They’re the same men you see on the cover of magazines promising ‘Big Arms Now’. But claims about LA’s biggest names getting in shape are often met with scepticism. Building muscle and burning fat for a role is their job, isn’t it? How are you meant to replicate that kind of training when you’re locked in the office for long hours and the only personal chef you have is made by Russell Hobbs?
However, it is possible to match these muscle-bound front men – all you need to do is set a training goal from the workout methods below and make them stick. Your lifestyle may not allow for 24/7 gym dedication like Dwayne Johnson. But if you make this advice – from Simon Inman, personal trainer at The Dorchester Hotel – a long-term investment, you can still see Oscar-worthy results.
Brad Pitt – Lean Muscle
OK, we’re not talking about Brad in 2016. The man has enough on his plate right now to be worrying about what he looks like with his top off. But back in 1999, Brad’s Fight Club physique set the bar for film #fitspiration, well before hashtags had even been invented.
He was strong, fast and lethal. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on his body and he was walking around with just enough muscle to fill out your favourite shirt. Not that you’d ever want to wear one if you looked like that.
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Legend has it that Pitt just turned up on set like that. But you’ll need to put in a little more work. To replicate this look you need to tailor your training to build muscle and burn fat at the same time. High reps and short recovery times are key to maximising calorie burn while increasing strength.
“Stick to 60-second rest or below to get your cardiovascular system ticking over,” says Inman. “You need to make sure your body is burning oxygen without breaking down muscle – which means you don’t want to go too crazy on the weight.” If you’ve heard of HIIT training or have the chance to join a circuits class at the gym, this is the body type you’ll progress to.
Aim for 40 minutes of explosive, plyometric movement a few times a week. Don’t fancy sweating it out in a standard gym? It’s also the type of training employed by boxers, so sign up to take your Fight Club aspirations literally. And feel free to talk about it.
Short on time? Adopt the principles of low weight and low rest by trying this circuit of bodyweight moves: cycle from press-ups to mountain climbers to burpees, sticking to a work and rest ratio of 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off. Repeat until 15 minutes is up – or until you’re left in a heap on the floor.
The Rock – Bodybuilder Bulk
The highest paid actor in Hollywood is also the hardest working. His alarm clock is set at 4am and he’s in the gym for an hour of cardio before the sun’s even thought about rising. However, it’s not a slow burn on the cross trainer that can construct this kind of mass.
Johnson opts for a very different attitude to training. “In the hunt for aesthetic muscle, you must do compound moves, but also isolation exercises,” explains Inman.
By breaking down your workout to focus on different parts of the muscle (there are three sections to your biceps, you know) you are better able to shape the muscle. Whether that’s making your shoulders more boulder-like, or honing the teardrop muscle above your knee for shorts season, is entirely up to you.
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“Train one or two muscle groups a day by compartmentalising them throughout the week,” says Inman. “The standard split proven to work is chest and triceps, back and biceps, shoulders and legs, rest and repeat.” This allows you to train each muscle group twice a week, with adequate recovery time, for maximum growth.
In each workout aim for 16-20 sets when working major muscle groups, split across a range of moves (think flat bench, incline, decline, and dumbbell flys on chest day). For smaller groups (biceps, triceps and calves) look at 9-12 sets. Sounds like a lot, right? That’s because it is. Can you smell your muscles cookin’?
Gerard Butler – Celebrity Six Pack
The workouts that crafted the cut glass abs of Leonidas’ Spartan Army are legendary. But if you’re not taking on a Persian horde any time soon, you can take your quest for a six-pack at a more sedate pace.
You need to start by realising that no amount of crunches is going to show a six-pack if it’s covered by a layer of fat. And the best way to strip that is to go old school and pound the pavements for a steady-state run. HIIT is trendy, but for overall fat-burn you need to go the distance a couple of times a week.
Then, it’s about hitting your core. Hard. “Muscle receptor testing found that front squats activate the core more than any other exercise,” says Inman. But while this compound exercise does the job, it uses so many other muscles you’ll tire before your abs are totally burnt out. Which is where isolation exercises come in.
Switch between moves that activate your rectus abdominis (show off six-pack muscles) and TVA (your core and natural girdle that sucks in your stomach) to optimise your results. What does that mean? You need to mix in some planks and pilates amongst the endless reps of crunches.
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If you want to craft a cobblestone core then you need to attack it from all angles. From your six-pack to your obliques to your lower abdominals, there are three major areas to work on. Take a leaf out of the bodybuilder’s handbook and try sets of cable crunches – the added weight will strain your rectus abdominis.
For your obliques, stay at the cable machine and switch to wood chops. “This rotational movement works the intercostals to show off the muscles down the side of your abs, while also naturally narrowing your waist,” says Inman.
Finally, try hanging leg raises to hit your lower abdominals and hone a V-look that will make you want to wear your trousers perilously low-slung.
Jason Statham – The Right Kind Of Dadbod
While we wouldn’t say it to his face, at 49 years old, the Stath is getting on a bit. But the Transporter star epitomises a new class of Hollywood hunk. While Brad’s made the list for a role he played nearly 20 years ago, Statham has maintained his enviable physique against the odds of age. And you can do the same. With the right type of training it’s still possible to peak physically post-40.
“You lose 1 per cent testosterone every year after 30 and it’s a key hormone to build muscle and burn fat,” says Inman. “As you get older, you need to start looking at training from an endocrinological point of view and pick methods that boost these natural allies as much as possible.”
Big compound movements, which are functional and work multiple joints, are the best to boost testosterone – for example dumbbell step-ups onto a bench.
Try pyramid sets, too. Start at a heavy weight with low reps, then grab smaller dumbbells and perform a few more for the next set. You’ll up the rep count without putting too much strain on your muscles, to earn a big hormonal payload.
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While training is important, as you age, a lot of the battle is won outside of the gym. Switch to a low GI diet – this will reverse age-related insulin resistance and stop your body storing so much fat. Make sure you get plenty of rest, too, because muscle soreness gets worse and can keep you out of the gym for days if you let it go too far.
Finally, try and get ahead with some needle-free supplementation. “Zinc, vitamin D and fenugreek are all proven to boost testosterone over a period of six weeks,” says Inman. That and a lot of good quality sleep. Lights out.
Hugh Jackman – Power Lifter
Now, he may have been voted the Sexiest Man Alive, but that has nothing to do with the mutant strength he has crafted in the gym. Yes, he’s still enviably handsome, but the Wolverine is built on strength, not aesthetics.
Hugh Jackman recently became a member of the 1000lb club – that’s the combined total of his squat, deadlift and bench press PBs – and if you want to build a body like his you need to train for strongman strength. That means focusing on power, not reps.
But when you’re working this hard you put a lot of strain on your body, so you can’t replicate these sessions every day. Try three power sessions a week and mix in some active recovery during the days in between. Whether that’s a swim or a slow jog to shake out the lactic acid, don’t just sit on the sofa. You’ll seize up and never be able to get off of it.
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When we mention ‘big compound exercises’, the best move you can opt for is the deadlift. It’s a multi-joint exercise that stimulates strength gains across your entire body. When you’re in the gym, work in the one-to-five rep range, up to eight sets, with a three-minute rest between each. The reason? You have to let your muscles re-stock with creatine to generate power.
Also, remember to up your carb intake on training days for extra energy. It’ll fuel mutant strength, even without the adamantium skeleton.