Chances are, if you clicked on this article, you know who Jason Momoa is. The Aquaman and Fast & Furious 10 actor has been in the collective public consciousness for over a decade, since his breakout role as Game of Thrones’ barbarian chieftain Khal Drogo.
And chances are, if you know Jason Momoa, you’ll have wondered how he built his body. Recording a home workout on your best smartwatch, or wandering aimlessly from the weights rack to the best treadmill isn’t going to cut it if you want to look like a superhero.
Momoa divulged some of his training practices in an older Train Mag (opens in new tab) article some years ago. In the article, he talked about some of his training methodology, which he called the AR-7 workout.
‘“I go by a training method developed by my trainer, Eric Laciste, called Accelerated Results 7 (AR7),” he says in the piece linked above. “They’re 30-minute, high-rep sessions that hit every part of your body throughout the week.”’
The AR7 workout involves taking four exercises (the examples listed in the article are parallel bar dips, barbell back squats, push-ups, and overhand pull-ups) and performing seven sets of seven reps, with seven-second rests in between. That’s 49 reps of each exercise, at which point you do the circuit again. This time, it’s six reps, six sets and six seconds rest. Then five.
The idea of fitting 440 reps (of four very difficult weight-bearing exercises, mind you) into a 30-minute session is frankly outrageous. On reading this, I thought it was very unrealistic for the average gym-going person to consider attempting this. But, as a thoroughly average gym-going person myself, I thought I’d put it to the test. For science, and of course, for the potential muscle gains.
Don't try this at home
Lacing up my old Vans (as a reminder, you should never wear running shoes when squatting in the gym) I kept my loads light on the barbell squat, with only 50% of what I usually lift. I also supplemented the pull-ups and dips exercises with resistance bands to assist when my arms got tired. I managed to suffer through the first circuit (apart from the pull-ups, when my arms gave out five sets in), but I couldn’t face going through two more rounds.
That was already more reps, on average, than I do in a standard muscle-building session. To do two more rounds in a circuit, within Momoa’s given 30-minute time frame, seemed laughable. By the end of the first circuit, I had already used up over 20 minutes, and now both of the squat racks in my small local gym were occupied by other people. Shamefully, I gave up and slunk off to the mats to stretch out (side note: if you're not stretching every day, you really should).
This is the reality of some of these ridiculous claims and celebrity routines pushed by fitness magazines: they’re really not for the average person. It’s true that high-rep, low-weight exercise routines can increase the size of muscles just as well as lifting heavy: one study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (opens in new tab) studied high-load-low-rep and low-load-high-rep training groups, and found no significant differences in muscle gain. In theory, Momoa’s workout routine seems sound.
However, the average person isn’t going to be able to squeeze all this into 30 minutes: not only do we simply need more time to recover than a professionally trained actor with dieticians and personal trainers on call, but we’re training in public gyms.
When I tried the circuit, I couldn’t use the right equipment for my second round because both squat racks were occupied. You can’t ask to ‘work in’ with someone while they rest, only to take over the equipment for ages. It’s bad gym etiquette. But if I’m really being honest with myself, I don’t think I could have done another two rounds anyway: it was simply too hard.
The clue is in the name of the circuit: AR-7, or 'accelerated results'. Momoa has a few months to get into shape for a role like Aquaman, during which he’s effectively paid to work out, eat right, and recover properly. He likely has a chef. Some superhero actors are heavily rumored to use other supplements to achieve peak physical appearance for a role. Of course, a Hollywood workout routine is going to look different to the average session of a person who tends to squeeze a 45-minute workout in before going to the office.
If you read articles from popular fitness magazines and websites, it’s worth grabbing a few nuggets of useful information from them and incorporating them into your own training – I'll be doing a little more high-rep, low-weight training in future, for example. Instead of Momoa's demanding circuit, you could opt for something like Stronglifts 5x5, which is a tried-and-tested workout plan for all fitness levels; we even named it one of our five best free workout plans for beginners (opens in new tab). But trying to copy the routine of an elite athlete or Hollywood actor to the letter, without their support network, is often going to be a recipe for disaster.