Sculpting a heroic bod

  • Health
  • Sunday, 02 Mar 2014

What it takes to get into superhero shape.

IT takes talent to draw a perfectly chiseled superhero on the page of a comic book – but imagine trying to sculpt your own body into that kind of shape.

According to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 star Andrew Garfield, fitting back into that red-and-blue Spider-Man costume was a feat nearly as reality-defying as Spider-Man swinging between skyscrapers.

“You have to have a body that looks like it’s super human, which is almost impossible to do – and such a hassle,” he grimaces.

“I’m not a gym guy – I like surfing and playing basketball, but I don’t like lifting weights.”

He probably wasn’t thrilled, then, to discover that weight-lifting formed an integral part of physical trainer Armando Alarcon’s plan to overhaul Garfield’s body.

“Andrew will say that he is not a guy who likes to work out, or not a weights guy, but his physicality and his ability say otherwise,” says Alarcon, a former soldier and firefighter who now helps actors condition for movie roles.

“So, even though he says he preferred not to, we still did a lot of it.”

Physical trainer Armando Alarcon demonstrating one of the.exercises he used to train actor Andrew Garfield to achieve the physical condition he needed to play Spiderman in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Alarcon demonstrating one of the exercises he used to train Garfield to achieve the physical condition he needed
to play Spider-Man. – Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

In fact, the actor gritted through a one-to-two-hour training session with Alarcon almost every day for about 10 months during the preparation and filming of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

That massive commitment of time and effort was necessary for the superhero look Garfield had to embody for the sequel – a Spider-Man who is slightly older and stronger than the last time audiences saw him.

“He’s not that small teen that he was in the first film, so to make him older, we had to mature the muscles and make them thicker and denser, while sculpting the superhero-style body: really nice wide shoulders, big thick back, and a really skinny waist,” says the trainer, who previously worked on films including Thor and The Green Hornet.

Alarcon started out pursuing acting, and according to him, “the four jobs that they say give you enough time and flexibility for auditions are valet, server, bartender and personal trainer.

“And that’s the one I picked, because I’ve been physical my whole life.

“I’m ex-military. I was a firefighter. So being a personal trainer was really easy.”

So what did a typical workout look like for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 star?

“We would stretch and warm up, and then move into a very heavy-weighted exercise: all multi-functional moves, so his whole body was being used.

“There were no regular exercises like a bench press or shoulder press,” Alarcon says, adding that about half the workout would be lifting weights, and the other half consisted of body-weight resistance exercises.

“We would then move into several sets of different kinds of exercises, like a reverse lunge with overhead press or catapult.

“And it would go in levels: something would be semi-hard and then it would be medium, and then it would be body-weighted exercises.

“And then at the end, we would close out with mostly core and ab work.”

But Garfield’s most intense training routines were used in preparation for the film’s punishing fight scenes.

“We created workouts that made him feel so tired and beat up that by the time he got on set, he was already in the place he needed to be.

“We did it by having him just constantly lifting and moving, wearing him down mentally and physically.”

Such intense physical exertion meant Garfield had to constantly fuel his body for the demands being placed on it – to the tune of 4,000 to 5,000 calories per day.

But Alarcon didn’t let the actor chow down on just anything.

“Andrew’s body doesn’t have much fat, which normally provides an immediate source of energy.

“Without fat, the body attacks muscle to create energy, and we didn’t want him to lose any muscle, so we limited him to mostly vegetables and simple lean meats.

“Every once in a while, he would have pasta, and then he would tease me by eating the occasional piece of cake,” Alarcon laughs.

All this was on top of the 12- to 16-hour days Garfield was logging on set.

The key to keeping the busy star motivated?

“Making it a very energetic environment, so he would get excited about training and we could get 100% out of him.

“That was probably the most difficult part, but then again, Andrew is a gift to work with.”

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