Mark Wahlberg has lived many lives as an actor, with a career spanning nearly 25 years – and in almost every role, he’s had to bring a particular presence to the screen.
When he first broke out as a rapper/Calvin Klein model in the early ’90s, Wahlberg’s calling card was a set of washboard abs. The star continues to thrive today (he was Hollywood’s highest-paid actor in 2017 before being dethroned by The Rock this year) by showing more physical range.
He’s been an underdog NFL player, a scrappy boxer and a pumped-up bodybuilder, to name just a few roles – so it should come as no surprise that his physique for his latest movie, Mile 22, is the result of hours of training and hard work.
When it came time to get ripped for the film, Wahlberg turned to the same trainer he’s worked with for just about every movie over the last 13 years: Brian Nguyen.
The athletic performance coach from Torrance, California, has prepped Wahlberg for some of his biggest, most demanding roles. Nguyen rolls off some of Wahlberg’s biggest hits when he recounts their time together; he worked on Invincible, Pain & Gain, Shooter, The Fighter, Transformers and even Daddy’s Home, which Nguyen admits required more prep than one might imagine.
All of the trainer’s plans for Wahlberg stem from the basic notion that movement is paramount. “When we’re training together, my philosophy comes from that as an athletic trainer, focusing on staying healthy and moving well,” Nguyen told MensHealth.com. “That’s been my job, getting him to moving better to address how he wants to train as an athlete.”
Wahlberg’s most recent role in Mile 22 as the leader of an elite, secretive CIA squad required him to be combat ready. The actor couldn’t just look the part – he needed to be able to pull off the physically-demanding manoeuvres required of a special operative to make the movie seem as realistic as possible.
“Mark always trains for what the part calls for. For Mile 22, we wanted to get him looking like an intense military specialist, [with] Marine type training,” Nguyen said. “We focused on a lot of functional stuff, where he’s able to be explosive and move like a cat – but holding a gun. Those movements are powerful, they’re principles you’ll find in a fighter, someone who can react and respond. It’s about having someone who can throw medicine balls at you, and you can throw them right back as hard as possible.”
Nguyen said one of the most important aspects of the Mile 22 program was to correct issues with Wahlberg’s posture – all while managing a lingering case of golfer’s elbow.
“When we talk about form, a lot of what we deal with is his upper-cross syndrome, that slouch that happens. That sedentary lifestyle that we all lead can go into that. So we really emphasised posture and getting back to basics – that’s a big piece of the puzzle his whole team is working on.”
Nguyen estimated that they had about four to six weeks to prep for the shoot. Rather than breaking out the training plan to focus on different body parts on different days, Nguyen designs each workout as a full-body routine.
“We work out in two-day splits,” Nguyen said. “That means there’s a Day A regimen, and a Day B regimen. So let’s say on Monday, we do upper body pushing and lower body pulling. Then on Day B [Tuesday, or the next training day], our focus is on the flip side, upper body pulling and lower body pushing.”
Menshealth.com visited Nguyen at 168 Fitness in California to check out the Day A routine he put Wahlberg through for Mile 22. The balanced, full-body workout can give anyone looking to get into special ops shape a worthy challenge. Remember, Wahlberg has been training hard for his entire career. If you need to adjust the workout, don’t hesitate to use lighter weight until you’ve mastered the moves.
You’ll be on your way to getting ripped like Marky Mark once you’ve put his workout to the test — bonus points if you hit the gym early to form your own 4 am Club.
Mark Wahlberg’s Mile 22 training plan
Before they jump into the workout, Nguyen leads Wahlberg through a series of warmup moves that double as posture correction. These aren’t exercises to just blow through in order to get to the main lifts more quickly – instead, Nguyen said that the main focus should be on your breathing.
Supine band overhead hold
2 to 3 minutes
Lie down on the ground with a flexible, low-resistance stretch band. Wrap one end around both feet, then take the other end in your hands, lying on your back and extending your arms over your head. Hold the position for 2 to 3 minutes, maintaining a straight spine and keeping your core tight.
“The focus of the workout is posture and core,” said Nguyen. “The ground allows your back to be straight, while the resistance from the band forces Mark to stay tall. Here’s a tip: Press your lower back to the ground so that there’s no space in-between. There should be no arch, as much as that might feel comfortable.”
Hip bridges with band pull aparts
1 to 2 minutes
Use the same band as the previous move for this one. While lying on your back, plant your feet on the ground, raise your hips into a bridge position. Raise the stretch band in front of your chest with both hands together, then pull your hands apart, stretching the band. Hold for a five-count, then return to the starting position. Perform as many slow, controlled reps as you can for the 1 to 2 minute period.
The exercise helps to accentuate the tall posture they’re aiming for, and engages the posterior chain more easily, according to Nguyen. To really get the most out of the exercise, he advises to focus on regulating your breath and to keep your neck loose.
Pushups to mountain climbers
2 to 3 minutes
Get in a pushup position, with your hands on a Power Plate or Bosu Ball (if your gym doesn’t have either of these implements, regular pushups on the ground will do). Perform one pushup, emphasising your posture by keeping a straight spine and squeezing your core with your wrists under your shoulders. After the pushup, perform the mountain climber by bending your knee to step one foot up, then back; then repeat the motion with the other foot. Keep it up for 2 to 3 minutes.
