Jason Statham: Evolution of Fitness

Some action stars simply fall into the roles. The right acting skills, the look or good agent. Others are ‘action’ kind of guys. That would be Jason Statham. While he was first noticed in the Transporter series, he got his start in Guy Ritchie films. He was working as a model and got an audition for, “Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrel”. The rest is history. His Mother was a dancer and his Father a lounge singer. Jason was on the British Diving Team and finished 12th in the 1992 World’s.

Jason Statham on the British Diving Team

Overall Jason spent 10 years competing in diving. He also began practicing martial arts including, Wing Chun, Kickboxing and Karate. This prepared him for what he viewed as a career as a stuntman. However he ended up as an actor who does stunts. To that end, his fitness and conditioning routines have evolved as he’s matured.

Through interviews over the years, Jason has talked about his training, films, injuries and conditioning philosophy. He built his training on a solid background of Olympic diving training. His base conditioning was so good that he took a challenge from a friend to run a marathon with NO long distance training and did it in, 3:51. His early thoughts about workouts evolved around FIVE ideas.

  1. Intensity. Get 40 good minutes, not one and a half hours of nonsense.
  2. Make the Core, Strong and Enduring. This includes the hip flexors. Jason would do 500 reps daily of V Ups, Sit Ups and Leg Raises during his diving days.
  3. Practice a Skill. For Jason, it’s martial arts. Heavy bag, skip rope, focus mitts and shadow boxing.
  4. Use Your Bodyweight. A combination of bodyweight calisthenics and plyometrics are a carry over from his diving days and martial arts.
  5. Have a Portable Workout. The famous audio workout from Jason’s buddy, mixed martial arts legend, Bas Rutten, fits in here. He even does it in a hotel room.

As the films increased in budget, the stunts became more extreme. Jason’s dedication to training shifted. He began training with Logan Hood, a former US Navy SEAL, at Epoch Fitness in LA. Hood, who was a devotee of the “Gym Jones” method of Mark Twight, famous for training the cast of, “The 300”. This training was heavily programmed, extensive, intensive and unique. Below is the program, which is pulled from both American and British fitness magazines. [Primarily Men’s Health UK]

Day ONE

Deadlifts

Warm-up (Part 1): Rowing. For this, Jason completes 10 minutes on the Concept 2 rowing machine at a pace that’s less than 20 strokes per minute (SPM). (Jason’s distance on this day: 2,274 meters.)Warm-up (Part 2): Pyramid Circuit.

Directions: Do these three exercises as a circuit, performing one set of each in succession without resting. Use a “pyramid repetition structure” to the workout. Here’s how: In your first round through the circuit, do one repetition of each movement. In each subsequent round, perform an additional repetition. So you’ll do two repetitions of each exercise in round 2, three repetitions in round 3, and so on. Once you’ve completed five rounds, continue on, but reduce the repetitions you complete each round by one. So you’ll do four repetitions in round 6, three repetitions in round 7, and so on, until you’ve worked your way down to one repetition. At this point, your warm-up is complete.

1. Pushup
2. Ring Pullups(These are classic pullups, but Jason uses gymnastic rings instead of the bar, and performs each repetition as quickly as possible while maintaining control and a full range of motion)
3. Bodyweight Squat

Workout: This involves just one exercise, the deadlift. Jason starts with a light weight — about 35 percent of the amount of his 1RM — and then slowly starts adding weight and reducing repetitions. As the weight becomes closer to his 1RM — which, for Jason, is more than twice his bodyweight — his rest between sets increases to 3 minutes. This allows for nearly complete recovery between lifts. Remember, these are the weights that Jason uses. They should be determined based on individual ability.

Reps Weight Rest10 135 pounds 1 minute5 185 pounds 2 minutes3 235 pounds 3 minutes2 285 pounds 3 minutes1 325 pounds 3 minutes1 340 pounds 3 minutes1 350 pounds 3 minutes1 360 pounds 3 minutes1 365 pounds

Cool-down: 10 minutes on the trampoline. Jason uses a full size 10x17 foot gymnastic trampoline for 10 minutes of freestyle aerial work. Jason has an Olympic diving background so he’s doing fairly advanced movements here. In addition to fine-tuning motor skill the trampoline is supposed to be good for your lymphatic system and flushing toxins from your cells. — — — — — — — — —

Day TWO
Functional Circuit
.

