades. The role of Wolverine in the X-Men series is perhaps the most responsible for his physical transformation. Hugh first took on the role of Wolverine in 1999 and has transformed his body dramatically for the role on and off since then. His most dramatic transformation took place in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

To transform his physique for the 2009 film, Jackman worked for over 6 months to pack on muscle and transform himself into the impressive image of Wolverine we all know. I say all of this to make sure that I give credit where credit is due. The road to Hugh’s transformation was a long journey that required consistency and hard work. During the height of his training, Hugh was training over two hours a day seven days a week with cardio and weight training.

To find out the specifics of his workout, you can view his trainer David Kingsbury’s blog. When observing someone else’s workout, remember that it is made specifically for them. In other words, for accomplishing their goals, addressing their weaknesses, taking into consideration their timeline, and utilizing the time they have available during the week to train. In Hugh Jackman’s case, he exercised for more than 14 hours each week. That’s a part time job. Most people do not have 14 hours to train or a deadline they must meet or risk losing millions of dollars.

You can still learn from Hugh Jackman’s training and use it to reach your goals and have a physique that turns heads. You must look beyond the exercises, sets and reps schemes and view the underlying principles that his workout is based upon and apply them to your own training.

After deconstructing Jackman’s workout, here are the underlying principles and factors that allowed him to attain and maintain a superhero's physique.

 

Mama-Say, Mama-Saa #TGIF

A video posted by Hugh Jackman (@thehughjackman) on

Progressive Overload

All fitness programs should apply this principle, and if they don’t you should question whether or not you are spending your time wisely in the gym. To apply the principle of progressive overload you need to ensure that you are improving every time that you walk into the gym. Whether it is by decreasing the amount of rest in between sets, increasing the amount of weight you lift, or the number of reps in your sets, you must strive to progress in order to bring about change in your body.

The easiest way to ensure progress is to keep a workout log so you can look at the details of your last workout and make your adjustments from there. Your adjustments each workout don’t have to be the same. One workout you might increase the number of reps and the next workout you might decrease the reps and increase the load then work your way back up to performing more reps with heavier weights. Or maybe you just decide to cut your rest periods and try and keep the weight and reps the same. The point here is to make sure that you are always moving towards your goal!

Use the 2 for 2 rule: if you perform an exercise for 2 reps over your goal reps for 2 consecutive workouts then you increase the weight you are lifting by 5-10 lbs and work towards repeating the process of the 2 for 2 rule again.

Percentage Based Training

Hugh’s trainer picks four big lifts in which he prioritizes strength development. He bases the sets and reps off of a percentage of Hugh’s One-Rep Max in each of four chosen lifts: bench press, deadlift, squat, and weighted chins. Jackman’s trainer waves the sets and reps in four week cycles which systematically increase in intensity for three weeks. On the fourth week he decreases intensity and adds volume before starting the cycle over again with a heavier (+ 5-10lbs) predicted 1RM.

To apply this to your own training, you can take the percentages, sets, and reps from Hugh’s workout or you can invest in another percentage based training system like Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 or Chad Wesley’s Juggernaut program and utilize the sets, reps, and percentages to ensure that you keep making consistent gains in strength. When you get stronger, you are able to translate that new strength into more weight and reps in your hypertrophy work which will allow you to build more muscle. The key is to have a plan to keep getting stronger and stick to the plan! Percentage based strength work is performed at the beginning of the workout and only for the main lift of the day. The rest of the exercises in the workout should stick to the 2 for 2 rule.

Accountability

This is another principle that you can steal from Hugh’s training. You'll make more gains if you have someone or something holding you accountable. You may stay accountable to a coach or workout partner, or even an event deadline. Hugh has a number of factors keeping him accountable: his trainer, his group of workout partners that he calls the Dogpound (you can check them out on Instagram at the hashtag #Dogpound), and his job that requires him to maintain a certain appearance.

Take advantage of accountability to reach your goals too. It doesn't matter if it's entering a 10K, powerlifting or weightlifting meet, or a CrossFit or bodybuilding competition. The fact that you have a deadline keeps you accountable to your training. If using an event to stay accountable is not in your wheel house, get a training partner or a coach to help out and provide positive feedback and encouragement (or a foot in the rear) when training gets tough.

 

Ass to the grass.

A video posted by Hugh Jackman (@thehughjackman) on

Consistency

Transforming your physique is a process and it was no different for Hugh than for anyone else. It takes time and consistency for your body to achieve the desired adaptations to training that you want it to have. This is perhaps the most important factor in Hugh’s training that delivers results. Your body will not make long-term changes with short-term training programs. Hugh’s program didn’t change much from week to week. He used the same exercises week in and week out for upwards of SIX months.

