Breaking down the Hollywood transformation
It’s common practice to aspire to achieve those Hollywood bodies you see on the big screens, on social media and in your favourite magazines. In this week’s article, we look at how these celebrities achieve their bodies and provide five steps you can take to start your transformation.
It’s 2013. It’s April and the trailer drops for ‘The Wolverine’. As a HUGE comic book geek, naturally I am going to watch this film. In the trailer, you get a glimpse of the hero of the film, Hugh Jackman, with his shirt off. Holy moley, he was ripped! It looks like there is no body fat on him whatsoever. Not only is he super lean, but he is also holding a significant amount of muscle as well, which makes his physique even more impressive. If you’re into fitness, it’s natural to see this and think “yeah, I want to look like that!”.
Once the trailer had finished, I set about writing my plan. I wrote what my training and diet was going to look like for the foreseeable future to achieve a physique similar to Hugh’s. That was the first time I can recall seriously looking at a Hollywood body and wanting to achieve it.
Hollywood role models
I have been a fitness coach for over a decade. It’s common to have clients send me photos saying “I want to achieve this!”. Or when conducting a consultation a potential client might say “I want to look like (insert celeb name)”. More so than ever, there are two main influences which have increased this desire to achieve a celeb’s body:
Rise of the superhero
Since Ironman previewed in 2008, there has been a surge in the popularity of superhero movies. Marvel and DC are the leading comic studios, and with the popularity of The Avengers and Justice League series, it has caused a resurrection in the action movie genre. Action movies have been the highest-grossing films for the last five years.
Action movies were last popular back in the late 70s through to the late 80s. It was the likes of Arnie, Van Damme and Stallone who ruled the genre with their super macho physiques and kick-ass action scenes.
Nowadays, we have our superheroes: Captain America, Thor, Batman and Superman, to name a few. Not all of them have superpowers, but what they do have is super physiques. Unlike their artwork counterparts, which have exaggerated physiques, the modern superhero stars have above average real human physiques. Previously, where actors would wear padded suits under their costumes or use CGI to beef them out, today’s actors get themselves in shape for their roles. Part of the strategy of these films, to help immerse the audience, is to have a realistic feel. It might sound odd considering the subject of the movies, but they want the characters to be believable, which helps get the audience invested in the films. The Dark Knight Batman series is a perfect example of this.
If you compare Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie ‘Commando’ to Christian Bale from ‘The Dark Knight rises’, Bale’s physique is not only impressive but, for us mere mortals, it’s more likely to be achievable. It is feasible for people to want to aspire to these physiques as they do not seem unrealistic, unlike Arnie’s hulking frame of muscle.
The second part of the equation is the dominance of social media. Beforehand, if you wanted to follow your favourite celebrity, you would have to buy the latest magazine at the start of the month to see their photos and read about them.
These days with the likes of Instagram, Twitter and Google, you have instant access to your favourite celebrities. They use this to great effect to increase their popularity, promote their latest movies and sell products for sponsors. When you want to learn about your favourite star, you can either search their pages or hunt google for news and articles on one of the thousands of sites. The internet allows for instant access, for both the fan and the star, which has its positives and negatives.
Performing the Hollywood transformation
There are many resources available for you when you want to achieve a body like your favourite celeb:
- You can go to their social pages, as most will talk about their routines and programmes.
- You might visit a health and fitness website to read an interview with your favourite star, where they may discuss their plan to get their current body.
- There will be multiple YouTube videos with other fitness professionals and stars who will give their breakdown of what they think the latest celeb does to get that body.
- There will be hundreds of articles that will do the same, often sharing different information.
Some celebrities now own fitness programmes that they promote. As an example, Chris Hemsworth, the star who plays Thor, has his exercise programme that you can sign up to for a monthly fee. MMA superstar Conor McGregor has a similar programme that utilises training in different heart rate zones to increase your endurance.
But what is the truth behind these celebrity physiques? How do these celebrities achieve their incredible transformations, and what does it take to be muscular and shredded? The following points are to help you understand what the realities are: the myths and truths behind most of the Hollywood bodies.
It’s their job
You’ve landed the star role in the latest action movie coming out next year. Filming starts in 5 months, and the director asks the question “Are you in shape? There are going to be some scenes where you are going to be shirtless, and we need to show that superhero build”. Having that body is a deal-breaker – you’re going to be on screen for millions of people to see for the rest of time. That’s a lot of pressure, right? Knowing you must achieve a result for a set time helps keep you dedicated and motivated.
If you don’t achieve that body, this might mean you lose the role of a lifetime. Imagine if your work required you to have a six-pack or you will lose your job. For most, having a good physique is a desire: something you would like to achieve. When a goal has an “I would like to” attached to it, it can allow for flexibility in achieving it. When the goal has a deadline attached, and your livelihood depends on it, you are more likely to achieve it!
When an actor gets ready for a role, it will usually be part of their contract that they get support. Although some actors might enjoy fitness, like most people, it is not their profession. Therefore, like a member of the public when they want support, they look to professionals for help.
