When Warner Bros. treated us to a first look at Ryan Gosling in character as Ken for the hotly anticipated live-action Barbie movie, it quickly broke the internet - and it’s not hard to see why! In addition to the bleached blonde hair, tanned skin, ripped denim jacket and hilarious Calvin-Klein-inspired underwear, Gosling showed off some impeccably well-defined arms and pecs along with the obligatory Ken doll washboard stomach. Which got everyone asking: are his abs a bit plastic, as well as fantastic?
Well, I’ve inspected the image and the movie in detail (all in the name of good journalism, naturally), and after comparing it to other film appearances of the Hollywood heartthrob’s abdominals, I believe that while his hair and tan are obviously fake, Gosling’s abs appear to be anything but photoshopped.
So, what is the secret behind his six-pack? That’s a tricky question to answer. The notoriously private actor rarely goes into detail about his workouts in interviews and doesn’t even have an Instagram account to share snippets of his training regime with fans. Therefore, I’ve spent hours trawling the web to find the genuine information you really want to know and then put his abs workout to the test in my own quest for a washboard stomach. Ready to find out more? C’mon Barbie, let’s go party.
How did Ryan Gosling get his abs for Barbie?
The internet is awash with ‘Ryan Gosling workout’ articles. The problem is that many of them aren’t credited to reliable sources - such as Gosling himself or to one of his previous personal trainers or instructors - and quite a few have been made up by random PTs who admit they’re taking a guess at Gosling’s training. For this very reason, if the information hasn’t come from legit sources, I’ve ignored it.
First off, it should be noted that not one word has been shared to date about Gosling’s Barbie training regime or who his PT was on the project. Seeing as the most dangerous thing he might do in the film is rollerblade in neon spandex (if behind-the-scenes pics are anything to go by), it’s unlikely he had to do any major work with a fight training or stunt team, which means he might have trained under his own steam.
What we do know, however, according to Gosling’s Barbie co-star Simu Liu, is that Gosling’s gym game put the rest of the cast to shame. When Entertainment Tonight asked the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings actor who was most committed to working out during the filming, Liu - who plays another version of Ken in the film - admitted: ‘Definitely Ryan - 100 per cent. He's definitely, like, a gym in the morning, gym after work kinda guy’, before revealing that Gosling outdid him in the nutrition stakes, too.
‘As much as I believe that I do have a work ethic, I also love food a lot,’ Liu added. ‘Just hearing little bits and pieces about, you know, [Gosling’s] strict diet regimen, and just like how much emphasis he puts on taking care of himself and his body, I’m like, I respect it, I respect it. I’m gonna have some soda.’
While we don’t have the exact details of Gosling’s Barbie workout regime, you only have to look at his physique in previous movies – including The Gray Man and Crazy Stupid Love, to name just a few – to see that Gosling has taken his workouts and nutrition very seriously for many years now. Therefore, it’s only logical to assume that his previous workouts to get in silver screen shape might reveal how he got his abs…
What workouts does Ryan Gosling relies on for his visible six-pack abs
Remember that iconic scene in 2011’s Crazy Stupid Love where Gosling takes his shirt off and Emma Stone’s character says: ‘Seriously? It’s like you’re photoshopped’? Well, Gosling joked at the time at the time that he ‘was just photoshopped! It’s like James Cameron invented this programme, called Ab-atar! You just wear a motion capture suit, and suddenly you have abs. It’s pretty neat!’
If only that were true. Gosling later revealed in the same interview that he relied on a mix of ballet and gymnastics to get in shape, stating: ‘I like to exercise, but I don't like to work out or go to the gym. I like to do ballet and gymnastics. Making muscles is boring, and they don't do anything - they are just like pets eventually. You have to feed them, take care of them, and they are useless. Gym muscles are useless. And they look stupid; you can't do anything with them. You can only lift a lot of weight on that machine that you built them on. They have no practical use.’
This attitude goes some way to explaining Gosling’s preference for functional skill-based workouts that have real applications in life. Under the guidance of PT Arin Babaian, he took up Pilates for the 2016 film La La Land and did lots of core-based work to perfect his posture, improve his spinal stability, and counteract the effects of doing so many squats and pull-ups in training.
