Jake Gyllenhaal: To Play A Fighter You Must Become One


“He was training like a fighter. I had him sparring, really getting hit. I put him in situations where I wanted to see what he was made of. No one but fighters understand the sacrifice it takes to be a fighter. For him, it’s not just a question of gaining muscle mass,” Laider said. “He also had to learn to move and look like a boxer. “If he was doing high volume workouts – a typical bodybuilder might do 16 sets a day – he would have been aching too much to box. I think he would have done weight training three times a week. There would have been a focus on big compound movements, like Squats, Deadlifts and Military push-ups.”

— How to get a boxer’s body like Jake Gyllenhaal*


For actors, to play a fighter you have to become a fighter. To convincingly play real-life Boxing legend Jake LaMotta, Robert De Niro had go through training with a pro trainer and even spare with pros to convincingly become the “Raging Bull” on screen. To create the iconic Rocky Balboa, Slyvester Stallone had to literally glove-up for months and be the “Italian Stallion.”

To play a true blood-and-guts warrior in “Southpaw”, Jake Gyllenhaal had to do the same. To go from playing mostly cerebral or nice-guy roles to playing a champion fighter takes some extreme measures. The training must be one point or the final product will not be. The reason Boxing films have been such a successful genre is the ability of the actors realistically display the true-grit psychology, mentality, a physicality of world-class fighters.

Boxers (and grapplers, MMA fighters) have some of the best physiques in all of sport for one basic reason: they train to be world-class, bad-ass. They don’t train just to look good, they train to do hand-to-hand combat against other pros. This means there is no fluff in training. They only do what works to get as strong, powerful, quick, agile, and skilled as possible for the big fight. That is why actors like Gyllenhaal who train to look like a Pro Boxer on screen end up being a beast by the time they start filming the flick.

When it comes to strength training for Boxing (or looking like a Boxer) the core components are the major foundational force/power barbell lifts. Boxers (and actors portraying them) focus all their time in the weight room on heavy Squats, Deadlifts, and Presses. Very heavy weights done for low-reps are excellent for fighters as they are most efficient for developing neural integration (the entire foundation for powerful punching) while keeping the volume low so the athlete is not fatigued for his/her boxing technical/tactical workouts.

Strength work for fighters should be done with above 85% of maximum for 3 reps or less. Barbell Power Squats, Deadlifts, and Presses should be done with 55-70% for 3 reps or less. A mix of strength (force) and speed (power) barbell work is most effective for building a beast.

Low-volume high-force/power barbell work coupled with high volume Boxing specific training is recipe for building a fighting physique, whether you want to fight for a title or look like you could.

For quoted article, please visit: Telegraph Men

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