The variety came from increasing and decreasing the amount of sets and reps or the weight being used (see progressive overload). You need to keep grinding away week after week in order to achieve your goals of looking or performing a certain way. To apply this to your own training, find a long term program that is organized and allows for you to keep progressing towards your goals and see it through till the end. Stick to a program instead of hopping from one program to the next and give your body time to make the adaptations that you want.

The Workout

Here's a sample of what a 4 day a week workout would look like using principles from Hugh’s workouts for week one in a four-week cycle.

Day 1

Exercise Sets & Reps Rest
1. Bench Press 4 Sets of 5 @60/65/75/75% 1RM 60-90 sec
2. Weighted Dip 3 Sets of 10 (2-for-2 Rule) 60-90 sec
3a. Incline DB Bench Press 3 Sets of 12 0
3b. DB Pullover 3 Sets of 10 0
3c. Cable Crossovers 3 Sets of 10 90 sec before repeating Triset
4a. Hanging Leg Raises 12, 10, 8, 6 0
4b. Weighted Crunch 4 Sets of 12 90 sec before repeating Superset

Day 2

Exercise Sets & Reps Rest
1. Squat 4 Sets of 5 @60/65/75/75% 1RM 3 min
2. Single-Leg Press 3 Sets of 10 each leg (2-for-2 Rule) 60-90 sec
3a. Leg Curl 3 Sets of 12 0
3b. Calf Raise 3 Sets of 15 0
3c. Split Squat 3 Sets of 10 90 sec before repeating Triset
4. Plank Complex: Front, Left, Right 3 Sets of 30-45 sec each position Complete all 3 positions before resting max 90 sec

Day 3

Exercise Sets & Reps Rest
1. Weighted Chins 4 Sets of 5 @60/65/75/75% 1RM 3 min
2. T-Bar Row 3 Sets of 10 (2-for-2 Rule) 60-90 sec
3a. Lat Pulldown 3 Sets of 12 0
3b. Seated Cable Row 3 Sets of 10 0
3c. Face Pull 3 Sets of 12 90 sec before repeating Triset
4a. Standing Med Ball Chop 3 Sets of 8, left and right 0
4b. Weighted Crunch 4 Sets of 12 90 sec before repeating Superset

Day 4

Exercise Sets & Reps Rest
1. Deadlift 4 Sets of 5 @60/65/75/75% 1RM 3 min
2. Shoulder Press 5 Sets of 5 (2-for-2 Rule) 60-90 sec
3a. Front Raise 3 Sets of 12 0
3b. Rear Delt Fly 3 Sets of 10 0
3c. Lateral Raise 3 Sets of 10 90 sec before repeating Triset
4a. Biceps 21's 3 Sets of 7 close grip, 7 wide grip, 7 tempo 0
4b. Bench Dips 3 Sets of 20 90 sec before repeating Superset

28 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sat, 10/21/2017 - 19:09
David

Yes day four was by far the hardest workout of all. I've never seen so many difficult exercises in one workout after doing deadlift you do for shoulder exercises and then 21-gun salute and bench dips superset. Yikes!

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Posted Wed, 10/18/2017 - 21:02
David

so far I've done the first 3 days in Week 1 and everything's been going really well but 4th day looks super hard. I know this workout is listed as a beginner workout but I must say I'm an intermediate and it's kicking my tail.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 10/19/2017 - 09:11
JoshEngland

Hi David,

Thanks for pointing that out. I would classify it as an intermediate-advance workout as well. I went ahead an updated that portion of the program.

Thanks again!

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Posted Thu, 04/20/2017 - 08:48
Jonathan

Hi,

Can you please explain this a bit more in detail?

" Jackman’s trainer waves the sets and reps in four week cycles which systematically increase in intensity for three weeks. On the fourth week he decreases intensity and adds volume before starting the cycle over again with a heavier (+ 5-10lbs) predicted 1RM."

Does this mean that you increase the weight each week if you are hitting the desired reps? Then lower the weight for week 4 and do more reps? If so, to what percentage would you lower the weight? I am bit confused with the wording and just want to make sure I am following what you are saying.

Thanks in advance.