This workout is designed to be a metabolically demanding, training the entire body with exercises that work multiple muscle groups.
Warm-up (Part 1): Rowing. Just as in Day 1, Jason completes 10 minutes on the rowing machine at a pace that’s less than 20 strokes per minute (SPM). (Jason’s distance: 2,238 meters.)
Warm-up (Part 2): Static Hold Circuit.
Directions: Do these four exercises as a circuit. For each exercise, you’ll hold a specific position for 30 seconds, and then have 10 seconds to change stations, before starting the next exercises. Do a total of four rounds.
1. Ring Dip Hold
Hold yourself in the top position of a dip for the prescribed amount of time. Like the ring pullup, Jason performs this using gymnast rings instead of on a dip station that has parallel bars.
2. Kettlebell Farmer Hold
Grab a pair of heavy kettlebells — dumbbells will work in a pinch — and let them hang arm’s length at your sides.
3. L-Sit on Parallettes or dips bars
Jason uses parallettes to perform this exercise but the L-sit can also be done on a dip station that has parallel bars. See these articles for a description of this device, how you can make your own, and a photos and a desription of how to perform the hold.
4. Bodyweight Squat Hold
Lower yourself to the bottom position of a squat with your thighs parallel to the ground and hold.

Workout:
This routine, called the “Big Five 55 Workout,” is compliments of strength coach Dan John.

Here, Jason performs a circuit of 5 exercises, which he does a total of 10 times.
There is no prescribed rest and ideally you move continuously from one exercise to the next while keeping the sets unbroken. Focus on going as fast as possible while maintaining form, full ROM, and control. The weights should be light enough to allow this.You can run the stopwatch and race through this workout, but for better results and quality movement you should simply try to keep the momentum and flow through the exercises nonstop. He starts with 10 repetitions of each movement, and each time through, decreases the reps by 1. So he does 10 reps of all exercises in the first round, 9 in the second, 8 in the third, and so on, until he’s doing just one repetition in each set. The result is that he completes a total of 55 repetitions of each exercise. Again, the weights below are the amount Jason used during this particular week.
1. Front Squat (95 pounds)
2. Pullups
3. Decline Parrallette Pushups
Directions: Hands on the parrallettes, feet on a box so that they are approximately 1 foot higher than your hands. Do the prescribed number of pushups. Typically, because you’re elevated on the parrallettes you can go much deeper in the bottom position and really push the ROM, although this is dependent on shoulder flexibility.

4. Power Cleans

5. Knees to Elbows. Directions: Hanging from a pullup bar or from the rings at the half-cocked positon (elbows at a right angle) raise your knees until they touch your elbows. Lower them back down in a controlled fashion so you don’t swing.

Day THREE
Interval Work
.

This session is performed on a Concept 2 rower.
Warm-up: Rowing. Jason completes 10 minutes on the rowing machine at a pace that’s less than 20 strokes per minute (SPM). (Jason’s distance: 2,102 meters.)Workout: To mimic Jason’s interval workout, you’ll do six intervals of 500 meters.
Between each 500 meter “sprint,” engage in active rest for 3 minutes. For this, you can get off the rower and get a drink of water but you must continue moving. Walking around will suffice.Here’s a look at Jason’s times for reference:Sprint 1. 1:40.1Sprint 2. 1:39.7Sprint 3. 1:43.9Sprint 4. 1:41.6Sprint 5. 1:38.7Sprint 6. 1:50.3
Cool-down: To finish up, Jason performs a farmer carry for 500 meters with two 70-pound kettlebells. There is no set or time structure. Just carry the weight for 500m, get it done as quickly as possible. This tends to be a grip issue so that dictates any rest that must be taken.

Day FOUR
Set Work.

Here, Jason focuses on front squats, one of the best strengthening and total body conditioning exercises in existence.
Warm-up (Part 1): Rowing. Just as in Day 1, Jason completes 10 minutes on the rowing machine and at a pace that’s less than 20 strokes per minute (SPM). (Jason’s distance: 2,095 meters.)
Warm-up (Part 2): Jason does 20 repetitions of bodyweight squats before moving on to the primary portion of the workout.

Workout: 5 sets of 5 repetitions of the front squat. In this workout, Jason used a load that was 105 percent of his bodyweight.

Jason’s Front Squat Workout
Reps Weight Rest 5 175 pounds 90 seconds 5 175 pounds 90 seconds 5 175 pounds 90 seconds 5 175 pounds 90 seconds 5 175 pounds
Cool-down: Jason does 200 repetitions of the pushup, but he performs this workout using a “ladder” routine. We do this as partnered ladders of 1–5. So 13 ladders plus an extra 5 reps at the end. I do a pushup, he does a pushup, I do 2, he does 2, I do 3, he does 3, I do 4, he does 4, I do 5, he does 5. We’ve now each done 15 pushups and we immediately repeat the process starting at 1 again.We do these quickly with the only rest being the time it takes for each other to do his pushups. If you wanted to do this alone, you could do 1 pushup and count “1 one thousand”, do 2 pushups and count “1 one thousand, 2 one thousand”, etc. This approach allows you to do a large volume of quality work (with small sets there is no reason the pushups aren’t perfect and done explosively) without much, if any, residual muscle soreness. We also use this approach with pull-ups and knees-to-elbows. Not many folks finish their workout with 200 perfect pull-ups but this approach makes it doable.

