Building a Hollywood body isn’t easy, but Ryan Reynolds has put in the hard yards. In the three decades he’s been on-screen, Reynolds has spent half of them working out and bulking up for thrillers, superhero movies and comedy-action films. From Blade Trinity to The Hitman’s Bodyguard and the Deadpool franchise, we’ve grown used to the multi-time MH cover star shooting and slashing his way across the silver screen in formidable shape.
Having grown from strength to strength, quite literally, with every box office hit, Reynolds is in his mid-forties with envy-inducing upper body muscle and a midsection men half his age are striving for. “I think his physique and structure now might be the best I’ve ever seen it,” Don Saladino, elite trainer to the stars – and the man behind Reynolds’ physique – told Esquire. “In Deadpool he outdid Green Lantern. In Deadpool 2 he outdid Deadpool.”
And he’s not done yet.
So, what exactly does it take to become the kind of 40-year-old man that can perform a standing backflip? With insights from Saladino – who has been responsible for whipping Reynolds into shape since 2011’s Green Lantern – and interview snippets from the man himself over the years, we reveal how Reynolds eats, trains, his workouts and how he recovers to stay superhero-sized long-term.
Ryan Reynolds’ Trainer
When Hollywood’s A-listers need a spandex-busting body transformation, they look to strength coach and fitness trainer Don Saladino to make it happen. Over the last 22 years, Saladino has made superheroes out of Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), and David Harbour (Hellboy), so he knows a thing or two about chiselling a cinematic physique.
At this stage of Reynolds’ career, getting swole for the big screen is a maintenance project. You can’t grow blockbuster muscle the week before shooting starts, nor would his unrelenting schedule allow him to try. “Every actor I work with, they’re two to three weeks out from being ready,” says Saladino. “Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, we need to be two weeks out from being able to be shirtless.” No pressure, then?
“When you’ve been training with someone for 10, 11 years it’s not like you have to rewrite the book, you just have to tighten up and not allow yourselves to deviate off the plan,” he explains. “I think that’s something that most people overlook. They think they have to re-invent the wheel. If you’re training all year long, just start avoiding cheat meals and get rid of the little bit of alcohol you might be having.”
Ryan Reynolds’ Workout
No stranger to packing on mass rapidly, Reynolds gained 11kg of muscle in three months in 2004 ahead of Blade: Trinity, working out six days a week and following a 3,200-calorie daily diet. These days, his training focuses on functionality. “It’s easy to get aesthetically fit – well, not easy, but you’re not necessarily in great shape,” Reynolds told MH back in 2016. “You look like an Olympian, but you can’t perform like one.”
Gone too are the days where Reynolds would smoke his core at the beginning of every workout. Now, each session starts with mobility. “We’re spending 10 to 15 minutes allowing the body to move and open up,” Saladino says. Aside from fighting back Father Time, years of on-screen brawls, action sequences and 15-hour days have taken their toll. “When I jump off a building and hit cement, it’s not hilarious anymore: it fuckin’ hurts,” Reynolds told MH. “So I’m dealing with a ton of nagging injuries.”
While Reynolds is totally committed to getting swole for each role – training on two hours’ sleep when his daughter James was born during the first Deadpool – the ‘push till you puke’ mentality isn’t part of his regimen. Consistency eclipses intensity. “Not every day has to be a Level 10 on the workout metre,” Saladino told MH US in 2018. “He comes in, he and I sit down and we have an understanding. I ask ‘how are you feeling today,’ and we make an adjustment to focus the intensity on how he’s feeling.”
When it comes to his routine, Reynolds has bid farewell to the bro split in favour of full-body workouts. “Instead of coming in and destroying one body part like chest or back, we’re going to spread that out over five days,” says Saladino. “We’re accumulating the same amount of work but we’re spreading it out.” Typically, that looks like “an upper push, upper pull, a squat, a hinge, and a core work,” he continues, though “the programmes change according to how he feels and what he has to get ready for.”
He may have run the New York marathon in 2008, but Reynolds is no cardio junkie, so he bolts HIIT onto the end of his workout. “Ryan enjoys doing three to five sets of 10 seconds of intensity on the bike ERG, or 50 to 100 feet climbs on the vertical climber,” says Saladino. New York dwellers are also likely to find him on the trails. “I love being outdoors,” Reynolds told MH. “There are forests all around and I get to hike, mountain bike… just move.”
Ryan Reynolds’ Diet
Unlike most of Hollywood, Reynolds’ dinner plate is free from drastic diet rules. “I like to think I live a pretty normal life when it comes to that kind of thing,” he told MH previously. “I don’t go too extreme.” Aside from the usual muscle-building fare – prioritising protein, avoiding junk food, eating six small meals every two to three hours – Reynolds takes care to fuel his training, which means carbs are very much on the menu.
“When he did Green Lantern carbs were low and his energy was low,” says Saladino. “We introduced carbohydrates and I think that’s when his physique changed. Sweet potato is one of his favourite carbohydrates. He’d do oatmeal and protein in the morning. Brown rice and a little bit of fruit. His body became the best it has ever been when he started consuming carbs; it gave his body the energy it needed to start looking the way he wanted to start looking.”
Ryan Reynolds’ Full Body Workout
Feeling inspired? You don’t need a Hollywood studio to amass Reynold’s gains – all you need is a pair of dumbbells and a healthy dose of grit. Hit up the Saladino-approved home-friendly workout below – just don’t skip the warm-up.
Dumbbell deadlift: 4 sets, 8 reps
Hold two dumbbells by your side with your knees slightly bent.
Lower the dumbbells to the top of your feet, as far as you can go by extending through your waist, then slowly return to the starting position.
Incline dumbbell press: 4 sets, 8 reps
Lie back on a bench set to a 30-degree angle and lift the weights up to shoulder height, palms facing away from you.
Breathe out as you press up with both arms. Lock out your arms and squeeze your chest before returning slowly to the start position.
Goblet squat: 4 sets, 10 reps
Stand with feet set wider than shoulder-width and hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest.
Sit back into a squat, keeping the dumbbell in the same position then drive back up and repeat.
Bent-over row: 4 sets, 10 reps
Holding a dumbbell in each hand bend your knees slightly and hinge at the hip so your upper body is almost parallel to the floor.
Keep your core tight and your back straight as you row the weights up to your chest. Lower and repeat.
Close-grip bench press: 3 sets, 12 reps
Lie back on a flat bench holding a barbell with a narrow, overhand grip. From the starting position, breathe in and lower the bar slowly until it skims the middle of your chest.
Push the bar back to the starting position explosively as you breathe out. Focus on pushing the bar using your chest muscles.
Hammer curl: 3 sets, 12 reps
Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing your hips.
Curl the weights up until your thumbs are near your shoulders, then lower.
Farmer’s walk: 3 sets, 50 metres per arm
Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them by your sides. Walk forward taking short, quick steps.
Go for the given distance, as fast as possible.
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