Joe Manganiello's Decrease-Physique Exercise to Max Our Your Primary Lifts

Some Hollywood actors are revered for their physiques just as much as their acting. Joe Manganiello is the poster child, having been a source of inspiration (and envy) with roles that show off his hard-earned muscle (think HBO's True Blood and the Magic Mike trilogy). At 6'5" with a shrink-wrapped six-pack, it might seem like he's always had the perfect body, but the actor is just as dedicated to the gym now, at 47, than he was in his 20s and 30s.

His latest gig is a slight pivot from his usual role. Manganiello is hosting Deal or Deal Island in the Caribbean. This new riff on the original show sees the actor as "master of ceremonies," with contestants competing in challenges to win large cash prizes. 

While temps soared into the triple digits while filming, Manganiello donned button-down shirts and suits. In theory, he could have coasted with no need for a major transformation, but he had long-time trainer, Ron Mathews, on the island with him to chase new goals, utilizing the time away from home to push more weight than ever before. Manganiello shipped out 45-pound plates and adjustable dumbbells to the island's gym to be sure of it.

'Deal or Deal Island' is filming on a private island in Panama, near Bocas del Toro.

Courtesy Image

"I made some amazing gains out there," he says. "A week into filming I wasn’t fitting into my wardrobe anymore. The department had to let the sleeves of my jacket out. I was pretty proud of that."

Men’s Journal caught up with Manganiello to talk about his training evolution; and how it feels to be stronger than ever in his late-40s, deadlifting 400 pounds and squatting 300; and the lower-body workout that's keeping him rock-solid.

Men's Journal: Hosting a game show is entirely new for you. What have the highlights been?

Joe Manganiello: I had so much fun on set. I’d love to make Deal or Deal Island for the rest of my life, maybe shoot two times a year. I love the team I get to work with. It’s so much fun and I know people are going to love it. Because there wasn’t any kind of brief or requirement for me to look a certain way, I could really lean into lifting and training in a way I never have before.

How has your relationship to training changed over the years?

Everyone has peaks and valleys. There was a time in my life when I was a two-pack-a-day smoker. I quit a few years before I got the True Blood role. There were periods where I, consciously or unconsciously, shed a lot of the muscle I'd developed. That was usually when I was doing more dramatic roles. But as the years have gone on, the more I’ve learned how important working out is to my happiness. It’s been my best friend. matter what’s going on in my life, good or bad, I can always turn to the gym. I know that whatever I put in, I’m going to get out. You can’t say that for the entertainment industry. You can’t really say that for many relationships in life. But what I give to the gym, it gives back to me.

You worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sabotage. What life advice did you get from him?

When I got the role I turned to Ron and said I wanted to get “big big.” We went after it. I ended up putting on 25 pounds of muscle. The thing about Arnold is he never stops moving. The big thing he said was, “You have to learn how to sleep faster.” He was so inspiring to be around. Growing up I never would have imagined I would have gotten the chance to costar with that man.

What are your fitness principles now compared to then? What have you learned over the years? 

I learned the importance of warming up and ramping up intelligently. The fact is your mind doesn’t feel any [different], but there are certain things you start to feel in your body. That also comes with being injured, which, if you train for long enough, happens. You have to kill your ego sometimes, which can be hard. The important thing is consistency, so once you get on that roll you can’t stop.

You’ve been putting up some big-number lifts—400-pound deadlifts, 300-pound squats. Do you have any goals you’re chasing?

Hitting my late 40s, I’ve realized how much I really enjoy lifting. I’m proud to say last year I broke every single personal record I ever had in the gym weight-wise. I broke my deadlift. I broke my squat. I broke all of these PRs, which you’re not expected or supposed to do at that age. I’ve already achieved things I never thought were possible, and wasn’t even gunning for. I mean, Gold’s Gym put me picture up on the wall.

That’s crazy to me, as a kid who was started off school too skinny and couldn’t do even one pullup or dip—that’s not exactly something that was on my bucket list.

Joe Manganiello's Lower-Body Workout to Max Our Your Main Lifts


This is an example of the training Manganiello and Mathews did while chasing PRs in the Caribbean. Ideally you’ll have access to a full gym, although majority of the exercises can be completed with a barbell and dumbbells.

Start with a mobility warmup like the one below. For the main workout, you'll perform straight sets and a finisher superset. For the straight sets, perform 3 sets of each movement before moving on to the next exercise. There should be no more than two minutes of rest between each set; aim for less. These straight sets are not to failure, so find a weight that's substantial but allows you to walk out of the gym, ideally with your legs just a little shaky. For the superset, complete 12 reps of the leg extensions, then go straight into 12 reps of the plyometric jump squats. Be explosive with the jump squats to make it a true finisher.

te: To up the difficulty of the workout, add additional sets to the back squats, hack squats, and Bulgarian split squats. If you choose to do so, you can cut the dumbbell Romanian deadlifts.

