How Mark Wahlberg bulked up for ‘Pain & Gain’

If you want evidence of just how far Mark Wahlberg has come, check out these scenes from his 1993 workout video, Form... Focus... Fitness.

Wahlberg—who at the time went by the stage name Marky Mark—was famous for making poppy rap songs, like the 1991 hit "Good Vibrations," and for being in his underwear, both in music videos and Calvin Klein ads. But this workout video highlights the full extent of his meathead bravado. Whether he's creepily leering at his assistants' cleavage or rewarding himself for lifting some "phat weights" by "mackin' by the pool wit some fly honeys," never has a semi-celebrity made such a convincing case for cultural obscurity.

What a difference 30 years make. Wahlberg went on to become one of the best actors of his generation. Don't believe us?

The New York Times made that claim first. Wahlberg has two Oscar nominations to his credit, which puts him in the same league as guys like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. He's done big budget action flicks and arthouse fare, critical darlings and popcorn summer movies, and he's gotten mostly positive reviews for all of it.

As Slate magazine observed not long ago, "Mark Wahlberg is attractive because he seems genuinely, effortlessly masculine rather than anxiously, compensatorily macho."

That's not something anyone would ever, in a million years, have said about the dude in his underwear who called himself Marky Mark. Oh, and the now 41-year-old actor is still devoted to fitness, never evidenced more strongly than in his newest role as a bodybuilder in the upcoming Pain & Gain, out this weekend.

Over the course of several conversations, Wahlberg and I discussed aging gracefully and how he packed on all that muscle.

I just watched the trailer for your new movie Pain & Gain, which comes out this weekend. Holy lord, man. You're like the Hulk.

[Laughs.] Yeah. A little bit.

It seems like just yesterday you were normal-sized. Or, you know ... normaler.

Yeah, it all happened really fast. I knew going into it how hard I was going to work. The big challenge was going from movie to movie and they both required completely different physical preparations.

Was CGI involved or was it all you?

No, this is a very low budget movie. I love roles where I am required to prepare physically. And it's fun putting on weight and eating.

Especially the eating part.

Well, it depends. I did Broken City first, and I had to get down to 165 pounds, which for me is really, really thin. I wasn’t eating anything, and I had a lot of cravings. And then for Pain & Gain, I was able to eat whatever I wanted, which was fun for about three weeks. But then it became torture.

I heard you were eating like 10 meals a day.

More like 12.

How's that even possible?

Well, sometimes you have to get up in the middle of the night for a meal.

So you weren't sleeping either.

Not as much as I wanted. I'd have a big meal and go to bed at 9 p.m., and then I'd get up at midnight to eat again, and I’d still be full from the last meal.

That sounds horrible.

It kinda was. And then you exercise first thing in the morning and eat all day, and you try to take as many naps and rest as much as possible. Especially after eating, because you feel like you’re growing while you’re sleeping.

What kind of workout routine did you follow to pack on that much bulk?

Well, I'd wake up at 4:30 every morning, have a nice big breakfast—a pre-workout igniter—and then I'd hit the heavy weights, depending on the day and the routine for the day. But it always involved lifting heavy, and mostly just lifting weights. And then a protein shake right after the workout. And then chicken, steak, fish, a little bit of pasta here and there. Just really overloading, meal after meal after meal. (If you want to get build the body you want in 4 weeks, try the Spartacus Workout.)

When you were doing your workouts, did you ever go back and look at the Marky Mark workout video?

Which one?

Form, Focus, and Determination? You remember that one?

I do remember it, unfortunately. But no, I haven't seen it in a few years.

Do you like to work out alone or with other people?

I have a guy who works out with me in the morning now. And I have my friends who are into working out. But I have a gym at the house so I don’t usually get to the gym all that often. If I’m away, I’ll work out with somebody. I like that back and forth, where they're pushing you or vice-versa.

Are there ways of making it fun? When you're doing intensive, seemingly never-ending workouts like you did preparing for this movie, how do you keep from going nuts?

It depends. If I’m training for a specific project, then I just keep my eye on the prize. It's not something I do every day of every month of every year. It's for specific projects. After we finished Pain & Gain, I went right into 2 Guns (with Denzel Washington), so I immediately had to lose 30 pounds in 30 days. So I started playing basketball right away, full court basketball every day to shed the weight. And then I changed my supplementation program.

You're OK with getting older?

I embrace old age. Look, I’m never going to dunk on LeBron James and I’ve learned to accept that. I got a pretty good life and I’m very fortunate and I have my blessings. When you think about the characters in that movie-

Which movie? Pain & Gain?

Yeah. Nothing was enough for those guys. A lot of bodybuilders seem to have that attitude; if only I could get a little bit bigger or a little more rich. As opposed to just appreciating what they have. And in (my character) Lugo’s case, it was just going out there and doing the work to obtain those goals. (Check out Wahlberg and co-star Duane Johnson in the list of the Fittest Men of All-Time.)

Click for more of Mark's interview with Men's Health.

Check out Mark's workout from the movie The Fighter.