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How to get jacked like Hugh Jackman in ‘X-Men’

The Wolverine physique displayed in the movie franchise is iconic and straight-up badass. Lucky for you, the program to get it is simple.

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Hugh Jackman
Ben Watts
Hugh Jackman
Ben Watts

Size, strength, definition, and athleticism. When you have a physique that conveys all these, people call you a hero—maybe even an X-Man. Hugh Jackman owns all four of these attributes every time he plays Wolverine, and the training that gets him there is simple and old-school.

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How it works

Jackman’s trainer, David Kingsbury, had the actor follow a classic progressive overload plan to build strength on basic lifts like the bench press, squat, and deadlift. The point is to start extra light, using only a small percentage of your max, and gradually up the weights and drop the reps so that you’re smashing through plateaus in only a few weeks. (Note that the fourth week is done with lighter weights to allow recovery.) “It’s a system you can trust to continue to improve your gains,” Kingsbury says.

The remaining work involves some age-old techniques such as supersets and circuits to thoroughly exhaust muscles and burn off the fat that covers them. But if you’re picturing the modern bodybuilding workouts featured in some other mags, you won’t find them here. “There’s no point in just bulking up,” Jackman says, “because you’ve got to be functional.” Unlike most guys in gyms today gunning for bigger arms, Jackman’s training is balanced, and he does the so-called hard exercises most others avoid—no machines. Jackman’s look is more evidence that free weights are behind every unforgettable physique, whether or not it’s built on an adamantium skeleton. “I got in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” he says.

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Directions

Perform each workout (Day 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) once per week for eight weeks. You can do workouts 1, 2, and 3 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively, and then rest Thursday and do workouts 4 and 5 on Friday and Saturday. The weight you will use on the main lifts will follow a specific weekly progression. See “Linear Progress” below. Alternate “A” and “B” rest, and repeat.

Linear progress

The loads you use on the bench press, squat, weighted pullup, and deadlift will vary with each set and each week. First, estimate how much you can lift on these exercises for one perfect rep (your max). Now find 95% of that number and use this calculation as your adjusted max for the program—we want you to err on the lighter side. Follow the table to see which percentage of that max you will use for a given set. For example, if your adjusted max on the bench press is 225lbs, a set calling for 60% will require 135lbs. Regardless of how light a weight feels, perform only the reps that are required for the set. The weights will get heavier as the program moves forward. After four weeks, add 5–10% to your maxes, and repeat the cycle. Add only 5% if you felt the weights you used in Week 3 were very challenging. If you banged out those reps without much trouble, you can speed progress by adding 10% instead.

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Use this guide to determine how much weight to use on your main lifts:

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Set 1: 5 reps with 60%   Set 1: 4 reps with 65% Set 1: 3 reps with 70%  Set 1: 10 reps with 40%
Set 2: 5 reps with 65% Set 2: 4 reps with 75% Set 2: 3 reps with 80% Set 2: 10 reps with 50%
Set 3: 5 reps with 75% Set 3: 4 reps with 85% Set 3: 3 reps with 90% Set 3: 10 reps with 60%
Set 4: 5 reps with 75% Set 4: 4 reps with 85% Set 4: 3 reps with 90% Set 4: 10 reps with 60%

Routine

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Day 1

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 5

Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
See Table
Rest
150 sec.
Exercise 2 of 5

Dumbbell Overhead Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 3 of 5

Behind-the-Neck Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 4 of 5

Cuban Press

Equipment
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
30 sec.
Exercise 5 of 5

Bench Dip

Equipment
Bench
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 6 of 5

Side Plank With Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
12
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 7 of 5

3-Way Shoulder Finisher

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
Perform 8 reps of each exercise, instead of 5
Rest
60 sec.

Day 2

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 8 of 5

Squat

Equipment
Elastic Band
Sets
4
Reps
See Table
Rest
150 sec.
Exercise 9 of 5

Front Squat

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
See Table
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 10 of 5

Leg Press

Equipment
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 11 of 5

Standing Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
4
Reps
12
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 12 of 5

Hanging Leg Raise

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
4
Reps
12
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 13 of 5

Ab-Wheel Rollout

Equipment
Ab Wheel
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.

Day 3

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 14 of 5

Weighted Pullup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
4
Reps
See Table
Rest
150 sec.
Exercise 15 of 5

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
12
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 16 of 5

Inverted Row

Equipment
Power Rack
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 17 of 5

Seated Incline Dumbbell Curl

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 18 of 5

Zottman Curl

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
8
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 19 of 5

Cross-Body Curl

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
8
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 20 of 5

Reverse Curl

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
8
Rest
60 sec.

Day 4

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 21 of 5

Incline Dumbbell Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
See Table
Rest
150 sec.
Exercise 22 of 5

Incline Dumbbell Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
6
Rest
60 sec.
Perform at three different angles. Begin on a steep incline and do 6 reps. Without rest, adjust the bench to reduce the incline and do another 6 reps. Adjust the bench to make it flat and complete 6 final reps. That's one set.
Exercise 23 of 5

Band-Resisted Flye

Equipment
Resistance Band
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 24 of 5

Close-Grip Bench Press

Equipment
Bench
Sets
4
Reps
8
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 25 of 5

Triceps Pushdown

Equipment
Elastic Band
Sets
4
Reps
8
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 26 of 5

Bench Dip

Equipment
Bench
Sets
4
Reps
8
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 27 of 5

Close-Grip Pushup

Equipment
Medicine Ball
Sets
4
Reps
8
Rest
60 sec.

Day 5

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 28 of 5

Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
See Table
Rest
150 sec.
Exercise 29 of 5

Romanian Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 30 of 5

Zercher Squat

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
12
Rest
60 sec.
Exercise 31 of 5

Weighted Situp

Equipment
Weight Plates
Sets
4
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec.
Complete this exercise on an adjustable bench set to a slight decline and use a weight plate.
Exercise 32 of 5

Barbell Landmine

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
10 (each side)
Rest
60 sec.
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