How Alexander Skarsgard Got 'Tarzan' Fit

Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

There are three features that likely come to mind when we think of the character Tarzan: a loincloth, a long untamed mane of hair, and the physique of a human whose been swinging through the trees.

So when Alexander Skarsgard signed up for David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan, there was an understanding that there would be an accompanying workout and diet plan with the role. But no one expected the 6’ 4” True Blood star to go as all out as he did. “I’ve never seen anyone more hardworking," says his trainer, Magnus Lygdbäck, who has made a career out of conditioning musicians like Harry Styles and Aviici. "I had to force him to take days off sometimes. He was eating food out of a box for about eight months, and not a drop of alcohol.”

In his normal life, Skarsgard prefers long-distance running to hitting the weights, but Lygdbäck’s goals required him to boost his testosterone through fundamental lifting, as well as adhere to a strictly designed diet, which allowed him to gain 25 pounds of muscle. “We didn’t want that generic gym-built body for Alex,” says Lygdbäck. “We wanted to create a physicality close to his primate family, so there was a concentration on sculpting a broad back, huge traps, with less focus on the chest.”

In addition to that gym work, an obstacle course was built in the actor’s home, where he could do movement work for the choreography developed by Wayne McGregor. There he supplemented his core training by climbing along bars using just his arms and leaping from object to object on all fours. And then there’s his insanely restrictive, 6,000-calorie diet — custom-built to feed all those new muscles. 


A Day in the Life of Alexander Skarsgard's Tarzan Training


The Workouts

Morning

Jogging: 10 minutes

Sprints: 6 sets of 1 minute

Max Sprints: 1 minute

Stationary Sprint: 1 minute

Evening

Bear Crawls: 5 sets of 1 minute

Deadlift (4 sets)

Set 1: 12 reps

Set 2: 8–10 reps

Set 3: 6 reps

Set 4: 12 reps (pyramid set)

Pull-Ups (4 sets)

Set 1: wide grip, max reps

Set 2: narrow grip, max reps

Set 3: wide grip, max reps

Set 4: narrow grip, max reps

Standing Alternating Rows with Dumbbells: 3 sets of 20 reps

Kettlebell Swing: 3 sets of 15 reps

Lateral Raise with Dumbbells: 4 sets of 12 reps

Moving Front Plank on Exercise Ball: 4 sets of 1–2 minutes


The Meals

No gluten. No sugar. No dairy. During their bulk-up period, Skarsgard was consuming up to 6,000 calories a day, which is much more than most people should, or even could.

Breakfast:

• Omelet with spinach

• Tea with homemade almond milk

Lunch 1: 

• Shrimp fried in olive oil with garlic

Lunch 2:

• White fish fillet

• Asparagus

• Sweet potato

Lunch 3:

• Poached eggs

• Green vegetable

Dinner:

• Smoked salmon

• Brown rice

• Brussels sprouts