Jason Momoa would rather be on his paddleboard or scaling a rock wall than in the gym. And even his strictest diet might feature a Guinness beer. But Momoa does hit the weights hard, and he does down the skinless chicken breasts when the acting role calls for him to display his 6’4″ muscular physique in peak form, as he will once again in next year’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. And, as we’ll show you, it seems like the Hawaiian giant is really cranking up the workout intensity for his upcoming Apple TV+ limited series, Chief of War, his own project about the colonization of Hawaii.
Let’s look at how the 43-year-old actor Jason Momoa trains and diets.
JASON MOMOA WORKOUT
Jason Momoa hasn’t always been built like a superhero or a barbarian legend. He had more of a surfer body. The native Hawaiian was indeed a surfer and was featured on beachy TV shows like Baywatch and North Shore. And then came 2011’s Conan the Barbarian, his first starring film role, and around that same time came his turn as Khal Drago on Game of Thrones, his highest profile TV role. Both called for a lot more pecs, delts, and triceps than Momoa had ever sported. He has to muscle-up and fast.
Momoa’s trainer for Conan the Barbarian, Eric Laciste, developed a system called AR-7 (Accelerated Results 7) which stresses a quick pace instead of slower and heavy lifting. It goes like this.
Round 1. Do an exercise for seven reps, rest seven seconds, then do seven more reps, rest seven seconds again. Repeat this until you’ve done seven such subsets. Then rest one to two minutes.
Round 2. Same exercise. Do six reps, rest six seconds, repeat for six subsets. Rest one to two minutes.
Round 3. Same exercise. Do five reps, rest five seconds, repeat for five subsets. Rest one to two minutes.
Then move on to the next exercise.
At first glance this may look like a lot of lower-rep sets. If so, you’re looking at it wrong. Seven to five seconds is not really a rest. Think of the rounds as three high-rep sets. The first set is 49 reps with a total of 42 seconds rest within (a little over 3 minutes total). The second set is 36 reps with a total of 30 seconds rest within (2 1/2 minutes total). The third set is 25 reps with a total of 20 seconds rest within (2 minutes total). These are, in effect, cluster sets, but with only brief rests between subsets.
Jason Momoa did three to five exercises in the AR-7 manner per workout, and because a three-exercise workout lasted only about 30 minutes, he sometimes did two or even three short workouts per day while filming, squeezing in sessions during downtimes. He also regularly hit the treadmill for cardio. When it came to exercises, the emphasis was on compound and bodyweight lifts, though not exclusively, as well as conditioning exercises.
What follows are five sample Jason Momoa AR-7 workouts with each exercise performed in the unique cluster set manner explained above: 7 subsets of 7 reps with 7 seconds rest between subsets, 6 subsets of 6 reps with 6 seconds rest between, 5 sets of 5 reps with 5 seconds rest between.
CHEST AR-7 WORKOUT
Barbell Bench Press
Incline Barbell Press
Incline Dumbbell Press
Pushup (hands elevated)
BACK AR-7 WORKOUT
Close-grip Pull-up (neutral grip)
Seated Cable Row
Underhand Barbell Row
LEG AR-7 WORKOUT
CORE & CONDITIONING AR-7 WORKOUT
Medicine Ball Slam
SHOULDERS & ARM AR-7 WORKOUT
Barbell Military Press
Dumbbell Triceps Extension
JASON MOMOA BIG LIFTS
In 2016, when he was training to play Aquaman in Justice League, Jason Momoa teamed with Gym Jones founder Mark Twight, most famous for training the cast of the 2006 gladiator movie 300. (300 workouts became a thing afterwards.) Twight workouts, with their focus on functional strength and aerobic fitness, were perfect for Momoa.
In 2016, Momoa posted this video of himself doing pullups for three reps with 88-pounds around his waist:
That same day from presumably that same back workout, Momoa posted himself doing a unique exercise, bear crawl dumbbell rows, with what look to be at least 50-lb. dumbbells.
Momoa favors bodyweight and functional exercises (and paddleboarding and rock climbing). But that’s not all. Sometimes he does the bodybuilder basics. Recently, his friend (who is also The Rock‘s stuntman), Tanoai Reed, posted a video of Momoa cranking out 100 reps of leg presses to end a leg workout. Reed wrote: “He wanted to start the week off with legs (I love that) and we ended our workout with this killer 100 rep drop set.”
JASON MOMOA DIET
When Jason Momoa first muscled-up for Conan the Barbarian (2011), going from a thin 200 to over 240 muscular pounds, trainer Eric Laciste keep him on a traditional bodybuilder diet: lots lean protein and almost no fat or carbohydrates. Laciste told AskMen: “Since our goal was to build size but maintain a low bodyfat, a strict diet was a must. I had him eating two eggs for breakfast as well as a chicken breast. Then, every two hours during the day, he’d eat one more chicken breast along with taking in a high volume of water. He was drinking at least one gallon a day. Periodically, if his energy faltered, I’d feed him a spoonful of peanut butter to bring energy back up, but otherwise his carbs were kept very low. This prevented any fat gain from occurring. He’d get a salad with dinner but, other than that, it was just straight protein.”
Jason Momoa has since been able to maintain much of that muscle while dieting a little less strictly. According to his trainer for 2018’s Aquaman, Stuart Walton, “nutrition, balance, and enjoyment” were the keys to Momoa’s superhero diet. That meant Walton didn’t force new foods on the actor but instead focused on the healthier foods Momoa already enjoyed. Momoa didn’t eat any processed carbohydrates or junk food and instead loaded up on lean protein and vegetables. Walton monitored Momoa’s macros—carbs, fats, and protein—to make sure he added muscle without bodyfat.
JASON MOMOA DIET FOODS
🐓 CHICKEN BREAST The plain baked chicken breast is a high-protein, no-fat, no-carb staple.
🥩 STEAK Red meat is another bodybuilding staple, this one with some saturated fat.
🐟🍣 FISH As fitting Aquaman, Momoa loves fish, including premium sashimi. Seared slipjack tuna (called ahu in Hawaii) is a favorite.
🥦🥑 VEGETABLES Momoa eats fibrous veggies with most meals.
🍉🍓 FRUIT No veggies for breakfast, but he’ll instead have fruit.
🥜🍯🍞 PEANUT BUTTER & HONEY ON TOAST With lots of healthy fats and fast-acting carbs, this treat is a pre-workout Momoa favorite.
🍺 BEER Jason Momoa likes to drink some of his carbs in the form of Guinness beer.
🥤 SUPPLEMENTS Aquaman’s supps include creatine and protein powder.
JASON MOMOA AQUAMAN MEAL PLAN
BREAKFAST (PRE-WORKOUT): peanut-butter & honey on toast, watermelon, blueberries
SNACK (POST-WORKOUT): seared tuna, avocado, spinach, one can of Guinness beer
LUNCH (PRE-CARDIO): 10 ounces of steak, spinach with olive oil
DINNER: 2 baked chicken breasts, spinach with olive oil, half an avocado