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.

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.

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 225 pounds, a set calling for 60% will require 135 pounds. Regard- less 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.

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

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


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

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Day 1

1. BENCH PRESS - Sets: 4, Reps: See Table, Rest: 150 sec.

Lie on the bench and grasp the bar with hands placed outside shoulder width. Arch your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Lower the bar to your sternum, tucking your elbows about 45 degrees to your sides. Drive your feet into the floor as you press the bar back up.

2. DUMMBELL SHOULDER PRESS - Sets: 4, Reps:10, Rest: 60 sec.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level. Keeping your abs braced, press the weights straight overhead.

3. BEHIND-THE-NECK PRESS - Sets: 4, Reps:10, Rest: 60 sec.

Grasp the bar with hands at shoulder width and lift it off the rack so it sits at shoulder level. Keeping your abs braced, press the bar overhead and then lower it behind your head—but not all the way to your neck. Press it up from there. Begin each subsequent rep from behind the head.

4. CUBAN PRESS - Sets: 4, Reps: 10, Rest: 30 sec.

Grasp the bar with hands outside shoulder width. Draw your shoulders back and raise it in front of your body until your elbows are bent 90 degrees. Now rotate your forearms backward until your knuckles face the ceiling. Press the bar overhead. Reverse the motion to return the bar to the starting position.

5a. TRICEPS DIP - Sets: 4, Reps: 10, Rest: 60 sec.

Rest the heels of your hands on a bench and place your feet on another bench parallel with it so your body is suspended over the floor. Lower your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor.

5b. LATERAL RAISE - Sets: 4, Reps: 12, Rest: 60 sec.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms at your sides. Raise the weights out 90 degrees so your upper arms are parallel with the floor.

6. SHOULDER CIRCUIT - Sets: 3, Reps: 8, (each move) Rest: 60 sec.

Rest the heels of your hands on a bench and place your feet on another bench parallel with it so your body is suspended over the floor. Lower your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor.


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

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Day 2

1. BACK SQUAT - Sets: 4 Reps: See Table, Rest: 150 sec.

Grasp the bar outside shoulder width and squeeze. Step under it and pull your shoulder blades together. Arch your back to take the bar off the rack—it should rest on your rear delts. Step back and set your feet at shoulder width. Take a deep breath and sit back, lowering yourself as far as you can with your back flat.

2. FRONT SQUAT - Sets: 4 Reps: See Table, Rest: 60 sec.

Grasp the bar at shoulder width and raise your elbows so your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Nudge the bar off the rack and step back. Plant your feet at shoulder width. Squat down without losing the arch in your back.

3. SINGLE-LEG PRESS - Sets: 4, Reps:10 (each leg), Rest: 60 sec.

Place one foot on the foot plate and bend your knee until it’s 90 degrees.

4a. STANDING CALF RAISE - Sets: 4, Reps: 12, Rest: 60 sec.

Use the standing calf raise machine or stand on a block. Lower your heels until you feel a stretch in your calves and then raise your heels until you’re on the balls of your feet.

4b. HANGING LEG RAISE - Sets: 4, Reps: 12, Rest: 60 sec.

Hang from a pullup bar. Contract your abs and raise your legs until they’re parallel with the floor.

5. AB-WHEEL ROLLOUT Sets: 4, Reps: 10, Rest: 60 sec.

Grasp the axle of an ab wheel and kneel down on the floor, placing the wheel in front of you. Brace your abs and roll forward until you feel your lower back is about to sag. Roll yourself back to the starting position..


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

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Day 3

1. WEIGHTED PULLUP - Sets: 4, Reps: See Table, Rest: 150 sec.

Attach a weighted belt around your waist and hang from a pullup bar. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. The loads the table on page 114 call for pertain to the extra weight you’re adding around your waist. If you can’t perform the number of pre- scribed reps with added weight, just use your body weight.

2. ONE-ARM DUMBBELL ROW - Sets: 4 Reps: 12, Rest: 60 sec.

Hold a dumbbell in one hand and rest your opposite hand and knee on a flat bench for support. Draw your shoulder back and row the weight to your ribs.

