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How Ant-Man 3's Jonathan Majors Got Ripped To Play Kang

Jonathan Majors has always been fit, even in his first big professional role playing LGBTQ+ activist Ken Jones in the 2017 mini-series "When We Rise." Yet the Majors about to blast onto the screen in the upcoming "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" isn't just fit; he's jacked.

When he unveiled his new physique in an October 2022 issue of Men's Health, the images broke the Internet. It's not surprising since, as a follow-up article explains the actor gained 10 pounds of muscle for "Creed III," five more to play Kang the Conqueror in the newest "Ant-Man" movie, and another six for "Magazine Dreams." For good measure, he dropped his body fat below 10 percent. He didn't get all swole just for the look either. "When you see these guys, it's like, Yeah, they're f***ing fit. But if you look at it, there's a story there," he tells Men's Health.

Jonathan Majors is emerging as an actor whose commitment to his craft goes beyond studying lines and emoting. There's no better example than his next-level dedication to the physical off-screen training needed to play powerful strongmen properly. If you're becoming a Conqueror, you better live the part. Still, his regimen is nothing less than awe-inspiring — one that exercises his body and mind while adding to his fiery roles.

He rode the muscle for Creed III into Quantumania and beyond

No doubt actors have ample motivation to get ripped just for one career-making performance. Take "Creed" franchise star Michael B. Jordan's transformation from skinny street kid Wallace on "The Wire" to his breakout role as Adonis Creed. Jonathan Majors seems to have decided that instead of working out for one role, though, he'd load up a series of films that require the physique of a Greek god.

As explained in the Men's Health article, Majors first added 10 pounds of muscle to play Damian Anderson across from Jordan's Creed. This meant he only had to add an additional five to beef up for Kang, who's being billed as Marvel Cinematic Universe's next Thanos. Though possibly all of those gains were additionally fueled by the fact that he booked a role as a bodybuilder in "Magazine Dreams," premiering at Sundance in 2023 and no doubt set to roll out wider. When you have starring roles as a musclebound force of nature in three highly-anticipated movies coming out in one year, that will light a fire under you. 

While he seems to be backing off a little, Majors tells Variety that he won't just rest on his laurels: "I played football in Texas. I got an appetite. I really like being physical. I like hiking and running. I've got dogs. I'm only 33 ... I got to do something to stay with it. I don't work out three times a day anymore. Just once a day."

Daily gym time before most people go to work

In an interview on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Jonathan Majors said, "I wonder if you'd be as happy being Kang the Conqueror if you had to wake up at 4:30 to go to the gym. And then go back to the gym at seven." This means that when most people are hitting that snooze button for an extra five minutes of sleep before the pre-work shower, Majors had already been grinding for an hour or two. Then seven, meaning that one intense, pre-dawn gym sesh wasn't enough.

Of course, waking up at crazy hours is nothing new in Hollywood. Mark Wahlberg made a splash when he explained that he wakes up at 2:30 a.m. in the morning to hit the gym at 3:40 a.m. Ironically, Wahlberg also played a bodybuilder (in 2013's "Pain and Gain") and a boxer (in 2010's "The Fighter"), so maybe Majors got a little inspiration from the Oscar-nominated costar of "The Departed." Plus when you see a person working out at three anything in the morning, 4:30 a.m. doesn't seem so crazy. Still, that thought probably doesn't make you any less tired, especially when you have to spend most of your day shooting your seemingly-endless run of film and TV projects and attending all the requisite events that go with being Hollywood's next big leading beefcake.

He kept it simple but hard

While there are so many exotic workouts out there with fancy machines and crazy interval-based movements, Jonathan Majors kept it simple. No doubt that's in part because his trainer, Mark Smith (previously the American Gladiator "Rhino"), had been a bodybuilder whose workouts consisted of throwing up heavily-weighted bench presses, deadlifts, and squats. Though his workouts increased when he brought on Jamie Sawyer, as explained in his Men's Health interview, to help him train. Sawyer has trained boxers and MMA fighters and understands the warrior physique. He also comprehends that there should be some fighting skills, and that training was no doubt a part of Majors' regimen.

