How Josh Brolin got ripped to play Cable in Deadpool 2

Josh Brolin has acted in mainstream movies since he was a child, but like a lot of actors who got their start and achieved their first breakthrough at a young age, he's weathered his fair share of career ups and downs as an adult—and it's really only over the last 15 years or so that he's truly broken through to the mainstream and achieved a larger presence as a grown-up Hollywood star. And we're not talking screen presence—we're talking physical, actual, holy-cow-that-guy-is-huge presence. So how did Brolin develop from the slimmed-downed frame he had as a young man in The Goonies to the bulked-up muscle grandpa look he's sporting for his portrayal of Marvel Comics' Cable in Deadpool 2? As you might imagine, it's a little more complicated than concentration curls and boiled chicken. Whether you want to look like a real-life Cable or are just looking for some extra inspiration between reps, read on to see exactly how Brolin got so jacked.

Taking comic inspiration

Brolin's ascension to swoleness began on the page, with Brolin taking a few drawings of Cable to one of his personal trainers to get specific about what he wanted. But here's the thing—Cable's most well-known look was put together by Rob Liefeld, an artist whose work is frequently defined by insanely pumped-up, stylized, unrealistic body shapes. Getting even halfway close to what Cable looks like in Liefeld's drawings is going to have you looking utterly shredded in real life.

"I mean, the character is all arms and has a huge upper body," said Justin Lovato, a personal trainer and bodybuilder who worked with Brolin on his look. "I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I also knew how to help him get it done. Josh came ready to put in the work. For six weeks straight we were getting into the gym for at least three hours a day."

So the lesson here? It's kind of like that old saying "shoot for the moon, and land among the stars." Want to get huge? Dream big, aim high, and never stop inhaling chicken breast.

Eating healthy (and sticking to it)

Anyone who's tried to slim down or bulk up knows that dieting isn't about depriving yourself, but about changing your habits. Trying to simply restrict calories to put your body in a fat-burning mode won't let you lose weight long-term, and eating lousy calorie-heavy foods like pizza and chocolate cake to bulk up won't make you look or feel as anywhere near as good as you potentially could if you switched it out for brown rice and lots of protein.

"Cable's coming, growing from the inside," Brolin said in one of his encouraging #fitspiration posts. "Clean building from a past of donut travel to the present hard case that he is. No sugar. No bread. No pastas. The machine is being built. I'm pissed off."

In another post, a recording of an upper-body workout, he shared his pride in going "totally clean": "No drugs, none of it. Fish, rice, eggs, veggies, water, one Bulletproof or Caveman Coffee in the morning. I'm almost 50. It's a different time: our access along with some big picture discipline results in always surprising milestones. Get on the train."

He kept his workouts—and his mind—focused

While showing up to the gym is half the battle, it's what you do while you're there that really counts. Even if you hit the weights and work to exhaustion, you might not get the results you're looking for unless you train mindfully, focusing on straining and strengthening specific sections of the body rather than putting up weight on whichever machine is open until all your energy is gone.

With an aim toward looking more like Cable, Brolin shared one video focusing specifically on rack pulls to benefit his upper body, noting ominously that "One day I very well might have to pull a superhero head off (or two)." We certainly hope so. What's the use of that R rating if you're not going to use it to show your heroes manually dismantling a few people?

Brolin has also talked about the mental focus it takes to stay in a fit frame of mind, and the fact that it's okay to have a cheat day so long as it benefits that mindset. "This challenge has been an awakening that there is no excuse, ever, but there's no need for perfection," the actor said in an Instagram post. "Cheat days replenish and tell your body it's okay. It keeps it from panicking, which usually shuts it down and ends up giving you a worse result. Keep at it, then when that day comes, MURDER THAT FRIGGIN DONUT!"

His network of supportive friends

Of course no one gets movie-star buff without a little professional help, and Brolin acknowledges that the progress he's made with his body is the result of a team effort. "It takes a small village," he said in an Instagram post in which he tipped the hat to trainers Justin Lovato and Jonathon Phillips. And of course, he always has a shout out for Kathryn Brolin, his wife, business partner, and frequently the eye behind the camera for his fitness clips on social media.

The actor also finds encouragement through fellow members of the thespian league of muscleheads—performers like professional wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista, whom Brolin calls "my great swole mentor." Brolin has also related a delightful encounter he had with the man who plays Drax the Destroyer in a post on Instagram. "Just saw @davebautista at the gym and he said: 'What the f— happened to you?!' Haha. Best compliment ever."

A dose of friendly competition

While positive encouragement is always nice, having a rival can be beneficial too, giving rise to a competitive spirit that lets you rip out that last set or lap when you otherwise might quit. Brolin has gotten plenty of that motivation from faux-hater Deadpool 2 co-star Ryan Reynolds, who takes on the personality of the Merc with a Mouth while he tags social media photos of Cable with the likes of "#PremiumCABLE #MaximumA–hole."

For his part, Brolin is more than capable of firing back, with his own disrespectful hashtags, including the wonderfully simple "#ryanreynoldsismyb—.". Recently on Instagram he shared a photo of the two Deadpool 2 stars side-by-side on competing magazines, and compared the two features in his favor. "Ryan Reynolds' Smart Ass Secrets or Josh Brolin's beating his demons to become Hollywood's go to Hellraiser?" he asked in the post. "It's just not fair." Of course, since the duo aren't even pretending the tiff is actually real, he concluded by tagging the post #bestfriendsforever. 

He's got a clothing line to promote

When you're trying to get in shape, you take any motivation you can get. Whether it's wanting to not get winded on your walk up to your apartment or just to feel more confident in yourself in social settings, having a threshold to reach and maintain helps with your accountability. Brolin's motivation to stay looking as good as he can? It's all business, baby.

Along with his wife Kathryn Brolin, the actor recently launched a clothing line of activewear, Prevail, which he promotes in his workout posts and frequently sports when getting a sweat on. It's not just for his own bottom line, either—the line has already run promotions on a limited edition #CABLESWOLE line of t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies and hats to benefit organizations like the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. In addition to keeping him healthy, staying in shape almost certainly helps the 49-year-old add some spark to his brand.

He's pulling double duty as Thanos

It's funny to consider that as far as body type goes, Cable is even more yoked than Thanos, a celestial villain who at his most powerful is basically death incarnate. And even though his performance of Thanos is in the service of bringing a CGI character to life, the tech wizards at Marvel will be putting as much of Brolin's physical performance onscreen as they can through the process of motion capture. 

Brolin doesn't need to look like Thanos or get purpled up to play the part, obviously, but having a big frame and imposing swagger serves to bring some realism to the Mad Titan when he finally arrives to wreck all creation in Avengers: Infinity War. We would certainly find it harder to believe him in the role if he were still the size he was in, say, No Country for Old Men, where a relatively lean Javier Bardem loomed over him with menace. (It'd be even harder if he looked like he did in W.) Even though Thanos will be CGI, it's the little things that matter. Plus, look at that Gauntlet. You've got to do a lot of wrist curls if you want to wear it.

Fortunately, Brolin's done the hard work, and the whole world saw the fruits of his labor when the one-two punch of a new Avengers movie and Deadpool 2 hit cinemas in 2018.