Hugh Jackman (a.k.a. The Wolverine): Lean, Ripped, and Deadlifting 350+ in Toe Shoes
I propose we elect Hugh Jackman as the unofficial mascot of BirthdayShoes.
Why? Because he wears my favorite FiveFingers (Vibram FiveFingers Speeds!), for one. We first saw that Hugh Jackman is a fan of toe shoes a few weeks back via a handful of paparazzi photos that were making the rounds on the 'net.
More recently, Jackman a.k.a. Marvel's The Wolverine, tweeted a photo taken of him deadlifting 350+ pounds, the olympic bar flexing under the weight, with the caption "If the bar ain't bendin, then you're just pretendin #xmen #daysoffuturepast" — hashtagging a reference to the upcoming fifth X-Men movie Days of Future Past and sixth movie in which Jackman plays the adamantium clawed superhero Wolverine. As for the "bar bendin' reference," well that happens when you are pulling a few hundred pounds on the deadlift.
Here's Jackman's photo (slightly edited for impact):
If you can look past how completely lean and jacked Jackman is in the photo, you'll notice he's still wearing his gold/green Speed FiveFingers.
Nowadays, the original Speeds are only being made in flat black (though you can find random select sizes in other colorways).
Sidebar for Speed aficionados: If you like the Speed but want a little color, Vibram just released their update to it. I'm talking about the FiveFingers Speed XC Lite. I reviewed it here a couple weeks back. Inventory is only just now trickling out to retailers; for example, you can get them for $110 with free shipping here.
How did Hugh Jackman diet/train to be Wolverine?
If you're wondering how you train to get in the kind of elite, lean shape you see with Jackman as Wolverine, a recent article from Men's Fitness helps shed some light on the subject:
This year Jackman started following an intermittent-fasting plan ... “I feel so much better on it,” [Jackman] says. The diet, which allows for an eight-hour window in which to eat followed by a 16-hour, fat-burning fast, is especially useful for the actor, who’s constantly having to bulk and cut for roles. “I haven’t put on nearly the amount of fat I normally would,” he says. “And the great thing about this diet is, I sleep so much better.” While Jackman says he’s considering sticking to the diet forever, that doesn’t mean he’s fallen short in the past. To build his body for The Wolverine, he followed a brutal, no-nonsense nutrition plan prescribed to him personally by none other than Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. “He told me that if in a six-month period you want to put on 25 pounds of lean muscle and not fat, eat natural and eat 6,000 calories a day,” Jackman says. “There were times when I would literally eat with the mind set of working out. ‘One more mouthful, one more, come on, come on, you’ve got to finish this meal.’” It’s a sacrifice for sure, but he’s used to that; for him, it’s just “part of the gig.”
Sidebar: Note that I originally cited a different article (this one) that talked about Jackman's diet. The problem was that article misquoted Jackman's relaying of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's fitness/diet advice ("six hours in calories" is the quote in the article when Jackman actually said "6,000 calories" in the video — and this was a comment that pertained to bulking after shooting Les Mis). Whatever the case may be, after a huge amount of searching around, the one thing I've learned is that there is an enormous amount of misinformation about Jackman's diet/training and most of it is inconsistent and covers a few years.
Regardless of how Jackman bulked for has eaten in the past, what Jackman seems to be doing now is compound lifts and a 16-8 split for eating. That's sixteen hours fasting and 8 hours eating. Summarized:
- Practice intermittent fasting. Jackman was instructed to fast for 18 hours a day ("six hours in calories")
- Lift heavy using compound weight lifting exercises (e.g. these six lifts pretty much cover it).
Mind, the above is hardly a workout/diet protocol. If you wanted to know more, where would you go? Simple: go to the source of all the these fasted weight training workout protocols—LeanGains.
Hugh Jackman's 16-8 diet is built off of LeanGains
If you traverse the fitness interwebs, the idea of "intermittent fasting" or "IF" should sound familiar. But what you might not know is that the pioneer of combining IF with heavy, compound lifts for an incredible physique was pioneered by Martin Berkhan, the founder of the "LeanGains" diet/exercise. And while the Men's Fitness article above actually promotes "The 8-Hour Diet," a book published December 24, 2012, the topic of intermittent fasting using a 16-8 fasting/eating split mixed with compound lifts made its debut on Martin's site years ago—at least as early as 2008.