The exercise he walks Men's Health through doesn't get any fancier than close-grip pull-ups. From there he has lat pulldowns, some dumbbell rows and shrugs, and a few leg raises. The lesson is that the key is not to get fancy with it. All those gains come from doing some old-fashioned workouts with weights and benches and bars and just doing them, well, a lot. In "Creed III," Majors even impresses the crowd with some old-fashioned plyometric "jump" push-ups.

A lot of meat and rice

Of course, working out is just part of getting ripped. You also need fuel and it needs to be the right kind of fuel. As Jonathan Majors tells E! News, he got into this shape through "hard work." That hard work apparently included rice. "A lot of chicken and rice. A lot of turkey and rice. A lot of bison and rice," he shared with E! News. As Men's Health explains, chicken and rice "will bulk you up and refuel your body."

The rice provides the carbs needed to keep energy levels up enough to work out hard for several hours a day. Meanwhile, protein-rich lean meats like chicken (or turkey or bison) help rebuild muscle fibers. The amount needed to pack on 21 pounds of muscle for three basically back-to-back film roles, though, would be immense. In the Men's Health interview, writer Clover Hope describes joining Majors for a meal of eggs, spinach, and four strips of bacon: "Those muscles need fuel," Hope writes. And as Majors says towards the end of the article, "I haven't had a carb in two and a half months." And it wasn't just quality but quantity. As he recently revealed in a Variety interview, Majors "ate 6,100 calories a day for about four months."

Kept up his extracurriculars

In the E! News article, Jonathan Majors added to his description of a lot of meat and rice: "Eat a lot, pray a lot, sweat a lot, lift a lot, stretch a lot, sleep a lot." As he said in a New York Times interview about his training to be a boxer for "Creed III," Majors "was just fighting and eating and working."

As for the stretching and sleeping, that's a bit tougher to pin down. One website that specializes in analyzing celebrity workouts has posited a possible stretch routine that helps keep his muscles loose and ready to continue building. Obviously, to keep a sustained heavy workout schedule like that, he'd need to do quite a bit of stretching, warm-ups, and cool-downs. And it's well-documented that sleep is essential to heavy training.

As for the prayer side, Majors was raised by his Christian pastor mother. Yet, his acting has called for him to expand his spirituality. A 2020 GQ article describes a performance dance Majors pursued in film school: "The objective, he learned, was to attain a quality the Balinese call taksu, a kind of artistic charisma of the soul. According to Hindu teachings, taksu was the essence left by the gods when they departed the island of Bali. 'It's very akin to the Holy Spirit,'" said Majors. The GQ article spells out his religious devotion, saying Majors "has gone on to read the Koran and the Torah and to appreciate Hindu and Buddhist teachings, [but] Christianity remains what he calls 'my template, my first lexicon.'"

Some Majors cardio

While lifting weights is key to gaining physical strength and dreamy muscles, cardio is key to shredding extra weight and making those muscles stand out. Even more, a warrior without endurance might be able to crush an opponent or two but would soon run out of juice, which wouldn't work for the wide-ranging Kang the Conqueror. Additionally, boxers have to be able to go the distance, as popularized by Creed's mentor Rocky (played by Sylvester Stallone) in the iconic "running up the Philly library steps" scene. In "Creed III," we see Jonathan Majors as Damian Anderson running on the beach to train for his return to boxing after getting out of prison.

In a recent interview, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" producer Stephen Broussard says that Majors started everyday onset by jogging in Kang's armor. In the GQ article, a classmate describes how "she'd always see him out for an early-morning run before class." It sounds like Jonathan Majors is always running, whether on set, as part of his training routine, or even just as part of his daily life. As his Men's Health cover story explains, "You won't find J partying. He does walk his dogs and run a lot."

He's mostly played warriors

Jonathan Majors grew up with a strong military lineage running through his veins. As the GQ profile explains, "his father was in Desert Storm; his maternal grandfather in Korea and Vietnam, his paternal grandfather in World War II." While Majors didn't serve in the military, he has mostly played warriors. In "When We Rise," he's an LGBTQ+ activist Navy veteran. In "Lovecraft Country," he plays a Korean War veteran who comes home to Jim Crow. In "Devotion," he plays the first black Naval aviator.

