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August 15, 2020 10 min read

From the Joker to Han Solo, to Walter White, the rise of the anti-hero is increasingly apparent in this day and age. The old, predictable, squeaky-clean superhero stereotype (yawn) is now being replaced with those without morals, and we like them for it. They are unapologetically flawed, which makes them accessible to us mere mortals. Que in the wisecracking Deadpool character, originally conceived in Marvel comics. 

The unhinged character is no exception to the anti-hero trend, played by actor Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 1 and 2. Not only is Reynolds admired in the films for his raunchy one-liners and devil-may-care attitude, but also his impressively toned muscular physique.  Reynolds proves to us you don’t have to fit into the typical Hollywood superhero roles to be well-liked, accessible, and ripped. So, let’s take a look at what it took to get him to that level.

The Making of the Merc with a Mouth

A long-time Deadpool fan himself, Reynolds first transformed into Wade Wilson acting alongside star and fitness beast Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As a last-minute addition to the cast, Reynolds was able to rely on the experienced and knowledgeable Jackman, who advised Reynolds in the rush to gain muscle for the role. But in 2016, Reynolds was no longer the supporting actor and was pumped to finally be getting around to playing the starring role of Wade Wilson. He cried when he saw his Deadpool suit for the first time since it took 11 years for the challenging production to finally get off the ground. Hey, dreams do come true people. 

In Deadpool 1, the quick-witted potty mouth and ex-military officer Wade Wilson is diagnosed with terminal cancer. In a last-ditch effort to save his own life, he agrees to a rogue experiment in which he receives the power of accelerated healing, which also leaves him scarred and disfigured. The appeal of Deadpool power is that he can regenerate lost limbs and recover quickly from a beating. The indestructible “Merc with a Mouth” then sets out on his mission to track down the man responsible for his unforeseen afflictions and exacts his revenge, showing no mercy in the end. 

The thing is, you gotta be ripped to take a beating. The remarkable aspect of Deadpool 1 is that the actor performed his stunts. And get ripped he did. Reynolds, at 6’2, proved his commitment to his dream role by gaining 7 pounds of lean muscle, weighing approximately 185 pounds at the time of the shooting. His secret is that he learned to like the hard stuff that produces gains, like deadlifts and squats.  

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.

Hard Work, Passion, and Trainers

When you have that kind of passion for the results, getting a body like Deadpool will come naturally. But of course, Reynolds didn’t do it all on his own. While Ryan is incredibly self-motivated, it is important to remember the years of support he had of numerous personal trainers, dieticians, and of course encouragement of other successful body-builders like Hugh Jackman. His dedication to developing a ripped body is evident in the complete turn around from his averagely built frat guy Van Wilder days. 

Reynolds' workout journey first began around 2004, pumping up for Blade: Trinity, his first action role. Trained by Bobby Strom, Ryan put in some effort for the role, gaining a whopping 25 pounds of muscle over three months. He accomplished this through 6 intense workouts a week and consuming 3200 calories a day. After such a big accomplishment, Reynolds was motivated to keep striving for what he once thought was impossible, like running the New York City Marathon. He finished with a time of 3 hours, 50 minutes. Way to go Ryan!

Strom also worked with Reynolds for his The Green Lantern superhero body, which took a year’s preparation. His body tends to look different for every role, in this case, he trained as if for a body-building competition. Focusing on stability and core work, Strom would keep it fresh with a variety of workouts including plyometrics, BOSU, yoga, kickboxing, bands, and TRX. Reynolds kept it up 7 days a week, and for 90 minutes each workout. That is some dedication.

Fast forward to 2015, Reynolds enlisted his long-time personal trainer Don Saladino, who also worked with the likes of Sebastian Stan, David Harbour, Liev Schrieber, and of course Blake Lively, Reynolds’ wife. Based in New York, Saladino was able to assess Reynolds' needs and send him a training plan as the motivated star prefers to crank the workout on his own. For the first Deadpool, Saladino’s focus was not to improve Reynolds’ build aesthetically, but for him to gain functional muscle mass. Another important factor was to increase the actor’s agility for his superhuman stunts, zoning in on movement training before he even started on weights every day. 

Assess Every Day Individually and Warm-Up

And although Deadpool miraculously regenerates from his injuries, Reynolds, unfortunately, does not. And aged 39 at the time of the filming of the first movie, the star was finding it harder and harder to bounce off the concrete. To minimize the risk of injury, Saladino and Reynolds would first assess how the actor was feeling that day, and then tailor the workout to meet him at that level. Not every workout had to be a max workout. The trainer also emphasized the importance that Reynolds warm up every joint of the body due to the variety of movements he did in every workout. The reality was that Reynolds getting hurt would seriously halt the production of the already prolonged movie. 

