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BEASTMODE

> TRUE BLOOD S ALEXANDER

SKARSGRD WOLFED DOWN 7,000


CALORIES A DAY AND TRAINED
RELENTLESSLY TO PLAY TARZAN.
BY JEREMIAH SALAS

is straight and perfect figure,

muscled as the best of the ancient


Roman gladiators must have been muscled, and yet with the soft and sinuous
curves of a Greek god, told at a glance
the wondrous combination of enormous
strength with suppleness and speed.
When Edgar Rice Burroughs penned
this line for his novel Tarzan of the
Apes (1912), he envisioned a man whose
physique had been shaped by the primal
construct of the jungle. By nature, Tarzan would be
nimble, powerful, and broad-shouldered, bearing no
muscle that was not without purpose. After all, were
talking about a man who grew up in the wild, not a dude
who knocked out sets of deadlifts with fallen tree trunks.
From 1918 to 2014 more than 200 Tarzan lms were
made, both animated and live action. During that time
many well-built men portrayed the savage protagonist on
screensome of the more notable can be seen on page
30but none may be more true to Burroughs vision
than Alexander Skarsgrd in The Legend of Tarzan. What
audiences will see on screen will differ greatly from the
linear journey of a feral boy who was raised by apes.
The movie opens [with Tarzan] in London, says
Skarsgrd. Hes been there for a decade. This is not the
Me Tarzan, You Jane loincloth guy were used to. This
is someone who has tea with the prime minister. His
journey takes him back to the jungle [where he] reverts
back to Tarzan. So this is the oppositea civilized man
who reverts to an animalistic state. Psychologically, its
interestingthat dichotomy of being a civilized man in
society but having the primal instinct of an animal. We

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Starring: Alexander Skarsgrd,


Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz,
Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon
Hounsou, John Hurt
Directed by: David Yates
Distributed by:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget: $180 million (estimated)
Release date: July 1
(also in 3-D, IMAX, and IMAX 3-D)
Based on: Tarzan of the Apes
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Skarsgrd did at
least four dedicated
weight workouts per
week with additional
ab and core sessions
sprinkled in every
other day.

PRIMAL MUSCLE
Theres a memorable scene from 2008s Indiana
Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where Shia
LaBeoufs character effortlessly swings from tree to
tree alongside a troop of monkeys. Audiences guffawed,
unable to accept that a skinny kid in a leather jacket
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JUNE 2016

and tight pants possessed enough upper-body strength


to execute a single pullup, let alone keep pace with primates. To avoid scenarios like that, Skarsgrds Tarzan
had to look imposing enough to believably stand toeto-toe with human foes and 500-pound apes. To do so
required added muscle mass, a task that proved difficult
for the 6'4", naturally lean hardgainer.
I wanted to have a bit more weight but not get too
big, Skarsgrd says. It was important to work on looking nimble and exiblelike someone who could move
through the jungle like an animal would. Thats his
natural habitat. There was [to be] no unnecessary bulk
that he doesnt need.
The other component was psychological.
[Director David Yates] and I talked a lot about the way
Tarzan moved, his posture, Skarsgrd says. Someone
whos buttoned up in the beginning, very controlled, and
then slowly changes his posture as he comes to accept
who he is, his physicality
Lygdback was dealing with a relative gym newbie
with the 39-year-old Skarsgrd. So turning his client
from leading man to man-beast safely would require

2 0 14 WA R N E R B R O S E N T ER TA IN M E N T I N C.

all struggle with it. As an actor, it was exciting to explore


that journey of him becoming a beast.
And becoming a beast for the Swedish-born actor,
best known for his role as a womanizing vampire for
seven seasons on HBOs True Blood, was a bit of a bear. It
took eight months for Skarsgrd to look, move, and feel
like a man raised in the jungle, but on the second day
of lming it became evident that his hard work had
paid off.
When he took off his shirt, the rst thing you noticed
was his back, says Magnus Lygdback, celebrity trainer
and architect of Skarsgrds physical transformation.
You could hear people whispering, and thats when
I knew we had done it.

DID YOU KNOW?


