There’s no doubt that Hugh Jackman was in great shape while filming “Wolverine.” His physique in the movie resembles that of an athlete in their prime.

The training program that Jackman followed in preparation for filming has been dubbed the “Wolverine program.” Designed by trainer David Kingsbury, the program helped Jackman lean down and gain muscle through a combination of:

In this article, we break down the program so you can determine whether it might help you look like a superhuman mutant, too.

In the 5 months before filming the movie “Wolverine” in 2013, Jackman followed a strict workout routine 6 days a week and a diet plan created by his trainer. The goal of the program was to help Jackman increase his muscle strength and size while staying lean.

The workout program consisted of lifting heavy weights close to Jackman’s maximum lifts and cardio to help keep his body fat levels low. The level of cardio Jackman performed changed throughout the program to match his body fat levels.

According to a Bodybuilding.com interview with Kingsbury, Jackman was already in great shape before he started training. He had just finished performing on Broadway and was wrapping up on the set of “Les Misérables,” so at the beginning of the program he was already relatively lean for his 6-foot-2-inch frame.

Strength training

In the same interview, Kingsbury explains that Jackman hadn’t done much low rep, high-intensity lifting prior to starting the program. The program consisted mostly of sets with less than five reps to stimulate myofibril hypertrophy.

Myofibrils are the individual contracting elements of muscle fibers that shorten when you flex a muscle. Resistance training can lead to myofibril hypertrophy, which is an increase in muscle size of these contracting elements caused by increased protein synthesis.

Research suggests that myofibrillar hypertrophy contributes to improvements in muscular strength.

Some research has also found that high-intensity programs tend to increase muscle strength more than high-volume programs. It’s thought that myofibril hypertrophy contributes to this increase in strength.

High-volume programs are thought to increase muscle size primarily through sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which is an increase in the fluid that surrounds your myofibrils. This type of muscle growth doesn’t lead to increased strength.

The difference between sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibril hypertrophy can be seen in bodybuilders and powerlifters:

  • Bodybuilders often follow high-volume programs that increase their muscle size with a relatively small increase in strength.
  • Powerlifters tend to perform less volume at a higher intensity and tend to be stronger pound for pound.

Cardio

During the Wolverine training program, the volume of cardio Jackman performed weekly fluctuated depending on changes in his body fat percentage. The type of cardio is less important than the intensity and total calories burned in each session.

The Wolverine program is broken into 4-week training blocks that can be repeated with a 5 to 10 percent increase in weight each time you repeat the cycle.

Strength training

The primary exercises used in the Wolverine program are:

Each set is based on a percentage of your working one-rep maximum or 95 percent of your actual max.

For example, if you can deadlift 500 pounds, your working max would be 475 pounds and you would use 285 pounds for a set calling for 60 percent.

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4
Set 15 reps at 60%4 reps at 65%4 reps at 70%10 reps at 40%
Set 25 reps at 65%4 reps at 75%3 reps at 80%10 reps at 50%
Set 35 reps at 75%4 reps at 85%3 reps at 90%10 reps at 60%
Set 45 reps at 75%4 reps at 85%3 reps at 90%10 reps at 90%

The number of exercises you perform each day can depend on how many days per week you plan on training. For example, if you plan on lifting 4 days per week, you could do one of the prime lifts per day and add a handful of supplementary lifts.

For instance, a workout could be:

  1. Bench press: 4 x 5 reps at 60 to 75 percent
  2. Tricep dips: 3 x 12 reps
  3. Bicep curls: 3 x 12 reps at 50 percent
  4. Dumbbell fly: 3 x 8 reps at 50 percent

Cardio

You can add cardio to your program as needed to achieve your desired body fat percentage.

Here’s the cardio workout Jackman described in an interview with Men’s Health:

  1. Warm up on a treadmill.
  2. Sprint at 85 percent of your max speed for 15 to 20 seconds.
  3. Rest for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat for 10 sprints.

The Wolverine diet follows a form of intermittent fasting called the 16:8 method. While Jackman was following the diet, he consumed all of his food within an 8-hour period and fasted for 16 hours per day.

Assuming that he slept for about 8 hours a night, there would have been about 8 wakeful hours when he couldn’t eat.

Through each stage of training, he followed carb cycling. On weight training days, he ate high carb foods, and on rest days, he ate low carb foods.

Even though there are no particular restrictions on the diet, Jackman reportedly ate mostly “clean” food throughout his training. It’s rumored that he ate more than 4,000 calories a day while training.

Although the emphasis was on whole, unprocessed food, Jackman also reportedly took a pre-workout supplement and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) while fasting.

Examples of meals that you could eat while following the Wolverine diet include:

  • chicken with brown rice and spinach
  • steak with sweet potato and broccoli
  • oats with eggs

According to Kingsbury, Jackman had 5 months to get into shape. Jackman was still filming “Les Misérables” at the beginning of the program, so he started to see the biggest changes in the last 3 or 4 months.

If you follow a similar training regime, it’ll likely take a month or two to see results.

Benefits of the Wolverine program include:

  • The plan combines exercise and healthy eating.
  • Intermittent fasting may help reduce insulin resistance.
  • Unlike many celebrity diets, it doesn’t require a large calorie restriction.
  • It’s easy to modify and customize the program.
  • It’s relatively intense and has the potential to give good results.

The Wolverine training program is best suited to people who are already physically active. If you have any health concerns that might limit your ability to perform heavy weight training, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first.

If you don’t already have a background in lifting weights, you may benefit from lowering the intensity of the lifts and increasing the volume to avoid injury.

Downsides of the program include:

  • Beginner lifters may not know their one-rep max.
  • Some people may find fasting and carb cycling difficult.
  • People with a limited fitness background might find the weightlifting too intense.

It’s also worth noting that even if you follow the same training program as Jackman, you might not get the same results.

Jackman was already relatively fit before starting training. During the filming of “Wolverine,” he also benefited from flattering camera angles, body makeup, and lighting that highlighted his physique.

Unlike many celebrity or fad diets, the Wolverine diet doesn’t rely on gimmicks or unsustainable calorie restriction to promote weight loss. The basic principles of the program can be summarized as:

  • Lift heavy weights.
  • Eat mostly natural food.
  • Perform cardio regularly.

The Wolverine program might not be suitable for everybody, especially people with a limited fitness background. But the program does have the potential to be a solid template for people who already have some experience lifting.