3. INVERTED ROW - Sets: 4, Reps: 10, Rest: 60 sec.

Set up a barbell on the supports of a power rack (or use a Smith machine) so it’s about waist height. Grasp the bar at shoulder width and walk your legs forward until you’re hanging from the bar with arms extended—it should look like the top of a bench press. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull yourself up until your back is fully contracted.

4. INCLINE DUMBBELL CURL - Sets: 4, Reps: 10, Rest: 60 sec.

Set an adjustable bench to a 45- to 60-degree angle and sit back on it with dumbbells. Keeping your upper arms at your sides, curl.

5. BICEPS CIRCUIT - Sets: 4, Reps: 8, Rest: 60 sec.

Hold a light dumbbell in each hand and perform a curl. Turn your palms over at the top and lower the weights with control using that reverse grip (Zottman curl). Do 8 reps. Now turn your palms to face your thighs and curl one arm at a time across your body, so your hand ends up near your opposite shoulder. Complete 8 reps on each arm. Finish with 8 reverse curls, palms facing down. Do not rest until all exercises in the circuit are completed.


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

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Day 4

1. INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS - Sets: 4, Reps: See Below, Rest: 150 sec.

Set an adjustable bench to a 30- to 45-degree incline, grasp a dumbbell in each hand, and lie back against the bench. Hold the weights at your shoulders and press them straight up over you. On the last set, perform a dropset— complete 6 reps as prescribed and then reduce the weight to a load that allows you another 6 reps. Be conservative.

2. MULTI-ANGLE INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESSS - Sets: 4 Reps: 6, Rest: 60 sec.

Perform the incline dumbbell press at three different angles. Begin on a steep incline and do 6 reps. Without rest, adjust the bench to reduce the incline and perform another 6 reps. Adjust the bench again to make it completely flat and complete 6 final reps. That’s one set.

3. CABLE FLYE- Sets: 4, Reps: 10, Rest: 60 sec.

Attach D-handles to the top pulleys of two facing cable stations. Grasp each and bend your elbows slightly. Step forward so you feel a stretch in your chest and then bring your arms together in front of your chest, flexing your pecs.

4. CLOSE GRIP BENCH PRESS - Sets: 4, Reps: 10, Rest: 60 sec.

Set up as you did for the bench press but grip the bar just inside shoulder width.

5. TRICEPS CIRCUIT - Sets: 4, Reps: 8, Rest: 60 sec.

Use the rope attachment on a pulley machine and perform triceps push- downs for 8 reps. Next, perform 8 reps of triceps dips as described on page 116. Finally, perform 8 reps of pushups with your hands close together. Do not rest until all exercises in the circuit have been completed.


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

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Day 5

1. DEADLIFT - Sets: 4, Reps: See Table, Rest: 150 sec.

Stand with feet at hip width and bend down to grasp the bar outside your knees. Take a deep breath and drive through your heels to lift the bar, keeping your lower back flat. Come up until you’ve locked out your hips and knees.

2. ROMANIAN DEADLIFT - Sets: 4 Reps: 10, Rest: 60 sec.

Hold the bar at shoulder width. Bend your hips back and lower your torso as far as you can without losing the arch in your lower back. Allow your knees to bend as needed. Extend your hips to come back up.

3. ZERCHER SQUAT- Sets: 4, Reps: 12, Rest: 60 sec.

Set up a barbell low enough in the squat rack that you can reach your arms under it and let it rest in the bend of your elbows. Cup one hand over the other and, keeping your lower back arched, lift the bar out of the rack. Stand with your feet outside shoulder width and turned out about 45 degrees. Keeping your chest up, squat as low as you can. Increase the weight you use each set.

4. WEIGHTED INCLINE SITUP - Sets: 4, Reps: 10, Rest: 60 sec.

Set an adjustable bench to a slight decline and set up on it holding a weight plate behind your head. Perform a situp.

5. BARBELL LAND MINE- Sets: 4, Reps: 10 (each side), Rest: 60 sec.

Wedge one end of a barbell into the corner of a room and load the other end. Grasp it with both hands and twist to one side explosively. Then twist to the other.


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5