And for 2013’s gritty action movie Only God Forgives, Gosling practised Muay Thai - a mix of traditional martial arts and kickboxing techniques that dates back to the 15th century – which he went on to use in 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 and recent Netflix blockbuster The Grey Man.
‘I lifted heavy things. I worked out more than I normally would. I ate less than I normally would,’ said Gosling on his workout routine for The Grey Man in an interview with JOE. ‘There was an incredible stunt team that was sort of showing me all of these different styles of martial arts, and then trying to figure out what would work best for me and also work for the character, so they kind of curated this style for me.’
Considering that filming for The Grey Man wrapped a few months before work on Barbie began in March 2022, it’s fair to assume that the actor’s tantalisingly toned torso was already honed to perfection before he arrived on set, and it makes sense to take a look at his Muay Thai training for previous roles.
Ryan Gosling's secret to getting a six-pack? Muay Thai and crunches
In Only God Forgives, Gosling plays a young Thai boxing club director in Bangkok, and he was required ‘to look and act the part of a Thai boxer because he had to fight for real,’ according to the film’s director Nicolas Winding Refn. Therefore, the actor underwent intensive training before and during filming with veteran Muay Thai master Vohn Thonaphan.
Of the actor’s training regime, Thonaphan has said in an interview quoted by our sister site Coach Mag: ‘Ryan would train between two to three hours a day, three to four days a week before shooting began,’ using a mix of traditional Muay Thai strength and conditioning exercises and classic bodyweight moves.
‘We would pick eight exercises, such as chin-ups and press-ups, that work different muscle groups across the body and perform them in order, like a fighting sequence. In total, we’d aim for three sets of 20 reps for each exercise,’ says Thonaphan, before explaining that the next step after conditioning was to take Gosling through the punches, kicks, elbows and knees used to form the art of Muay Thai.
To get the actor’s abs popping, Thonaphan used the following three abdominal exercises in every training session Gosling did. Try them yourself by doing 20 reps of each exercise for three sets, three to four times a week to get maximum benefits.
1. Knee strike bridge
Lie on your back with one foot on the ground and the other in the air. Using the grounded foot, press into the floor and lift your hips, driving your airborne knee as high as possible.
2. Crunch and punch
Start in a crunch position with your back off the ground and hands by your chin. Throw a punch towards the opposite knee. Keep punching while holding the position for a time. Add a resistance band or dumbbells for an extra challenge.
3. Abs scissors
Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Lift both feet into the air, keeping your legs straight. Kick one high and the other low, alternating with every rep. Don’t let your feet touch the floor until you’ve done your 20 reps.
I tried Ryan Gosling's abs workout – here's how it went
The three ab exercises above pack a punch and will certainly help you on your way to getting ‘Ryan Gosling abs’, but they won’t do it alone. I did three sets of 20 reps four times a week, and they definitely got my upper abs, lower abs and obliques aching. But I didn’t see any hint of abs at the end of the week, nor did I expect to. That’s because all the crunches in the world won’t give you a six-pack unless you combine them with a healthy diet and some form of fat-burning exercises, such as Muay Tai.
Muay Tai provides an incredible full-body workout that tests your cardio, strength and endurance, explosivity, flexibility, balance, and coordination, making it a fantastic form of fat-burning exercise that will help you reveal any six-pack that might be lurking beneath a layer of excess weight.
The best way to try Muay Tai, obviously, is to buy a pair of the best boxing gloves and join your local club. But if you’re more of a lover, not a fighter, try other calorie-burning forms of fitness such as HIIT and running, or even this fast-paced boxing HIIT workout in the comfort of your home.
Eating well is also key because, as the old saying goes, abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. Unsurprisingly, Gosling is notoriously strict with his diet, and it’s said he favours Thai-inspired cuisine to get ripped for roles, relying on a diet of fish, vegetables, and rice topped up with protein shakes to fuel his intense training. The results of this approach are clear for all to see because, let’s face it, maintaining your weight decade after decade doesn’t happen by accident!
So, there you have it. To get Ryan Gosling abs, you’ve got to commit to an ab regime for the long haul by upping your cardio, eating right, and doing the ab exercises. Want to know more about the best way to get a six-pack? Discover the best exercises to burn the most belly fat, read one fitness expert’s four workout and diet tips for better abs, or try this 10-minute bodyweight workout for rock-solid abs.