How to get awesome
August 15, 2012 2:03 PM   Subscribe

What does it take to get movie star super-buff? Like Kate Beckinsale, Colin Farrel, Jessica Biel level buff?

Ok, so I just went to see Totall Recall this weekend. In the opening scene the mega-shredded arms-bigger-than-my-head Colin Farrel and the equally buff CG-level-perfect Kate Beckinsale wake up in bed together and I was momentarily overwhelmed by the '..... hot DAMN!' of it all.

When I recovered, I got to thinking. I'm someone who goes to the gym a lot (at least an hour and a half 4 or 5 times a week), I also bike everywhere and do lots of walking. Husband is vegan so we eat pretty healthy. Needless to say, I still look like an average human being - my body is not bad but certainly not WHOAH HOW DID YOU DO THAT Pinterest fit-spiration beautiful.

So what I'm wondering is, how do celebrities achieve it? How many hours a day do they spend in the gym/training? It seems to me like you'd have to spend all your time doing it (?) Is it also following particular eating habits? I just don't understand how it's physically possible (certainly isn't for me....sniff).

Do any of you possess a super-buff body? How do you achieve it?
posted by everydayanewday to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Diet, exercise, good genes, flattering lighting, flattering angles, flattering makeup, flattering costumes. Body doubles, sometimes, too.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:07 PM on August 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

Looking like that is part of their job. So they treat it as such. Meanin what time they aren't spending preparing for a role and promoting themselves they are spending getting buff. I've read interviews where actors or actresses are training intensely like 3 hours a day, 7 days a week and on very strict diets. That and sometimes they use body doubles and spanx.
posted by greta simone at 2:08 PM on August 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Personal trainers, personal chefs.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:09 PM on August 15, 2012

It seems to me like you'd have to spend all your time doing it (?) Is it also following particular eating habits?

Yeah. They have personal trainers/dietitians. The degree of body sculpting that's done for onscreen roles is basically a full-time job in the run-up to shooting. It's usually a few hours a day, every day, plus a strict diet, plus makeup, plus body doubles.

It's one of those things that's more possible than most people think, but, again, you'd need to treat it as a full-time job. Also it goes away almost immediately after you stop the upkeep on it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:11 PM on August 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

Yeah if you were literally getting paid to be hot then all you'd have to do all day is work outt. Plus they have high-level high-cost personal trainers, some of them probably for every workout.

But they probably don't walk around all the time in the bodies they have in the movie. They know when they will be filming and they likely know how much skin they'll be asked to show, so they 'train' accordingly to ensure they peak at maximum hotness for the shoot.

Sort of like a fighter trying to reach peak weight and physical condition for a fight, but a lot lamer.
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:11 PM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

Personal trainers, personal chefs.

and literally hours and hours and hours per day at it.
posted by KathrynT at 2:12 PM on August 15, 2012

You do not have a staff, and you presumably have life activities which, while healthy and wholesome, take up time which you might be spending with your private trainer, if you had one.

These people have staffs which are dedicated to their looking like they do.
posted by Danf at 2:12 PM on August 15, 2012

They started out a lot closer to perfection than "regular" people do, too. That's why they're cast in movies. All the hard work and perfect diets and personal trainers in the world won't make the average person look like Kate Beckinsale.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:12 PM on August 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

I am the antithesis of a super-buff body.

Here is how celebrities do it:

1. Win the genetic lottery. Some folks are naturally muscular, or have a body shape that is in fashion, or have great metabolisms. Some people are just formed in a perfect way.

2. They have personal trainers who know their bodies inside and out, have them tested up one side and down the other, have WAY more understanding of physiology than that juice-head at the gym.

3. Hours and hours at the gym, with that Personal Trainer coaching them every step of the way.

4. Using a 15 year old body double. There was once a scandal because the model for Christian Dior cellulite cream was 15. Of course she was perfect!