World's greatest stretch

Jose Mandojana


1. World's Greatest Stretch x 1 min.

How to Do It 

  1. Start in a plank position with hands below shoulders, then step your left foot outside your left hand, to start. 
  2. Sink your hips forward and toward the ground, then twist your torso and lift your left hand toward the ceiling. Hold for five seconds, twisting through the mid-back, then return hand to floor. That's 1 rep.
  3. Complete reps on left side for 30 sec., then switch so right leg is forward and right hand reaches toward the ceiling.

2. Hamstring Scoops x 30 sec.

How to Do It

  1. Stand with feet directly below hips, to start. Take a small step forward with your left foot, digging the heel into the ground and flexing your toes toward the ceiling. 
  2. Hinge at the hips and reach down toward your flexed foot's heel. In one fluid motion, sweep your hands along both sides of the foot, then overhead. That's 1 rep.
  3. Return your foot to the start position, then step your right foot forward and repeat. 

3. High Knees x 1 min.

How to Do It

  1. Stand with feet directly below hips, to start. 
  2. Drive your left knee up toward your chest as you swing your right hand forward, as if you were sprinting.
  3. Explosively return your foot to the ground and drive your right knee toward your chest as you swing your left hand forward. That's 1 rep.
  4. Stay on the balls of your feet and keep the intensity high.


1. Back Squat 3 x 5 reps

Barbell back squat

James Michelfelder

How to Do It

  1. Stand behind a loaded barbell on a squat rack and place your hands just outside shoulder-width, to start. 
  2. Step under the barbell and place the bar across your traps.
  3. Lift the barbell off the rack and position your feet shoulder-width apart with toes turned out. Inhale, brace your core, and look forward as you bend your hips back and slowly squat down. Stop when you feel you're about to lose the arch in your low back.
  4. Exhale as you explode back up to stand. That’s 1 rep.

2. Hack Squat 3 x 12 reps

Hack squat

Men's Fitness

How to Do It

  1. Place a loaded barbell on the ground then stand in front of it with your feet shoulder-width apart, heels touching the bar. 
  2. Squat down and reach behind your back to grab the bar, using an overhand grip, with palms facing back. 
  3. Inhale, brace your core, and look forward. Keeping your chest proud and avoiding the urge to shrug the weight, exhale and push through your feet to explode up. 
  4. The bar should end just below your glutes. 
  5. Inhale, then hinge back to lower the bar toward the ground. Keep the weight as close to your body as possible. Touch the weight back down to the ground. That’s 1 rep.

3. Bulgarian Split Squat 3 x 10 reps each side

Dumbbell Bulgarian split squat

James Michelfelder

How to Do It

  1. Grab two dumbbells and hold them at your sides, to start. 
  2. Stand lunge-length in front of a bench. Rest the top of one foot on the bench, keeping your hips square. 
  3. Inhale, then lower down until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. 
  4. Exhale and use your working leg to drive back up to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
  5. Complete all reps on one side, then switch. 

4. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3 x 10 reps

Dumbbell Romanian deadlift

James Michelfelder

How to Do It

  1. Hold two dumbbells against the front of your thighs with arms extended, to start.
  2. Inhale, brace your core and keep your back straight as you hinge forward at the waist. Keep your feet firmly planted in the ground as you slowly lower the dumbbells to shin-level or as low as you can while maintaining good form. (You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings.) 
  3. Pause for a moment at the bottom of the movement, then exhale and drive back up, engaging your glutes. That’s 1 rep.


5A. Leg Extension Machine 3 x 12 reps

Leg extensions

urbazon/Getty Images

How to Do It

  1. Adjust the machine so your back is flat against the seat and the shin pad is just above your ankles when knees are bent, to start.
  2. Grab the rails with your hands. 
  3. Exhale and focus on your thighs as you extend your legs—without locking the knees at full extension. Avoid fast movements that can increase the chance of hyperextending the knees.
  4. Pause for two seconds in this contracted position, increasing time under tension, then inhale as your bring your legs back down to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.

5B. Jump Squat 3 x 12 reps

Jump squat

Justin Steele

How to Do It

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, to start.
  2. Inhale, bracing your core as you sit down into a squat position with your hands in front of you.
  3. Exhale and explode out of the squat position, jumping up for height, swinging your arms back for momentum.  
  4. Land softly on the ground. That’s 1 rep. Immediately begin the next rep.

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