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.


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.

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%