In case you haven’t noticed, Jason Momoa is in very good shape. Like, astoundingly good shape. It’s one of the most notable things about him, if we’re being honest here. But when the man who brought Khal Drogo to life in Game of Thrones signed on for the role of a lifetime as Aquaman in the DC Extended Universe, regular old ripped wasn’t going to cut it. To play the Atlantean superhero would require Momoa to get super ripped. Anybody who’s seen Justice League can attest to the fact that he succeeded with flying colors on that count. Ever wonder what Momoa had to do to go from simply jacked to owning an Aquabod? We’ve got the answers right here.
He started his days early
Jason’s first step in getting shredded for his role as Aquaman: getting out the door early, long before his family members or castmates (or the sun, even). Even when he’s not training for a role, he likes to be out of bed at the crack of dawn and get to work. "I get up at 5am and I train hard. I’ve got two young children, so I have to get up early," he’s said. "But I like it. Morning is when I do all my best work. Whenever I wake up, I’m up, I don’t lie there like an idiot. I get up, run up a hill, get some exercise and have some time with my thoughts."
He prefers that work to be something that can be done outdoors, and it usually veers towards the cardio side of the exercise spectrum, though he’s not averse to some early-morning rock climbing.
Doing cardio is a mainstay for anyone trying to get trimmer, and Momoa utilized it heavily for his appearance as Aquaman in Justice League. His morning work was a little more varied, though, and rarely just came down to time on a treadmill. When not shooting, he prefers anything from skateboarding to surfing, boxing, or swimming to get his day started, and saves weightlifting for later in the day.
He incorporated rock climbing into his workouts
Anybody who follows Momoa on social media knows he’s an avid climber. While climbing is certainly a great way to get in shape, it’s not really something you’ll see many actors partake in as part of an effort to bulk up for a role. But Momoa’s passion for rock climbing wasn’t going anywhere, so his trainer decided to use it to his advantage. Momoa lifted plenty of weights during his training, but two to three days a week he supplemented the lifting with climbing—and his trainer is on record as saying it helped a ton in trimming up for shirtless scenes, as cutting weight is something that helps with climbing (less weight to move) and trimming alike.
He trained under Mark Twight
The key to getting an actor bulked up and shredded for a role is often selecting the right trainer, and Momoa went to one of the best for his role as Aquaman. He paired up with Mark Twight, founder of Gym Jones, a hardcore invite-only gym with a stunning pedigree that includes the shredded Spartans of 300. The crew has become famous for the results their gym yields (some of which can be seen alongside Momoa in Justice League) and just as infamous for their grueling, insanely strenuous workout regimens.
Twight is something of a mainstay on Justice League director Zack Snyder’s sets, having trained Superman actor Henry Cavill and Gerard Butler before. Twight was key in getting Momoa into superhero shape, focusing their workouts on functional training rather than bodybuilding. The two also bonded over Twight’s past as a climber, which largely played into Twight’s incorporating climbing into Momoa’s workout routines. Twight even credits Momoa with getting him back into climbing after a prolonged hiatus from the sport. "I hadn’t realized how I missed it or that I could climb again without it being my identity," he admitted. "Sometimes the student is also a teacher." That camaraderie, paired with Twight’s expertise, yielded killer results for Momoa.
He didn’t skip cardio
Cardio is the bane of the weightlifter’s existence, but Momoa knows it’s a crucial part of not only getting in shape but living a healthy lifestyle. "If you take care of your heart it will take care of you," Momoa has said. "Just 45 minutes a day getting your sweat on, it makes such a difference physically and mentally."
As mentioned, he likes to get his cardio in early in the morning and save weightlifting for later in the day. Doing cardio in the morning forces your body to burn more fats for fuel, which would have assisted Momoa in getting cut for scenes in which Aquaman’s abs and core needed to really steal the show. And as far as health goes, Momoa’s got a good point. All the massive biceps and shredded eight-pack abs in the world aren’t going to do a lot of good if the heart supporting them isn’t just as healthy.
Getting a body up to Aquaman size takes time and effort, and Momoa being a pretty big dude before he started training didn’t change that. If you thought having a naturally athletic build would make the journey to achieving his fitness goals easier, think again. On top of the responsibilities of pulling long days on set, fulfilling publicity obligations, and being a father and a husband, Momoa hit the gym five to six days a week while shooting Justice League, for two hours at a time. Look at some of the workouts Twight had him doing and ask yourself if you’d want to do those for two whole hours.
