When you’re making a movie with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Vin Diesel, you better do something to make yourself stand out. Even with 12.5 million albums sold and a solid place in history as one of hip hop’s most popular artists, when Chris “Ludacris” Bridges joined the cast of the blockbuster Fast & The Furious action series, he feared being overshadowed by his castmates—literally. Five years, three movies, and hundreds of millions of box office dollars later, Ludacris is still refining the physique that’s allowed him to look credible alongside two of the biggest action stars in the world. Moreover, his transformation has actually piqued their interest in how he trains.

Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7

The Ludacris Workout for the Fast & Furious Franchise
After appearing as former street racer Tej Parker in the series’ 2011 installment, Fast Five, Ludacris hired trainer Jason VanHeulen to help him put on weight for the next sequel. “He told me, ‘I’m tired of being this little shrimp around guys like Dwayne and Vin,’” says VanHeulen. “Chris weighed 154 pounds at the time, and he begged the director for a shirtless scene in the next movie. All of a sudden, our asses were on the line.”

Adding to the challenge of bulking the rapper up was the timeframe the two faced to do it: there were only three months till Ludacris’ shirtless scene for Fast & Furious 6 would be filmed. “We didn’t have a lot of time to put size on,” says VanHeulen, “so we worked hard on making him look bigger.” That meant volume—lots of sets and reps.

“The workouts were grueling, but Ludacris was steadfast in the gym. At the dinner table, however, he often needed VanHeulen to say, “Move bitch!”

The pair began training seven days per week. The workouts consisted of four intense lifting days and three light recovery workouts in which he focused on mobility and cardio, often done in a swimming pool. The lifting split featured two heavy days—one focused on upper body (Monday) and one lower-body day (Tuesday)—and then two lighter days (Thursday and Saturday) for each area centered around speed and rep work. On heavy upper days, Ludacris might perform a bench press, working up to the heaviest load he could handle for 5 reps, followed by upper back work to maintain muscle balance, and then hit his shoulders and arms. Heavy lower days would see him follow the same procedure with a squat or deadlift, finishing up with hamstring, quad, and core exercises.

On speed/rep days, he’d start with an explosive exercise to prepare his central nervous system to recruit the maximum amount of muscle fibers in the session—think burpees into a box jump done for 5 sets of 5, or medicine-ball slams—and finish with more standard bodybuilding techniques, like 4 sets of 8–12.

For cardio, VanHeulen typically had Ludacris do intervals, working at his hardest pace for 20 seconds— swimming in the pool or using various cardio machines—followed by 20 seconds rest. Sessions lasted about 20 minutes.

The Ludacris Diet

The workouts were grueling, but Ludacris was steadfast in the gym. At the dinner table, however, he often needed VanHeulen to say, “Move bitch!”

“I used to have to watch him every second because he would eat so much,” says VanHeulen. “I’d have to order his food for him so I could control the portions.” An extreme foodie, Ludacris loves to eat out and has a giant sweet tooth. “He’s also a perfectionist, so he’s going to look for the ‘world’s best’ wherever we are. He’ll research it ahead of time.” Naturally, with so little time to spare, no such indulgences were allowed on VanHeulen’s program, save for a Sunday cheat.

Ludacris ate six meals per day of standard fit-person fare—veggie omelets, oatmeal, and protein supplements. To gain weight, he kept his carbs high. The goal was to put on size, but the two agreed they wouldn’t try to outmuscle the likes of Dwayne Johnson and Diesel. “My idea was to get him looking like an incredibly fit surfer,” says VanHeulen. Ludacris nailed it, weighing 162 pounds in time for his shirtless scene. “People said he looked more like 185.”

“Ludacris hired trainer Jason VanHeulen to help him put on weight for the next sequel. “He told me, ‘I’m tired of being this little shrimp around guys like Dwayne and Vin,” says VanHeulen.”

The pair continued the same basic regimen nearly year-round and through the filming of Furious 7, where Ludacris got his biggest to date—175 pounds (he stands only 5’8”). His strength followed suit. Ludacris can squat 315 pounds for 3 reps, bench 275 for 3, and deadlift 405 for 3. He also enjoys experimenting with more unconventional lifts, such as mace slams, tire flips, and advanced suspension trainer exercises.

“Needless to say, after his transformation for Fast 6, Chris did not have to beg for a shirt-off scene in Furious 7. In fact, the producers asked if he would do another one.”

Ludacris Workout for Muscle Gain

The Ludacris Workout for the Fast & Furious Franchise

The following is a sample training week for Ludacris when he was putting on muscle for Furious 7. Exercises marked “A” and “B” are alternated—do one set of A, rest as needed, then one set of B, rest, and repeat.

Monday

Warmup: 5 minutes of mobility and stretching, focusing on the thoracic spine and shoulders

1A. Plyo Pushup

Sets: 5
Reps: 3

1B. Suspension-Trainer Face Pull

Sets: 3
Reps: 20

Continue performing sets of the plyo pushup after you’ve completed all sets of the face pull.

2. 30–Degree Incline Bench Press

Sets: 4
Reps: 6–8

Perform rest-pauses on the last set. Do 6–8 reps, rest 20 seconds, and perform reps to failure. Repeat twice more to end the set.