If you read most interviews with your favourite celebs discussing their movie transformations, they will usually discuss their trainers and chefs. I recall my research when wanting to achieve the Wolverine body. In most interviews with Hugh, he would mention how he had private training with his coach, every day of the week! His long-term personal trainer wrote this article about the process used to get Hugh ready for the wolverine role.
Now, in general, you can purchase personal training every day, and many companies provide calorie measured meals straight to your door to fit your daily requirements. As you might imagine, combining the two services can become quite expensive. Out of curiosity, I calculated what the weekly cost would be for 1 PT session a day as well as all meals provided by a food prep company. Per week, this was going to cost me between £310 to £480 per week, depending on the companies used. For most people, myself included, this is simply unrealistic.
Unhealthy, short-term measures
I recall an interview with Alexander Skarsgard when the movie ‘Legend of Tarzan’ was released. Naturally, playing the iconic Tarzan, his physique came under discussion. He spoke about how miserable the preparation was, as he would have to live off just broccoli and chicken all day, while having to film for 10 hours a day and perform his training sessions around filming.
More recently, Henry Cavill discussed how he had to water load and dehydrate just for one scene in his latest series. As he explains in this clip, it meant that he would consume excessive amounts of water for a few days prior, then for 72 hours before the day of filming he would consume minimal to no fluids whatsoever. Doing this causes the body to push out all fluids, draining his body of fluids. This is extremely unhealthy. For a short time, this can help give that lean and shredded look. Bodybuilders use the same process when getting ready to step on stage. I must re-iterate, this is very dangerous if not performed under professional supervision, so please do not try this!
When you see these images of your favourite celebs in fantastic shape, more often than not, that this is not their maintained, day to day state. Much like a bodybuilder, they will work hard and push their bodies to extremes for a few weeks or months. The process will produce a physique that looks amazing, but it will not feel amazing, and is far from healthy. Once the job is done, they will return to a healthy lifestyle, and their physiques will return to a more natural state.
It’s usually at this point the articles will be released by gossip sites stating they have “fallen off the wagon”. The reality is it is simply not possible to maintain a high level of muscle mass and low level of body fat for long periods.
The dark side of the story
To summarise the above, getting in incredible shape is a lot easier when you are paid to do it and given a high level of professional help. There is also the fact that the result is short-lived, and as such, they will justify using short term, extreme measures to achieve these bodies.
There are also some other facts that I feel are important to mention, that you might not consider regarding celebrity transformations.
Paid to promote
Movie stars and celebs, while making a lot of money for their jobs, often supplement their income from sponsors and other companies. It’s common to see celebs promoting products, be that supplements, sports clothes or the latest fitness equipment. If you purchase the latest health and fitness magazine, you might read of this specific exercise routine that (insert name here) used to shred body fat and add slabs of lean muscle to fight off the latest threat to planet earth!
The likelihood is some of these celebrities don’t train the way they say or maybe use the products they claim to. It is common for celebs to align with a supplement company and credit their results to its use or promote a set workout plan that added inches on their arms. The reality is sometimes that it is just not true. Their reason for doing so? They get paid a hefty sum for promoting these products as it increases sales for the companies.
Most recently, there was a scandal revealed about a famous reality TV star who got exposed for promoting a product with dangerous ingredients for money. The product was fake and had hydrogen cyanide listed as an active ingredient. The celeb in question was happy to promote irrespective of its ingredients and even admitted to promoting other products without using them.
The take-home point? If your favourite celeb claims it was a supplement, product, or workout they used to achieve their incredible physiques, do a bit more research to establish the reality. As the old saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, that usually means it is!
The elephant in the fitness room
What I’m about to discuss does not relate to every celeb, and I’m not going to point fingers and call out specific celebrities. But some transformations simply are not possible without the use of P.E.D’s. P.E.D’s refer to ‘performance enhancement drugs’, by which I mean steroids. Steroids are hormones that improve the results from following a strict diet and training plan. The use of steroids is not only to burn more fat and build more muscle but also aid in recovery. Although they can be useful, they do also come with severe health risks which makes them unsafe for the general public without medical supervision.
Steroid use is prevalent in the fitness industry, regardless of the risks. I am not going to discuss the moral or legal implications of using steroids in this article. The reason I am bringing them up is that some of the transformations and physiques the celebs achieve simply are not possible naturally.
When the pressure is on to achieve something spectacular, the temptation can be high to use assistance to get to your goals. Most celebs will not admit to using P.E.D’s as it would damage their reputations and likely cost them work. Some actors have come forward to admit to using P.E.D’s, such as Silvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke and Charlie Sheen. When someone can add slabs of lean muscle, while dropping body fat in a short period, it’s more than likely that they have used P.E.D’s.
5 tips for your own Hollywood transformation
I want to start by saying, do not be discouraged to follow your favourite celebs! There is nothing wrong with wanting to aspire to someone else’s physique. The point of this article so far has been to help inform you of some of the realities that make it possible for them to achieve their bodies.
You will likely have other lifestyle commitments and goals that take priorities over achieving your dream physique. You might have a full-time job and a family, which takes priority. And you might have a limited financial budget. If you can train whenever you want, afford the services of a personal trainer five days per week, use a fitness meal prep company and get enough sleep, you can get quick results.
