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How Hugh Jackman Got Ripped To Play Wolverine

As the star of one of the most sprawling and long-lived superhero franchises in Hollywood, Hugh Jackman has been contractually obligated to keep his body in a near-constant state of shreddedness since roughly 1999. That's just how it goes when you're famous for playing a character whose costume consists of one pair of adamantium claws, one pair of epic muttonchops, and one intimidatingly veiny pair of exposed pectorals. But how did Jackman transform in the first place from a 6'2", 180-pound beanpole into a musclebound Wolverine? Here's everything that goes into making, and maintaining, his incredible physique.

That bod was made on Broadway, baby

Jackman is a stage actor first and foremost, with a background on Broadway — and he'd be the first to tell you that Wolverine, for all his exceptional talents, would not be much of a dancer. Hence, the actor doesn't hang onto his X-Man's physique when he's doing shows in between superhero flicks.

"[When] I dance I drop muscle very quickly," Jackman told the Los Angeles Times. "The body is very smart and efficient, and a traditional dancer's body is not going to be bulked up on top because they're muscles that you don't really need."

However, while doing stage work does have its costs (buh-bye, biceps!), it also has the benefit of keeping Jackman in terrific shape. When the cameras stop rolling, the actor still stays busy and active, and doesn't let himself go — so when it comes time to bulk up, beserker-style, he's starting from a good place.

He stays informed

If you've been watching Jackman play Wolverine since the very beginning, you might have noticed that he hasn't just kept himself in terrific shape; he's clearly set out to make each of his onscreen appearances substantially more physically intimidating than the last. When Jackman first showed up in 2000's X-Men, he looked damn good — but in an achievable way, like your friend from work who goes to the gym in the morning and drinks light beer instead of double IPAs. Whereas when he appeared in The Wolverine in 2013, he looked like a bearded slab of ultra-lean beef, tied together with veins and sinew and covered in a thin layer of flesh-colored paint. Louis Sepulveda, a fitness pro and Tier 3 trainer at Equinox (who doesn't work with Hugh Jackman but is an expert in all things gainz), says that a transformation like this is as much a product of education as it is time in the gym.

"Every year we find out new things about the human body, and over the course of thirteen years, they've definitely discovered new supplements that he can take [to achieve that level of fitness]," Sepulveda explained. In other words, Jackman has clearly stayed up-to-date on the latest in exercise and nutritional science — or hired a trainer who does.

He never skips the gym

Six days a week, twice a day: that's how often Jackman reportedly heads to the gym when he's preparing to slip back into his adamantium skeleton. The actor follows a four-week workout cycle, with a program that focuses on compound movements with free weights (think bench presses, squats, and deadlifts) and accessory movements like weighted pull-ups, push-ups, and curls. The first three weeks are all about lifting heavy, pushing huge amount of weight for only a few repetitions. The fourth week, Jackman deloads and lifts smaller amounts but at a higher volume, which stimulates muscle growth so that he'll be as big as possible onscreen. If you want to get in Wolverine condition yourself, Jackman's trainer has shared his workout plan — and according to our fitness expert, it's not a bad program for anyone who wants to see some serious progress:

"The human body adapts to any stress or stimulus you put on it, mental or physical," Sepulveda said. "So you want to have those cycles."

He does the dreaded deadlift

Speaking of workouts, there's one move that Hugh Jackman favors above all when it comes to transforming his body for a new X-Men movie: the deadlift.

"If I could do one exercise it would be deadlifting," Jackman told the LA Times. And according to our expert, there's a good reason for that.

"Deadlifting is super functional," Sepulveda explained. "You're using almost every body part if you do it properly. You're working the lower portion of your legs and the whole posterior chain, the entire backside of your body, is engaged. Overall, if you're looking to build strength and stability, it's the way to go. The deadlift itself is mostly for your glutes and hamstrings, but it works your shoulders, it'll stabilize your abs. Anyone who's looking to gain mass, it should be in your workout routine."

He eats all the food

When it comes to building a screen-ready physique, your workouts are less than half the battle; it's what you eat that really matters, and to get Wolverine-style muscles, Jackman has to seriously shovel it in. "I eat more, but I eat a lot stricter. Seventy percent of your physique is your diet, and diet is the biggest change that happens," he said. (The actor's X-Men diet of 6,000 calories per day was recommended by none other than The Rock, who obviously knows a thing or two about getting ripped for a film.) Jackman told Men's Fitness, "There were times when I would literally eat with the mindset of working out. 'One more mouthful, one more, come on, come on, you've got to finish this meal.'"

And before you go thinking that this doesn't sound so terrible, keep in mind that Jackman's superhero diet is high in calories but low in carbs, which means that he has to get those 6,000 calories primarily in the form of grilled chicken breast, spinach, and the occasional scoop of brown rice.

He improves on what nature gave him

Before you spend the rest of your life weeping into a bag of pork rinds over the unattainable awesomeness of Hugh Jackman's abs, know that getting a body like his isn't just a question of chicken breasts, bicep curls, and impeccable genes. Jackman's trainer explained that the actor's diet and training regimen included the use of creatine, a supplement that stimulates muscle growth beyond what the body can accomplish on its own:

"We used a pre-workout product called Animal Pump. While bulking, we used creatine in the product, and when cutting, we reduced, and then removed the creatine."

It's not exactly controversial — even the strictest anti-doping regulators are cool with the use of creatine, and it's been a regular item on the menu for bodybuilders and athletes since the 1990s — but it is one of the reasons why you don't look like Wolverine despite your healthy diet and regular gym routine.

He stays accountable to the folks who matter most

Getting in superhero shape isn't just a question of diet and exercise; it's also a question of mindset and motivation. So, where does Jackman get the mental fortitude to endure the months of torture that precede a new X-Men flick? Answer: from you, of course. The actor always makes sure his followers know when he's back in the gym, and that's not just because he enjoys watching the likes on his Instagram roll in. When you've taught your fans to expect photos and video of you doing clap pushups or deadlifting the weight of a fat Shetland pony, you've gotta bring it at the gym or risk disappointing them. So when you follow Jackman on Instagram and dutifully press that little heart icon for his clips from the gym, you're doing your part to make sure he shows up in Logan in 2017 looking like a muscular nest of pythons with a human head.