In recent years, Jake Gyllenhaal has proved himself as not only the kind of actor women around the world want to date, but an actor with the kind of body guys want to attain. While he’s always exuded an affable charisma, Gyllenhaal has in recent years become something of physical transformation guru, up there with the likes of Matthew McConnaughey and Christian Bale.
For anyone who saw Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal’s character exuded a creepy intensity and this was portrayed with a staggering weightless that saw the actor drop down to 66kg. Then, Gyllenhaal went and packed on 13kg of muscle to play a tormented boxer in Southpaw – making the transformation look effortless.
The roles have cemented Gyllenhaal as an actor who doesn’t shy away from a brutal physical transformation, and the punishing regimens required to get there. But the role that began it all was 2010’s Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, a spin-off from the video game which saw Gyllenhaal play an ancient warrior prince with the ability to slow down time.
To look the part, Gyllenhaal enlisted the services of celebrity PT Simon Waterson, who has worked with Daniel Craig on his James Bond bod. The brief was simply to pack on size, but also ensure Gyllenhaal could handle all the action hero scenes, too. “You can see in that film he’s drenched in armour and it was quite a heavy aesthetic-based movie,” Waterson explains. “There were lots of challenges, from fight choreography to parkour; he had to look like he’d been brought up in a physical way, riding horses and being able to wield swords and knives. You have to be careful that you don’t take it to the extreme with the aesthetic because you don’t want it to look contrived.”
So, just how did he do it? Here, Waterson explains the secrets behind the bod.
When it comes to getting an actor to look at beefy as possible, without the typical cliched aesthetic of looking like they’d just stepped straight on-set from a body-building competition, down time is everything. Waterson explains that a key concern was that Gyllenhaal’s character carried a sword on his back and, should his neck and shoulders get too big, he wouldn’t be able to draw the sword from its sheath.
Alongside mobility work, the pair worked on increasing Gyllenhaal’s flexibility. It meant that if he struggled to draw the sword or sprint without panting, they would dial down the weightlifting and focus on other areas.
While training began in London, the filming was on set in Morocco, with no fixed gym facilities. This meant improvising early morning workouts. “Because of the heat in Morocco and the filming schedule we’d get up and work out at 4am,” says Waterson. “It was vital to keep him fuelled and hydrated throughout the day. We were also filming during Ramadan, so it became a tough place to work with sustained bursts of energy when everyone else is absolutely exhausted.”
For the diet, Gyllenhaal ate about 4,000-4,500 calories a day. They provided fuel but also served as building blocks of muscle. “I never cut food groups,” says Waterson of Gyllenhaal’s diet. “I’m very balanced to make sure I have enough calories from a carbohydrate source to sustain energy, then enough from a protein to be able to make sure that the repair mechanism is there, and then good fats and good hydration. It’s simplistic and balanced but it’s nutritionally relevant to what he was trying to achieve.”
With training taking place around an exhausting film schedule, recovery was critical to avoid injury. To address this, Waterson ensured a physiotherapist was always on hand to deliver the required treatments from massages to stretches. As for the other aspects, it was fairly straightforward: stretch, drink water, get enough sleep and be good to your body.
If you’re looking for a workout Jake Gyllenhaal did for his Prince of Persia role, look at the one Waterson shared with Men’s Health UK here.