The following is Ryan Reynolds’ training program to build muscle leading up to his starring role in Deadpool 1:


  • Foam Rolling: 5 minutes, focusing on tight muscles
  • Glute Bridges: 2 sets of 10
  • Cat-Cow:  2 sets, 30 seconds each
  • Thoracic Rotations: 10 reps/side
  • Toe Touches: 10
  • Bear Crawls: 10
  • Bounding: 3 sets of 10
  • Overhead Shovel Throws: 3 sets of 10
  • Turkish Get-Ups: 3 sets of 10

Ryan Reynolds Workout Routine (Deadpool 1)

Monday: Leg Day

  • Squats: 4 sets of 7 reps (rest as needed)
  • Stationary Lunges: 4 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)
  • One-Legged RDL: 4 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)
  • One-Legged Leg Press: 4 sets of 8 reps (one minute rest)

Tuesday: Shoulder Day

  • Dumbbell Press: 4 sets of 10 reps (90 seconds rest)
  • Side Raise: 4 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)
  • Rear Delt Raise: 4 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)
  • Front Raise: 4 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)


(Wednesday: Off)


Thursday: Back Day

  • Sumo Deadlifts: 7 sets of 4 reps (rest as needed)
  • Pull-Ups: 4 sets of 6 reps (rest as needed)
  • One Arm Row: 5 sets of 10 (one minute rest)
  • Machine Row: 4 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)

Friday: Chest Day

  • Bench Press: 7 sets of 4 reps (rest as needed)
  • Incline Press: 4 sets of 6 reps (rest as needed)
  • Dumbbell Flyes: 4 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)
  • Dumbbell Pullovers: 4 sets of 15 reps (one minute rest)

Saturday: Arm Day

  • Nosebreakers: 4 sets of 8 reps (one minute rest)
  • Tricep Dips: 4 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)
  • Rope Pushdowns: 4 sets of 12 rep (one minute rest)
  • Sissy Bar Preacher Curls: 6 sets of 6 reps (one minute rest)
  • 45° Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)
  • Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps (one minute rest)

(Sunday: Off)

Back at it Again

Two years later in Deadpool 2, we saw the return of the well-liked anti-hero when the foul-mouthed Deadpool comes to the aid of a mutant teenaged orphan who has become targeted by a genetically-enhanced soldier from the future. Alongside a new team of fellow mutants, Deadpool is sliced, diced, stomped, detonated, but prevails just as he begins to feel a sense of belonging in the family of misfits. 

Hard-working Reynolds was back at it again with Saladino, getting into the best shape of his life for the Deadpool 2 role.

Toss the Sit-Ups, Add the Sandbag

Ryan’s workout plan has changed dramatically over the years, as his focus, goals, family duties, and favored exercises have shifted. Now in the best shape of his life, he rarely leaves the gym feeling exhausted. His eight-pack abs are envy-inducing, but it is important to note that you don’t have to overwork your abs to get them where they ought to be. Pumping out tons of sit-ups is a good way to injure yourself.

Older and wiser, the actor now has shifted from the endless crunches of his younger days to his go-to workout moves including squats, deadlifts, and walking lunges, while adding extra weight. Reynolds now knows heavy lifting, pulling, and squatting naturally target the abs, while also getting more bang for your buck in other areas. Your body is forced to brace itself under the weight, which naturally activates your core. 

Now Reynolds can pull off the walking lunges, adding a rotation, while carrying a 40-pound sandbag and wearing a 30-pound vest. No sweat, right?

Running out of Time? Try Circuits

The emphasis this go-round of training was on circuits, in large part due to Reynolds’ newborn daughter and hectic schedule. The no-sleep dad had his hands full, not only with his growing family, but with writing, shooting multiple movies at a time, press tours, and his occasional bouts of ridiculousness (he appeared on a Korean game show, dressed as a masked unicorn, singing ‘Tomorrow’). Because of the constant go-go-go, the prankster needed to optimize his time by making the workouts more difficult in shorter periods. 

What are some benefits of circuits? You don’t have to spend all day in the gym and can spend more of your time pranking people and/or fighting crime. Circuit workouts are known to be quick and efficient workouts that target the entire body within 30 minutes or less. You rotate between different stations, each targeting a different muscle group with bodyweight, weight, and dynamic exercises. One dynamic exercise used by Reynolds is the loaded carry, particularly the farmer’s walk, which employs the use of kettlebells. You can also vary the position of the kettlebell/s depending on what muscle group you want to target. 

