How Mickey Rourke Gained 27 Pounds of Muscle For The Wrestler

If you like this post, be sure to check out How Tim Ferriss REALLY Gained 34 pounds of Muscle in 28 Days.

I was reading this morning how actor Mickey Rourke made massive muscular gains by training real hard for his role in the new movie The Wrestler. Mickey is quoted in an article that appears in The Sun:

I had to do seven and a half months of extensive weightlifting, and eating six or seven meals a day, to put on 27 pounds of muscle.

Thats not a lot of time so I had this ex-soldier who was very strict with me about my training regime and my diet.

First of all, I applaud the gains Mickey Rourke achieved in such a short time. However, this number is highly misleading. According to the article Rourke is 52. According to Wikipedia he is 56. Chain-smoking, booze loving fifty year old men do not gain 27 pounds of muscle in months.

Other than steroids and growth hormone, the only way to make those amazing muscle gains in such a short time would be to have gained the muscle earlier in life. Then let yourself get out of shape only to then regain the muscle later.

Have you ever seen an ad in a muscle magazine where the man gains massive amounts of muscle in weeks using some supplement? There are lots of tricks used in those photo shoots, but the best trick is use some out of shape dude who gained lots of muscle back in high school and college. The guy restarts his training and the muscles respond by returning to where they once were in a short period of time. From the Journal of Applied Physiology article Strength and skeletal muscle adaptations in heavy-resistance-trained women after detraining and retraining:

…data suggest that rapid muscular adaptations occur as a result of strength training in previously trained as well as non-previously trained women. Some adaptations (fiber area and maximal dynamic strength) may be retained for long periods during detraining and may contribute to a rapid return to “competitive” form.

I’m certain that Rourke gained the muscle earlier in life, so I did a little digging. Sure enough I was reminded in the Wikipedia how Rourke used to be a boxer. Of course. The easiest way to gain muscle fast, is have already gained it years before.


The greatest piece of advice I regret never taking came from my basketball coach Mike. I was in the 8th and 9th grade and I believe Coach Mike was in his early 30s. Coach Mike had started weight training and was having trouble making the gains he wanted. He told me to lift weights while I was still young. He wanted me to lift in high school and college. Sadly, I didn’t. I wouldn’t start lifting weights until I was 24.


Coach Mike (back left), MAS (back right)

When I was 12 years old, I played video games. Mickey Rourke started boxing at that age. Let me repeat the advice of Coach Mike. Young men need to lift weights.

So how did Mickey Rourke gain 27 pounds of muscle in 7 months? He didn’t. He gained it in his youth as a weight class boxer following a tough training and dietary regiment. He rediscovered it in his 50s. Weight training is like compound interest. The more early deposits you make in life, the more gains you will have later. Congratulations Mickey!


Add yours

  1. Great post. Looks like a good DF article?

  2. Doesn’t this cut both ways though? As in: If you’re pretty sure you’re not going to be pumping iron religiously into your 30s, 40s, and 50s, you’re better off staying lean in your teens and 20s so you never have that layer of crap to work off in the first place?

    A lot of the guys I went to high school with bulked up pretty good in school and now they are constantly fighting beer guts. The skinny among us, however, just tend to stay skinny.

  3. You can be both lean and muscular.

    Many guys who bulk up can’t down regulate their appetite once their activity level drops. They get fat. However, they are far better equipped to burn fat in their later years than the skinny fat guy (Hank Hill).

    For a long read on the amazing progress a big bulky guy with lots of muscle did leaning out quickly, do a search on “Dave Tate Project”.

  4. But how come rourke was so skinny at the golden globes? what kind of freak is this guy?!

  5. I did not see the Golden Globes, but if what you are saying is correct then it is possible that some of those “27 pounds of muscle” were really fat. Note that I have not seen the movie either.

    It also could have been a supplement/steroid. I once jumped from 210 to 222 pounds in a few months using a pro-hormone that was legal at the time. Once I stopped taking it, my weight drifted right back to 210. My exercises and diet did not change during this period.

    Perhaps in order to hold that muscle required Rourke to eat highly caloric diet. Once the role was over, perhaps his motivation to hold that muscle went away? Or maybe he is slimming down for another movie role?

  6. Could be. but how come no one in the media commented on this insanity?

  7. I do not know. They seem more interested when actors like De Niro gain fat for a role like Raging Bull or that one girl did for Bridget Jones.

  8. bullshit he has all the muscular traits of plain and simple juice, steroids though not the most popular item right now does work well under a doctors care end of story.

  9. Micky used steroids, he has admitted it…… and so what? in the US steroids are made out to be the devils creation, in reality all we are talking about is something that OUT BODIES PRODUCE NATURALLY!! things are out of controll over in the US!

    Also, Gear (steroids) are not a majic pill (or injection). to get into shape like micky did (just watched the film) especially at his age, takes allot of hard work and dedication with training, recovery, and diet.

    Greeat film, great performance and thank you micky for showing that even when we get to be in our 50’s and later, us men can still look, and no doubt feel awsome!!

  10. JGS – I agree.

    There is a great documentary called Bigger, Stronger, Faster that takes a fair look a steroids.

  11. I disagree I began lifting weights at the age of 22, mostly all muscle mags agree that it is better to beginning lifting weights after 18 because your body is full develope at least male wise. I made gains and prior to this I NEVER lifted weights, I reach in arm size 19 inch which are not your ordinary arms. At about 28 I stop lifting and I began again at the age of 39 I am now 41, I do agree that once you beginning lifting and you stop for a long period of time your muscle mass will return. But, I disagree with the early age theory.

