Hugh Jackman’s Personal Trainer Explains Why Preventing Injury Is The Key To Performance Gains

Dieter Roylance has worked to get Hugh Jackman ripped and Olympians in winning form, but he still thinks everything comes from injury-proofing yourself first. In sports with repetitive explosive movements, such as golf, putting yourself out of action is a hard stop, not only to your strength gains but your skill level progression too.

But in a world of unregulated fitness and regurgitated, outdated workout advice, staying unbroken can be difficult, so what body-saving wisdom can Roylance give us from a career of making world-beating bodies more resilient?

RSNG You’ve trained Gold-Medal winning Olympians as well as Hollywood celebs, so what did you make of Tiger Wood’s move into strength training? DIETER ROYLANCE, CELEBRITY AND ATHLETE TRAINER “Tiger Woods went to strength training because his back was breaking. So, if we’re talking about golf, yes there are a lot of benefits of strength training… But from my point of view as a trainer I’m more about staying injury-free.”

“Because if an athlete can train every day, they can compete every week or every month – whenever they’re scheduled to compete, and they are going to develop that strength and power.”

“Obviously you can add in strength and power on top – if you’ve got a golfer that can’t do one chin-up, if you get them to do 10 chin-ups, their golf drive is going to go through the roof. Yet that’s still a by-product – if you avoid injury, you have the tools to improve, more than any change.”

If most golfers had some more rotation in their body, and if ‘that shoulder’ didn’t hurt, they would possess a more consistent swing

**RSNG What are the most common injury challenges for golfers that you see? “Golfers have a lot of shoulder and back problems; they twist their knees. So they spend all this money on clubs and technique in trying to nail a shot; yet if they actually had some more rotation in the body, and if that shoulder didn’t hurt, they would possess a more consistent swing.”

“Being injury-free means practicing and perfecting skills, and that’s going to make them better at what they do – that’s where I come in.”

RSNG We’re living in a world where fitness plans get harvested, shared and endorsed by seemingly anyone. Do you worry about people believing the advice they hear as gospel, when it’s not? DR “It’s too late to worry about it, because it’s happening every day, everywhere you look. We are in danger of forgetting the key principle of advice – that it must come from education.”

“When I’m asked for my opinion on fitness, health and stuff that I know about, I like to give people some real situations where they’re going to get real information and real education. Like anything, whether it’s someone getting into crypto currency or fitness, you need to be educated. If someone goes out and buys crypto and they don’t know what they’re doing, the chances of success are really low.”

“It’s the same with strength and conditioning – there are so many people out there touting that they are the next this and that because they have a million followers on Instagram, but there’s not a whole lot of substance behind it. I like to go out and learn from the best.”

“Even as far as measuring results go: body fat needs proper skinfold calipers. Most of the apps that do that focus on water impedance which isn’t a true measurement compared to a pinch test. With a pinch test, you’ve got nowhere to hide.”

The problem with bodybuilding diets is they don’t really feed the brain – when you’re trying to remember lines or fight routines, it becomes very hard because your brain is very foggy

RSNG Anything recently that has flagged your attention? DR “Something I saw the other week on a lifestyle website regarding the newly-crowned Formula One world champion Max Verstappen. They were talking some rubbish about his Insta training; about his technique and form… about how he shouldn’t have his knees over his toes. And I’m just looking at it and thinking that this goes out to so many people and you’re giving the wrong information.”

“I usually keep quite quiet about this kind of stuff, but if you train a rugby player, a cricketer, the knee goes over the toe all the time. Hey, try walking up the stairs even without it happening!”

“These so-called social media influencer trainers haven’t got any backing in science or world-class performance, whether it’s athletes, entertainers or CEOs. They’re really giving information to the public and people are running with it and, in my eyes, it’s negligent.”

“And it matters, because the more you progress up the ladder, the fewer second chances you get.”

RSNG What do you mean? DR “Well if I get a movie star injured and they can’t work, that’s days that the movie studio has to pay for sitting around doing nothing. It’s very hard when they’ve got their pre-set schedules to a situation where the guy can’t get out of bed because you’ve blown his back out.”

“There are no second chances; nor should a good fitness trainer really need one. That’s what links athletes and movie stars – you’ve got to get it right. Everything they do is conditioned so that they are at the peak or optimum performance level on a set day.”

“There are lots of images of people lifting silly amounts of weights. When that person finally breaks it’s not going to do much for your performance, so why do it? Someone like an entertainer can do a 200kg deadlift, but it’s not going to help their acting, it’s not really going to help the look of their leg muscles, and it is eventually going to injure them!”

