10 Actors Who Got Really Buff for a Movie Role

Action movies often have a few requirements in order to make it big at the box office. First, the storyline of the main character revolves around their background as a former operative enjoying retirement. Second, due to their retirement they are adamant in not returning to that life as they already completed their final mission — though they are often forced back into one final mission. Finally, the protagonist is unbelievably buff. While this is a blanket statement of criteria, the protagonist’s physical appearance is vital in making their story more believable. Despite an action hero’s physical appearance, the actors who are chosen become contractually obligated to look a certain way.

Hollywood is notorious for its obsession with youth. Therefore, actors who are over 30 years old must have the body of a 20-something who has washboard abs. Whether through extreme dieting to lose weight or working closely with trainers in order to gain muscle, many actors undergo unbelievable physical transformations before their first day of shooting. Yet some actors are already chiseled or somewhat muscular, so their transformation is not as drastic. Regardless of their exercise and diet routine, actors who choose this metamorphosis make action movies believable. Here’s a look at 10 actors who got really buff for a movie role.


10/10 Arnold Schwarzenegger — Predator

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch in Predator
20th Century Studios

Austrian-born bodybuilder turned actor turned politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a legend among action movies. Before he stepped into Hollywood, though, he was in the spotlight for another reason: in 1970, he won the coveted bodybuilder title of Mr. Universe. Schwarzenegger’s win was commemorated with a competition category. Soon after his win, he became an actor, and within a few years, he starred as Conan in Conan the Barbarian, which became his breakout role. But his role as Dutch in Predator was where he was beyond ripped.

9/10 Dwayne Johnson — Hercules

Dwayne Johnson as Hercules in Hercules

Much like Schwarzenegger, Dwayne Johnson became famous for his shredded muscles. Except he wasn’t Mr. Universe, but a wrestler with the former World Wrestling Federation known as “The Rock.” His call-out to the audience was, “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?” Johnson made appearances on TV shows outside the WWF Friday even fights, but it wasn’t until The Mummy Returns was released that audiences saw Johnson show off his acting skills. Many of his roles have his muscles as the main character, but they came before him most notably in the production of Hercules, which recounted the myth rather than the musical version made by Disney in the late-1990s.

8/10 Gerard Butler — 300

Legendary Pictures

The rom-com heartthrob of the late-2000s has more action flicks under his belt than he is given his due. Gerard Butler often plays a Secret Service or CIA agent, but the role he became incredibly buff for was based on a graphic novel. The film 300 depicts the Persian-Spartan war where the Spartan army of 300 went up against King Xerxes’ army of 1 million. Pop Workouts details Butler’s routine to get in shape for the film. Butler even details in a video on the site that he spent six hours each day working out months prior to and during filming. That level of dedication is virtually unheard of in Hollywood.

Related: Oscar-Worthy Performances In Action Movies

7/10 Hugh Jackman — X-Men Franchise

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men The Last Stand
Twentieth Century Fox

For 20 years and in nine movies, Broadway star and silver screen actor Hugh Jackman has been Logan aka Wolverine. As one of the X-Men, Wolverine does not play by the rules, though Jackman does, especially when training. Whether he is playing the badass superhero or not, Jackman stays in shape thanks to his trainer, David Kingston. During his sessions, Jackman does progressive loads, which allows him to start at a certain place and slowly work up to heavier weights. Even when Jackman isn’t playing Logan, he is physically ready to don the signature white tank and adamantium claws.

6/10 Jake Gyllenhaal — Southpaw

Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope in Southpaw
Riche Productions

Jake Gyllenhaal has an incredible repertoire of films, but his role as boxer Billy Hope in Southpaw earned him a spot among the buffest actors. In addition to running every day, Gyllenhaal ate up to seven meals a day, essentially eating one meal every two hours on average. These meals were protein-heavy, with some shakes mixed in to keep up with the exercise he was doing daily. That said, he would get a meal from Chipotle every now and again.

5/10 Sebastian Stan — MCU

MCU's Bucky / Winter Soldier played by Sebastian Stan
Marvel Studios

For Captain America: The Winter Soldier, actor Sebastian Stan bulked up for his character, Bucky Barnes, aka famed assassin, the Winter Soldier. With the help of trainer Dan Saladino, Stan’s physical metamorphosis is right out of a comic book. Stan even sits down with Saladino to discuss the importance of having a trainer as an actor in this clip. Even though co-star Anthony Mackie is the bulky Captain America, Stan’s bulk-up as Bucky is not discussed enough.

Related: Sebastian Stan: The MCU’s Most Versatile Actor

4/10 Sylvester Stallone — Rocky III

Mr. T as Clubber Lang and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky III

Like Schwarzenegger and Johnson, Sylvester Stallone’s muscles often come before him in a film. Especially with the Rocky series, Stallone was particularly ripped. But in Rocky III, Stallone took his third reprisal as Rocky Balboa extra seriously. It’s possible that his co-stars Mr. T and Hulk Hogan had something to do with that ultra dose of inspiration. Stallone even shared on social media that Hogan put three people in the hospital during the filming of Rocky III.

3/10 Chris Hemsworth — MCU

Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Thor Love and Thunder
Marvel Studios

Marvel fans often swear the actors who portray their beloved comic book heroes are the closest version to their characters in real life. Chris Hemsworth, who portrays Thor, is no exception. In fact, his gym routine is quite unique as he doesn’t use equipment, according to Insider. Instead of lifting weights, Hemsworth relies on his own body mass to build muscle. In between gym sessions, Hemsworth also eats 3,600 calories a day while training.

2/10 Kumail Nanjiani — Eternals

Marvel Studios

Comedian Kumail Nanjiani typically keeps his shirt on in his movies. But when Marvel called to offer him the role of Kingo, an AI god in Eternals, he bulked up. Nanjiani stuck to a routine of heavy cardio and weight lifting to prepare for the Marvel role. While he kept to a low-carb diet for most of the week, he would binge on carbs on the weekend. It’s about balance with Nanjiani.

1/10 Carl Weathers — Rocky

United Artists

As a former National Football League player, actor Carl Weathers was no stranger to disciplined training. To portray boxer Apollo Creed in Rocky, Weathers bulked up in one of the greatest physical transformations in Hollywood. In addition to a strict workout regimen, Weathers also stuck to a vegetarian diet while training. Even though many actors rely heavily on meat-based protein to bulk up, Weathers proves that muscle maintenance can be aided through vegetables and grains.

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