Watched Justice League And Wondered How Jason Momoa Got So Ripped? Here’s The Answer
20 November 2017
Jason Momoa certainly looks superheroic as Aquaman in Justice League. But getting that body wasn’t easy. His secret: Workouts from Mark Twight, who often prescribes a mix of functional, whole-body movements combined with isolation exercises and drop sets more commonly associated with bodybuilding. Twight had to program around Momoa’s various projects and family life. As a result, he built the workout plan every guy wants: one that’ll get you superheroic abs (and arms and pecs) while still letting you live your life. He explained how exclusively to Men’s Health.I first met Jason Momoa in Detroit when he was preparing for his cameo in Batman vs. Superman. The common language of climbing jump-started our friendship. He told me he had hidden my first book, “Extreme Alpinism,” in a math textbook to read at school, back when he first started rock climbing, so when Batman vs. Superman director Zack Snyder told him I handled the physical training for his movies, Jason was surprised and excited.
During that job Jason coaxed me into visiting Planet Rock, a Detroit-area climbing gym. I was out of shape for it, but he was patient and his enthusiasm for climbing was contagious. I hadn’t realized how I missed it or that I could climb again without it being my identity. Sometimes the student is also a teacher.We started work on Justice League in Newfoundland in February 2016. Jason was shooting the last few episodes of Frontier, the Netflix series where he plays an outlaw in the 1700s fur trade wars in present-day Canada. Because of the many, varied demands on his time, I had to be flexible. My usual meticulous planning went out the window. Instead, we used the deadlines for when he had shirtless scenes or extremely difficult fight scenes to guide the ebb and flow of workout intensity.
Photograph courtesy of Mark Twight
I worked around Jason’s social schedule and adapted the weight training to accommodate his desire to climb at the indoor rock gym 2-3 days per week. We battled constantly with competing demands: Jason needed size for his role as Aquaman, but when climbing, it’s useful to carry less weight up the wall. With training volume so high, having his assistant — a massage and physical therapist — to manage his recovery and injury-prevention was critical. Of course, so was his diet.
It’s no secret that Jason loves Guinness — he has his own signature Mano Brew in the Guinness lineup — so generally, I would restrict solid carbohydrates unless needed to fuel a particularly intense day of training or recovery. I would observe, and count, and interview, and then have the chef adjust total calories and macros (protein, carbs, and fats) according to what was actually happening during the day or week. I call it ‘supervised freedom.’. A successful outcome depends on honest communication.
The main tip here is simple: know what, when, and how much you are eating. More importantly, know how it affects you. Be sensitive to it. Question everything. Take responsibility. If you are dissatisfied with your current condition, then something you are doing is the cause. You did this. Own it. Change it.
Related: Ab Secrets Of Hollywood’s Leading Men
Leaning out for shirtless scenes and dropping weight for rock climbing are functionally synonymous. Increase the low-intensity volume. Impose high-intensity peaks that bump post-exercise metabolic rate for a few hours but keep them short to avoid jacking up appetite. Reduce caloric intake. Eat carbs around training (before and after) but restrict them otherwise. Above all, stop drinking alcohol for the period leading up to a shirtless scene or climbing trip.
We took a simple approach to balancing weightlifting with climbing: we didn’t fatigue the muscles used for climbing (back, biceps, and forearms) the day before hitting the rock gym. Instead we trained back and biceps after climbing to overload them. This freed other days to focus on chest, shoulders and legs.
Treat the workouts as play. And make them hard. My motto from when I was climbing full-time is just as relevant here, “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.”
Here’s a look at one sample chest workout, and one lower body session. Do each workout on a separate day.
Photograph courtesy of Mark Twight
THE CHEST AQUA-PLAN
Bench Press Triset (5 rounds)
Incline bench press: Lie on an incline bench, with a barbell overhead, your arms about shoulder-width apart. The bar should be about 70% of your one-rep max. Lower the bar to your chest, then lift it back up. That’s 1 rep; do 6.
Standing dumbbell press: Stand holding two dumbbells at your shoulders. Tighten your core and press the dumbbells overhead, then lower them back to shoulder height. That’s 1 rep; do 12. Use a weight heavy enough to challenge you by the 8th rep.
Pushup: You know this one: Start in a high plank position, then keep your core tight as you bend your arms to lower your chest nearly to the ground. Return to high plank position. Do 24 reps. Too easy? Do the pushups with your arms on rings instead. (Want more pushup workouts? Try this one from Andy Speer.)
Cable Crossover 6-12-18 Chest Fly Drop Set
For each set, do 6 reps at a heavy weight, the immediately lower the weight and do 12 reps. Immediately lower the weight again, then do 18 reps. That’s 1 full drop set. Do two sets each of high-angle cable flies, mid-angle cable flies and low-angle cable flies. Rest as needed between sets.
Do each move in this sequence back-to-back-to-back. Rest 2-3 minutes between each round. Do 5 rounds. Add one plate to the sled for each set.
20-meter sled push: Load a sled with two 45-pound plates. Position yourself behind the sled, grasping its tallest handles with your hands. Tighten your core, brace your shoulders and push the sled forward. (Need sled push tips? We have you covered.)
20-meter sled pull: Using rings or handles attached to the sled with a rope, drag the sled in reverse (your back faces the direction of travel). Keep your chest up, brace your core, sit back and focus on pushing with your quads.
Seated quad extension 6-12-18 drop set
Set up quad extension machine with a weight that will be challenging for 6 reps. Do all 6, then reduce the weight and do 12 reps. Reduce it one more time, then do 18 reps.
Lunge/Split Squat Superset (5 rounds)
Dumbbell walking lunge. Hold a pair of 40- or 50-pound dumbbells at your sides. Brace your core and, keeping your chest up, do walking lunges forward for 40 meters.
Bodyweight Bulgarian split squat: Stand with your dominant foot on a box or bench, shoelaces facing down on the bench, your non-dominant leg 3 or 4 feet in front of that. Bend with your non-dominant knee to lower your torso until your thigh is parallel with the ground. Return to a standing position. That’s 1 rep. Do 10, then lower into the bottom of a split squat and hold the position for 10 seconds. Return to starting position and repeat with your dominant leg in front.