Actor Michael Jai White, like all of us, has health and fitness goals but is constantly dealing with the demands of everyday life. In a recent Men’s Health YouTube video published on September 26, 2023, White squeezed in an ‘explosive’ workout for strengthening the back and offered tips during each of the movements he performed.
“Fitness for me is always balancing your body and being a martial artist, that’s very very important to me because it’s all about movement. And if you have a body part that’s overpowering another body part then your movement is compromised.”
As an American director, actor, and mixed martial artist, it didn’t take long for the world to take notice of Michael Jai White. He had a breakout year in the entertainment industry when he took on his first major starring role in the 1995 HBO film Tyson, where he portrayed the heavyweight boxing great “Iron” Mike Tyson.
Having also taken on the lead role in the 1997 superhero film, Spawn, and so many others — Jai White’s ability to tell stories under the guise of different characters turned him into a household name in North America. However, White admits without a dedication to fitness and martial arts, he wouldn’t be where he is today.
Train Your Back Like Actor Michael Jai White
According to the New York native, this back workout is often used to transform his body for movie roles. He normally walks around at 235 pounds but when he trains for a project such as Outlaw Johnny Black, he drops to about 215 pounds.
“Hi, this is Michael Jai White. And I’m going to take you through how I train, especially when I get ready for movies. I’m more like a fighter who has to make weight, for me… I usually walk around 235 but I train to get down to like about 215, that’s my shooting weight. I get a lot of cardio, eat right, and I do conditioning to maintain the muscle.”
The 55-year-old believes “the most important thing” as you age is to have a strong back.
“I used to be like this [rigid] because I did a whole bunch of bench pressing when I was younger and all the weight from my shoulders and arms were in front of my center line. So for years, I had to really concentrate on back work to balance myself out so when I moved, I was on balance. Everything you do in life pulls your shoulders forward, so many of us lack back strength and that’s very important to anybody moving up in age.
That is going to be the most important thing that you have a strong back as you get older. Allow me to take you through some things that are very important.”
Jai White’s Explosive Back Workout Breakdown
- Bodyweight deadhangs | 3 sets of 30 seconds
- Wide-grip pull-ups | 4 sets of 15-20 reps
- Cable rows
- Banded reverse punch
- Explosive biceps curl
White favors deadhangs for warming up and stretching the spine.
“It’s a good way to warm up because you’re elongating your spine and you lower part of your body and let your spine stretch. It actually feels really good. I’ll do deadhangs for about three sets and try to hold it for at least 30 seconds.”
As for pull-ups, the actor prefers wide grips because he can achieve a better squeeze on each contraction.
“I definitely prefer a wider grip. When I can, I like to face my palm toward each other. I get a better squeeze that way. I’ll do four sets of 15 to 20 reps.”
Michael opened up about a common mistake people make performing cable rows: “They are engaging their arms and not using their back.”
“A common mistake is people will grab the weight and just pull it back and they are engaging their arms and not using their back. The thing that is bringing my shoulders together is my back muscle. You want to engage that in every movement. That’s very important that you get that squeeze in every repetition.”
Banded reverse punch
This exercise is one of the ways in which White likes to incorporate MMA into his workouts.
“That’s pretty much the most powerful punch your body can muster because you’re driving with your hips. Learning how to fire my hips from the ground, that made the difference. So I applied that into my martial arts training and developed a very very strong punch,” Michael Jai White explained.
Explosive biceps curl
Using the Smith machine, White focuses on explosive “full contractions” before calling it a day.
“I’m doing explosive movements. The Smith machine has got the tracks and I fling that joker up as high as I can. By the 15th rep, it’s going to be lower, but I’m still doing nothing but explosions, full contractions.”
Michael Jai White isn’t the only superhero actor dedicated to preserving his body, youth, and fitness level; Hollywood is full of them. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson brought Black Adam to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which he said required dedication to nutrition and training. Chris Hemsworth, who played Thor, also prioritized his physique with similar activity to Jai White, often implementing boxing and heavy bag work.
With such a hectic schedule, actors like Michael Jai White understand the value exercise brings to their daily lives. Aside from strength training, Jai White says it’s also important to “eat right’ and get “a lot of cardio.”