Who is Martin Berkhan? He's Swedish, around 32 years old, likes to eat pounds of cheesecake at a time, and can deadlift 600 lbs:
Martin's personal transformation is incredible—a testament to focused effort and persistence mixed with a serious dose of cutting through "broscience" and refining a system that works. The end result of Martin's own experimentation with weight lifting, bodybuilding, and dieting culminated (after probably a decade) in what Martin created—"LeanGains."
I was introduced to LeanGains.com back in 2008 when I first took an interest in intermittent fasting for weight loss*. However, it took me until 2010 before I reached out to Berkhan for his direct training assistance—there's a point when you realize that having a coach and some accountability goes a long way towards accomplishing your goals. I needed that help and hired Martin.
I won't share the specific, non-public "secret sauce" to LeanGains; however, the gist is incredibly similar to what Hugh Jackman is following. This is my short paraphrase of LeanGains:
- Lift heavy in a fasted state 3X/week with a lot of rest between sets. Focus on compound lifts: deadlifts, squats, weighted chin-ups, military press, and bench press should all rank high (though you're not doing them all in any given workout!).
- Fast for 16 hours a day; eat in an eight hour window.
- Match macronutrient breakdowns and total caloric intake to mirror your workout/rest day goals. In a nutshell, you're cutting total calories but only on your non-workout days. You're eating high protein on all days. You're low-carb'ing on rest days and high carb'ing on workout days. You eat more fat on rest days but low fat on workout days.
If you follow the LeanGains approach, you will find you get strong and lean at the same time. It's an amazing thing that almost has to be seen to be believed—and Martin has published countless client testimonials/before & after photos on his site.
While I can't say for a fact that Hugh Jackman specifically followed the LeanGains varietal of intermittent fasting and I also can't say for a fact that The 8-Hour Diet book was inspired by LeanGains, given the proliferation of LeanGains, how it was making huge waves on the Internet years in advance of The 8-Hour Diet, it's hard to imagine LeanGains not being the impetus for what Jackman is doing now.
Personally, I've been adhering to LeanGains for almost three years. And while I've never gotten as ripped as Hugh Jackman, LeanGains has gotten me to and kept me at the leanest of my life. Like Martin, I'm an ex-fat kid. Oh and all of that success has been with hardly any cardio and spending less than an hour in the gym 3X/week (the efficiency of the LG is a huge draw to me as a parent with limited free time—I can squeeze these workouts in at lunch).
LeanGains works and if you'd like to be lean and can commit to the protocol, well, what are you waiting for?
So if you'd like to look like Wolverine and want to know more ...
Take heart! This post is only meant to point you in the right direction on how you can implement an eating/lifting protocol that is akin to what some of the strongest/leanest actors (like Hugh Jackman) are doing. Armed with your own toe shoes (not required!) and the Internet, you can easily work towards creating and implementing your own LeanGains program. Don't fork over money for any fasted-weight-training books or guides if you don't have to! That said, I wish Berkhan had a book because I'd wholeheartedly endorse it, but that's just not the case.
Short of an official LeanGains book, Martin has laid out a lot of his approach publicly for free in his guide). Additionally, you could also consult RippedBody.jp for a lot of helpful information. There's even a LeanGains subreddit.
Finally, while LeanGains is an incredible approach to be lean and strong, muscle gains in the gym take a long time. Years. Sure there are various bodybuilding bulking protocols out there and I'm sure many have had success with that kind of stuff. As for me, I'm most interested in being in shape, being efficient about my time in the gym, and making progress—even if it's slow. Sustainability is everything.
And if you need a little reality check on muscle growth, a "before and after" look at Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, a period spanning some 13 years, is incredibly informative. Take a look at Jackman as Wolverine in the original X-men. He's 31 here:
Now zoom forward the thirteen years to Jackman's "after" shot aged 44. Look how much incredibly leaner and stronger he looks now:
Thirteen years can make a big difference, right?
For me, LeanGains is that sweet spot when it comes to diet and exercise—and it sounds like Jackman would agree. who has been lifting in the gym for years, would agree.
And yeah, don't forget about your Wolverine toe shoes.