Jason Statham is Hollywood’s go to ‘action heroes with a sense of humour’, in the great tradition of an ‘80s Bruce Willis. This summer, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw will see him return as Deckard Shaw. And, ever since his breakout role as the gangster with the best lines in ‘Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, he’s thrown himself into the physical side of acting, putting his martial arts skills into good use, and often performing his own stunts.
RSNG caught up with him to find out how he uses fitness and strength training, alongside a healthy lifestyle, to keep his career firing on all cylinders...
1. Being Action Movies Fit Is A Way Of Life ‘It's still an adrenaline rush, all of it, even after all these years,’ Jason Statham tells RSNG. ‘As an actor, and as someone who uses their body as a prop, I never lose the thrill that comes from pulling off a difficult jump or fall; or experimenting with a really well-choreographed fight sequence. I get a huge boost from being able to draw upon the technique and strength needed – there’s a determination and attitude that comes from knowing what you're capable of doing physically.’
‘So in the film world, that's my edge… any sort of physical fights, any hand-to-hand, any skill. But people can mistake this fitness as an extension of a career and I promise it’s not that – it’s an extension of me, because whether an actor or not, I’d be doing this stuff and looking this way whatever.’
2. Jason Statham Could Have Been A High Diver It might have been so different. Statham stumbled into competitive high diving at an early age, seeing him come third in three Olympic trials, though he admits he probably started too late. ‘I saw someone in Florida jump off a massive board – we were on holiday and it’s about all I remember of the holiday, but it suddenly brought about this huge passion for diving and swimming that I never knew I had. I was about 14 and, to me, it was the most exciting thing in the world.’
‘Back then there was such a small pocket of people competing so within a year I was on the British diving team, but it was too late for me to ever be able to take it seriously.’
Considering swimming’s reputation as a high cardio exercise that works all the major muscle groups whilst remaining low impact, Statham is strangely reluctant to head back to the pool. ‘It doesn’t do enough for me personally and I’m looking for fast-paced, hard workout plans in my weekly routine,’ he says. ‘And as far as the diving goes, it’s not like golf. It’s not a case of, “see ya later darling, I’m going to jump off the 10-metre board a few times and sink a few beers with the lads after”, haha!’
‘You can't really do it anywhere anymore. Most of the boards are closed or heavily restricted because it's a health hazard. Years ago at Crystal Palace you'd have ‘Mad Harry’ jumping off the high board and killing himself. That’s all stopped now because people were getting hurt, so outside of a diving club it's all over – no social stuff.”
3. You Have To Be Hungry To Stay At The Top As you would expect, Statham isn’t a man who lets fear govern his decision-making; but for someone so torqued up on a passion to excel, there remains more than a hint of humility in the way he goes about his craft.
‘If you want to get into all that subconscious shit, I guess my passion for working and grabbing the next project comes down to the fact I’m scared of it all going away. In me there’s always been an element of, ‘how the fuck did I get here?’, and I’ve never lost that, nor would I want to, because I’m going work my hardest to stay there.’
‘Yes, I probably work too much,’ he admits. ‘I know that. But I get excited by opportunities… ‘you want me to do a movie with De Niro?’ he riffs, ‘fuck yes! I’m going to say yes – anyone is going to say yes. I used to sell jewellery on the street; what the hell is going on?’
Ultimately we are always trying to learn skills but fitness has got to be raw – we don't count press ups
4. Mental Discipline Breeds Success And while you’ll never find Statham pulling on a tweed suit in a period drama, the actor’s ability to weave some laughs into an unrelenting all-action approach – dating right back to 1998’s Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and follow-up Snatch two years later – has always proved one of the industry’s most formidable MOs.
‘I’ve always known how important it is to mix the messages and keep people guessing, but when it comes to seriously knuckling down I’m the best in the business. A lot of my focus comes from martial arts – it’s all about discipline and control, and it takes a long time to really master that mental side. I’ve known really good, really technical competitors lose fights they should have won because they don’t employ the simple elements of control and patience that every good fighter needs.’
‘That’s the same for general fitness – it’s routine and regime,’ says the Los Angeles-based actor, whose father was a keen gymnast. ‘It’s about centring yourself and going again, not smashing out 30 reps and then expecting to go again straight away on another 30.’