One huge plus in circuit workouts is that they are so adaptable to different targets you choose such as strength, movement, cardio, or sport-specific. Varying the workout is beneficial in that you’re unlikely to injure any particular muscle by its overuse

A workout comparable to circuits is High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. It is important to know the difference when choosing the right one for you. Like a circuit workout, HIIT also uses a variety of exercises but tends to burn more calories. This is because you are following higher intensity bouts of energy with a short recovery period. It raises your oxygen levels and also your metabolic rate for hours. Therefore HIIT is good for those that have weight loss goals. However, HIIT tends to be more prone to injury due to the high-intensity and possibility of overworking. For this reason, circuits were a good choice for Reynolds as he couldn’t afford to sustain an injury.

Tailor Your Cardio to What You Love

And onto the dreaded cardio. Although the wisecracker's slender build is already low in body fat, Reynolds had to keep up with his cardio to easily accomplish the quick running and jumping in the movie. This can be achieved when you are doing things you love. Like most of us, Ryan hates the treadmill, so instead of going to the gym, he would satisfy his love of the outdoors to get his heart rate going. He’s a mountain biker, and a hiker and often would bring his newborn along with him in a baby carrier to add some weight. Make it a family outing, and you are optimizing your family time.

Along with doing the cardio that you prefer, try this circuit workout Reynolds used to keep himself in the best shape of his life. You will feel it tomorrow. 

A Deadpool 2 sign.

Ryan Reynolds Deadpool Workout Routine (Deadpool 2) 

Circuit 1: Complete 3 rounds, then move to Circuit 2

  • Lateral Bounds: 10 reps
  • Medicine Ball Slams: 10 reps
  • Farmer’s Walk: 50 yards

 Circuit 2: Complete 5 rounds

  • Sandbag Lunges: 10 reps
  • Floor Barbell Press: 10 reps
  • Chinups: 10 reps

 Workout Finisher: Complete 5 rounds

  • Assault AirBike: 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds

What Deadpool Eats

Though Reynolds is naturally slender, he has not always made healthy meal choices. He used to not care what he ate or drank in his early acting days, but as he was given action roles, he learned to become disciplined in his consumption. Not easy when his wife Blake Lively, a foodie, enjoys eating cupcakes in front of him.

For his Deadpool diet, Reynolds would eat 6 to 8 small meals daily, spaced 2 hours apart. To gain muscle as a slender body type, you must be in a calorie surplus. Protein is an important macronutrient for building muscle mass. Reynolds would consume egg whites, protein shakes, skinless chicken breasts, and lean cuts of beef. Take a look at his quite unexciting daily meals would often consist of.

Ryan Reynolds Deadpool Diet Plan:

  • Morning: 1 cup of oatmeal with applesauce, 2 egg whites, a spoon of almond butter or a slice of avocado
  • Mid-morning: Protein bar and supplement
  • Lunch: Albacore tuna or chicken wrap, salad
  • Mid-afternoon: Whey protein shake, protein bar, or a piece of fruit and nuts
  • Dinner: Broiled fish, salad, veggies, brown rice
  • Evening: Protein shake

Deadpool and His Supplements

When bulking up, Reynolds takes creatine monohydrate, the number one supplement for enhancing performance and building lean muscle in the gym. Creatine is found naturally in muscles and enhances the body’s ability to create ATP, or Adenosine triphosphate. ATP is an organic compound or hydrotrope that sends energy to cells to keep them functioning. This imperative molecule typically depletes after 8 to 10 seconds of intense exercise. Since creatine helps create more, you can keep performing for a few seconds longer. It has been said that creatine is unsafe and has side effects, but these claims yet to have been backed up by any evidence. The claims seem to be the opposite, as creatine even protects from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

Reynolds also regularly takes glutamine as well as a multivitamin. Glutamine supplies 35% of nitrogen to the muscle, forming proteins. This essential amino acid depletes during intense exercise so taking glutamine can help to add or retain muscle.

Being R-Rated is OK

The appeal of Deadpool is that you don’t have to be a perfect Captain America type to be a superhero. That goes for us too. For Reynolds, the road to being Deadpool took years, and it is important to remember that you must build up slowly from a good base. It’s not easy. So, you can swear. Let it out. Cry if you have to, but you’ll get there. Turn it into something you love and the results have no choice but to show themselves. Looking at the time and dedication Ryan Reynolds has put into shaping this charmingly flawed, yet structurally flawless anti-hero, we see it is doable.