Hugh Jackman (a.k.a. The Wolverine): Lean, Ripped, and Deadlifting 350+ in Toe Shoes

Hugh Jackman is a fan of toe shoes — in particular, Vibram FiveFingers Speeds!

Most recently, Jackman a.k.a. Marvel’s The Wolverine incarnate, tweeted a photo taken of him deadlifting 350+ pounds, the olympic bar flexing under the weight, wit…

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 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 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.

* Ultimately leading me to the Paleo diet and Mark Sisson, who got me into FiveFingers, which led to this site!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

27 replies on “Hugh Jackman (a.k.a. The Wolverine): Lean, Ripped, and Deadlifting 350+ in Toe Shoes”

More like 465 pounds. Red plates are 55#, Blue are 45#, the hex metal ones are #45, and the last one (small hex) looks like either a 10# plate. Add a 45# bar, and you got 465. Boosh.

Using non-standard plate colors: Bad form.

Much easier to believe that he’s lifting that kind of weight with those chicken legs, then. 465 was just about incredible. 🙂

Re 3 hours a day in the gym: he could have been doing phases and split up the recommended daily 3 hours into 2 or 3 sessions in order to cover both cardio and weights every day. Just saying… 🙂

You did see that the article mention what Jackman eats for every single meal of the day, didn’t you?

You should reread it. The mealplan sure isn’t setup for someone eating only six hours a day.

Looks at the mentions of time of day in this:

oats and berries for breakfast, protein smoothies after the first workout of the day, turkey and veggie stir fry for a high-protein snack, chicken breast with snap peas and asparagus for lunch, walnut trail mix for mid-afternoon snack, tuna steak with broccoli and cauliflower for dinner, and another protein smoothie before bedtime

I do ALL of my weight workouts in FiveFingers (KomodoSport LS and Seeya). Deadlifts feel more natural when the foot is in full contact with the floor, in fact I pulled 300# the other day in my Komodos after doing 5X275#.

@John M

Went a step further and scoured the web for more info. Sadly, it’s very hard to track down, but I was able to find in the video at the Yahoo! Movies article the quote from The Rock’s advice. Whoever made the transcript got Jackman’s quote wrong. He didn’t say “six hours in calories” — he said “6,000 calories.” Pretty huge difference.

Alas, maybe Jackman DOESN’T follow LeanGains. I found elsewhere that he only did “half” of what The Rock prescribed, but half of what? Half the training? Half the calories? Half in some other way (most likely)?

Supposedly Jackman talked about his diet on Howard Stern in the last couple months (May 30 was when I saw the tweet). Here’s the reference:

John Cowell ‏@jfcowell 30 May
@Martinberkhan getting a semi-mention on the @HowardStern show when discussing Hugh Jackman’s diet. #16/8

I’m going to try to find that again.

Note that the 6K calories/day definitely doesn’t square with the meal plan described in the article. Separately, searches for the written-up meal plan seem to point to an X-men Origins DVD extra interview. Note that Origins was a 2009 flick. Actually, I found a “meal plan” via this query (see the PDF) that looks like what Deming wrote up in the article. That PDF was from Jan 2013, which doesn’t say much for the source. Ugh.

As you look down the rabbit hole and try to find more info on what Jackman REALLY did for The Wolverine, it seems you just find a pile of misinformation and mashed-up facts stuck together from various sources. And here I go and add to the echo chamber …

Anyone who can find some definitive info here … well I’m all ears. If only Jackman read BirthdayShoes!

@John M,

Note I’ve updated the post to be (hopefully) much more accurate. Thanks for the critical eye and feedback. Ultimately, all my searching for obscure quotes and all I needed to do was search for [“hugh jackman” fasting] — that led me to his discussion of 16-8 fasting and an unfortunate citation (perhaps by Men’s Fitness, it’s not clear if Jackman was quoted on this reference) to The 8-Hour Diet, a Dec. 2012 book on IF.

Anyway, also updated the article to put in a little realism about the journey to being strong and lean.

Thanks again!

Im sad vibram u guys never covered me lifting 350+ pounds in 2010 and i was only 24 then … in a pair of worn out out KSO’s … in all seriousness that mans in great shape for 40 + males. I console my self saying hes too skinny . But u gotta give him props. Lastly no straps that takes some serious grip strength… to bad i quit lifting and got to running and home workouts …

“Jackman has now played as Marvel’s Wolverine in three X-Men movies, two Wolverine movies, and is also in an upcoming new X-men movie. ”

Technically he was Wolverine in all 4 X-Men movies so far.

Keep in mind how effective steroids and testosterone are. 😉 There is NO WAY Martin Berkhan got to the size he is in those pictures without steroids.

I’m not recommending taking steroids or testosterone. Not at all. But different people have different body types, and MOST people are not going to get huge like Martin. I’d even question whether Jackman is on the juice. Many movie stars obviously get on and off for different roles.

With that said, there is nothing like compound lifting, and it seems that IF also works very well, especially if you’re eating as natural as possible…minimizing processed food + high in lean protein.


Don’t be so quick to judge. To my knowledge having read virtually everything Martin’s written and having communicated with him on various occasions, he’s natural. Mind that he’s incredibly, incredibly lean but weighs in the lower 190s and is over 6′ tall (maybe 6’2″? I can’t remember). I seem to recall that there’s a way to approximate your optimal, natural weight for your height if you were in peak condition and Martin’s right about at the right spot.

More than anything, Martin is a no BS kind of person and he’s made fairly disparaging comments about steroid use IIRC (and maybe I don’t) which lead me to believe he’s not (nor has he been) a user.

