Whether he’s running marathons, building a superhero physique, staring moodily out of aftershave ads or doing his own stunts, Ryan Reynolds knows how to stay in model condition. The affable Canadian star – known for being one of the most down-to-earth actors in Hollywood – talks to MF about mixing up his training, on-set injuries and why he loves the great outdoors.
What does your training regime entail? I don’t have a set routine. Sometimes my training is very cardio-centric – like when I was training for the New York City marathon a few years ago – but if I’m preparing for a film role I’ll mainly lift weights. There’s also a difference between doing aesthetic training to achieve a certain look and functional training, which I do if I’m preparing for a stunt-heavy film to help me avoid getting hurt. Right now I’m in the middle and doing a little bit of everything.
Which is harder – functional or aesthetic training? The functional stuff is a little bit harder because you don’t get that reward of looking really ripped as you do with aesthetic training. But in the long run, the functional stuff will make you physically capable of achieving much more.
What has been your most physically demanding film role? I did a film called Safe House with Denzel Washington a couple of years ago where the shooting style didn’t really allow for stuntmen, so we were required to do our own stunts.
What’s the worst injury you’ve ever picked up filming a stunt? I’ve had lots, but the most painful was dislocating my shoulder filming Green Lantern. Then you get the injuries you don’t find out about until years later, where you thought it was just a strain or a sprain but actually it was a break or a fracture. As well as Green Lantern, you’ve starred in Blade and X-Men movies.
Is there something in particular that attracts you to comic-book roles?
I don’t necessarily seek out those roles. I just think they’re very popular in general these days – every other Hollywood film you see is based on a comic book. It has become a genre in itself.
You’re carrying a lot of muscle in those films. How do you approach bulking up for a role? It requires a tremendous amount of eating and a lot of lifting. You end up putting on muscle and fat at the same time, then when you get closer to the shoot you strip away the fat and you’re left with just muscle. It isn’t an exact science, and I’m not that well versed in it, but I know my own body. It’s tough for me to say whether that approach would work for someone else though.‘Everyone thinks getting in shape is 80% working out and 20% diet, but really it’s the other way around’
So nutrition plays a big part in the process? Nutrition is everything. Everyone thinks getting in shape is 80% working out and 20% diet, but really it’s the other way around.
Is it difficult being so disciplined? I don’t live like that all the time – this morning I had a cheese omelette, which isn’t what I’d eat if I were weight training for a role– but sometimes as an actor I have to. You wouldn’t expect somebody with a wife and kids and a nine-to-five job to spend two hours in the gym after work and then come home and eat nothing but steamed vegetables and fish. You have to live a normal life.
Do you enjoy training or is it just part of the job? I don’t consider it part of my job at all – I train because I like being healthy and I enjoy it a lot. I’m at my happiest when I’m outdoors, walking in the woods or hiking. I like to try to incorporate those kinds of activities into my morning routine. In some ways, it’s like meditation.
Ripped like Ryan Tekin Mustafa of Embody Fitness suggests three moves to help you get a body like Reynolds
Bench press ‘You can see Reynolds has a big chest,’ says Mustafa. ‘The bench press is a great exercise for developing muscle mass across your pecs.’
- Lie on the bench with your feet on the floor directly under your knees.
- Hold the bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
Slowly lower the bar to your chest until your elbows are at a 90° angle and the bar is almost touching the middle of your chest.
- Drive your feet hard into the floor and push the bar back strongly to the start.
Lean-away lateral raise ‘He’s also got massive shoulders,’ says Mustafa. ‘The lean-away lat raise is an isolation exercise that works the deltoids, adding width and definition across the shoulders.’
- Hold a post or pole with one hand, hanging off at a 45° angle, with your core braced.
- Hold a light dumbbell in your other hand with your palm facing down.
- Leading with your elbow, raise the weight out to the side using your muscles and not momentum.
- Stop at shoulder height and slowly return to the start. Repeat using the other arm.
Supine torso hold on a foam roller ‘To get great abs like Reynolds, do this brutal isometric contraction,’ says Mustafa. ‘It helps you develop functional strength in the upper and lower abdominals and carve a granite six-pack.’
- Place a foam roller on the floor and lie with it horizonatally under your lower back, with your legs fully extended.
- Hold the position, keeping your core braced and your body straight. Only your heels should touch the floor.
Ryan Reynolds is the face of the classic, award-winning fragrance BOSS Bottled (from £41 for 50ml)
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Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.