  12. @Luis – A younger male will have higher testosterone levels than an older one. If it takes several years to reach one’s genetic maximum potential then the probability of success would increase if one starts lifting sooner.

    I’m not talking absolutes, just probabilities. You can always find exceptions. In general, if I were a trainer and my goal were to maximize the gains for my client, I’d prefer them to be younger. 22 is still young. You had 2 years on me and those years are important years. Much more important than 39 to 41.

  13. mickey was not big until the 90s look at his early movies he’s flabby cheque out angel heart and you will see.

  14. @Kat – There are a lot of flabby guys with atrophied muscle underneath. Supplement ads that show impressive before and after photos use those guys all the time to sell product.

  15. Press Releases

    Jul 5, 2012 — 1:28 am

    Hi – People that are pro-steroids always point to Bigger, Faster, Stronger as evidence for their position and claim it’s fair and balanced. It’s not. It’s not a study, it’s a film and the film maker needs to sell tickets. It discredits doctors with a good deal of experience in the field and points to the tragic cases of Taylor and Lyle Alzado as being good examples of mis-information about steroids and their dangers. Admittedlly the media can peddle mis-leading information about the use of steroids and these were good examples, but there’s no bigger culprit of doing that, than the making of this film, which glosses over the dangers of steroids. People don’t die from a reaction to the drugs, they die from enlarged organs, heart-attacks, strokes etc. and this film glosses over all that completely.

    Imagine, if in Super-Size Me, Morgan Spurlock had found that after eating McDonalds for 30 days he was fine – just a little tubbier. It wouldn’t be much of a film would it?! Well guess what, many scientists have tried to replicate his experiment and found virtually none of the seriously damaging effects shown in the film. The same applies to Bigger, Faster, Stronger. It’s a fucking film – it’s not science. It’s one man’s narrative and anyone that points to it as the truth is a damn fool.

  16. Press Releases

    Jul 5, 2012 — 1:33 am

    P.S. JGS is right, Mickey Rourke admitted to taking steroids for the role. You can tell from the look of his muscles, which is only fitting for a role as a wrestler. Obviously, he had to be a bit coy about talking about using, because they are illegal, but if you want to see him talk about it, do a search for something like ‘Mickey Rourke Jonathan Ross’ on YouTube.

  17. Nonsense! Rourke was thin as a teen and flabby/out of shape during his 20s and 30s (just take a look at some of his older films). He didn’t start bulking up until the mid 90s, by which time he was already in his late 30s/early 40s. Even at the height of his boxing career, he wasn’t very muscular or bulky. If I’m not mistaken, he’s also been a chain-smoker since his youth and continued smoking heavily throughout his amateur boxing career, so I’m not sure he’s ever done the type of extensive training you’re suggesting in your post. He probably takes some type of steroid/supplement and trains very hard for short periods of time. I also don’t think that gaining muscle after 40 is as difficult as you’re imagining, as long as the genetics are in place. And Rourke seems to have fairly decent genetics. When he was at his flabbiest (Angel Heart), he still maintained some degree of muscular tone, which I believe is a result of his genetics. He was probably built like that as a child too

  18. @Kerry – Nonsense?

    …I’m not sure he’s ever done the type of extensive training you’re suggesting in your post.

    I was quoting Rourke himself.

    I also don’t think that gaining muscle after 40 is as difficult as you’re imagining, as long as the genetics are in place.

    Gaining 27 pounds of NEW muscle after 40 in 7.5 months is not normal. There are no magical training routines that will get these results. He either already had gained muscle and lost it, used steroids or some combination of the two.

    The previous commenter about admitted steroid use appears to be correct.

    In your comment you point out that Rourke started bulking in the 1990s. That proves my point, which is the magic didn’t happen in months. It took years or decades.

  19. Perhaps “nonsense” was too strong a word : )

    I guess I just don’t place as much importance on his earlier training as you do. Like I said, he didn’t begin showing muscle gains until his late 30s, when he started his boxing career. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he he’d already begun using some form of steroid by that point. Don’t forget that we’re talking about Mickey Rourke here, a guy who clearly has body image issues and most likely a serious case of body dysmorphic disorder, given the extent of his plastic surgeries and such.

    Personally, I believe that the bulk of his muscle gain in the short time period (for The Wrestler) was the direct result of steroids, intense professionally guided training, and halfway decent genetics. Perhaps his previous training/conditioning played a minor role as well. I would never put the steroids past Rourke, though. Even today, at 60+, his body looks almost preternaturally lean and muscular. I can’t put all that down to training, diet, and prior boxing career. He looks leaner and more cut than most retired professional athletes.

    Here’s a few pics from a tabloid mag taken a few days ago (he’s 62 here) . The face ain’t lookin’ too hot but his body is very ripped for a guy that age. He never looked that sinewy in his 20s and 30s

    I think he might still indulge in the hormones boosts from time to time (perhaps legally prescribed stuff at this point)

  20. @Kerry – Thanks for sharing updated pics of Rourke. This post went up over 5 years ago.

    The Tim Ferriss post is a better version of the point I was speculating about with Rourke. There I had hard numbers to explain the fast muscle gains.

  21. Yeah, I knew about the age of the post. I was hesitant about responding to it initially becasue I doubted that anyone was still checking this thread. I’d actually been reading up a bit on Rourke’s career and training schedule for The Wrestler and my searching brought me here to your blog/article, which was an interesting read, BTW

    Thanks for the link. I’ll take a read through it tomorrow

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