Celebrities and Bodyweight–The Herschel Walker Workout
If you ever doubted that there are famous people who’ve reached the pinnacle of success using only bodyweight workouts, just wait until you get a load of the Herschel Walker workout.
Herschel Walker is a BEAST.
In his prime, he was reportedly doing 5,000 pushups and 5,000 situps.
But he’s not the only celebrity to use calisthenics to maintain a camera-ready body.
Let’s take a look at the some famous people you may not know work out without weights.
#1: Herschel Walker
First, let’s have a look at Herschel Walker. The guy’s an inspiration.
In 2014, Walker told TMZ that at that time–at the ripe old age of 52–he was doing 1,500 pushups and even more situps every single day.
The Athletic Build reported on the Herschel Walker workout:
…to this day he does 750-1500 pushups every day as well as 3000 sit ups. He also mixes in 1,500 pull-ups, 1000 dips, and 1000 squats every day. For cardio he will run up to 8 miles and do sprints as well. He also does a regimen of martial arts and MMA after he has completed this workout every morning.
The kicker here is that in his youth, that number was more like 5,000 per day.
“My mom called me big-boned and some kids called me retarded because I stuttered,” he said. “But I started doing 5,000 push-ups and 5,000 sit-ups a day and I started reading books. I started sitting in the front of my class and raising my hand and I became the fastest guy in Georgia.”
This is a guy in his 50s!!
Let’s hear from the man himself:
“I grew up overweight,” he said. “I used to have a speech impediment. I was picked on. And I realized that if you dedicate yourself to anything, you can do it….”
“Still doing no weights. Everything has been body exercises. Almost like a gymnast. I can do the rings. I can do that pommel horse. And people are shocked that I can do it.”
As a believer in a lifestyle built around bodyweight fitness and clean eating, his dietary habits are also remarkable. The Athletic Build continues:
He does not eat breakfast or lunch. The only meal he eats is dinner which consists of soup, salad and bread. He does not eat red meat but will have chicken on occasion.
Is it possible that the programming that’s pounded into our brains during childhood is simply wrong? Is it possible you don’t “have to” work out at the gym, lifting heavier and heavier weights and risking serious injury, in order to bulk up?
In case you’re unfamiliar, Walker is highly accomplished in college and professional football and even took a stab at mixed martial arts in his late 40s.
He compiled 8,225 yards in the NFL over his career, moreso if you count his three years in the USFL. He compiled over 5,200 yards in college at Georgia and won the Heisman Trophy in 1982.
But it’s even better than that. Art of Manliness summed him up this way:
He had excelled in both track and football in college, earned a 5th degree black belt in taekwondo, competed as an Olympic bobsledder, and even danced with the Fort Worth Ballet. Oh, and he’s continued his insane bodyweight workout into his 50s, in addition to training for MMA.
So he excelled in a highly physical sport requiring superhuman strength, and his accomplishments were driven by bodyweight exercise.
#2: Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey is the guy that men groan about when they find out he’s in another film. That’s because wives and girlfriends drool over him like a slab of prime rib!
The guy is built and he can’t complete a film without pulling his shirt off.
And he doesn’t pick up barbells–his primary style of external resistance is the kettlebell, which is a great functional fitness tool we endorse strongly.
Men’s Fitness gave us the rundown:
When he’s not prepping for a role, Matthew McConaughey trains with trainer Peter Park at his Malibu home. A typical day might include pullups on the kids’ swing set, followed by sprints in his backyard, pushups, one-legged squats, and finally kettlebell work in the driveway. He then takes his road bike out for several miles.
This stems from being raised to think daylight meant “get outside.”
When he was growing up in Longview, TX, McConaughey’s mother always told him, “If it is light outside, you must be out of the house.” This partly explains why he prefers outdoor workouts (jungles and trails) instead of training in a gym.
McConaughey isn’t doing the Herschel Walker workout, but he does work in bodyweight lifts in between his lengthy cardio sessions (which I’m not as big a fan of):
He likes to “run ’til I’m fatigued and drippin’ sweat”. He does a total of 200 press-ups during the run – dropping down to the ground whenever he feels like it for a burst of 20 or 30, wide hands first, then switching to close-hand to work the triceps……
One of his favourite exercises is picking up a dumbbell, kettle-weight or rock, and holding it for 15 minutes. He shifts it from high above his head, down to one arm, then the other, resting it on his shoulder… As many positions as he can manage without having to put it down on the ground.
Although my personal philosophy leans more towards the Primal Blueprint–no lengthy cardio; instead, walk long distances and “sprint once in a while”–you may notice that the first two celebs we’ve listed here include significant amounts of cardio in their routines.
The moral of this story is to be inventive, and do what is fun for you. After all–the best workout for you is the workout you’ll actually do!
#3 50 Cent
50 Cent has been known to tweet about Calisthenics in conversation with Hit Richards.
I’m definitely a fan of 50 Cent in his devotion to fitness and his passion about the lack thereof among the American population:
Folks who know me best don’t call me 50 Cent; they call me “The Machine.” I may have gained fame singing about hanging in the club, but truthfully, my greatest vice is overwork. I go hard all the time and thrive off being strong, successful, fit, and the best version of Curtis Jackson that I can be. Besides, I just love winning.
