How Ricky Whittle Got the Body of an American God

Credit: Starz

The first time Ricky Whittle and Pablo Schreiber's American Gods characters meet they launch into a brutal bar fight, which leaves one of them completely incapacitated. The filming was almost just as rowdy: Schreiber took an actual head-butt to the face, splitting his forehead wide open.

“I went to the hospital, got it glued up and went right back to set,” Schreiber says.

But despite what that scene may suggest, the pair were actually fast friends on set, and even became workout partners. On location they built a bare bones gym that allowed them to maintain the muscle they had achieved before production with their respective trainers. “It was a place for us to go to work after going to work,” Whittle says. “The dumbbells didn’t go below 50 pounds. The crew would walk up hoping to lift with us, see the weights, then turn around and just say, ‘Fuck this.’ ”

Schreiber, who's 6’3” and 200 pounds when he's not preparing for a role, had already put on an extra 25 pounds of muscle for 13 Hours — putting him right in the sweet spot to play Mad Sweeney, a foul-mouthed Irishman who can handle himself. “I have just learned that you need to be constantly eating,” Schreiber says about maintaining his Sweeney size. “I do about six meals a day, two of them being protein shakes usually before and after lifting.”

For Whittle, putting on that kind of mass was a completely new experience, and as the story’s protagonist, he was going to be under the most scrutiny. “Shadow Moon is described in the books as ‘big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough’ to survive prison,” Whittle says. “I knew I was going to have to earn that.” Fortunately, Jay Glazer of Unbreakable Gym in Los Angeles was well-equipped to help Whittle pack on around 35 pounds of healthy muscle.

Here’s a glimpse of how they did it.

Training and Diet

“Ricky was set into a very slow-paced, heavy-load bulking plan,” Glazer says. The standard deadlifts, squats, and heavy bench were supplemented with weighted-vest exercises. On top of that, Whittle boxed three days a week, and even did Greco-Roman wrestling drills. “The diet was simple: No matter what, he had to get 4,000 calories,” says Glazer. “Loaded with protein of course.”

Sample: Upper Body Day

Block 1

Between sets take 45 seconds rest.

Block 2 (Perform 3 rounds without stopping)

Block 3 (Perform 3 rounds without stopping)

Recovery

“Because we needed to get him right back into the gym the next day, the recovery was just as important as the workout,” Glazer says. “Every day he would use our Cryo Chamber. Every other day we had him use the Phoenix Thera-Lase Cold Laser Therapy system to help bring down inflammation.”