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Posted Mon, 07/17/2017 - 12:25
bryan

I know this is a bit late, but for anyone else reading this.. The real hugh Jackman workout has you workout percentages for the first workout increase and the reps decrease with the first workout... while increasing the weight used on each exercise by one increment each week. So week 1 is good to go, week 2 you increase percentages to 65/75/80 and decrease reps to 4, same with week 3 to 70/80/90 and do 3 reps , than at week 4 you do 4 sets of 10 at 40/50/60/60. And add 5 pounds to every exercise and 10 pounds to every exercise that involves a dumbbell each week. you can look up exact percentages online

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Posted Sun, 11/20/2016 - 08:33
mpits

Hello and congratulations for this wonderful workout...i wanna ask a question...i wonder what about the biceps? I dont see biceps exercises in the program

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 11/21/2016 - 09:27
JoshEngland

Hi mpits,

The biceps are a very small muscle group and don't require a lot of work for them to see growth. They get worked a lot indirectly with exercises that target the back.

In this workout, the only direct work is from sets of "21s". That and other indirect work is probably enough to promote muscle growth, but if you feel like your biceps are lagging or if it's a hard muscle group for you to develop, you're more than welcome to add in an extra bicep exercise to the workout.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 11/21/2016 - 16:24
mpits

Ok now i understand...may i put an extra exercise..thanks a lot for your response :)

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Posted Mon, 05/02/2016 - 20:36
John

Just noticed on this workout there is no shrugs or forearm exercises can I add them in for day 5? And what would u suggest doing?

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Posted Wed, 04/06/2016 - 11:03
Jessie

My roommate and I started this workout last week, we were wondering what the "2-for-2 Rule" was?

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Posted Thu, 02/18/2016 - 01:59
Ethancole2-8

On the bench pressing, am I supposed to do 1 set of 5 reps at 60%( and so on up to 75%) or am I supposed to do 4 sets of 5 reps on each weight percentage?

MikeWines's picture
Posted Thu, 02/18/2016 - 11:03
MikeWines

Ethan,
4 sets of 5 up to 75%. For example,

x5@60%
x5@65%
x5@75%
x5@75%

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Posted Fri, 02/19/2016 - 01:32
Ethancole2-8

Thanks. Thought so, but wanted to make sure.

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Posted Wed, 11/18/2015 - 00:49
Troels skov

Hello everybody, I am pretty new at The fitness.
I am trying to Follow The program, but I have one question? Where is the biceps traning??

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Posted Thu, 09/24/2015 - 04:23
David

in the strength sets does one set include 1 rep at 60%,1 rep at 65%,2 reps at 75% then 1 at max or something else.

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Posted Tue, 09/01/2015 - 22:00
Roar

Hi, Im pretty fresh to the whole weightlifting thing, but on day 2 3c, split squat is this bulgarian split squat, with dumbell or barbell?
On Day 3 4a, can you replace the med ball with either a dumbell or a bumper plate?

Thanks in advance
Roar

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Posted Sat, 07/25/2015 - 09:18
Patrick

3 x 10 with 0 (REST TIME)

it's mean 30 reps without stop?

LukeAtchley's picture
Posted Mon, 07/27/2015 - 11:28
LukeAtchley

Patrick the exercises that have 0 rest are part of a triset or superset where you move from one exercise to the next without rest. The last exercise of the triset you get to rest for 90 seconds before performing the triset over again.

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Posted Mon, 07/27/2015 - 15:44
Patrick

Ohh ok!

Thx!!

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Posted Wed, 11/18/2015 - 00:51
Troels skov

What about biceps??
None of The exercises focus on this?

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Posted Fri, 07/24/2015 - 15:50
Patrick

when you say that 3x10 with 0 rest, so i have to do 30 reps without rest?

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Posted Wed, 06/03/2015 - 14:18
Thomas

This is pretty intense and no cardio. Anybody know about the cardio?

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Posted Thu, 06/04/2015 - 17:37
Luke

when he first started training for the role he did some low intensity cardio and as the movie got closer his trainer started adding more HIIT sessions. Jackman performed some form of cardio 5-6 days out of the week.

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Posted Sun, 05/31/2015 - 19:08
Naveen

He was counting calorie?

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Posted Fri, 05/29/2015 - 07:13
Frank

I would love to know what his diet consisted of.

LukeAtchley's picture
Posted Fri, 05/29/2015 - 11:53
LukeAtchley

Hey Frank. Hugh's diet was primarily a high protein diet with a lot of greens and a little starches like rice and sweet potato with a couple of cheat meals thrown in here and there when his trainer told him to. He also performed a version of intermittent fasting where he only at his meals during a four or five hour window. Keep in mind that Hugh said that during one of his shirtless scenes he was so depleted of water that he nearly passed out while performing his stunt work, looking that shredded comes with a cost. Hope that helps.

MikeWines's picture
Posted Wed, 05/27/2015 - 14:06
MikeWines

Killing it big man, keep up the good work!

LukeAtchley's picture
Posted Fri, 05/29/2015 - 11:53
LukeAtchley

Thanks Mike!