18 Oct 2017

Hollywood Actors Who Have Transformed Their Bodies

Fitness and workout advice

Over the years, we’ve seen some spectacular weight loss to fulfil a movie role – Mathew McConaughey springs to mind, losing more than twenty kilograms for his skin and bones role in Dallas Buyers Club.

Likewise, Christian Bale dropped to a puny forty-five kilos for The Machinist.

But there’s no real secret to rapid weight loss – you just don’t eat. Bulking up is equally straightforward – you eat hamburgers and pizza. But when bulking up calls for sculpted muscles with the consistency of wood, that’s another matter. Here are some celebrated Hollywood workout wonders and their secrets to bodybuilding success.

Batman Begins and Christian Bale hits the gym

Christian Bale had a major metamorphosis on his hands immediately post The Machinist. No sooner had he finished that super skinny role, he had to find the body of a super hero for Batman Begins. To achieve this, he almost doubled the weight of his former emaciated self in only six months.

Incredible? Yes. But there was a secret and it had more to do with history than present. Bale had been heavily into weights for years and was a six-days-a-week gym junkie leading into American Psycho. How did he gain bulk so fast? Hard work obviously, but the rapid gains had more to do with what’s called muscle memory.

Muscle memory isn’t actually about muscles; it’s about the brain and your ability to store correct muscle movements and recreate them in training without conscious thought. Because those movements were already stored, Bale had a major head start on his training.

He did, however, overcompensate with his massive training and eating regime, gaining too much bulk for the Batman role and he had to go back on his Machinist diet to fit the specifications of a man bat.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

He’s 6’5 (196cm) and 260 pounds (118kg) of AFL footballer turned pro-wrestler turned actor, although you could argue that wrestling really is just acting in uncompromising positions. That said, and to his credit, The Rock has successfully made the step up from acting tough in underpants without a script to acting tough in underpants with a script. So much so that he’s currently the most bankable name in Hollywood earning the industry billions every year and topping the Forbes Highest Paid Actor list.  

Lucky him, you might say. But let’s have a look at what he does to earn his status. Given the role of Hercules, he could well have said “Okay, here I am.” But no, he wanted to respect the mythology of the impossibly muscled and chiselled Hercules. Podgy Hollywood executives nodded approval.

For six months, everything he’d done as a footballer and wrestler paled in comparison. He worked out six days with one day off starting at 4 am with a fifty minute cardio session. He’d then work on the body part scheduled for that day, legs being the only bits favoured with two workouts a week.

He also ate precisely measured meals at least six times a day to pack in the protein for lean muscle growth. Meal one was an odd combo of steak, egg whites and oatmeal; meal two, more normal with chicken, white rice and broccoli. Rice again for meal three mixed with halibut and asparagus. And on it went with more chicken and more steak later in the day.

You might say The Rock is obsessed with training, and you’d be right. He is an extreme example, but he still demonstrates what can be done with some serious dedication.

Chris Pratt – doughy man-boy to man mountain

Yes, if you’re a Chris Pratt fan, you’ll remember the less than svelte character he played in Parks and Recreation, a rotund and roly-poly Andy Dwyer. All was probably good for Chris Pratt back then, eating all he wanted and driving straight past the gyms full of fellow heaving, sweating actors training for the ‘fit’ roles.

Then Chris Pratt got one of those himself; an action hero in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and life changed. This was no role for a roly-poly man and suddenly Pratt had to lose a belly-load of weight and get ripped. He did just that.

How? With celebrity nutritionists and personal trainers monitoring his every mouthful and move, Pratt ate healthy and worked hard with one of the most intense Hollywood training regimes yet seen to transform fat to muscle. 

For six months he worked out 4 to 6 times a week with extra workouts if he felt like it, which he often did. He was dedicated and determined to do the action role justice.

Breaking that six months down, the first two were full-on bodybuilding; the next two added a 50% conditioning quota – calisthenics, treadmills and rowing machines; and the last stage was a massive combo of cardio – swimming and mountain biking.

The result was far from a walk in the park and far from recreation, but Chris Pratt is testimony to the one truth of training; if you want it badly enough, it’s doable.

Matthew McConaughey – the man metamorphosis

Matthew McConaughey has built his reputation on challenging roles that not only tested his skills as an actor, but also his entire biological makeup. He is the absolute epitome of acting dedication, throwing himself into roles with some staggering mental and physical transformations to rival Christian Bale.

The most infamous of these was Dallas Buyers Club, where the perpetually buffed McConaughey shed around twenty precious kilos to play HIV sufferer Ron Woodroof. Shambling about like a denim-clad skeleton, he was barely recognisable as the Hollywood hunk he’d been a matter of months before.

Incredibly, just three months after that stunning, award-winning role, he was back to his lean, but buffed self, jettisoning one character and becoming another in both body and mind.

What’s the secret to training discipline McConaughey-style?

Tie your shoes, it’s that simple. If you want to make sure you don’t get a sudden overwhelming bout of laziness: tie your shoes. Tie the laces on your training shoes, there’s no going back. You’re going to train.

And how does Matthew McConaughey work out? Well, like the man himself, it’s unconventional and quirky.  Here’s a quick rundown on a Matthew McConaughey-style workout. If you plan to imitate (and you could do a lot worse), do this series of exercises in a circuit one after the other with no breathers in between. Then rest for a maximum of two minutes and blast out another circuit and another until you’ve done as many as ten (yes, ten).

Here’s the circuit courtesy of Men’s Fitness.

Stop/go and single leg squats: Hop five times on one leg. Do five single leg squats on that leg. Repeat twice and then do the other leg. If you can do this, you’re in good shape already!

Hand walk and push ups: Get in a standard push up position and move forward using nothing but hands and ankles, no knee bending. Move ten ‘steps’ then punch out five push ups. Crawl another ten, do five more, another ten, and then five more.

Red, green and yellow light lunges: Do five normal lunges (green light). Then do five as slow as you can (yellow light) and hold the last lunge position for five seconds (red light). Fifteen lunges of each to complete the exercise.

Tree pull and raise: Matthew likes to train with whatever is around, so be it a tree or monkey bars, hang from it. Do one pull up followed by one double leg raise. Repeat eight times.

And that’s your first circuit. Tough stuff, but if you want the body of a pumped up Hollywood actor, you’ve got to put in the hard yards, even if they’re on hands and ankles.

Of course, when you’re pressed for time, there are other ways to keep the exercise flow going. As McConaughey says, you can sneak in quick bursts of exercise throughout the day. You’re waiting for a plane, train or automobile, drop and do twenty push ups. You’re at your desk trying to nut out the next sentence of an email, drop and do twenty. If you do that ten times through the day, you’ve done two hundred push ups without breaking from your schedule. Mix in some squats or crunches for the workout you have when you haven’t got time for a workout. Genius!

Interested in the ins and outs of tweaking fitness programs to meet your goals or even your client's goals? Call us today on 1300 616 180 and speak with one of our friendly Careers Advisors to get started. 

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