From the moment the first trailer for The Iron Claw dropped, all eyes have been on the film’s suddenly beefed-up cast. First, leading man Zac Efron revealed a stocky six-pack and a questionable bowl cut, signalling a distinct transformation into the aesthetic of a 1980s wrestler. Then, Jeremy Allen White celebrated becoming single with a sweaty shirtless run throughout Los Angeles, drawing more than his fair share of internet-thirst, and displaying a similarly buff rig.
Both actors have been known to keep themselves in shape, but neither have ventured into such muscularly uncharted territory until now. So how did they do it? Well, Jeremy Allen White has explained the process, admitting the transformation required him to shake up his usual training routine.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” White told Jimmy Kimmel. “I knew I had to eat more, so I ate more, I knew I had to lift heavy things, so I lifted heavy things. And I knew that you should try to stay away from cardio.” The ‘cardio kills your gains’ mantra is actually a myth, but we’ll get to that in due course.
“I like to run, I like to do jump rope in my everyday life, that makes me feel good,” White continued. “These guys didn’t do a lot of that stuff. It was just like kind of lifting.”
Despite his complaints, the routine clearly worked. White gained nearly 20kg for the role, although it’s an accomplishment he isn’t too proud of. White explained what it took to pack on the extra weight in an interview with Esquire earlier this year. According to White, all it took was “Eating all the time—like, never stopping,” he said. “In the morning, I would have waffles, almond butter. In the middle of the day, I was eating turkey patties and avocado all the time. It’s really just gross.”
“You’re trying to consume as much as you possibly can, and, to be honest, you don’t feel great,” he said. “I was training as well, but, I don’t know, trying to get that big, it’s no way to live.”
Heavy lifting obviously goes hand in hand with muscular improvements, but in building the prerequisite amount of brawn, White found the most challenging part wasn’t the actual workouts, but competing with his co-star, Efron. “He looks incredible, it’s really something. I think he could beat anybody up,” White joked. When asked if Efron’s appearance made him nervous during filming, White was clear. “Yes,” he said. “I didn’t want to stand near him during the movie, which was a problem, because we play brothers, and we need to stand close to one another.”
While White’s training has been anything but easy, The Iron Claw’s filming process has been no cake walk either. Striving for a level of authenticity that has become a rarity in Hollywood, White and his co-stars performed their own stunts. A taxing undertaking, particularly due to the genuineness of the set. “In real professional wrestling, the plywood and the springs are right there, there’s very little cushion, there’s metal cable with very little cushion,” White said. “And I was like, ‘we’re making a movie, do we need to be doing it this way? We could use a little extra cushion,’ and they’re like ‘no, no, this is how it’s done.’”
When questioned on the name of a particularly dangerous-looking wrestling move in the film’s trailer, White was blunt. “Dangerous, that’s what it’s called,” he said. “My head was so close to the ground there, I didn’t even realise until watching that back how precarious that was.” No matter how The Iron Claw fares critically and commercially, we can’t fault White’s commitment to the role.
Does cardio really kill your gains?
Now to the question that’s doubtlessly on your mind, does cardio really kill your gains? White seems to think so, and so do a lot of people. But the reality is that the adage is simply not true. We’re not quite sure when, where, or how this myth started gaining traction. But it was likely started by someone who was scared of putting in the hard yards on the treadmill.
You may have heard that cardio immediately before or after a workout can inhibit muscle growth by burning fat and causing muscles to shrink. But if such claims have ever led you to cancel your nightly run, you have unfortunately been misled. An extra high intensity cardio session might not be a dream scenario after already sweating it out in weights training, but research shows getting your heart rate up can actually increase muscle growth by improving blood flow. The only way cardio will stop you from gaining muscle is if it makes you too tired to lift weights in the first place.
What is The Iron Claw about?
The Iron Claw chronicles the triumph and tragedy of the Von Erich wrestling dynasty. Family patriarch Fritz Von Erich introduced the family to the sport after his own successful wrestling career in the 50s and 60s. The Von Erich’s dominated the pro circuit in the late 20th century, but tragedy struck in the form of a supposed family curse, with Fritz Von Erich outliving five of his six sons. Efron plays the only surviving son, Kevin, while White plays fourth son Kerry.
When does The Iron Claw come out?
The Iron Claw is set to hit cinemas in the United States on December 22nd, 2023. The film is coming to Australia just under a month later on January 18th, 2024.