I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I love nothing more than a celebrity workout challenge. While us mere mortals have to fit home workouts in around cleaning, washing, and working from home, celebs seem to have unlimited time to spend sculpting and honing their bodies in the gym, and as a fitness editor, I see it as my duty to uncover their secrets. I've tried Tom Holland's Spider-Man workout, Chris Hemsworth's Thor workout, and Taron Egerton's workout to test my mettle.
With all that in mind, when I saw how many people google "Ryan Reynolds workout" I had to know more. Sure, the Deadpool star looks pretty fantastic, but what does he do to get in superhero shape?
In an interview with Men’s Journal (opens in new tab), Reynolds’ long-term trainer Don Saladino revealed the secrets behind the Deadpool star’s six-pack and a couple of his favorite ab workouts. Read on to find out what happened when I went to the gym to give them a go.
What is Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool ab workout?
In his interview with Men’s Journal, Saladino pointed out that strong abs don’t come from doing endless crunches, but full-body strength training. “The undeniable fact is that abs are one of the first muscle groups that people look to see if someone is in shape. There is a lot of temptation to overtrain them,” Saladino said.
Instead of giving Reynolds specific ab workouts, he’ll focus on movements that engage the entire body, such as deadlifts and squats. “Those are still two of the best abdominal exercises I know because your whole body is forced to brace and stabilize. Then, because you are using more of your muscle, you are able to pick up more weight, which in turn is going to hit your core” he said.
Saladino shared two killer core circuits he’d add to Reynolds' routine:
Ab workout 1:
Hanging leg raise: 4 sets of 8 reps
To do a hanging leg raise, grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip — it’s safest to use a pull-up bar at a gym, rather than one attached to a door frame. As you hang from the bar, slowly lift your legs so they are straight out in front of you. You should strive to get them parallel to the ground, but don’t worry if this is too challenging to start with. Lower your legs back to their starting position — that’s one rep.
Cable crunch: 4 sets of 12 reps
To do a cable crunch, you’ll need to start by kneeling in front of a cable station with a pulley attachment. Pull the rope handles towards your face, so that your hands are just above your head. Engaging your core, keep your hips and arm still and lower your elbows to your legs — the crunch should come from your abs, not your arms. Pause at the bottom, before raising your torso back to the starting position.
Landmine: 4 sets of 10 reps
After loading a landmine bar in the gym to an appropriate weight, start facing the landmine, grasping the bar with both hands. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your arms extended. Pivot on your right foot to twist the bar over to the left side, then return to your starting position before twisting to the right.
Up/down carry: 4 sets of 25 meters
Do do an up/down carry, you’ll need two kettlebells or dumbbells (we’ve hand-picked the best adjustable dumbbells for your home workouts here). Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Raise one arm above your head, and leave the opposite arm down by your side, then walk forwards for 25 meters. Alternate between arms on each set.
Ab workout 2:
Reverse crunch (with lift): 4 sets of 12 reps
To do a reverse crunch, start by lying on your back, with your lower back, head, and neck pressed into the floor. Bend your legs at the knee, press your feet into the mat, and engage your core, thinking about sucking your belly button into your spine. Keep your knees bent, inhale, and raise your legs, hips, and bottom off the mat. Pause at the top of the movement, using your core to keep your hips raised off the mat. Your head and neck should stay imprinted on the mat. As you exhale, lower your hips back to the mat. Here’s more information on how to do a reverse crunch and the modifications to try.
Ab roller: 4 sets of 12 reps
For this exercise, you’ll need an ab roller, which you should be able to find in most gyms. Start on your hands and knees at the back of your exercise mat, gripping the ab roller in both hands. Holding the bars on either side of the wheel, roll the roller out away from you, bracing your abs. Roll your arms and torso away from your knees until you feel like you can’t get back up, then use your core to roll the roller back to its starting position.
Heavy loaded carry: 4 sets of 40 meters
A loaded carry involves walking with a heavy set of weights. It should feel challenging. This is a brilliant compound move, as it targets multiple muscle groups. Start by loading yourself with heavy dumbbells, or a barbell, and walk forward for 40 meters.
Short side plank: 4 sets of 60 seconds
The side plank is one of the best exercises for targeting the obliques. For a short side plank, you’ll keep your knees stacked on top of each other on the floor, allowing you to focus on keeping your shoulders, hip and knees in a straight line. Keep your core engaged and lift your hips up and off the ground.
I tried Ryan Reynold’s ab workout — here’s what happened
I’ll caveat this workout review by saying I’ve been off sick with a chest infection for the past two weeks, so am definitely not at my strongest right now. I did each of the workouts on separate days and didn’t add squats or deadlifts to the routine as a warm-up — sorry Ryan.
On the first day, I was optimistic about my challenge as I returned to the gym. I was finally feeling better, and was pretty well-rested after a couple of weeks off. All of this changed five minutes later as I struggled to do one hanging leg raise, let alone 32. In the end, I admitted defeat and swapped the exercise for lying leg raises. A humbling start to the superhero workout.
The cable crunches, landmines, and up/down carries passed in a blur and were pretty far from the normal ab exercises I stick to in the gym. I see what Saladino means — I was still working my core, hard, but I wasn’t lying on a mat doing crunches, I was also working my legs and arm muscles at the same time. I left the gym feeling like I’d had a proper workout and my stomach muscles did ache a few hours later.
On day two, I was already feeling a little sore as I returned to the scene of the crime and searched for an ab roller. Starting with reverse crunches was intense, especially as there were 48 to get through. By the time I’d finished the four sets, my core was on fire, and I had to take longer breaks between each of the sets of 12 ab rollouts. I hate ab rollouts but battled my way through all 48, while seriously questioning my life and career decisions.
Again, the heavy loaded carries reminded me that it’s not just ab workouts that build a strong core — something I’ll definitely take from this hellish experiment. I also realized 40 meters is a long way and that after a few sets, I’d gone far too heavy and had to decrease the weight to stop myself from arching my back as I walked. Finishing on side planks, another exercise I often try to avoid, was the final cruel blow and I left the gym vowing to never work out like a celebrity again.
A few days later, my core still aches, and while I don’t have a Ryan Reynold’s six-pack, I can see why these sessions worked. Will I be rushing back to the gym to try the two workouts again? Absolutely not. But I definitely will be incorporating more compound strength exercises into my ab routines and pushing myself to try some of Saladino’s exercises into my workouts. I’m sure I’ll feel like a superhero on the ab rollouts in no time.
Looking for more workout inspiration? We’ve hand-picked some of the best ab workouts to do from home, the best way to strengthen your back without doing pull-ups, and one of the best exercises for targeting your arm muscles using just your bodyweight.