I hate that we’re losing America’s fitness battle. We may be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but we’re also the land of the couch and home of the potato. Thirty-six percent of United States adults are obese. Another 33 percent are overweight. One in three has either diabetes or pre-diabetes. Those stats are much worse for African Americans, who are 70 percent less likely than others to exercise.
That has to change. We have to change. I want to do my part.
That’s pretty damn inspiring.
The excerpt from his book published on Bodybuilding.com includes some weighted barbell lifts, but is primarily a bodyweight program.
There are some highly useful tips to be learned from 50’s practices. As one example:
To work his core from all angles, 50 raises his legs for an equal number of reps on each side, on top of doing reps straight down the middle. When he starts to fail, he does knee raises rather than just ending the set.
Once again–in what is now becoming a trend–the celebrities who aren’t big weight lifters are believers in cardio. 50 explains:
I’m not really into lifting heavy weights, but using smaller weights as cardio. It keeps your heart rate higher and I keep track of my heart rate on my tablet to make sure it stays high. I only take 30 seconds of recovery.
It’s easy to see 50 is all about mindset. This is one of my favorite quotes:
I think whenever you get in the gym, well, you’re at the wrong gym if you’re the hottest person in your gym. I think you should be somewhere surrounded by people that are actually working.
#4 Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler is an accomplished actor, who’s best known for his role in the fantastic film 300. That role required him to get in warrior shape, and it turns out Butler did a lot of that training using calisthenics and functional fitness principles.
Nerd Fitness provided these illustrations of how he built that physique:
- Instead of doing regular pushups, he would put his feet on a bench, and extend out while supporting himself on just two olympic rings hanging from the ceiling. Not only would his body weight cause the rings to swing all over the place, but he would do crazy amounts of pushups on the rings, working every single fiber in his chest, triceps, and shoulders.
- By flipping tires, Gerard would get an intense lower body, lower back, and shoulder work out.
- Doing pull ups until his arms fell off. Pull ups will work every muscle in your back, biceps, and forearms.
I don’t think he exclusively used bodyweight fitness, but his trainer definitely appears to have favored it over weighted exercises to build the physique he wanted for the film.
The “Original 300 Workout” also includes barbell deadlifts and kettlebell clean-and-press; but also big numbers of pullups, pushups, box jumps, floor wipers, and more pullups.
#5 Evangeline Lilly
Admit it, you watched Lost.
Evangeline Lilly has a set of arms lots of ladies want to emulate, and she’s known for a bodyweight and yoga-inspired routine created by trainer Jessica Matthews. Jessica says:
“Bodyweight exercises allow for limitless possibilities. They use a variety of muscle groups and train the body to become more balanced and stable at the joints.”
The workout she crafted for Evangeline includes:
- Forward Lunge
- Downward Dog
- Forearm Side Plank
- Limb Raises
- Boat Pose
#6 Muhammad Ali
The greatest heavyweight fighter of all time wasn’t a weightlifter.
“He was the first guy in the gym, and the last to leave,” said Angelo Dundee, Ali’s longtime trainer, who died in February, shortly after we interviewed him. In the gym, Ali avoided lifting weights. “My belief is that a fighter’s muscles can’t bulk up,” Dundee said. “There can’t be any restrictions to their punches. I ain’t got nothing against weights. A lot of guys use weights, and they do well with them, but he didn’t.”
Ali, like a few of the folks above, was also a runner.
“Ali was known for his hardcore dedication,” says Justin Fortune, a boxing trainer, conditioning coach and former heavyweight contender. Fortune revealed, “He was never into taking the easy way out. Go hard or go home.” He enjoyed running, instead of taking public transportation, to the gym, which meant running a distance of about 11 kilometers. These sessions were carried out 3 to 4 times a week.
#7 Jessica Biel
Jessica Biel is among a growing number of actresses and actors who perform primarly bodyweight exercise or exercise with light weights like medicine balls, dumbbells or kettlebells.
Her routine is primarily aimed at general fitness and muscle toning, rather than pure muscle growth. Like many of our readers.
Three days focusing on muscle development and toning by doing lunges, crunches, squats, core work, light weights with high reps working the Shoulders, Biceps, and Triceps (3 set of 10-12 reps). Then three-day a week of a cardio regimen. Jessica keeps very active playing volleyball, surfing and hiking. She also enjoys yoga.
BONUS: The Navy SEALs
One group of people you may not think are built by calisthenics are Navy SEALs.
Turns out, due to their need to train in any conditions and unpredictable locations, bodyweight exercises fit the bill.
Looking at this representative Navy SEAL workout routine, you’ll see pullups, pushups and situps; some running and swimming most days.
As it progresses, the workout plan calls for 4 and 5 mile runs, which again falls in line with a number of famous trainees in this list who include moderate amounts of cardio in their plans.
The Navy SEALs are able to protect our country and themselves with primarily bodyweight routines.
Now Get Out There!
It’s clear from these examples that it’s possible to be a successful athlete at the top of one’s game, an accomplished actor or really excel at any other profession without lifting weights. And no-one really has to know–you can look like you do!
So get out there and start your bodyweight program today! If you dare, put in a Herschel Walker Workout!