Take one look at the well muscled, well toned actors and actresses in your favorite flicks and it's easy to wonder how on earth they got so fit (Credit: BBH Pictures/Splash News).
Here they are, practically changing shape from role to role, performing athletic feats that surely aren't all done by stunt doubles, and they look good doing it.
Take Gerard Butler, for example. Not particularly known for his physique before, this Scottish-born actor put on such a tremendous coat of muscles for his role as King Leonidas in the film 300 that Butler's workout regimen, devised by trainer Mark Twight, has become a phenomenon. (Google "300 workout" for an endless list of instructional videos, variations and how-tos.)
But however much you sweat and grimace on your way to emulating Butler's bulging abs, you're at a distinct disadvantage: getting into shape for a role is part of an actor's job, and he or she can dedicate hours a day to work with the world's top trainers.
Celebrity fitness gurus like Harley Pasternak and Simon Waterson have their patented methods for transforming their charges' bodies depending on the demands of a role. An ex-British Royal Marine, Waterson has trained the last two James Bonds, Halle Berry, Chris Evans and Jake Gyllenhaal, and, in his opinion, being an actor is akin to being a sports pro.
"It is tough having to do these things, especially with actors who are being asked to be athletes," he told BodyBuilding.com. "Professional athletes get to have 12 hours sleep, they get to nap, they get the right food. They've got that structure, as well as not having to go to actual work and do like a 14-hour day and then train, like an actor has to."
In addition to doing grueling regimens of weight training and cardio--not to mention going on sometimes freakish diets--actors have to learn physically demanding skills like sword handling and horseback riding for specific parts. Jennifer Lawrence put in hours upon hours working on her archery skills to make her performance in The Hunger Games believable.
And all that conditioning isn't for show, either. Trainers often go to boxing, martial arts and the old French military art of parkour to keep actors nimble and athletic so they can climb, jump and do whatever else their action-packed roles demand.
- Mark Lebetkin, The Active Times
Although he appeared almost gaunt in Les Miserables, Hugh Jackman is best known for looking jacked as Wolverine in the X-Men franchise. Those enormous biceps didn’t come from nowhere. Jackman has been working with his trainer Mike Ryan since 1989, according to an interview Ryan gave to Men’s Fitness. For X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan had Jackman in the gym by 4 a.m. doing up to an hour and a half of both cardio and weight training. To build muscle, Ryan focused on grueling “supersets” that combine compound lifts with isolation ones, “for example, go from a dumb-bell bench press straight into a flye,” he said. During peak training, Jackman was benching up to 315 pounds and leg pressing 1,000 pounds—and eating 6,000 calories a day. Click here to More Workouts that Shape Hollywood Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
If you have trouble motivating yourself to work out, you might be in good company with this Pirates of the Caribbean bombshell. What really gets Keira Knightley to the gym are the rigorous demands of a movie contract, she told IGN. “I always love training for films, because you've got such a specific goal,” She said. “As far as training in my own life, I just can't motivate myself at all.” That goal in the 2004 film King Arthur was to play a pugnacious, sword-fighting Guinevere opposite a beefed up Clive Owen. “When I accepted the role, they said, 'You really have to bulk up,' because otherwise you simply wouldn't believe that I could fight on equal standing with a man and come out all right,” she said. Knightley did weight training for two hours a day, four days a week, and also took up archery, sword fighting and—yes—boxing. “She was fearsome,” Owen told ESPN.com. “She was boxing during lunch breaks!” Credit: Touchstone Pictures
Three months after having a baby and thirty pounds overweight, Uma Thurman was handed a script for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and asked to learn “three styles of kung fu, two styles of sword fighting, knife throwing, knife fighting [and] hand-to-hand combat,” she told Time Magazine. She put in some hardcore training with master martial arts choreographer Yuen Wo-ping, whose credits include The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. “They trained me five days a week for three months from nine in the morning until five o'clock at night and we were not to be late and I never got to leave early,” Thurman told IGN. Credit: Miramax Films
Gone are the days when Liam Neeson is only a prestige actor in films like Schindler’s List. Since playing a badass ex-CIA officer in 2009’s Taken, Neeson, 61, has become a bona fide action star—and he’s fit enough to do his own fight scenes. A boxer in his youth, Neeson prepared for Taken by spending several weeks in France learning parkour, he told Time Out Sydney. No slouch in his sixties, Neeson also stays in shape with kettlebells, stationary bike and—no surprise—a punching bag. Credit: Magali Bragard/EUROPACORP M6 FILMS/GRIVE PRODUCTIONS
This svelte A-lister you may recall as Uhura from the recent Star Trek films or the blue heroine of Avatar dialed it up to eleven for her role as an assassin in the 2011 action flick Colombiana, enlisting Hollywood trainer Steve Moyer for the task, according to Shape Magazine. Moyer crafted her a toning regimen that sculpted her upper body with a resistance band and light weights, he told Popsugar Fitness. Go-to moves included plank pushups, resistance band pulls, and dumbbell curls. The goal of these exercises, Moyer said, was not to bulk up, but rather to achieve some lean, mean definition of the triceps and deltoids. Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment
One of the most remarkable physical turnarounds in film history, Christian Bale went from muscular in American Psycho to emaciated in The Machinist, and then back to buff in Batman Begins. That last transformation, during which he gained 100 pounds (before losing 30 for filming), took only six months. Although he “couldn’t do a single pushup” when he started, his trainer Efua Baker bulked him up with “daily three-hour running and weight sessions,” according to an interview in People. His training included “heavy core training, plyometrics and resistance training,” according to Men’s Fitness. Credit: Warner Brothers
For her turn as a boxer in Best Picture-winner Million Dollar Baby, Hillary Swank put on 19 pounds of lean muscle in 90 days. “If I'm going to play a boxer, I better look like a boxer,” Swank told ESPN.com. “My training was two and a half hours of boxing and approximately an hour and a half to two hours lifting weights every day, six days a week,” the actress said to MovieWeb. To bulk up her model-thin frame, Swank ate 4,000 calories and 210 grams of protein a day, putting down egg whites, protein shakes and flax oil every hour and a half. Credit: Warner Brothers
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