Jason Statham covers the magazine “Men’s Health” for the fourth time and he has never looked better than he does now. The breathtaking photographs were taken by his photographer friend Daniel Smith last year in Thailand during one of Jason Statham’s workouts in between of filming “Mechanic: Resurrection.” In this brand new interview, our favorite Brit talks about how to work out smart, his motivation to stay fit, the gym in his garage, how he focuses more on his health now and his plans to do a “fully-fledged” fight film with Tony Jaa.
As one of the UK’s most successful cinematic exports, Jason Statham smashes big-budget action films with old-school training. These are his secrets. Listen up.
Words by Jamie Millar – Photography by Daniel Smith
When he first hit our screens, incredibly some eighteen years ago now, it was with the least starry name conceivable. Sylvester Stallone kickstarted his career as the heroic rough diamond, Italian Stallion Rocky Balboa. Harrison Ford found fame as the cool, blaster-slinging, intergalactic Sundance Kid, Han Solo. By contrast, in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Jason Statham was introduced to us simply as Bacon, hotdogging street hawker with a briefcase full of moody goods.
It would hardly be churlish to say that, of the Brit ensemble behind that gamechanging movie, Statham was not the prime candidate for international stardom. Vinny Jones was its most high-profile turn, the nut-grabbing hardman turned sawn-off psycho. In Nick Moran we were given a new front man, all cheekbones, good hair and fast talk. Meanwhile, director Guy Ritchie was being hyped as the English Tarantino. Yet fast forward a couple of decades and it is Statham who has invited unparalleled success on both sides of the Atlantic.
With 40 films to his name, including highly successful, high-octane The Expendables, Transporter, Crank and Fast & Furious, he is, at 47 years old, one of the most bankable action heroes in the world. Men’s Health readers revere him. His workouts are among the most searched on our website, his photographs among the most liked. He has appeared on our cover three times before now and on each occasion the response has been overwhelming. It’s not difficult to guess why. He represents aspiration with groundedness; he attracts publicity without courting it; he looks pretty damn good without, you suspect, spending too much time in front of the mirror. In short, he’s a man’s man.
But it’s for these reasons that Jason Statham is not always easy to pin down. We have been trying in earnest to get him on the pages of this magazine again for a few years now, without success. He’s been busy working hard, being active, enjoying life. And besides, the whole business of talking about yourself isn’t really what men’s men are wont to do. Then, earlier this year, an unexpected email was received from photographer Dan Smith, who happened to be in Thailand with Statham at the time. He had been taking pictures of his friend training – would we like to take a look? What we saw – and what you now see here – instantly showed us that our man was working towards the best shape of his life. With a connection re-established, we finally managed to sit down with Statham to discuss muscle-ups, pizza and hanging with The Rock. We hope you’ll agree, it was worth the wait.
You’ve been training recently for Mechanic: Resurrection. Did you get a brief from the director of a certain kind of shape you had to be in?
Not really. You just try and get yourself in a position where you’re injury-free. These days, that’s my main concern. For a lot of these films you try and get in shape anyway, lose the lard, chisel a bit of crap off. But this time I had a smarter approach. Usually I’d just get in the gym and it was task completion: how many reps can you do, how much weight you can lift, stick more weight on. The stronger and more powerful you got was the mark of how you were doing. This time I was more measured. It’s experience. I’ve been doing this a long time.
So your approach has changed since you last spoke to us?
Totally. I used to train with a guy called Logan Hood. He was a machine. He was a SEAL and my ego would push me to better him. It’s no fault of his but technique and skill go out the window when you’re trying to lift heavy weights and single-rep max. But he went back to the military and that was a big thing for me. I had to figure out where I was going wrong. I educated myself. I started doing mobility work, figuring out how the shoulders work, how the hips work. I’m getting older now, but I feel good.
You don’t look too shabby, either. So are you getting the foam roller out?
Well, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff by Kelly Starrett and he’s one of the smartest guys that I’ve ever listened to. I got on the phone with him and started talking about a few injuries. He was just superb in his knowledge. I began implementing a lot of stuff that he was talking about and all of a sudden I started moving a lot better. He’s got this book which is just brilliant…
…How To Be A Supple Leopard?
Yeah. And he says you don’t need someone to help you fix these injuries. You can fix them yourself. You just need the know-how.
You’ve basically become a mechanic on your own body, then.
That’s right! I’ve built a gym in my garage and I’ve been training on my own, training smart. I’ve been separating the different kinds of training I’m into. I do a lot of mobility work, then I do fight training – martial arts, boxing – then I do strength and conditioning. Basically, how I feel when I get up is how I train. It’s all about being a good listener of your own body. Because I used to just get down the gym and smash it regardless of how I felt. Swig about four espresso shots and get in the fucking gym. You can do it that way but you’re not ironing out the creases that hinder the extra 10-15% you need.
So do you have a typical workout?
It’s all about not being bored. It’s about not doing the same thing over and over. Because your body is clever and it adapts to those things quickly. I never do the same workout twice. But I do a lot of Olympic lifting. I think the techniques you need for those moves are essential: cleans, deadlifts, overhead squats… that’s one of the best exercises ever.
