Highly Muscular Action Hero Actors: How Do They Do It?

She doesn't have enough testosterone to get bulky muscles, but that's OK

She doesn’t have enough testosterone to get bulky muscles, but she can get bigger and stronger

Logan Hill has an interesting article in Men’s Journal on how actors get that muscled-up lean action hero body. He talks about how an impressive physique is almost a bare minimum criterion to make it in Hollywood these days. It’s not like the good ol’ days when acting chops and charisma were enough. Note the difference between the James Bond of Sean Connery and Daniel Craig (photo at the link). A quote:

Even the type of muscle has changed. “In the Eighties, it was the bigger, the better,” says director Tim Burton. “Think of that shot from Rambo of Sly holding the machine gun and the veins in his forearms bulging.” Actors rarely bulk up like that anymore; they’re all trying to be Tyler Durden.

Every trainer interviewed for this story cited Brad Pitt’s ripped physique in 1999’s Fight Club as an inspiration. Previously known for his lush, golden hair, the girls’ guy Pitt was reborn as Durden, a sinewy, predatory man’s man. “Brad Pitt in Fight Club is the reference for 300,” says Mark Twight, who trained the cast for 300. “Everyone thought he was huge, but he was, like, 155 pounds. If you strip away fat and get guys to 3, 4 percent body fat, they look huge without necessarily being huge.”

To get that hungry look, trainers stress calorie-conscious diets and exercises that pump up fat-burning metabolism. No actor can gain 10 pounds of muscle in a six-week period, but he can lean down to reveal the muscle underneath. Trainers talk about the “lean out” – the final, preshoot crash period when actors drop their BMI (body-mass index) to its bare minimum and unveil muscle definition.

You’ll read about insane commitment to exercise, high-protein diets, rapid weight loss and muscle definition, HGH, anabolic steroids, and even insulin. I imagine a $6 million paycheck is a good motivator. Warning: it’s a fairly long article.

Read the whole enchilada.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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