Here's How Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Is Getting Shredded for Aquaman 2 - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Here’s How Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Is Getting Shredded for Aquaman 2

And all of his other roles.

If you haven’t heard of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – allow us to enlighten you. The actor stepped into the shoes of an even more iconic comic book character—the all-powerful Dr. Manhattan—in HBO’s Watchmen, back in 2019, which he described as pushing him to “another level of fitness.” He also leaned down for one of his breakout performances, in Netflix’s 2016 musical series The Get Down, and made an appearance in Baywatch and The Handmaid’s Tale.

And now, the 29-year-old is ready to reprise the role of vengeful antagonist Black Manta in the upcoming superhero sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

Here’s his ultimate diet and workout plan for those movies.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Diet

As you can imagine, the action stat has a pretty clean diet. Taking Men’s Health into his fridge last year, he explained that he’s all about keeping it simple when it comes to what he eats.
“A lot of water to stay hydrated,” he says when showing viewers inside his fridge. “I’m always working, I’m always filming, or doing superhero projects, so my diet is pretty consistent. I’m usually eating things around the clock. It’s kind of boring, but that’s what it takes.”

Go-to staples:

  • Eggs: Eggs were his number one step food – and that he eats about half a dozen every morning for a protein source. “In my fridge you can always find eggs. I eat about 6-7 eggs every morning.
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice, Chicken breast and vegetables. “I do that just about every day.”

Cheat meal

Cereal and candy. “I try not to eat this at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he jokes. “I try to keep it clean. I try my best!”
As well as chicken and waffles. “I do something like grilled chicken with a lot of hot sauce and two waffles with honey or syrup. And I do that on Saturdays.”


His go-to snacks are nuts, specifically walnuts, fruit, he loves peaches, pears and grapes, as well as cucumbers

Diets he has followed

The whole-30 diet: According to Abdul-Mateen, this was the toughest diet he’s ever tried. “No sugar, no potatoes, no peanut butter – if it came in a container I couldn’t eat it. SO it was just basically fruit, vegetables, protein and… air.”


Abdul-Mateen keeps his supplements pretty simple. He takes creatine (specifically Throne Creatine) and an egg-white nose protein powder (he opts for ISO100)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Dr. Manhattan workout

The challenge of playing Dr. Manhattan—who in the comics appears mostly in the nude—was something else entirely. “That’s really a different level of fitness, I mean the guy’s a god,” Abdul-Mateen says. “We want to make sure that we can carve a really chiseled body, a strong body, that’s damn near perfect. That really takes a different level of skill and fitness and concentration in the gym.”

The actor Watchmen workout mixes powerful multi-joint movements with cardio and core training, which helps Abdul-Mateen to get shredded.

If you want to take on the workout yourself, don’t hesitate to scale down the clean and press and cardio to match your fitness levels. You’re not Dr. Manhattan, after all.

  • Clean and Press

4 sets of 8 reps

  • Cable Fly and Incline Fly Sequence

4 sets of 10 reps

  • Hanging Leg Raise with Hold

3 sets of 30-second hold; 20 reps

  • Bicep Curl 21s

1 to 2 sets of 21 reps

  • Battle Ropes

3 sets of 30 seconds

  • SkiErg Sprints

5 rounds of 10 calorie sprints

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Matrix 4 workout

When prepping for the The Matrix 4, which was filmed this time last year in Berlin, the actor created a porch gym setup that allowed him to work out to the best of his ability, even in a global pandemic.

“It’s not one of those roles right now where I have to be really big and muscular,” he says about his fitness routine. “So really the key to this setup is just to make sure that I’m toned and have the space to do my cardio and take care of my abs—things like that.” His favourite exercise tool is a 30-pound log, which he chopped and painted black himself.

While Abdul-Mateen’s current workout routines requires five days a week of effort, he does like to change it up depending on the project he’s working on. But if he’s not on set, he lifts weights twice a week and plays basketball on other days. And though there’s constant pressure to stay in superhero shape, that’s not Abdul-Mateen’s only motivation. “I want to look good in my films, but I also want to look good in real life,” he says. “Between the two of those, I think that’s enough.”

His go-to exercises:

  • Push-ups
  • Exercise band seated rows for his back and biceps.
  • Crunching with resistance
  • Heel taps with resistance
  • Ab rollouts to blast his core, lower back and obliques
  • Dips

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Aquaman workout

Abdul-Mateen’s workout for the first Aquaman movie was no joke; he spent two months pretty much constantly in the gym, doing up to 100 weighted reps on different exercises, and tapping into a discipline that ultimately helped to inform how he played the character. “He’s annoyingly persistent, he’s skilled, he will not stop until he gets what he wants,” he told Men’s Health.

“It’s been about five days a week in the gym and doing fight training, too. I have a love-hate relationship with working out. I do not enjoy the experience when I’m doing it, but I never regret it,” he told GQ in an interview at the time. In the same interview, he mentions the fact that this has resulted in him being in the best shape of his life.

So five days a week of pretty intense training, which can clearly see depicted in the pictures he shares with us on social media, and also fight training on top of that.

“This training and the building of a certain physicality is particularly important in the case of Black Manta, who has no super powers yet still dares to face Aquaman in his own element. The character’s background has changed several times over the years, with the one constant being an unending hatred of Aquaman.”

Chest workout example

Warm Up:


15-30 min varied cardio


Bench Press


Chest Flys


Incline Dumbbell Press


Hex Press




Decline Hammer Strength


Circuit Finisher:

3 Rounds for Time

30 second Battle Ropes

25 Push Ups

15 Box Jumps

5 Double Unders

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom workout

If his Instagram is anything to go by, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II prep to play Black Manta is officially underway. The former Men’s Health cover star recently shared a shirtless mirror selfie from one of his workouts in preparation for the movie, showing off his chest and arm gains, as well as his shredded abs, and said that his Black Manta body is “back under construction.”

While so far we can only see the weights Yahya is pushing – starting off with a mean 100kg – we’re sure to find out more in the coming weeks.

Who is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II?

The American actor is best known for starring in the musical drama series The Get Down (2016–2017), however he also appeared in numerous films, including Baywatch (2017), The Greatest Showman (2017), and Us (2019).

How tall is he?


How much does he weigh?

182 lbs.

How old is he?

Yahya was born on July 15, 1986, which makes him 35.

Where is he from?

He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

By Nikolina Ilic

Nikolina is the former Digital Editor at Men's Health Australia, responsible for all things social media and .com. A lover of boxing, she has written for Women's Health, esquire, GQ and Vogue magazine.

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