When you perform the move – or any other of the upper body push exercises in the workout – it’s essential to keep your posture upright and strong. You can do that by giving yourself more support by using your abs. “It’s important to get the core part of the pushing complex,” said Nguyen.
Versa climber or bear crawl/4-point mountain climber
2-3 minutes/15 reps per side
To cap off the warmup, Wahlberg hits the VersaClimber for 2 to 3 minutes to work on cross-body patterning. Nguyen realises that you might not have access to one of the machines – so he has two suggestions for substitute exercises. You can perform either move, or just add both to the routine for extra work.
The bear crawl is simple, but tough. Place two markers on the ground about eight to 10 feet away from each other. Get on all fours, with your lower body’s weight on the balls of your feet rather than your knees. Crawl in a figure eight pattern around the markers, making sure to move with the opposite hand and foot in sync with each other to go forward. Keep your back straight and engage your core – Nguyen suggests putting a flat object on your back to help you maintain the proper posture. Keep moving for an entire 2- to 3-minute session. For the 4-point mountain climber, you’ll need a set of four sliders for your feet and hands (if the floor is slick enough, towels might work, too). Get into the same all-fours position as the bear crawl, with the sliders under your hands and feet. Slide your right hand up while sliding your right foot back; bring your left knee to your left forearm to stay balanced. Engage your core to keep your posture strong, sliding your foot and hand back to the original position. Perform 15 reps on each side.
Once you’re warmed up, you’re ready for the workout. The whole routine usually takes Wahlberg about 10 to 15 minutes to complete three rounds. Each set should be between 12 to 20 reps, depending on how you feel – Nguyen said they train to “leave two in the tank,” which means you perform each exercise at a weight and rep count that could allow you to push out two final reps, if you were to fully exert yourself.
Barbell floor press with dead bug
3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Upper body push, bilateral
Lay on the ground, holding a barbell at chest level. Your arms should be flared out on the ground. Hinge at the hip to lift your legs off the ground, keeping your knees bent at 90-degrees to engage your core. Press the weight up, dropping one leg and hovering it above the ground. As you lower the bar back to your chest, raise your leg back into the original position. Repeat with the opposite leg. Alternate between both sides for 12 to 20 reps for 3 sets. Rest for 1 minute between sets.
Nguyen added the floor press to the workout instead of a more standard bench press to keep the focus on Wahlberg’s core and posture. “His core engagement isn’t constant enough, so we need more slow, solid presses,” he said. “When he lowers the leg along with the press, he’s keeping the core engaged. That complex movement exposes your ability to be kinesthetically aware of your body.”
Single-leg band RDL
3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Lower body pull, unilateral
Attach your stretch band to a low platform, like a bench or rack. Hold one end of the band in one hand. Pull back to tension, then raise one leg with a 90-degree knee bend. Extend that leg back slowly, hinge at the hips, and lower yourself toward the platform, reaching out with the opposite arm for balance. Squeeze your core to keep your back straight and your posture strong. Slowly pull on the band to stand back up. After finishing 12 to 20 reps, switch to the opposite side. That’s one set; complete three, resting for 1 minute between.
45 to 90 metres
Hold a kettlebell in each hand. Squeeze your core and keep your shoulders up to maintain proper posture. Walk for 45 to 90 metres in a figure eight pattern.
3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Lower body pull, bilateral
Assume an athletic position in front of a kettlebell on the ground. Bend slightly at the knees to grab the handle with both hands. Lift the weight straight up by engaging your hamstrings and glutes, keeping it close to your body. Return it to the ground by hinging at the hips, keeping your back as straight as possible and not rounding your back. Complete three sets of 12 to 20 reps, resting for one minute between sets.
Half-kneeling unilateral overhead press
3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Upper body push, unilateral
Kneel on one knee, keeping your torso tall by squeezing your core. Hold one kettlebell in the same hand as the knee down on the ground. Start with that hand facing in toward your chest, then press the weight straight up, rotating your wrist to face your palm out. Lower straight back down, rotating to return to the original position. After finishing 12 to 20 reps, switch sides and repeat. Complete three sets, resting for one minute between each.
“This is for postural awareness, still stacking for pillar strength. We’re helping the body to understand a little bit of a different base,” said Nguyen.
Figure 4 stretch
2 to 3 minutes
This is another stretch Nguyen usually has Wahlberg perform on a Power Plate or Bosu Ball, but you can still reap the benefits doing it on the ground. Find something to hold onto for support, like a tall foam roller or a rack. Stand on one leg and bend the knee slightly, then cross the other leg over that bent knee. Crouch down, holding onto the support to keep your balance. You should feel the stretch in your hip. Hold for 2 to 3 minutes per side, taking breaks as needed.
5 rounds of 30 seconds on, 30 off
Grab the ends of the battle rope in both hands with an underhand grip. Swing your arms around in circles to create waves with the ropes, keeping your posture strong. Work for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Keep this up for five rounds.
“This is metabolic work,” Nguyen said. “If you’re at the end of your 30 seconds and you’re not feeling it and your heart’s not thumping, maybe you want to pick up a heavier rope that’s a little thicker or a little longer.”
Nguyen finishes the workout with a sled push, forcing Wahlberg to move the heavy weight until fatigued. That doesn’t mean that you should literally push until you collapse when you give it a try – instead, focus on your form. Once you feel your shoulders starting to slouch and your back starting to round, call it a day.
This article was originally published on www.mh.co.za
Image credit: iStock