However, for the rest of you reading this, you will need to ask yourself two questions:
- On a scale of 1-10, 1 being I don’t care and 10 being life-changing, where do you rate your need to get (insert name here)’s physique?
- On a scale of 1-10, 1 being not possible and 10 being an absolute reality, can you put achieving (insert name here)’s physique your number one priority over other lifestyle factors?
The closer your score is to 20, the quicker you are likely to achieve your goal. If you have a lower score, that does not mean you won’t reach your goal; it simply means it may take longer. I am not saying this to dampen your dreams; however, I am realistic, and I would rather tell you what is achievable than sell you on what is not.
What do you need to put in place to start achieving your dream physique? Here are five tips to help you start your own Hollywood transformation.
#1 Set a date
The following is a trick I have used not just with many of my clients, but also myself. When you have a deadline event, it adds a level of reality to a goal. When you say “I want to look like (insert name here)”, you are just saying something you like. When you do this, there is no urgency to achieve it. When there is no end date, it makes it easy to keep pushing the result further back before attaining it. However, if you state “within the next 12 weeks, I will have achieved (insert goal)”, you have now given the goal an end date. When you give a goal an end date, it helps you to plan your steps moving forward and create a level of personal accountability to achieve it.
What you will need to do is be realistic in this goal-setting. For example, you are not going to drop a stone of fat in a week. You can safely lose 1 pound of fat per week if you follow the right calorie restriction and activity plan. With that rate of fat loss, it’s more realistic to take three months to drop one stone of body fat if you stick to the programme. Setting yourself an unrealistic goal is just as bad as not setting an end date to your goal. Note that we have discussed fat loss, not weight loss, which are two different things – that’s another discussion for another day.
#2 Evaluate yourself
You must understand your start point just as much as your end goal. When you are trying to emulate a celeb’s body, you will need to assess your current physical condition. You will want to know your priorities when planning your transformation. It can be an uncomfortable and humbling thing for you to do, and you might not be aware of your physical reality; however, it is a crucial step to take.
It is common for a reduction in body fat to be the primary goal of most transformations, followed by increasing lean body mass. If you are trying to emulate a celebrity, you might need to prioritise certain body parts that are prominent on your role model or weak parts of your own. Once you know what you have to work with and where you want to go, it makes it easier to plan each step of your transformation.
#3 Understand your calorie requirements
Understanding your calorie requirements is very important. You want to make your transformation as achievable and healthy as possible. Too extreme a calorie deficit and you risk losing muscle as well as fat. Too aggressive a calorie surplus and you will gain more body fat than muscle. Several factors come into consideration when trying to work out your calorie requirements. Your age, height, weight and activity levels all need to be taken into account to work out how many calories you require daily. Once you know this number, you can manipulate it to help you achieve your goal. If you need to lose weight, cut 500 calories from this number. Are you trying to gain weight? then add 250 – 500 calories.
There are lots of different diet protocols you could follow: keto, paleo, vegan, low carb, intermittent fasting, carb cycling – the list is almost endless. The discussion on diet plans is another subject for another article. However, you can find all our nutrition articles in our blog section.
#4 Get a workout programme
Like picking the right diet, there are several factors you must take into consideration when selecting an exercise programme. Your exercise experience, strengths and weaknesses, current injuries, physical limitations and equipment access will all mould what exercise plan you might follow. It is an excellent idea to incorporate a mixture of resistance training, metabolic conditioning and steady-state cardio throughout your training plan.
Ensure that the plan you use is suited to your level of experience and ability to perform. If you are new to working out and only have access to a gym three times a week, following an advanced six-day a week weightlifting programme is not going to work. A good programme will also include progressive overload to ensure you progress. It is also vital that you enjoy the training programme; otherwise, you are likely not to follow it.
#5 Look for help
If you are serious about achieving your physique goals, you are going to want to make sure you have ‘ticked all the boxes’. Reviewing the above shows that there are lots of factors to take into consideration when you start to transform yourself. Unless you are educated and experienced in health and fitness, understanding and manipulating all the elements required to guarantee success can be very difficult.
One common mistake people make is trying to copy other people’s diets and training plans. It is not practical for you to copy what someone else does as what they do is tailored to them. You might find the diet and training plan used by your favourite celeb. But, as we have pointed out, there be a bit of falsehood to their claims and they will live a different lifestyle which makes it possible to follow their diet and exercise plan.
We previously posted this article which outlines what a personal training programme with us entails and why we get results. If you are serious about achieving your dream physique, investing in a knowledgeable, experienced and reputable coach will be money well spent.
Having role models, especially from a fitness and physique standpoint, is a good thing. Wanting to replicate your role models is a typical notion, to attain what they have. However, they live different lifestyles to the public, which enables them to achieve their physiques. It does not mean you can’t make an impressive transformation of your own. What you will need to do is make a planned effort to achieve what you want and ideally get the support and guidance of fitness professionals.
If you have a dream physique you want to achieve, get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you achieve your transformation. Please fill out the enquiry form below, and one of our coaches will be in touch with you soon.