The latest incarnation of Lord Greystoke comes in the form of 39 year old Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård. Best known for his role as Eric Northman on the HBO series True Blood, you may have also seen Skarsgård in the movie Zoolander and the series Generation Kill.
In order to play his previous roles, Skarsgård developed a lean physique. To play the iconic role of Tarzan, however, he needed to add muscle and get shredded. However, his goal was never to develop a bodybuilder physique. Legend of Tarzan director David Yates explained the look that was needed . . .
“Tarzan needs muscles, but it’s more a leaner, longer, more vertical modern man than the square-jawed stereotype we’re used to.”
Tarzan’s physique, forged from a lifetime of roughing it in the jungle, swinging from vines and eating the classic Paleo-type diet, would need to consist of lithe, streamlined muscle that was free of body fat. The 6 foot, four inch Skarsgård was the ideal choice for the role.
Before getting into acting, Skarsgård served as an anti terrorist soldier in the Swedish army. From the age of 19, he underwent months of strenuous training to prepare for combat. He also developed fighting and anti-terrorist skills that would lend themselves perfectly to his role as Tarzan.
To get in the shape of his life for what he knew would be the role of his life, Skarsgård went into four month training and dieting lock-down.
Skarsgård’s training day would begin at 4:30 a.m. Channeling his military days, it would start with a 3 mile run with a heavy backpack on his shoulders. Then he’d hit the gym for the military style workout that would tax his whole body.
Skarsgård’s workout program was built around a 5-day split with two workouts per day. His first work out every morning would feature just one body part. The second workout would hit the same bodypart later in the day. Then there would be session that was totally abs focused. The morning workout was built around heavy weight, low rep mass building. The second workout, for the same body part, would be more of a fast paced, low weight, high rep metabolic session.
After 5 days of this intense two workout a day training routine, there was no weekend respite. Saturday was a crazy cardio day. It involved outdoor Boot Camp style sessions that left Skarsgård absolutely exhausted. Sunday was the much-needed day of rest and recovery.
Here is the exact training that Alexander followed during his 4 month training camp . .
Monday – Chest
Tuesday – Back
Wednesday – Shoulders
Thursday – Arms
Friday – Legs
Saturday – Crazy cardio
Sunday – Rest and Recovery
The morning mass workout involved 6-7 exercises per body part. Rep range was between 6 and 10 repetitions. Alexander would rest 60-90 seconds between sets. When he came back for his second workout of the day, he would hit the same body part. This time however his weights would be much lighter and his res much higher. He would go as high as 25 – 30 repetitions. Rest between sets would be dramatically shortened to between 15 and 30 seconds.. The idea was to induce a metabolic response from his body to speed up metabolism and dramatically increase of the fat burn.
Anyone who’s seen the trailer for The Legend of Tarzan can see the results of Skarsgård’d ab training sessions. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the most amazing six pack that you are likely to see on any actor anywhere, anytime. Those abs were built on a 5-day routine based on Navy Seal training that looked like this . . .
Medicine Ball Sit Ups
Hanging Knee Ups
Alexander would perform these 5 exercises as a circuit with no rest between sets. He would do 25 reps of each movement. On completion of the circuit he would rest for precisely one minute. Then he’d repeat the circuit. He worked to doing 5 circuits every single day of the week. The results that you will see on the screen will absolutely blow you away.
Getting into the lean, lithe jungle physique shape required to play such as iconic role as Tarzan was going to require a whole lot of discipline and dedication when it came to what Alexander put in his mouth.
To keep his six foot, four inch frame going, Skarsgård needs a lot of calories. Working out twice per day with such intensity, it was important that he took in enough food to fuel his training and prevent muscle catabolism. Alexander tips the scale at around 195 pounds. During his 4 month intensive training and diet to prepare for the role of Tarzan he was eating approximately 3000 calories per day.
In order to develop the lean, shredded look that he needed, Skarsgård decided to go back to the archives and pull out a famous diet from years gone by. The Vince Gironda Steak and Eggs diet was invented by legendary trainer Vince Gironda in the 1950’s. With it, he was able to produce some of the most shredded physiques of the iconic era of bodybuilding. While Skarsgård didn’t want the bulk of a bodybuilder, the definition certainly was his goal.
Alexander followed Gironda’s steak and eggs diet two out of every four weeks. The
other weeks his meals were balanced around 40% carbs, 30% protein and 20% healthy fats.
On the steak and eggs diet, you eat steak and eggs for five days, and then on the sixth day you have a cheat day in which you eat pretty much what you want. On that day you will make sure that you get plenty of carbs into your system, to replenish your body with energy for the coming five days. In effect, you are carb loading on that cheat day. But on the other days, you are on a zero carb diet. This means that you body is being forced to turn to fat as it’s primary source of energy.
By strictly following the steak and eggs diet, Skarsgård was able to preserve the muscle that he already had on his frame. At the same time, his body was forced into a ketogenic state whereby it had no choice but to turn to stored body fat to fuel him through his grueling two per day workouts.
Going zero carb five day per week was grueling, both physically and mentally. This type of diet could not be sustained long term. That’s why Skarsgård only ate this way two weeks out of every month. The results that were achieved, however, are truly phenomenal.
It’s not long now until the whole world will be able to see the results of the sacrifices that Skarsgård endured during his four month Legend of Tarzan training camp. Get ready to experience the most ripped, realistic, inspiring Tarzan yet.