As the next on the production line of athletic Australian actors, following the big-screen success of Chris "Thor" Hemsworth was always going to be a tall order. But with a string of major franchise films, Jai Courtney is hardly coming up short.
As well as appearing in blockbusters Suicide Squad, Terminator: Genisys, and Jack Reacher, Courtney also takes on the family name of one of the biggest characters to ever wield a Beretta, as John McClane Jr in the Die Hard franchise.
His co-stars in these films are two of Hollywood's most bankable names: first Tom Cruise ("he's such a hardworking guy – a dude who's been on top of his game for 30 years...") and, of course, Bruce Willis ("he took me under wing – I learned a lot from Bruce".) That the 32-year-old can hold his own against action-film veterans is a testament to his physicality on screen.
Here Courtney shares his tips for training your muscles to be as explosive as your ambition.
Cut body fat, for starters
Too busy to get in a full hour’s workout? Fit it around your body’s fat-burning schedule, instead. “If you get just a bit of exercise in before every meal, you’ll really see a difference,” says Courtney. Perform 50 press-ups, sit-ups or prisoner squats, broken up into as many sets as you need before eating. It will force your body to access fat stores for fuel.
Slow down to speed up
Explosive, high-octane workouts may take the limelight but less flashy sessions really keep your metabolism kicking. "I've been doing a lot of low-impact cardio, which is a great way to burn fat," says Courtney. Trade one weights session a week for 45min on the elliptical trainer, with a focus on working your arms to push out as much lactic acid as possible from resistance training. Consider it your six-pack supporting act.
Make pain your PT
Courtney’s imposing arms aren’t the result of millions of biceps curls. They are the product of pain. In order to maintain constant muscular growth, he has one simple rule: as soon as a workout stops hurting, stop doing it and start doing something that does. “Sometimes the biggest struggle is the fact that I’m just over it – that’s when you know you should move on,” says Courtney. “You’ve already adapted, and your workout is no longer as effective as it once was.” Making pain your training partner will smart. But it is clever.
Stretch your own limits
Don’t forget that a bigger body isn’t necessarily a better one. Your aim should be to add athleticism and size. “I wish I did something like yoga or pilates,” says Courtney. “All the people I know who do it tell me it’s incredible. So that’s probably the direction I’ll move in next.” If yoga’s all a bit LA for you, go for a 30min swim instead. An all-action body is no good if it breaks when you put it to use.
Train for speed, not for show
Putting on muscle fast is all about efficiency. Courtney’s regular workout is a 30min bodyweight session that wastes no time but gives maximum results. “After you’ve finished, you’re gassed,” he says. “You’ve used every single muscle in your body. It’s much more effective than sitting lifting weights and looking in the mirror.”
Be a winner
You can build all-over size without spending hours in the weights room. “I’ve always played sport,” says Courtney. “I played rugby, I was involved in athletics, I played cricket... I’m an outdoors kind of guy.” If you feel like a gym session is going to be a drag, you’re liable to skip it. Keep yourself honest with sport: it’s a workout you won’t even notice you’re doing. Just make sure you win, whatever you’re playing.
And, when in doubt, always go with your gut
Finally, pills and powders should supplement real food not replace it. If a synthetic product doesn’t feel like it’s working for you, it probably isn’t. “I would much rather have a couple of hundred grams of chicken in the afternoon than neck a shake,” says Courtney. “You’re better off just keeping your diet relatively lean and eating simply.” Easy to say, sure. But it’s also easy to do. The protein-to-carb ratio of a recovery shake is roughly the same as a tuna sandwich. So tuck in to bulk up naturally.