5. Surgery. Sorry, but there it is.

As Sticherbeast pointed out, flattering everything for the movie. If you watch celebrities au naturel, you'll be amazed at how normal they look.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:13 PM on August 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

When actors are prepping for a role like that, they basically work out like 3 hours a day, minimum, with a trainer, and are on a very strict diet. Like, no booze, no carbs, no sweets, no refined flour, nothing. It's all veggies and lean protein, all made by someone else. It's physically possible because for a period of time before shooting starts, getting in that shape is their entire job. AND they have people on staff whose entire job is ALSO to make sure they look super hot.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:13 PM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Keep in mind, too, that it's a movie.

Makeup is used to make actors look their best, and also for cinematic effect. If it's a sci fi action movie full of buff gods, makeup is going to be used to make everyone the buffest they can be.

There's also lighting, which is used in much the same way. To make the actors look their best, and also for specific stylistic effects like making the heroes look a particular way, the baddies look a different way, etc.

Then you get to costume. Similar principles are at work. Not only are the costume designers trying to make the actors look gorgeous (spanx, for example), they're also selecting clothes that strike exactly the right tone. If Colin Farrell is supposed to look like a golden god, they're going to choose costumes that show off this aspect of his body.

Here's an example. Think of Kate Beckinsale early in her career, in movies like Cold Comfort Farm and Much Ado About Nothing. Now look at her now. Same woman. Definitely super gorgeous, both then and now. But a different effect is achieved for different kinds of movies (high falutin English comedies vs. popcorn flix). Or, to switch actors, think of Charlize Theron in Monster, Young Adult, and Aeon Flux.

Actors do work out a lot, and most of the leading men and ladies got great genes. And in casting, you can go in any direction you want. Colin Farrell and Ryan Gosling are both super good looking. And yet one has an action movie "look" and the other has a romantic comedy "look".
posted by Sara C. at 2:17 PM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

so they 'train' accordingly to ensure they peak at maximum hotness for the shoot.

Yeah the reason those "OMG look at FamousMovieStar's gut on the beach!" articles in the tabloids is that even with great genes, almost limitless budgets for training/staff/help and one hell of a motivator in knowing hundreds of thousands of people are going to see you half naked on a big screen they don't look like they do in Total Recall all the time.
posted by jamesonandwater at 2:22 PM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Did you watch any of the Olympics this year? Especially men's gymnastics, swimming and diving?

When it comes to athletes, the way they look is a byproduct of personalized training and nutrition, but getting that body still takes working at it like it's a job, because it is.
posted by rtha at 2:33 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Money. Lots of money. Or, a profession that would allow the expense of trainers and dieticians to be written-off as a business expense.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:43 PM on August 15, 2012

Hours of exercise a day, every day.

I know someone slightly who used to coach a prominent celebrity (someone well-known for their physique) in Muay Thai. After a two-hour workout with the Muay Thai coach, the celebrity would eat a vegan lunch prepared by a chef with a degree in nutrition, have a massage, and then have another coaching session with someone from another exercise discipline.

My acquaintance worked with this person four days a week, and the celebrity was working with trainers and coaches in several exercise, sport, and fitness disciplines, so it was his impression that the celebrity had at least four hours of one-on-one training with professionals every day.

Plus time on treadmills, working with hand weights, etc., that the celebrity did in most of their "down time".
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:48 PM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Don't forget, they also shoot the scene a dozen times, and they can pick and choose the shots where Colin's pooch isn't as prominent, or Kate's flab is not flabbing, or whatever.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:07 PM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Using a 15 year old body double.
Body double yes, underage body double--more trouble than she's worth.

It's full time job, and they treat it as such. Working out all day, several times a day, with a trainer, as well as eating or not eating as needed.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:09 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Someone needs to say this, so I guess it will be me: Alas for these famous ladies, not all of them were born with supermodels' metabolisms. So, in addition to rigorous programs of physical training, many (not all, but a LOT of) female stars need to severely curtail their caloric intake in order to remain at a low weight. You would also be surprised how many of them utilize OTC stimulants like nicotine gum to aid in this effort.

So, if you weren't born with Gisele's metabolism, and you want to look like a Hollywood actress, prepare to be hungry all. the. time.
posted by artemisia at 3:09 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

not all of this is actually fitness. They can literally paint a six pack on men and and using shadowing make the tiniest hint of a toned muscle into some bulging freaking meat burrito or the smallest bump into a huge breast.

Here is an example
posted by couchdive at 3:11 PM on August 15, 2012

I read an interview with mila kunis about how she lost at least 20 lbs and maybe it was even 30 for Black Swann after months of training and basically starving herself to look like a ballerina and she said she gained it all back in 2 weeks, which almost doesn't seem possible, and she was probably exaggerating, but still.
posted by whoaali at 3:12 PM on August 15, 2012

Besides exercising and eating like it's their job before movies, actors can do small tricks like doing a few sets of curls before a shot show their arms, etc. I've heard they sometimes do a cycle of steroids if the role calls for looking particularly muscular. It's all designed to peak during the moment of actual filming.

Living in LA, I occasionally see actors around town. They can get pretty paunchy when "off-duty." They are also frequently surprisingly small (with large heads) so their physique is less impressive.
posted by gimletbiggles at 3:14 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I work in Hollywood and have worked for talent agencies and actors and on set. Actors look like that because of two things:

A) Lighting.

B) Starvation.
posted by incessant at 3:46 PM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I work in VFX, and I have digitally slimmed, trimmed and smoothed a lot of people famous for their looks. Anything left over after the weeks of training, starving, makeup, lighting and costuming gets erased in post!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:03 PM on August 15, 2012 [20 favorites]

Here's an example of "how".
posted by MinusCelsius at 4:18 PM on August 15, 2012

In this video, Furious Pete shows us how he "fakes" before and after body building pictures by prepping for a couple of days (and using some camera tricks) to take the "after" picture first, and then eating/acting in ways to loose body definition as fast as possible.

I would be that our movie star friends do a combination of the "prep" work that Pete does, and completely avoiding all of the things that he does to take the "fat" picture. So -- no salt, limited water intake, no dairy, etc, etc.

Of course, to make this work most effectively, you have to have a pretty decent body underneath already.
posted by sparklemotion at 4:23 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's not like there's a rule against actors using performance enhancers during their movie prep workouts, either. They have the best equipment, trainers, nutrition, and anabolic steroids that money can buy. Their staff includes doctors who can prescribe anything they might need, and if it can't be legally subscribed, well they have people for that too.
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:36 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Total Recall remake cost $125 million dollars. So what it takes to look THAT good is somebody spending $125 million to insure that you do. For an hour and a half.

So yeah, exercise and genetics and so on, but don't lose sight of the fact that movies aren't real, and even the people in the movie don't REALLY look like that.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:37 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

And to get a "Colin Farrell in Total Recall," you have to start with Colin Farrell. Then the months of him working out like it's his job, eating (presumably) a rigorous training diet. Then lighting and costuming and makeup. Then postproduction effects.

So if you're not starting out as "Colin Farrell in In Bruges" you're already too far behind. Movie stars known for ripped physiques started off as aspiring actors with already pretty ripped physiques by average person standards.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:59 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

A friend of my bestie had a small role in 300. She said every damn person in that movie was trained to the death, until they were absolutely exhausted, to get those physiques. And we're talking people who were in pretty good shape to start with: dancers, professional actors who keep a toned body, etc. So sometimes it's just a brutal push, film while you're at that insane peak, then a couple of weeks of sleeping and weeping.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:36 PM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

L'Estrange brings up another good point.

It's not quite as true for the leads, but often, any given actor will only be appearing in a movie for only a few working days. I haven't seen Total Recall yet and don't know exactly how the screentime works out, but it's not really too hard to get to fighting weight for a week of work. You don't have to look like that every day of your life, just the five days you're going to be working on the movie.