Can’t say for sure. Maybe he’ll chime in.


Ok, I shouldn’t say that Martin couldn’t be an extremely rare anomaly. Anything is possible, but probability is something else.

I was a power lifter in high school. At 150lbs I could dead lift a bit over 350lbs. Then again, I was 18 years old. I’m having trouble getting back to that now! I was also a personal training for about 10 years.

It is exceedingly rare for someone to be able to look like Martin without taking steroids. I shouldn’t say it’s impossible, but it’s very close to impossible, in my experience.

And, I’ve known two guys who were two of the strongest opponents of steroid use, for most of the last 20 years, only to have recently admitted to have been taking them for the same period. Think of Lance Armstrong. It’s VERY common.

Anyway, I shouldn’t generalize to Martin, as I know nothing whatsoever about him. So, I didn’t mean that as a necessary slight against him, or what he is promoting.


You make great points and ultimately I really do not know the answer. I can’t vouch for the veracity of Martin not using steroids. That said, I’m not sure why Berkhan wouldn’t be clear on his previous use, if any.

It’s somewhat of a moot point. Being extremely lean does not require steroids, which is the main subject here (and proven out via others who have used the LeanGains approach — present company included).

No doubt…on the being extremely lean. And, again, I’m not against either IF or compound lifts.

My point was just that for an average guy to look like Hugh Jackman or Martin (muscle size)…it’s going to be very difficult without some chemical help.

That was my point about myself dead lifting 350+ at 150lbs. Right now I’m 38 years old and just under 150lbs. I’m at about 315 for a single dead lift. And I look nothing like Hugh Jackman, lol.

Just like women shouldn’t think they have to look like the women in fashion magazines, etc., I think it’s unrealistic for the average guy to think he’s going to look jacked up like Martin or Hugh Jackman in those Wolverine pictures…possible…but unlikely.

Also noticed something from last year’s ‘Prometheus.’ In the scene where Noomi Rapace (after her nasty self-C-section) encounters Guy Pearce as the presumed dead Peter Weyland being cleaned up after coming out of hypersleep, look closely at Michael Fassbender’s (David the robot) feet. He, the actress playing Dr Ford and the ‘guard standing close by are wearing black VFF KSOs. There’s one good shot where you can even see the ‘Vibram’ logo on the side. Probably would’ve missed it had I not been watching on my monolithic flat screen.

Just FYI…

Martins muscle size is mostly an illusion as he is extremely lean. In clothes he barely looks like he lifts. Check his deadlift videos on youtube. He lacks the thickness of a steroid user. IMO he is definitely not on steroids. Another telltale sign js his lack of traps, these are the first thing to ‘pop’ on a steroid user.


Martin is natural. He’s genetically gifted at the very least with good bone structure and symmetry. He used to model.

He also works his butt off for his body and condition based on his knowledge of nutrition and exercise.

The same goes for Hugh Jackman.

I’m natural and have been asked before if I’ve used steroids and I almost laughed in the person’s face. I’ve seen what a user looks like and I don’t have that look.

I generally do sets with your max DL (or more). I’m 5’10” and stay around 200 lbs unless I’m trying to lean out. I don’t think I’m genetically gifted; I do work hard though.

Martin’s estimation for muscular potential is height in centimeters minus 100 = your weight in kilograms.

If I were competing on-stage, my muscular potential with good genetics would put me at ~172 lbs. Low BF% shows more muscle which leads to a look that appears bigger than what the weight would reveal.

Don’t accuse people of steroid use when they may be working harder than you with an advantage via their genetics.

My brother told me that “wormy veins” was a sign of steroids use. I would hate to think that Hugh Jackman is cheating with that new “Steroid Alternative” that’s out there to get that beautiful body of his.

The reason chemicals are used so often in Hollywood is the time factor. They usually simply don’t have the time between movie shoots to transform their body to a very different look naturally. Plus, most don’t have the discipline to change their diet and work out hard enough to get there naturally. Most are so aesthetic driven they will do anything for a role including risking their health. They feel its worth it and are willing to take the risk rationalising that because they aren’t using for years it won’t have a long term effect. People in the health field know that things tend to accumulate. So whatever you do now you’ll pay a price for later whether good or bad. Basically, only a complete moron would ever use chemicals. Or someone with very unbalanced values. Thinking people will never let other people’s opinions compromise their health.

Re: Hugh Jackman. Look at his waist height. He has long legs, short torso. So this aids in his muscle growth. Plus he was obviously using.

Regarding genetics, the ideal muscular guy has a fast metabolism and larger than average bone structure coupled with a small waist. Usually when you have a larger bone structure you tend to have a slower metabolism. It would be fascinating to know why this occurs. Perhaps one of our genetics’ mysteries. Look around a gym and you will see this time and time again. Thicker guys tend to pack on the fat far more easily. Also, when you’re heavier, running isn’t so much fun. Its just a lot more work. Of course there are other ways of doing cardio….but they tend not to do them. Its like we get into a rut. Skinny people live on the treadmill whereas they should do more strength work. Stocky people need to do way more cardio. We all need to realize our limitations and work on them relentlessly! In a gym we are also way more comfortable doing what we excel at. That may be the main reason above all. Other people’s opinions of us can shape our workout. It shouldn’t but its just human nature.

Eh not so sure in this case. Doing the right training for 10 years is plenty long enough to grow naturally without chemicals. I’ve grown a lot of muscle in a year with no chemicals and just smart eating.

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