Day FIVE
Cumulative Movements
.

This workout is designed to be a metabolically demanding, training the entire body with exercises that work multiple muscle groups. The Cumulative Movement workout consists of only one trip through as opposed to a circuit workout in which you repeatedly cycle back through the same movements.
Warm-up (Part 1): Rowing. Just as in Day 1, Jason completes 10 minutes on the rowing machine at a pace that’s less than 20 strokes per minute (SPM). (Jason’s distance: 2,149 meters.)
Warm-up (Part 2): The bear crawl and crab walk. Alternate back and forth between the bear crawl for a distance of 15 meters and the crab walk for a distance of 15 meters. Repeat until you’ve done five 15-meter increments of each.

Workout: One round through a series of exercises.
Direction: Do one set of each movement, completing all of the prescribed number of repetitions before moving on to the next exercise. Perform each exercise as quickly as possible while maintaining proper form and full range of motion. The stopwatch is running on this one so try to get through it as quickly as possible by minimizing rest.

Jason’s Circuit Workout
Exercise Reps Weight
7-meter Fat Rope Climbs
5 /BodyFront Squats 5 /185 pounds
Ball Slams 5 /30 pounds
15-meter Rope Pulls 10 /
90 poundsBench Press 10 /
175 poundsBall Slams 10 /
25 poundsPullups 15 /
BodyDips 15 /
BodyBall Slams 15 /
20 pounds Resisted Fat Rope Pulls /20
Smashes/20

Day SIX
Contextual Effort

This can be any activity or sport that you enjoy doing. If this is of significant duration and intensity it should be considered as part of your training. In Jason’s case the goal was to get outside and maintain an activity nonstop for over an hour to build some endurance (training the aerobic energy pathway).

Workout: 1 hour plus trail run in the mountains.

Day SEVEN Rest

However, training with a US Navy SEAL has it’s downside as well.

I remember ages ago I got injured just doing a 1-rep max on a front squat. That put me out for months.

Training for a film, then getting injured doing so, could be a nightmare. Training should prevent injury, not cause it. Imagine 12–14 hour days of acting and stunts on location limping around with a sore knee or bad back.

I used to train with a guy called Logan Hood. He was a machine. He was a SEAL and my ego would push me to better him. It’s no fault of his but technique and skill go out the window when you’re trying to lift heavy weights and single-rep max. But he went back to the military and that was a big thing for me. I had to figure out where I was going wrong.

Jason enlisted Kelly Starrett and learned to heal and maintain himself.

I got on the phone with him and started talking about a few injuries. He was just superb in his knowledge. I began implementing a lot of stuff that he was talking about and all of a sudden I started moving a lot better. He says you don’t need someone to help you fix these injuries. You can fix them yourself. You just need the know-how. I started doing mobility work, figuring out how the shoulders work, how the hips work. I’m getting older now, but I feel good.

Jason’s workout has changed as he learned from his past mistakes. Here are some bullet points —

  • I do a lot of mobility work, then I do fight training — martial arts, boxing — then I do strength and conditioning.
  • How I feel when I get up is how I train. It’s all about being a good listener of your own body.
  • I do a lot of Olympic lifting. I think the techniques you need for those moves are essential: cleans, deadlifts, overhead squats.
  • I always try and do legs in a session. If my legs are feeling good then I’ll work them until I don’t feel good. It’s pretty much gauged on that: hit that area until it starts to feel like it’s had some smashing. Then let that recover, find something else.

”What’s your cardio? My cardio is my fucking workout. If you’re working out correctly, you’ll hit the cardio.”

  • I do something every day. I don’t take days off. I do something seven days a week, although on the seventh day I might do mobility work. I’m always listening to my body.
  • I do a lot of gymnastics-type things. The Olympic rings are priceless. Parallel bars are good if you can get a small set of those. A big squat rack, pull-up bar, kettlebells. A Concept 2 rowing machine that has to get dusted off every now and again.

On eating, Jason records his meals. He’s quoted as saying, “If it goes in the mouth, it goes in the book”. Here he further explains his philosphy -

You’d get so isolated doing these films that you’d think, ‘Fuck, I’m not eating another piece of chicken breast and fucking broccoli.’ You come out and you go 10 pints of lager and do the things that you’re familiar with. Especially coming from the UK. That’s where you run to, the old habits. I did that for years and years and your body’s good at buffering that kind of abuse. But the older you get, the smarter you get. I don’t do that now. I’m much, much fitter than I’ve ever been. I eat cleanly, because it’s just smart to do that.

Summing it up.. avoid injury, listen to your body, eat clean, mix Olympic lifts with ringwork, kettlebells and rowing. Train your legs hard and do mobility every day.

Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and fitness most of his life. He’s currently a fitness coach and been blogging since 2005. www.tomfurman.com