5. Match Your Training To Your Goals The routine for Statham is built around what the actor calls ‘rough tools’ – it’s the caveman philosophy of letting the body produce the power and do the work, letting technology and innovation sit to one side.
‘I don’t want high tech stuff – we use ropes, weights, bags, kettlebells, mats, metal, and anything to help with chin ups, then push ups, dips and all that. You can talk about heart rate monitors, but once beyond that it’s all machines and technologies disguising and making excuses for what you should be about, which is a pure pursuit of fitness.’
‘Ultimately, we are always trying to learn skills but fitness has got to be raw. We don't count press ups, that's not going to help us on camera – no-one drops down and gets a round of applause for doing 50 push-ups. We are trying to build usable strength and adapting skills wherever possible.’
6. Jason Statham’s Gym Secrets The ‘we’ Statham refers to is he and Logan Hood, an ex-Navy SEAL who has maintained and improved the actor’s fitness through 10 years leading up to his half-century of years – and double that quantity of films. The schedule is gruelling, and the demands change for each role, but Statham accepts the challenge. ‘Logan is all about impact, high energy and the sort of intensity that doesn’t let up. Discipline is vital, and I love being put through my paces by someone because it’s a very natural reaction to drop the intensity slightly, even when you don’t know you’re doing it. It’s human to ease off – you’re trying to preserve; when really, what you should be doing is pushing harder.’
Statham’s daily gym set-up comprises of 30-40 minutes of quick-fire, attack-minded presses, squats, lifts and crunches. He’ll venture outside for trail running too, doing at least one hard 10 km each week.
We’re only as strong as our brains let us be – it’s not about the power in the arms or legs or lungs
‘I love the thrill of physical power, but Logan will also work with me on the psychology and brain training behind being able to hold a routine together, even in those moments when everything in your head feels like it’s about to fall apart. We’re only as strong as our brains let us be – it’s not about the power in the arms or legs or lungs, it’s about when your brain tells your body to stop or adjust. And adjust doesn’t necessarily mean ignore the pain or grip harder, because being more intense won’t always take you to where you want to go either.’
‘That was one of the first things I was taught back in my diving days – if I was tense and rigid then my performance would suffer. Being strong in that environment was being able to stay supple and not tense up in those moments, and that’s an entirely different skillset to try to master. It’s those who understand and master the fine margins that excel.’
7. You Won’t Get There Without The Right Nutrition Diet is also a vital component for Statham, who sticks to a no-sugar regime and lays down strict controls over eating habits and times. ‘Never sugar, nothing refined, five or six small meals and nothing after 7pm at night,’ he says. ‘I also have very little bread, lots of fruit, beans, pulses… it’s pretty obvious stuff, and most people could put together a diet like this, but the challenge is sticking to it; the challenge is grilling your meat when you want to have something tastier; it’s resisting sauces and dressings because you know what’s in them isn’t going to help you. It’s that voice in your head that says, “are you going to do this properly or not?’”
Trust yourself, look after and listen to your body and always be looking for the next thing
8. Recovery Is The Final Ingredient ‘I know doing it properly will mean giving myself a better chance of staying injury free, so it’s easy. The secret is out – mobilise your joints as much as you can. It's easy for people to go to the gym and do pull ups and get heavy on the clean, or big deadlifts because you get the results – you get the strength and you get strong quick; but if you just keep doing that, your body gets tight because your hips, the back, the shoulders are made to do a lot more than day to day living. That's why mobilising the soft tissue and making the joints get the full range of motion is something that's very overlooked.’
And injuries? ‘From minute one I am in recovery mode and I will know the best way to get myself back to full fitness, but the important thing is to listen to people you trust. I used to dole out the bullshit for a living as a London street vendor, so I can spot it a million miles away – trust yourself, look after and listen to your body and always be looking for the next thing… in fitness and in career.’
‘I never had any particular objectives other than to do action movies the way Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen used to do them – that cool, charismatic approach. I wanted to be able to emulate some of things I saw when I watched their films. I reckon I’ve done that, but there’s more to do.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Jason Statham in the trailer for Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.