James McAvoy Workout Routine And Diet Approach (Updated)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 24, 2024
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We’ve researched a lot of workout routines, but I really enjoyed reading and watching interviews to find out how James McAvoy managed to get so ripped to play The Beast.

Not only was his acting amazing to play all the different characters in one person, but you really got the sensation that he had a superhuman physique.

I wasn’t surprised to find out that he worked with Magnus Lygdback, who is a well known personal trainer in Hollywood.

And if you’re planning to get into that kind of shape, then let me show you what’s involved.

Who is James McAvoy?

James McAvoy is a Scottish actor who started his career on British TV shows, and I first became aware of him in a movie called The Last King Of Scotland.

He then started to appear in some Marvel movies as Charles Xavier from X-Men, but it wasn’t until a movie called Split that you suddenly saw a change in his appearance.

This is the movie that introduces The Beast, and a sequel called Glass brought him into even better physical shape.

Now, he did start from a slim build, as his early movies don’t show him packing too much flabby stuff. But to get to where he is today, still took some hard work and dedication.

“That singular uncompromising nature I think is always quite attractive, not just for an actor to play, we're attracted to uncompromising people whether they're nice or not, because they're 3D, they're solid, you can define them, it's not wishy-washy.”

- James McAvoy

His Stats

  • Height: 5’7”
  • Weight: 165 lbs
  • Born: April 21, 1979

James McAvoy's Workout Routine

man holding a barbell

We found that the workout plan that Magnus Lygdback put together focused a lot on heavy lifting and pushing him to failure. So, don’t shy away from the big weights if you want to gain that kind of muscle mass.

Monday: Chest & Arms

This is possibly the toughest day, and make sure you allow enough time as there are also the most exercises to get through.

  • Warm-up: 15 minutes of stretching and light cardio
  • Decline push-ups (4 sets of 20 reps)
  • Chest flys (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Cable curl (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Triceps pushdown (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Chin-ups (3 sets of 15 reps)
  • Alternating biceps curl (3 sets of 10 reps on each side)

Tuesday: Legs

man doing a glute ham raise

As a trainer, I always emphasize to my clients the importance of quality over quantity in their workouts. I've seen many people load up too much weight during leg exercises, only to compromise their range of motion.

  • Warm-up: 15 minutes stretching and light cardio
  • Leg extension (4 sets of 10 reps)
  • Hamstring curls (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Calf raises (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Glute-ham raises (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Squats (3 sets of 12 reps)

Wednesday: Cardio

The added cardio day will help you to stay on top of your body fat to better define your muscles.

  • Warm-up: 15 minutes of stretching and light cardio
  • Sprinting/walking: 1-minute sprint followed by a 1-minute walk for 20 minutes
  • 30-minute HIIT workout

Thursday: Shoulders

man doing a wide grip pull up

These will work well to make you a lot broader across your shoulders and are a key part of the Magnus method.

  • Warm-up: 15 minutes of stretching and light cardio
  • Lat pulldown (4 sets of 10 reps)
  • Shrugs (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Wide-grip pull-ups (3 sets of 20 reps)
  • Front raises (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Shoulder flys (3 sets of 10 reps)

Friday: Back

I recommend you have someone watch you with these exercises, as you have to keep that lower back straight to avoid injury.

  • Warm-up: 15 minutes stretching and light cardio
  • Deadlift (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Seated cable rows (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Single-arm dumbbell rows (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Resistance band pull apart (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Reverse dumbbell flys (3 sets of 10 reps)

Saturday & Sunday: Rest

Use these days to get some fresh air during a leisurely walk. And add some 20-minute stretching routines as well to help improve blood circulation and recovery time.

Other celebrity physiques:

His Workout Principles

James McAvoy's workout principles, particularly for his transformation for "Split," focused on several key areas:

  1. High-intensity strength training: McAvoy's regimen included intense strength training exercises. This involved heavy lifting and compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses to build overall muscle mass.
  2. Progressive overload: He likely followed the principle of progressive overload, gradually increasing the weight and intensity of his workouts to continuously challenge his muscles and stimulate growth.
  3. Full body workouts: His routine probably included full-body workouts, ensuring balanced muscle development across different body parts.
  4. Focus on compound movements: Emphasizing compound movements that work multiple muscle groups at once, such as squats and deadlifts, was a key aspect. These exercises are effective for building strength and size efficiently.
  5. Consistency and dedication: Consistency in training, without skipping workouts, was crucial for his transformation. Regular, dedicated sessions are essential for significant physical changes.
  6. Adequate recovery: Rest and recovery would have been vital, including sufficient sleep and rest days to allow muscles to repair and grow.
  7. Flexibility and mobility work: Incorporating flexibility and mobility exercises to prevent injuries and aid in muscle recovery.

His Diet Approach & Supplements

dumbbell and protein powder

James McAvoy has mentioned his calorie and macro counting a few times in interviews.

There were some rumors on the Internet that he aimed for 6,000 calories a day, but I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

Our dietitian had a look at his routine and physical stats and estimated that it’s more likely to have been about 4,000 calories, but that’s still a lot.

He has also spoken about reducing his carb intake and jacking up protein, which makes perfect sense.

And to do this, he likely relied on these supplements.

1. Whey Protein

Most guys and girls I work with take whey because of the ideal amino acid profile.

An alternative is hemp or a combination of pea and brown rice protein if you have an intolerance to milk products.

2. BCAAs

Getting a boost of BCAAs can help both during and after training. Scientists from the National Library of Medicine have linked it to both better muscle recovery and delayed fatigue [1].


Who Trained James McAvoy?

James McAvoy was trained by celebrity personal trainer Magnus Lygdback, who designed a comprehensive workout and diet plan for McAvoy's physical transformation for his role in the movie "Glass."

How Did James McAvoy Get So Big?

James McAvoy got big for his role in "Split" by undergoing a rigorous workout routine focused on heavy lifting and strength training, complemented by a high-protein diet to support muscle growth and recovery.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241904/
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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