I just tried Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine workout — and wow

a photo of Hugh Jackman on the red carpet, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
(Image credit: Getty/Elisabetta A. Villa / Contributor/Instagram/hughjackman)

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ll have seen that Hugh Jackman is returning to his role as Wolverine in Deadpool 3. The star dropped the news in a video with Ryan Reynolds, with the duo showcasing their bromance, and then later their impressive guns in an explainer video.

But how did the star get, and stay in shape to play Wolverine? I took a deep dive into Jackman’s workout routine to find out more. 

Of course, Jackman played Wolverine over a period spanning 17 years, so it’s unlikely he stuck to the same workout routine for that entire time. That said, it seems weightlifting and following a balanced, protein-packed diet are staples of Jackman’s program. As the Hollywood star proves, long-term results take long-term dedication, not fad diets or extreme workouts.

While Jackman has worked with a number of different personal trainers over the years, he worked with trainer David Kingsbury ahead of his dramatic transformation for the 2009 X-Men Originals: Wolverine. The star worked with Kingsbury for over six months to build his upper body for the role. 

Kingsbury is an advocate of progressive overload — where you gradually increase the weight, frequency, or number of reps over time. Kingsley reportedly broke the actor's training down into a four-week schedule, increasing the weight during the first three weeks, then reducing and upping the weight during the fourth. The increase was precise — Kingsley would work out Jackman’s one rep max (the maximum you can lift for one rep), and go from there. You can read more about the process in Kingsbury’s blog

But how hard were the workouts themselves, to find out more, I used an example workout published on Muscle and Strength, grabbed some of the best adjustable dumbbells, and got to work. It’s worth noting, what works for Jackman might not be right for you and your body — before adding weight, or repetitions to a workout, it’s a good idea to check your form with a personal trainer to minimize your risk of injury. 

What is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine arm workout?  

While this might not be the exact workout Jackman used, here’s what Muscle and Strength put together based on the Wolverine actor’s training principles: 

Exercise 1

Bench press: 4 sets of 5 @60/65/75/75% 1RM, rest for 60-90 seconds between each set 

Exercise 2

Weighted dip: 3 Sets of 10, following the 2-for-2 rule (if you can complete two extra reps on two sets, the weight should be increased).  Rest for 60-90 seconds between each set 

Superset 3

Incline dumbbell bench press: 3 sets of 12 reps 

Dumbbell pullover: 3 sets of 10 reps 

Cable crossovers: 3 sets of 10 reps 

After completing one set of each exercise in succession, rest for 90 seconds before repeating.

Superset 4

Hanging leg raises: 1 set of 12 reps, then 10 reps, 8 reps and 6 reps

Weighted crunch: 4 Sets of 12

After completing one set of both exercises in succession, rest for 90 seconds before repeating.

I tried Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine arm workout — here’s what happened

I’ll be honest, this one filled me with dread. As a runner, I don’t spend a lot of time in the gym, and when I do, I hardly ever do workouts that only focus on my arms. That said, in the name of good journalism, I grabbed some dumbbells and got started.

As a weightlifting newbie, I didn’t know my one rep max, but started with the dumbbells I’d usually use for a chest press (two 6kg weights) and built up from there. I soon realized, as I was only doing five reps, I could go much heavier than normal, although undoubtedly my dumbbells were a lot lighter than Hugh Jackman's. Still, Wolverine wasn’t built in a day, right?

When it comes to the dips, I struggled to do 10 without any weight, so opted to just do three sets of 10 bodyweight dips for the workout. As a reminder, if you’re a beginner to a move, it’s better to master your technique and get your form right before adding weight. My arms were tired, and then I was into my first superset, starting with incline dumbbell bench presses. I soon realized I’d pushed myself a little hard with the first couple of exercises, as by the cable crossovers on the first superset, my biceps were on fire. 

Unlike Jackman, I didn’t stick to the suggested periods of rest — I needed much longer to sit on an exercise mat and contemplate my career choices. I was also working out in a busier gym, so often had to wait for people to finish their reps on various machines. We’re definitely not in Hollywood anymore. 

While I’m in no doubt that Jackman did the hanging leg raises hanging from a bar, I seem to lack the superhero grip strength needed to complete one rep, so opted to do my leg raises using the Captains Chair machine in the gym. This made the move slightly easier, as I was able to support my weight on my elbows and focus on engaging my abs to lift my legs, not swinging from my hips. The weighted crunches felt like a treat after the focus on my arms, and I’ll definitely be adding these to my ab finishers going forward. 

Did the workout leave me with a Wolverine physique? Sadly. the human body doesn’t work that quickly, but it did make washing my hair the next day a challenge. The fact Jackman kept his strength training regime up for 11 years is serious dedication, but also proof that results take hard work and dedication — want arms like Wolverine? Consistency really is key if you want to beat Sabertooth. 

Looking for more workout inspiration? Read what happened when I tried Chris Hemsworth's 250-rep dumbbell workout here, I did Jessica Alba’s full-body workout, when I gave Lily James' 600-rep ab workout a go, and when I did 50-oblique crunches a day for a week.  

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.