In one of the more ballyhooed moments of filming,
(Jane) actually punched
Skarsgrd in the face during a love scene. Director David Yates wanted the scene to be primal and
animalistic, and Robbie took it a step further by throwing knuckles at the leading man. But since
the show must go on, neither actor broke character and the scene made the final cut.

time, patience, attention to detail, and a game plan that


focused on total-body strength and agility.
For the rst several months, Skarsgrd did at least four
dedicated weight workouts per week with additional
sessions of abdominal and core work sprinkled in every
other day. Cardio was nonexistent for the rst three
months, since the focus was on adding mass. With a
few exceptions, Lygdback stuck with familiar volume
prescriptions for muscle groups: 1216 for larger muscles
like back and legs; and 912 for delts, biceps, and triceps.
But to establish Tarzans back topography, Skarsgrd
would sometimes do more than 20 sets.
We started out around 12 reps and then, after a couple
of weeks, we started going heavier and heavier. But we
never did fewer than 68 reps or got in the 1- to 2-rep
range. Luckily, he responded well to the training, but
you dont want to go heavy [at the beginning] when
someones not used to lifting.
That doesnt mean the workouts were easy.
We went really hard but still kept it to an hour, the
trainer reveals. And we never did two sessions a day
during bulking phase. He did six or seven days a week,

and when we needed a day off, wed take a day off. But
when we took those days off, it was because I made him
rest. He wanted to go every day.
This type of hardcore schedule also meant the oncestringy actor had to adopt a high-calorie diet.
For the rst three months we tried to bulk up, and
I ate about 7,000 calories a day, Skarsgrd recalls,
incredulously. He gave me these Tupperware boxes
of food with cold steak or chicken and potatoes. I was
constantly eating, constantly full. It was tough. I would
get up in the middle of the night and have some protein
and potatoes.
It was insane, Lygdback says. What I eat in one day,
he would eat in a single meal.
By the end of the fourth month, Skarsgrd had added
25 pounds and was tipping the scales at 225.

POUND SHAVING
After Skarsgrd had added the requisite jungle
beef, it was time to trim him down and move into a
sculpting phase. This called for a stricter menu that

could tell David Yates wasnt happy.


Like precompetition bodybuilders, Skarsgrd learned
that the body begins to revolt against deprivation by
holding on to every physique-obscuring bit of water it
can. At this point in any athletes prep, the body is thinking survival, not stage. Still, that didnt stop Skarsgrd,
who had tortured himself into this condition, from
freaking out.
I was stressing because we werent quite where we
wanted to be, he says. I was eating what I was supposed to eat and training twice a day, and my body was
holding on to that last bit of fat.
Lygdbacks solution? Eat more, train less.
The approach left Skarsgrd puzzled, and for the rst
time, he was losing trust in his trainer. But Lygdback assured him that his body was simply overtrained.
Lygdback says Skarsgrds stress hormones were
way too high so they cut his training volume in half
and, in secret, Lygdback had the chef increase the
carbohydrate and fat content of Skarsgrds meals.
The addition of calories, carbs, and fat would reassure Skarsgrds body that the situation wasnt so dire,
coaxing it into reducing its production of cortisol and
allowing it to burn body fat and shed superuous subcutaneous water.
The last few days he was trying to work out behind
my back, and I had to physically stop him, the trainer
reveals. But, alas, by the time principal photography
started, Skarsgrd had whittled himself into the shredded character he was hired to portray.
was devoid of sugar, gluten, wheat, and dairy. And, no,
he doesnt have any allergies.
When we went to the stricter diet it was tough
To mimic Skarsgrds transformation youre
because its hard to make stuff taste good and
better off following the overlaying prininteresting, Skarsgrd says. You get sick
ciples than his macros: Take no shortof it. I love food and wine and beer and
cuts, increase calorie consumption,
rich foods, but I dont have much of a
in the middle
and stick to the plan until its time
sweet tooth. In almost a sadistic way,
of the night
to change things up. The workouts
[the austerity] was exciting.
and
have
some
themselves are rather unremarkable
Lygdback adds, We had ve weeks
protein and
in nature (see them on page 76), but
of cutting and dieting before we started
theyre rooted in a philosophy proven
lming. We did 10 to 14 [training] sesto produce results.
sions per week, including morning cardio.
For me, it was the platitude of eye on
And thats a lot for a guy whos on a diet, less
the prize, Skarsgrd explains. Thats what
energetic, in a caloric decit, and still working
motivated me on a daily basis. I was excited when I
out hard.
woke up. Every day, every workout, every meal was a
And then, disaster.
stepping stone, and every single one of them is imporTen days before lming he had to do camera tests, and
tant. There was also the challenge of Can I do this?
that was the rst time hed taken his shirt off in front of
and How will my body respond? I was really curious
people [since he began training], Lygdback says. He
about that and very, very motivated.
was on a diet, so he was at, pale, didnt have volume
It just so happens that his exploration of becoming a
in his muscle, and he had way too much body fat. He
beast also meant training like one.
looked great, but not how we wanted him to look. We

THE NEW TARZAN

MUSCLE & FITNESS

JUNE 2016

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