When it comes to movies, nothing beats a great action movie. Trouble is brewing and the world is in trouble. Then in comes the jacked hero who fights the bad guys, rescues the beautiful woman and saves the day. For most of us, action movies are more than just a chance to be entertained. They also give us a few moments to live vicariously through the hero. As a result, you may have left the theater wondering how you could be more like that guy. If so, here are 10 secrets you can use to build some Hollywood muscle.
Recently, I came across a YouTube video entitled, “Actors Give Advice on Diet & Exercise”. My initial thought was, “Oh no, what kind of quacky info is this going to be?” While many actors get into great shape, they are not fitness experts – they are acting experts. It would be like me trying to give acting advice based on my previous and very limited experience leading our church’s drama team. However, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to watch the video. To my surprise, I found 10 helpful tips to help guide you in your quest to build muscle like your favorite Hollywood star.
Secret #1: Look for commonality, not uniqueness
When it comes to body transformation, the secrets are in the commonalities, not the differences. It is easy to listen to an interview with your favorite celebrity and get all excited about some little detail. For example, Mark Wahlberg eats egg whites and Ezekiel bread with almond butter for breakfast. Hugh Jackman likes 16/8 intermittent fasting. Dwayne Johnson likes jasmine rice. Trying to copy these small details is nowhere near as important as the bigger picture – all three actors are very disciplined and consistent when it comes to their nutrition. Never forget that the magic is in the similarities.
Secret #2: Give it time
One huge trend that kept coming up in the interviews I listened to was how much time these actors were taking to get ready for a big role. Times such as 5, 6 or even 8 months were the norm. Now, contrast this to your average delusional individual who has seen too many bogus fitness and diet adds. So many people are trying to get in shape for summer (when its June), the high school reunion that is in two weeks or the wedding that is this Saturday. If professional actors with great genetics, personal trainers, chefs, full-time nannies and possibly various chemical enhancers are taking this long to get “in shape”. How much more then should you be reasonable about your goals when you don’t have any of these helpers?
Secret #3: Give yourself a deadline
While time is important, so is a deadline. These actors start by knowing exactly when they are shooting the big shirtless scene. Then, they work back from there in their planning. Too many people fail to reach their goals because they keep their goals as someday goals. With no deadline, you can always find an excuse to procrastinate on accomplishing your goal.
Secret #4: Have a consequence
One huge, but often overlooked advantage that an actor has over you is that he knows that ready or not, the shirt is coming off, the cameras will start rolling and millions of people will see his body. This gives him huge incentive to execute the plan and be ready for when the director yells, “Action!” He knows that his reputation and future career are on the line.
If you are serious about building muscle and transforming your body, instill some accountability and have a consequence for not coming through. Maybe it is telling a bunch of people what your goal is. Maybe it is posting before pictures on social media and telling the world what your goal is. Maybe you should owe someone $50 if you don’t hit your goal on time. I know of one website that will take your credit card number and then donate money to an organization you despise if you don’t achieve your goal on time (note: I’m using this as an illustration, not a suggestion).
Secret #5: Invest some serious time into training
One of the greatest consistencies in the interviews was that when they were preparing for a big role, all of the actors did a ton of training. Most were training several hours a day most days of the week. Now, I’m not recommending that you try to copy exactly what they do and train 2-3 hours a day. When getting in shape is your job, you can obviously devote more time to it than those who train as a hobby.
The take-home message for you is that you will have to invest a reasonable amount of time if you want to make serious changes. None of these actors talked about their twice per week 15-minute super circuits at their local big-box gym. None of them mentioned a 7-minute bodyweight HIT program they found on Pinterest. For most folks, around 4 hours per week of high-intensity training works well (note: some individuals will be able to do a bit more than this and others will need to do a bit less). Then, add some low-intensity work (e.g. walking) for health and recovery as able shooting for about 30 minutes per day. Remember that you must never exceed your recovery ability or training will just beat you up and break you down. Training more means you need to also need to invest more time into eating, sleeping and resting.
Note: you can reduce your total training time by learning to train more efficiently.
Secret #6: Eating is one of the hardest parts
|How much chicken are you willing to eat?
Another thing that virtually every actor talked about was eating. Many of them where consuming 4000-6000 calories a day to support their training and grow muscle. Eating 6000 calories would be fun if you could eat foods such as fries, pizza, and desserts. This approach will get the scale moving, but it is bad for your health and causes you to gain a ton of fat in the process. These actors had to gain a large amount of lean muscle while staying lean and this requires eating a high volume of healthy, nutrient-dense “clean” and often bland-tasting foods. They will tell you (and I will echo this from my personal experience) it is hard, boring and not fun, but it works! If you want to look more like your favorite superhero, you need to spend a lot of time shopping, cooking, washing dishes and chewing through a ton of healthy food.
Secret #7: Make the trade-offs
Success in anything is about saying no to some things so you can say yes to what is most important. Many of the actors talked about having to give up sugar and alcohol to get their bodies screen ready. I’m not saying you can never have something you enjoy again, but you will have to make sacrifices if you want to achieve your goals.
|Beer or a buff body - it's your choice
Secret #8: Connect it to your greatest passions
One of the things that I find most impressive about these Hollywood muscle-makeovers is that most actors don’t like to workout and eat healthily. So how do they make such jaw-dropping transformations? They connect what they are doing to get in shape with their true passion – being a movie star. Throughout my career, I have noticed that only two types of people make impressive body transformations. One is the person who learns to truly love hard training and healthy eating. The other is the person who can connect the benefits of proper training and nutrition to what their greatest passions. If you want to transform your body and you don’t love hard training and healthy eating, connect it to your passion for your family, sport, recreation activity, career and/or life mission.
Secret #9: Stop looking or secrets!
The final takeaway from the Hollywood body transformations is that there are no secrets. No one talked about secret programs, magic pills, revolutionary new diet plan, miracle supplements or fancy exercise gimmicks. Many of the actors in the interviews even eluded to it being a very simple process. The greatest secret to the fitness industry is that there are no secrets. When you can accept this truth, you can stop searching for the magic secret and start achieving your goals.
Secret #10: Think sustainability
The sad thing for many Hollywood actors is that when the filming is over, many go back to their old habits. Soon the muscle wastes away and the fat comes back. While the all-in, hard-core approach can yield impressive results, it rarely leads to permanent results. My hope for you is that you won’t be just another has-been or once-was. Instead, I hope that you can make changes that will help you and those around you for the rest of your life. For most people, most of the time a gradual accumulation of sustainable habits is the best for a truly sustainable body transformation.
Oh, and if you want to watch the interviews with the actors, it is: