Now, the star of The Transporter trilogy reveals how his regimen can give you the strength and reflexes of a Hollywood hero
It would be very easy to feel jealous of Jason Statham. Why him? Why not me? How has a 38-year-old Brit who used to sell dodgy perfume on the streets of north London managed to take the high road to Hollywood, the low road on ladies like the supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and build a physique that steals the scenes in just about every movie he appears in – including his latest, The Mechanic (available now on DVD), where he reprised Charles Bronson’s role. Then there was last year’s The Expendables, where he starred alongside a host of A-list action heroes.
The hit movie was an all-star, all-muscle action romp, ripe with machismo, testosterone and old-school one-liners. And it brought together the biggest, brawniest, toughest action men of all time. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sylvester Stallone. Mickey Rourke. Dolph Lundgren. Jet Li. And Statham.
And what’s more, he didn’t look an inch out of place. His tough-guy workouts have cemented his reputation as the last great action hero. And, while they’re hard work, if you’re prepared to knuckle down, you, too, can hone a physique tough enough to outgun the biggest names of action-hero history.
Fit to explode
The genesis of Statham’s stardom isn’t something he talks about in detail, but the surely apocryphal story goes that he was hawking fragrances out of a suitcase in the London suburb of Wembley and a passing Guy Ritchie liked his shtick.
Still, it can’t be far off the truth. It was certainly a case of ordinary bloke, right place, right time. Ritchie cast Statham in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. It was a ribald success. Statham leapfrogged from there. It’s a legend we want to believe in. Except “leapfrogged from there” does the man a disservice. Not everyone in Lock, Stock made it big. Not everyone had the will and the dedication. Statham has catapulted from cult Brit-flick performer into Stallone-standard action man thanks to a whole lot of focus, and even more hard work in the gym.
“Musclemen grow on trees,” he says. “They can tense their muscles and look good in a mirror. So what? I’m interested in practical strength that’s going to help me run, jump, twist, punch.”
True to that, Statham follows a simple rule: if you’re going to train, train hard. And train with a purpose. It all stems from an uncompromising mental approach.
“I’m a firm believer in attitude,” he says. “Some people just don’t have that desire and they need a good kick up the arse. Look, you’ve come to train . . . let’s train!
“Your body is like a piece of dynamite. You can tap it with a pencil all day but you’ll never make it explode. You hit it once with a hammer: bang! Get serious. Do 40 hard minutes, not an hour and a half of nonsense. It’s so much more rewarding.”
When the role calls for it, Statham learns the advanced applicable skills. Wushu stick fighting, jiu jitsu or knife throwing, for example. But the basics of his athleticism are simple body-weight exercises and plyometrics. He keeps his metabolism high and his famed agility up to scratch with fast, hard, intense circuits that require almost no equipment.
“I’ll jump rope, then do squat thrusts, burpees (squat thrusts in which you thrust your legs back, then up to your chest, then leap in the air), star jumps, push-ups, tuck jumps (jump up, lift your knees to your chest and straighten to land) and step-ups,” he says. The technique of each is as intense as the circuit itself. “If I’m doing a push-up, I go down slowly and then, bang! – push back up as explosively as I can.”
WHY? Works glutes and quads for bigger upper legs and greater running speed. Action heroes don’t have chicken-legs.HANGING KNEE RAISES
Lower them. Do 20 reps.
WHY? Hones your lower abs and builds big forearms. Movie stars need tight six-packs to bar fight with bad guys.ROPE LASHES
WHY? Builds shoulder strength and core stability. Looks cool. A-listers need to show off when they work out.
Bang! That’s quite an apt expression. As in his movies, everything in Statham’s fit-to-burst world happens explosively. Without a break. Usually with a subtext of ultraviolence.
His workout is always changing, but the intensity level never drops below full pelt.
“Every single day has a different combination of exercises,” he says. “It always changes and that’s what keeps things interesting.”
Even if he has no equipment and barely any time, Statham manages to stay in motion. A mixed-martial-arts fanatic, he learnt one routine from his friend Bas Rutten, the former UFC heavyweight champion.
“He uses punching combinations,” says Statham. “He’ll call out ‘one’ – a left. Then ‘one-two’ – a left-right.
Or ‘three’ – a left-right-left hook. You can do that in a hotel room, anywhere.” (MH advises putting the “do not disturb” sign up first; you don’t want to floor the housekeeper.)Give him a bit more equipment and Statham tears up trees. He hammers the muscles in his arms and back – key action star assets. When he trains at the Spartan stuntman gyms known to LA insiders, he scales ropes: 7.5-metre climbs aiming to reach the top in five reps, using only his arms. He slams medicine balls: raising a 10-kilogram ball above his head and smashing it
20 times into the floor. He does painful, thigh-cramping crab walks: racing on just his feet and hands, facedown across the length of a sports hall and back, three times.
When he needs to “cut down” and show muscle definition as well as size, Statham couples his brutal regimens with a rigid approach to his nutrition. He sets himself a limit of just under 8400 kilojoules a day and trains hard on a small kilojoule deficit. He burns fat at a sizzling rate and in the past has managed to cut 8.5kg in six weeks.
He sticks to the six-small-meals-a-day rule, but adds discipline by writing down everything he eats in a black book. He calls it “the Bible”. When he is training hard, Statham writes down everything he swallows. That includes the 5.5 litres of water he drinks every day to keep himself feeling full. “Writing everything down makes it impossible for you to muck it up,” he says.
The winning way
So what’s the pay-off? Well, in a genre in which your physique is your calling card, Statham has barged his way to the top.
Along the way, he’s become renowned for doing the bulk of his own stunts, a skill Statham has always prided himself on. He has said that he considers the adrenaline boost of putting himself in harm’s way for a film as “a great reward”.
And, of course, there’s the relationship with 24-year-old Huntington-Whiteley – 14 years his junior and one of the finest examples of lithe womanhood gracing the planet. Not bad for a market trader.
Alas, there is only one Jason Statham. We can’t guarantee that, even if you put into practice every one of his metabolism-blasting fitness tips, you will find yourself squiring a Victoria’s Secret model and firing off macho non sequiturs in Hollywood blockbusters.But we can guarantee one thing: if you follow Statham’s lead, adopt his take-no-prisoners attitude towards training hard, eating with discipline and never slacking off, you’ll find yourself fitter, leaner, more muscular and more agile. Faster. More energetic. A legend of your own devising. And then you’ll be anything but expendable.