Does this all seem a little much? Maybe, but considering how insanely ripped he had to get for the role, it’s not entirely surprising. And yes, that means he was even putting in time at the gym on Saturdays. If you want to be a superhero, you’ve gotta train like one.
He trained for strength, not just size
There’s a common misconception that actors who look buff must be as strong as they seem. The reality is a little different. Training for size is very different from training for strength, and putting on size doesn’t necessarily indicate building strength. That’s where Momoa set himself apart from the rest. His training regimen with Twight may have had an ultimately cosmetic goal, but the training was entirely practical and steered away from traditional bodybuilding workouts. It’s all real, functional strength training, which means that not only does Jason Momoa look like he could break a California Redwood in half with his bare hands, he probably can. Well, maybe that’s a stretch. But he can pull off an insane weighted pull-up that impressed even strong-dude legend Lou Ferrigno.
He didn’t stress doing ab workouts
You’d think with abs like the ones he’s rocking in Justice League (what is it with this cast and obscenely shredded abs?) that at least half of Momoa’s workouts with Twight involved nothing more than nonstop sit-ups and crunches. Nope—they didn’t stress ab workouts at all during Momoa’s training for Justice League.
You might find yourself wondering how that’s possible, considering how shredded his core is in the film. The answer is simple: with the right diet and right exercises, crunches aren’t imperative to getting a six-pack. Momoa’s workouts largely incorporate core strength, the core being the foundation of much of strength training to begin with, through full body workouts. Pair that with a diet that helped him trim fat and build muscle, and you get abs so cut you could grate cheese on them with no sit-ups necessary.
He let the shoot dictate what he trained for
Preparation and dedication are necessary when it comes to getting an actor in shape for a role, and often that means methodically planned workouts scheduled weeks in advance, with very little room for adjustment. That said, because of the hectic schedule the film shoot required, it quickly became clear that a strict training regimen like that wouldn’t work for Momoa. Instead, Twight decided to let the shoot and Momoa’s needs dictate what they focused on in the gym.
If a shirtless scene was coming up, they’d train to get him trim for that. Similarly, if a fight scene was on the horizon, they’d focus on training that would prepare him properly. Approaching the training like this stopped Momoa’s progress from getting derailed before it could properly get on track. While the long-term goal was obviously to keep Momoa in shape for the role, that goal was achieved through a series of short-term accomplishments dictated by the flow of the film shoot.
He mixed it up and kept it fun
Momoa seems like a pretty active guy if you follow him on social media—both physically and on a personal level. There’s a definite vibe he gives off indicating that he avoids stagnancy of any kind. When he’s not in the gym or on set it seems like he keeps his plate pretty full, be it with climbing, family life, rock concerts, playing guitar, and a wide variety of other activities. He’s also on record as saying that standard workouts bore him, and that he’s pretty hyperactive in the mental sense.
Twight decided to play up to this when training Momoa for Justice League by always keeping their workouts unpredictable. Routine was rarely utilized outside of the regularity of the gym sessions. By switching up exercises and weight circuits, Twight kept Momoa in shape and engaged. More than anything, though, he made sure they were having fun when they did it, even during the harder workouts. Wonder how a two-hour grueling workout could possibly be a good time? As Twight has said regarding fitness, "It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun."
He saved his calories for Guinness
It’s tough to follow Momoa on Instagram and not be aware of his affinity for Guinness beer. He’s a veritable super-fan and is pretty vocal about how much he enjoys kicking back with a pint after a long day—he’s even got his own signature brew through the company. Momoa is clearly about as disciplined as they come, if the end product of his training in Justice League is any indication, but he and Twight knew that keeping him away from the Irish stout for an entire film shoot was going to be impossible.
So rather than enforce total abstinence from Guinness, Twight helped Momoa arrange his diet so there would be room for it. Momoa’s Justice League diet consisted mostly of lean meats and green veggies. Very few carbs were ingested throughout the day; that way, Momoa could save his carb counts for a beer here and there. We imagine that made the long days of shooting and lifting heavy stuff a bit more palatable for Momoa, knowing there was a fresh pint of Guinness waiting when he was done.