Even for the main characters who might be there day in, day out, for the long haul, the "long haul" is often like 30 or 40 days. Big budget action movie shoots tend to run longer, but still you don't have to look like that every day of your life, just for six weeks or so. It's sort of like if you took "bikini season" very, very seriously.
posted by Sara C. at 5:49 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's what Ryan Reynolds, Jessica Biel, and Dominic Purcell went through training for Blade Trinity. "I'm eating drywall and wood chips, basically." "The special training has been a revelation in torture." "How can you 'feel like a million bucks' when you're in shape when you're always exhausted? Like, when you're always working out, you never feel what it's like to be fully strong. I always feel like, 'whoa, god, my chest feels like somebody just drove a truck over it.'"
posted by Lexica at 8:02 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

A few things. First, the people you're talking about aren't extremely rare specimens, physique-wise. You can find lots of people on tumblr or or whatever with similar physiques. There are regionally-competitive bodybuilders getting leaner and more muscular than these actors every day. If you were talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger's physique in the 70s and 80s it'd be a different story, but that look hasn't been dominant with movie stars in awhile. Colin Farrell is not some kind of genetic freak -- Arnold is. But Arnold dominated the world of bodybuilding before he became a movie star.

Actors take drugs to help them build muscle and get lean, but the physiques you're asking about aren't the type that would require steroids to achieve (Arnold's was). The biggest impact of drugs in this situation would be increasing the rate of progress, which is important for an actor who only has a few months to prepare for a role.

Exercising for hour after hour every day doesn't make sense unless you're using drugs (there's a physical limit to how quickly muscle can be built, and fat loss is more about diet) or you're training because you're learning how to perform new skills or movements. In the clip posted above, Jessica Biel talks about having to learn archery and martial arts for her performance. That's a different kind of training than exercising to shape your physique.

Also a lot of things that actors or their staff say about training and nutrition are nonsense. A guy in the video above said something like Ryan Reynolds was 3.8% bodyfat and that Jessica Biel was 8%. Both of those numbers are way off. And Jessica Biel says you need to eat 6 times a day to keep your metabolism high, which is an old myth.

Actors have trainers and chefs, but it's not like those people know anything about training and nutrition that you couldn't learn yourself on the internet. It would save you time and stress to have someone making decisions for you, but it's not necessary.

So I'd say that a regular, non-drug-using person could get similar results on a more reasonable training schedule, but it would be significantly slower-going than the quick transformations actors often undergo. You just have to train consistently for a long time, depending on where you're starting, and be committed to a well-planned diet. Most people don't look like these actors because they aren't doing these things.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:27 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

What does it take to get movie star super-buff? Like Kate Beckinsale, Colin Farrel, Jessica Biel level buff?

If you Google harder, you'll see some pages that claim to describe exactly how they stay in shape. For example, Kate Beckinsale 's Workout Routine says:
Get Kate Beckinsale 's workout routine from her trainer; to achieve those perfect pins she focused on lower-body strength while training to get her body into shape for the latest Underworld film.

‘To achieve this, we used my 3-2-1 training method, using cardio, circuits and core work. She also filmed outside in the cold, to boost her metabolism.’

Kate’s workouts started with yoga-inspired stretches such as sun salutations and downward dogs, Braganza told Health & Fitness. These total body stretches get the blood flowing to all the major muscle groups.

The pair would then do some strength training for 45 to 60 minutes and Kate would finish the session with her own cardio.


The essential ingredient in all such routines is the fact that their fame and fortune (millions of dollars a year) depend on them having great bodies, so they resign themselves to working out for hours a day and paying expensive trainers to motivate and guide them. As you would if you thought you would lose your current job and your ability to get another job unless you were built like an absolute beast.
posted by pracowity at 1:16 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Daughter #2 was buff like that when she was a 16 y.o. competitive gymnast: Rippling muscles in her arms, back, abs, and legs. Partly because she has always naturally thin, partly because she was a teenager, but mostly because she worked out 5 hours a day, 5 days a week. As a 27 y.o. mother of 2, she is still enviously thin, but the buffness is mostly gone.
posted by Daddy-O at 1:46 PM on August 16, 2012

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