3A. Dumbbell Bench Press

Sets: 3
Reps: 6–8

3B. One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Sets: 4
Reps: 8–10 (each side)

4A. Standing Dumbbell Alternating Overhead Press

Sets: 3
Reps: 8–10 (each side)

4B. Pullup

Sets: 4
Reps: 6

Take 3 seconds to lower your body down. Use an exercise band if necessary to unload some of your body weight.

5A. Close-Grip Pushup

Sets: 2
Reps: As many as possible

5B. Hammer Curl

Sets: 2
Reps: 8–10

Cardio: Walk on an inclined treadmill for 20 minutes. Keep your heart rate between 130 and 140 beats per minute.

Tuesday

Warmup: 5 minutes of mobility and stretching, focusing on the hips and groin.

1A. Box Jump

Sets: 5
Reps: 3

1B. Feet-Elevated Glute Bridge

Sets: 3
Reps: 20

Continue performing sets of the box jump after you’ve completed all sets of the glute bridge.

2A. Suspension-Trainer Hamstring Curl

Sets: 5
Reps: 20

2B. Windmill Med-Ball Slam

Sets: 5
Reps: 5 (each side)

3A. Deadlift

Sets: 5
Reps: 10

3B. Standing Calf Raise

Sets: 5
Reps: 10

4. Walking Lunge

Perform lunges, alternating legs each rep, for ¼ mile.

5. Goblet Squat

Sets: 5
Reps: 6

Take 3 seconds to lower your body on the descent.

Cardio: Run up a flight of stairs or use an inclined treadmill. Work for 20 minutes while keeping your heart rate between 140 and 150 beats per minute.

Thursday

Warmup: 5 minutes of mobility and stretching, focusing on the thoracic spine and shoulders

1A. Mace Tire Slam

Sets: 5
Reps: 3 (each side)

Slam a tire with a steel mace, or sledgehammer.

1B. Suspension-Trainer Inverted Row

Sets: 3
Reps: 20

Continue performing sets of the mace tire slam after you’ve completed all sets of the inverted row.

2A. Suspension-Trainer Atomic Pushup

Sets: 3
Reps: 12–15

Rest your feet in the foot cradles of a suspension trainer and elevate your hands on parallel bars.

2B. Front Lever

Sets: 3
Reps: Hold for 10 seconds

3A. Parallel-Bar Dip

Sets: 2
Reps: As many as possible

3B. Suspension-Trainer Pullup

Sets: 2
Reps: As many as possible

4A. Dumbbell Curl To Overhead Press

Sets: 2
Reps: 12–15

4B. Chinup

Sets: 2
Reps: 12–15

5A. Suspension-Trainer Skull Crusher

Sets: 2
Reps: 15–20

5B. Suspension-Trainer Biceps Curl

Sets: 2
Reps: 15–20

Cardio: Run up stairs again. Keep your heart rate between 130 and 140 beats per minute.

Saturday

Warm up: 5 minutes of mobility and stretching for the entire body.

1A. Hurdle Jump

Sets: 5
Reps: 3

1B. Side Plank

Sets: 3
Reps: 20

Continue performing sets of the hurdle jump after you’ve completed all sets of the side plank.

2. 10-Minute Circuit

Complete as many rounds of the following as possible in 10 minutes.

A. Tire Flip

Reps: 6

B. Sprint

Reps: Run 40 yards

C. Reverse Lunge

Reps: 6 (each leg)

D. Mountain Climber

Reps: 6 (each leg)

E. Dumbbell Farmer’s Walk

Reps: Walk ½ mile

Hold 35 pounds in each hand and walk.

Ludacris Muscle-Gain Nutrition Plan

7:00 a.m.

● 10g branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

9:00 a.m.

● Vegetable scramble containing chopped spinach, zucchini, onions, and 4 whole eggs cooked in 2 tbsp coconut oil.

● 1 pack Total Primate Care

● 8 oz. Onnit Caveman Coffee

10:00 a.m.

● 60–90 minute workout

11:00–11:30 a.m.

● post-workout shake containing 30g grass-fed whey protein

● 1 serving whole fruit (kiwi, banana, 1 cup pineapple or mango)

1:00 p.m.

● Seared sea bass

● Kale salad with broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, tomato, cilantro

6:00 p.m.

●  Vegetable linguini with chicken and cranberries. Spinach salad with caramelized onions and hard-boiled egg.

●  Total Primate Care night pack

The Fate of The Furious

The Ludacris Workout for the Fast & Furious Franchise
As VanHeulen and Ludacris prepared to shoot the latest installment in the Furious franchise, the training underwent a significant shift. Having established a solid foundation of muscle, Ludacris had no interest in bulking any further, and his most hectic shooting schedule to date would make putting in time at the gym more challenging than ever.

“They had so many stars in this one to coordinate,” says VanHeulen, referring to Johnson, Diesel, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, and more, “the shooting schedule was much harder.” And more unpredictable. “I might have 10 minutes with him one day, 20 minutes, I didn’t know. I had to get him the biggest bang for his buck for every free moment he had.”