RSNG Yet from your perspective, the training is very different, right? DR “Yeah, it is. Getting people to the Olympics is one specific deal; Hugh Jackman doesn’t want to get to the Olympics, haha – he wants to look good on camera. I said to him ‘you’re not paid to look good, that’s just an added bonus… you’re paid to act.’”

“When I first started working with him, the first thing I told him was we needed to change the way he was training… and that was a problem because Hugh loves to train so hard. Even though we were training him for Wolverine at the time, I knew we needed to change things.”

“So I trained him as an athlete, as regards his nutrition and everything, rather than on a bodybuilding diet, as he had been trained before. The problem with bodybuilding diets is they don’t really feed the brain. When you’re trying to remember lines or fight routines, it becomes very hard because your brain is very foggy.”

With Hugh Jackman I used 16/8 – sleep for eight hours, awake for 16 but fast for half of those

RSNG What sort of diet plan did you put in place? DR “We would use the 16/ 8 method – you sleep for eight hours, be awake for 16, but fast for half of those. Within that, he’d have a high-carb diet on a weight training day, and low-carb diet on a rest day.”

“His body’s reaction to this, particularly in the last couple of months of training – it was a five-month plan in total to get him in shape to play Wolverine [in X-Men: Apocalypse] – was phenomenal.”

RSNG That must make a big difference to him from the perspective as a pure actor, then? DR “Absolutely - the directors and producers were really amazed because they had never really seen anyone like me doing the stuff that I was doing; they’d also never seen him eating the things he was.”

“From a Wolverine perspective it wasn’t a huge thing for him to be super-ripped size-wise, even though he liked that. In fact they loved it because he wasn’t totally shredded – the only movie he was totally shredded for was X-Men: Days of Future Past, and lots of people commented that the footage was doctored and it wasn’t really him.”

“My premise is always one that you build and you strengthen sensibly, and relatively; and you can’t get that from an influencer on the other side of the world.”

“As a result, we achieved much more of a natural Wolverine-type look by training him in more of a dynamic and athletic type of movement – he did a stage show in Australia and for all the jumping, flying, leaping of the stage… it would have been impossible had he been packed.”

A lot of the time sports are 30-40 years behind, which leads to bad habits and bad performance

RSNG How does that vary when it comes to training Olympians? DR “It comes down to biomechanics. I was really known for swimming and changing the landscape of swimming by helping Olympians become leaner. Previously, they were slightly podgy – they had body fat and people thought they needed that to float.”

“I responded by saying that I have never seen a speedboat with floaties on – it’s power you need. So, I changed the way swimmers look and my guys were all ripped with 4% body fat, super-muscular and the world finally caught on and figured out that this is the way to go… probably about eight years after I had done it. They’re a bit slow in the swimming world, haha!”

RSNG Who was your biggest success from the perspective of getting someone back into shape? DR “I did Grant Hackett’s comeback and he’s the third most medalled swimmer in the world. He made the Australian World Championships team after nine months of training and five years out of the water and at the time, he was about 34 years old.”

“That was also a really big deal because he went from a 1,500m swimmer to a 400m swimmer, and they are quite different disciplines.”

RSNG And you’ve worked with lots of Winter Olympians too? DR “Sure. I’ve had a lot of Canadian athletes. I came across an Australian guy called Cam Bolton who is a Snowboarder and Snowboarder X competitor. He needed some size, strength and weight. I watched one of his races and they last less than a minute – and it’s like some crazy Moto-X guys without brakes going down a snow hill!”

“Afterwards I had a chat with him and just gave some observations, and he says: “How the hell did you know that?” Well, it's biomechanics knowledge and that’s a life of learning.”

“The alternative is you’ll get someone in the athletic world, say a cricketer – he plays as a kid and gets coached a certain way, then he goes to the next level and gets coached a certain way. Then a lot of these athletes have no education or another way to go, so they go into sport (as coaches or managers).”

RSNG And the result is? DR “The result is they just regurgitate what they did or what worked for them. That means there’s little evolution or innovation in sport because these guys go from being a pro athlete to going back and doing the same thing which someone did with them.”

“A lot of the time, sports are 30-40 years behind where they should be because the whole thing is so incestuous, and people just repeat what worked for them.”

“This leads to bad habits and bad performance. This is why it’s imperative we keep moving forward and keep ourselves informed of real, modern sports science and technique.”

WHAT’S NEXT? For the latest advances in strength building and golf-specific performance boosting in the gym, read the RSNG interview with fitness consultant to golf’s European Tour, William Wayland, and radically increase your club-head speed.