Name: Simon Merrells
Hometown: London, England
Before: 189 pounds
After: 168 pounds
As far as Spartacus is concerned, in Capua—the city where the show takes place— there are two kinds of people: gladiators and Romans. The gladiators need to appear as if they’ve carved their bodies through hours of training—the Romans don’t. Or, at least, didn’t. That changed when they entered the show’s third season, as the entire cast trained together to prepare for the shoots to come. Simon Merrells, who will play Marcus Crassus, came into the season with no knowledge of what was waiting for him. “To be honest, it was probably better that he didn’t know what was going to happen,” says trainer Tyrone Bell. “If he had, he probably wouldn’t have taken the role.”
On the first day of boot camp (a four-week training program before filming), Bell put Merrells through a fitness test. The results were troubling. “We took him for a run, but he couldn’t finish it,” Bell says. “Pushups, situps: both under ten. He couldn’t do a single pullup. I was told, ‘We need to make this guy look like Brad Pitt from Fight Club.’” So Bell pulled Merrells out of boot camp and trained him one on one to get him up to speed.
The duo focused on training for hypertrophy to pack on as much lean mass as possible, and the actor did cardio on his own each day. “I did morning walks, which happened even before I did the day’s exercise,” Merrells says. “I’d have black coffee on an empty stomach and go on a hard 45-minute walk, which would kick-start my metabolism.”
Merrells was placed on a strict diet to ensure a low level of body fat. “Throughout the day I was eating about a kilo (around 2.2 pounds) of meat and a kilo of vegetables, but very few carbohydrates—we’d usually cut them out after lunch,” Merrells says. “So you’re eating a lot, but it was just being burned off. It was all fuel.”
After arriving on set at a soft 189 pounds, Merrells emerged from six months of filming with a lean, ripped 168-pound physique. But for Merrells, the most impressive part of his new body isn’t how it looks—it’s how it performs. “It’s the most challenging fight choreography I’ve ever been involved in, but I’ve done all my own fights,” he says. “It’s a matter of pride for me when the stunt team says, ‘You can do it.’”
Merrells’ Best Advice: Stick to Your Guns
“The main thing is diet, and really finding out all the myths about what you can and can’t eat. If you think about what you’re eating and you eat clean, the effects are dramatic. But you have to stick to it.”
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