But if you haven’t got the mobility then that’s not going to happen.
Completely. It requires a certain skill and technique. It’s a superb move. Front squats, back squats… a lot of leg work is overlooked because it requires smart thinking and understanding of how it should be done correctly. Get it wrong and you get injured. I remember ages ago I got injured just doing a 1-rep max on a front squat. That put me out for months.
If you’re your own trainer, aren’t you ever just tempted to take it easy? How do you keep pushing yourself?
Once you start getting fit, it’s one of the best motivators in the world because you start feeling the results. The weight starts to fall, you get a bit lighter, you start moving around… there’s nothing better than that feeling. Necessity motivates me. I’ve been hired to do a job and I’ve gotta take my shirt off. So I’m fine on my own. My gym in the garage is a great little place.
So what kind of kit do you have in there? We’re assuming it’s not power plates…
Ha! No, I hate all that shit. I do a lot of gymnastics-type things. The Olympic rings are priceless. Parallel bars are good if you can get a small set of those. A big squat rack, pull-up bar, kettlebells. A Concept 2 rowing machine that has to get dusted off every now and again.
So how do you put it all together, routine-wise?
I always try and do legs in a session. If my legs are feeling good then I’ll work them until I don’t feel good. It’s pretty much gauged on that: hit that area until it starts to feel like it’s had some smashing. Then let that recover, find something else. Always some form of an Olympic lift within the session. Heavy cleans – they’re tough. If you do them heavy and fast you can really tax yourself with that stuff.
It’s quite cardio as well.
It is. Going on a running machine is the most uninteresting thing I could ever think about. Just so you can say, “Oh, I did my cardio.” It’s a joke. What’s your cardio? My cardio is my fucking workout. If you’re working out correctly, you’ll hit the cardio. You don’t need an elliptical machine. I see loads of people and I think, ‘You’ve just wasted an hour on this mindless movement.’
Probably while reading the paper.
I mean, it’s pathetic. You have to have your mind completely engaged. I don’t spend hours, but I go at it. Some people need pushing and other people can find that inspiration in themselves.
What about the pictures we have of you training in Thailand? The set-up looked pretty basic: a pull-up bar, a barbell made out of a car axle.
You’ve got to improvise with what’s around you. People have too many excuses. I do something every day. I don’t take days off. I do something seven days a week, although on the seventh day I might do mobility work. I’m always listening to my body.
You seem to like old-school techniques, and calisthenics moves are becoming very trendy. Can you do muscle-ups?
Yeah. They require good technique. We’re designed to pull ourselves up and over a bar. So I think you should always work towards that rather than just doing chin-to-bar. It’s just mindless. “I did 12 reps today.” Yeah, but did you get closer to being able to do a muscle-up? You’ve got to work towards some goals. My motivation is in isolating weak spots and working on those.
So all this mobility stuff and stretching, does that mean you’re into the LA mindset of yoga and green smoothies?
Nah, I’m not going to yoga. It’s a little too slow for me. I’m cutting my nose off here because I know the benefits. I’m inspired by the MMA guys and there’s a guy called Rickson Gracie, one of the greatest MMA fighters in the world. He did a lot of yoga.
How about the diet? Are you like a fighter, boom-and-bust, or do you keep on a pretty even keel?
Well, I used to have more of a Ricky Hatton approach. You’d get so isolated doing these films that you’d think, ‘Fuck, I’m not eating another piece chicken breast and fucking broccoli.’ You come out and you go 10 pints of lager and do the things that you’re familiar with. Especially coming from the UK. That’s where you run to, the old habits. I did that for years and years and your body’s good at buffering that kind of abuse. But the older you get, the smarter you get. I don’t do that now. I’m much, much fitter than I’ve ever been. I eat cleanly, because it’s just smart to do that.
Do your Furious 7 co-stars do the same?
Well, I take my hat off to Dwayne Johnson. He’s a great inspiration. He’s a beast! He really does take his health and fitness seriously. His training is part of his life. I’m not sure he did what I did in the past: train, then go down the boozer and smash it up with pizzas. I never saw him at the In-N-Out Burger when I was getting mine.
You’re 47 now. How much longer can you keep going?
I started training again properly on Thursday 21 August last year. I’ve been pretty consistent right up to today, and after I speak to you, I’m going to get in the gym. So this is the longest run I’ve had ever since I started my career. I’m feeling better now in terms of the way I move around. I feel like I could go another 20, 30 years. I’m feeling good. What I’d like to do is a fully-fledged fight movie. I’ve never done one. I met Tony Jaa when I was out in Thailand and to me he’s an inspirational athlete: one of the greatest real-life stunt guys in the business. We talked about doing a proper fight film where we’re on the same team, and we’ve got a script we’re trying to put together. I’ve never been in a place to do that in the past. I’ve always blamed injuries. But now I know how to fix things. I want to elevate the action in a way that’s never been done before.