September 22, 2023

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A Chest Workout Straight from Jason Momoa’s ‘Aquaman’ Training Plan

6 min read

Few men are responsible for as many on-screen physiques as Jason Momoa’s ‘Aquaman‘ trainer Mark Twight. In fact, Twight’s credits as an architect of superhero bodies are matched only by his reluctance to discuss them in public.

Whether it’s the media or the public boiling months of training and dietary interventions down to ‘this one single workout’ for the jacked, sinewy Spartans that Twight helped to carve out for Zack Snyder’s historical epic ‘300’, or all of the misinformation surrounding Henry Cavil’s legendary beef-up to play Superman, it can’t be easy to see your work butchered, backwards engineered and criticised based on whispers and hearsay.

Or, perhaps Twight, whose credits also include training special forces soldiers and world class athletes, just doesn’t think it’s worth getting embroiled in emotional social media debates over celebrity privilege, PED usage and the right bench angle for ‘optimal chest development’.

No, Twight was hired to do a job, and he delivered, in spades.

Celebrity Workouts, Love Them or Loathe Them?

Personally speaking, I don’t know if I believe there’s much value in seeing ‘celebrity’ workouts —after all, a good workout, from a good coach is good regardless of its intended recipient. With that being said, even the best workouts are only as effective as the programme they’re nestled within, the recovery and nutritional measures that are put in place and, more importantly, the intensity with which all of them are executed.

I do, however, always think it’s intriguing to see how the best trainers in the world put these actors to work when there’s money on the line and deadlines to be met. If nothing else, you’ll come away with a few workouts to try and some interesting celebrity talking points, and that’s exactly what we’ve got lined up for you.

Luckily for us, on the proviso that we print them unaltered and unedited, Twight has shared a few of the gruelling workouts that he put eccentric Hollywood icon Jason Momoa through as he bulked up for his appearance as submariner superhuman Arthur Curry, AKA Aquaman, across the DC Extended Universe. But first, we’ve got something far more useful to you than the sets, reps and exercises employed— the context behind them.

Balancing Weightlifting With Rock Climbing

Momoa, an avid rock climber, was extremely enthusiastic when he heard that Twight — a legendary figure in the climbing scene — would be handling the physical training for the film franchise.

‘He told me he had hidden my first book, “Extreme Alpinism” in a math textbook to read at school, back when he first started rock climbing,recalls Twight.

In fact, Momoa’s entire plan would have to be adapted to accommodate his desire to climb on an indoor rock wall 2-3 days per week.

‘We battled constantly with competing demands,’ says Twight. ‘Jason needed size for his role as Aquaman, but when climbing, being lighter is paramount. High training volume was necessary to make and solidify change, so recovery practices, which were handled by his assistant, Damian – a massage and physical therapist – were critical.’

Patrik Giardino

Rock climbing, although not specifically geared towards building the type of superhero physique that Momoa and other members of The Justice League sported on screen, can be extremely taxing on the body, so to work around Momoa’s desire to hit the wall, Twight concentrated on the lesser effected areas, when in the gym.

‘We balanced weightlifting with climbing. We didn’t fatigue climbing muscles the day before a session in the rock gym but instead focused on chest, shoulders and legs.’

Jason Momoa’s Chest Day Workout

Here’s a look at that sample chest day, that’s sure to deliver a pec pump, even for us non-metahumans.

The Warm-up:

Twight had Momoa warm-up with a series of functional crawls, followed by performing throws and catches from various angles with a heavy medicine ball, a pull-up ‘ladder’ that accumulated a total of 55 reps, before finally beginning to work up in weight for the first big move of the day— the incline bench press.

The Workout:

Part One:

Perform 5 rounds of the following circuit. Take no rest between movements but rest 2-3 minutes between each round.

A1. Incline Bench Press x 6

incline barbell bench press

Pick a weight that you could perform for no more than 10 reps, fresh. Lay on a bench set at a 45-degree angle, holding two dumbbells or a barbell above your chest (A), slowly lower your weight, keeping your elbows at a slight angle to your torso, until the weight touches your chest (A). Explosively press back up to full lockout and repeat.

A2. Standing Dumbbell Press x 12

weights, exercise equipment, shoulder, overhead press, kettlebell, arm, dumbbell, physical fitness, standing, muscle,

Clean a pair of dumbbells onto your shoulders, palms facing in. Take a breath, squeeze your glutes and create tension through your core. (A) Dip at the knees and use your legs to help if necessary (B) press your dumbbells overhead. Lower them under slow control to your shoulders and repeat. Use a weight that starts to feel challenging after around 8 reps.

A3. Push-up x 24

press up, weights, arm, exercise equipment, kettlebell, muscle, chest, dumbbell, joint, physical fitness,

Drop into a plank position, with your core tight and hands on your dumbbells (A), bend your elbows to slowly bring your chest to the floor (B). Keep your elbows close to your body as you push back up explosively. Repeat, focussing on controlling the quality of movement throughout.

Part Two:

The following is a high rep odyssey that will see you clocking up an astonishing, pec-pumping 108 reps, using just one machine. Follow Twight’s guidelines exactly to get the desired chest swelling effect.

Perform this entire circuit with no rest between angles. Recover for 4-5 minutes and repeat once more. ‘And just like that, you should be SWOLE.’ Adds Twight, knowingly.

jason momoa performs chest workout

Artist Unknown//Instagram

B1. High angle cable flye x 36 (6, 12, 18 rep dropset)

cable crossover

Take the cable stirrups from a high angle, above your head, and step forward, allowing the weights to pull your arms back until you feel a stretch across your chest (A). Lean forward and keep your arms relatively straight as bring your hands down and together, finishing at your waist and squeezing your pecs, hard (B). Perform 6 heavy reps, drop 2-3 plates from the machine and immediately perform 12 more reps. Drop a further 2-3 more plates from the stack and finish with 18 reps.

B2. Mid angle cable flye x 36 (6, 12, 18 rep dropset)

After your final high angle flye, immediately reset the weights and reposition the cable to a ‘mid angle’, so that the stirrups are about in line with your chest. Step forward until you feel a deep stretch in your chest, and again work your way through the same gruelling 6, 12, 18 reps dropset as above.

B3. Low angle cable flye x 36 (6, 12, 18 rep dropset)

Finally, reset your weight stack and readjust the pulleys so that you’re taking each stirrup from the lowest angle possible. Step forward, allowing the weights to pull your arms down and back. Maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, bring your hands up and in front of your body until they’re touching. Squeeze the upper portion of your chest, hard, before slowly lowering back to the beginning position. Repeat the 6, 12, 18 rep dropset protocol from above, rest 4-5 minutes and go through the whole pec-popping process again.

Headshot of Andrew Tracey

With almost 18 years in the health and fitness space as a personal trainer, nutritionist, breath coach and writer, Andrew has spent nearly half of his life exploring how to help people improve their bodies and minds.    

As our fitness editor he prides himself on keeping Men’s Health at the forefront of reliable, relatable and credible fitness information, whether that’s through writing and testing thousands of workouts each year, taking deep dives into the science behind muscle building and fat loss or exploring the psychology of performance and recovery.   

Whilst constantly updating his knowledge base with seminars and courses, Andrew is a lover of the practical as much as the theory and regularly puts his training to the test tackling everything from Crossfit and strongman competitions, to ultra marathons, to multiple 24 hour workout stints and (extremely unofficial) world record attempts.   

 You can find Andrew on Instagram at @theandrew.tracey, or simply hold up a sign for ‘free pizza’ and wait for him to appear.

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