Although the film was shot near Ludacris’ home in Atlanta, he would have no time to run back to his house or a local gym for a workout. Funnily enough, it was Vin Diesel who saved the day. “He brings a trailer filled with workout equipment to every film set,” says VanHeulen, and Ludacris was welcome to use it.

To make the most of every minute they had to train, VanHeulen aimed to fit work for every major movement pattern into each session. Workouts were full-body, including some kind of squat, hinge (such as deadlifts), push, and pull. Exercises changed daily to account for the unpredictability of training times and session lengths, and cardio came by way of the lifting. “We moved quickly enough to keep his heart rate up. We’d do 2 to 3 sets of as many reps as he could do for each lift.”

When Diesel was done shooting his scenes, he left and his workout trailer left with him. That forced VanHeulen to get more creative about his workouts. “Chris looked at me like, ‘What are we going to do?’ I said, ‘Well, there’s a tree over there we can do pullups on. There’s a lawnchair we can do jumps and stepups on.” It’s safe to say they got by.

Nowadays, Ludacris knows what to eat and how to portion his own meals. “He’s got it down to a tee,” says VanHeulen, and while Ludacris still loves his Sunday cheats, he now contains them to a meal and not an entire day. As a result, he looks better in this movie than any of the previous ones.

“The idea was to get him to look good in a T shirt,” says VanHeulen. “It’s the T-shirt build you want, because most of the time you’re not shirtless.” The two worked chest and upper back especially hard to complete the look, relying on face pulls, band pull aparts, and suspension trainer rows. “Chris calls himself the King of the Four-Pack, because he eats and drinks too much to have a six-pack [laughs]. He looks fuller now.”

Supplements have played a role as well. Ludacris takes Total Primate Care packs every day, “and always pops Alpha Brain before a show,” says VanHeulen. He likes Recovery Protein and Fulvic Minerals, and relies on Vitamin D spray. “When he’s in the studio or on set all day, he can’t get vitamin D outside. He’s had his blood tested in the past and his D levels were always low.”

While the Fast & The Furious franchise has no end in sight, you can count on Ludacris continuing to train for the rest of his life, regardless what roles his movie career may bring him. “It’s not that he likes working out,” says VanHeulen. “He likes making progress. He likes looking back and seeing how much his life has gotten better because of working out.”

Training is part of how Ludacris optimizes the way he approaches everything that’s important to him. “He knows if he does his workout he’ll be able to write music better and work better the rest of the day. It gives him clarity. He still has motivation because he sees all the success it’s brought him.”

It’s also brought him street cred with Johnson and Diesel, two of Ludacris’ biggest inspirations in the gym. “Things have changed,” says VanHeulen. “Now those guys are asking what Chris does for his workouts. Dwayne compliments him and Chris loves that. When he gives Chris a high five or says keep it up, that keeps him going.”

Ludacris’ Fate Of The Furious Workout

The Ludacris Workout for the Fast & Furious Franchise
Perform each workout as a circuit, completing one set of each exercise in succession and resting as needed in between unless otherwise directed. Repeat the circuits as prescribed.

Workout A

Repeat the circuit for 20 minutes, completing as many rounds as possible in that time. Complete 6 reps for each lift.

A. Goblet Squat

B. Dumbbell Curl to Overhead Press

C. Dumbbell RDL to Row

Perform a Romanian deadlift and then a bentover row in the down position (when your torso is parallel to the floor).

D. Decline Pushup

E. Farmer’s Carry

Hold heavy dumbbells in each hand and walk as far as you can. Ludacris made 3 laps around Vin Diesel’s trailer.

Workout B

Do 10 reps for each and complete 10 rounds. Rest 30 seconds between exercises.

A. Reverse Lunge with Overhead Press

B. Renegade Row

C. DB clean to DB Snatch

Perform a dumbbell clean followed by a dumbbell snatch on the same side. Repeat for 10 reps each and then switch hands.

D. Side-To-Side Pullup

Perform a pullup and, at the top, push yourself over to one hand and then the other. Keep your chin above the bar the whole time.

Workout C

Perform 1 rep of each exercise, then 2, 3, and so on up to 10. Rest as little as possible between exercises. Ludacris uses 20-pound dumbbells for each exercise.

A. Man Maker

Grip dumbbells and get into pushup position. Do a pushup and then row one weight at a time to your side (a renegade row). Jump your feet up until they’re outside your hands, using your back to help pull them forward. Stand up and then perform a push press—dip your knees quickly and use the momentum to press the weights overhead. That’s one rep.

B. Lateral Lunge

C. DB High Pull

D. Parallel-Bar Dip

Workout D

Perform the exercises for 6 minutes total. Do 4–6 reps of each.

A. One-Arm DB Push Press

B. Single-Leg Leg Press

C. One-Arm Lat Pulldown

Rest 3 minutes and then perform the following circuit in the same fashion.

A. DB Clean and Press

B. DB Front Squat

Hold the weights on the front of your shoulders.

C. DB Bentover See-Saw Row

Row the weight to one side, and as you lower it, row to the other side.

Follow Jason on Instagram to see videos of him training Ludacris, @Relentlessjason