In "Creed III" he's a boxer. In "Quantumania" he's Kang the Conqueror, an inter-dimensional warlord and literal warrior badass. He's a corporal in "Hostiles," and a legendary gunfighter out for vengeance in the Western "The Harder They Fall." In "Da 5 Bloods" he's not a warrior, but his dad and his dad's friends whom he's accompanying are. Plus, there's some fighting there. If you're spending most of your professional life portraying fighters and you grew up the heir to a family of warriors, some of that physical and mental toughness is bound to rub off. Or, maybe it's his innate toughness that's allowed him to pick up such charged, lofty roles.

He was an athlete before he became obsessed with acting

As the Men's Health feature says, "[Jonathan] Majors has been in Jordan-esque attack mode since he was 17, when his high school coaches put him on the B team." Then, Majors offers his own take: "Basketball, football — I was a B-teamer ... I felt like I'm better than that guy, I'm faster than that guy." The competitiveness honed by a youth devoted to sports no doubt transferred to his training. "You couldn't outrun me," Majors explains. "You wouldn't outlift me. I was determined [not to feel] less than."

In an interview with Daily Actor, he describes the transition from athlete to acting-obsessed kid as an almost overnight thing. "Like, I quit the basketball team ... I took my jersey off. And I just gave it to my coach and said, I think I'm done now. And I remember going home to my mom. I said, Mom, I quit the basketball team. She said, what? I was like, yeah, I quit the basketball team. She was like, OK. And then that was kind of it. Then I was theater this, theater that, you know, playing Third Murderer in the Scottish play." Still, that athletic route no doubt gave him the fire that we've seen Kang shooting out of his hands. Majors' athletic history also may be coming full circle as he reportedly may be about to grace the silver screen as the bad boy of basketball, Dennis Rodman. 

He also booked a role as a bodybuilder

As mentioned before, Jonathan Majors will also appear playing a body builder in the indie movie "Magazine Dreams," which premiered at Sundance in January 2023. According to a /Film article, Majors devoured over 6000 calories a day to gain the muscles needed for his roles. Though it seems like while he was training for Damian in "Creed III" and Kang the Conqueror, his eventual goal was actually being able to play the bodybuilder. As he says, "I'm playing Killian Maddox ... playing him you don't f*** around. What ended up happening is I would train two hours, two times a day for the movie and a third time after wrap."

While he may have stacked training for his various roles like one would stack training supplements, he still took a different approach to every "body" he built. "Dame's body was built from loss," he says in the Men's Health cover article, referring to his "Creed III" character. As for Killian Maddox, "That's a pain body. A lot of guys build their bodies by anger, which is a secondary emotion. And those bodies don't look right. Those bodies don't engender emotion." Which also might help explain one source of Majors' motivation. As Texas Monthly brings up in an article, he had spoken about being angry as a Black man. And Majors responds by saying he dealt with that anger through his acting. "That's why I act: to articulate that feeling."

He trains for a realistic performance

Most of the above-linked articles at one point or another refer to his dedication to his craft as an actor, and how it feels very method, which transfers to his physical performances. Jonathan Majors explains that part of the reason he trains so hard is to perform his own stunts, specifically in the training sequences in the movies. "If I'm going to bench-press 250 in a film, I need to be able to bench-press 275 a few times," he tells Men's Health

He goes on to elaborate, "I haven't been training for the past three months to get here and use Styrofoam ... Put these f***ing weights on so we can lift it, so you can shoot it, so I can tell the story." Using fake weights, as Majors explains, would be "like putting fake tears in your eyes. Or putting fake sweat on you. This is it. This is it! Let's go."

To add some credibility, a story in the Men's Health article shares that when "shooting a take for the opening scene of 'Magazine Dreams,' Majors was lifting with such intensity, snot and tears running down his face, that director Elijah Bynum told him to 'take it easy.' " That's obviously not a part of Majors' personality; one wonders if he even knows how to "take it easy."