Health

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Training Spider-Man

Will Lawrence meets actor Andrew Garfield and the trainer getting him in shape, via a gruelling fitness regime, for his role in 'The Amazing Spider-man 2'

Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man.
Trainer Armando Alarcon.
Andrew Garfield. Getty

The man in current possession of Spider-Man's crime-spanking spandex is not a man who likes to spend much time in the gym. Andrew Garfield prefers outdoor pursuits like hiking and surfing.

In order to obtain Spidey's lean physique, however, the 30-year-old actor has to put in at least two hours' gym graft each day while filming, leading to a working day that could run as high as 18 hours.

"When it comes to doing all the fitness work, I'd give it about 51pc love, 49pc hate," begins Garfield, who munched his way through 5,000 calories per day, split over five large meals, during his intense training regime.

When he first began his journey as Spider-Man back in 2010, Garfield's trainer Armando Alarcon recalls that his subject weighed around 143lb with 18pc body fat. When shooting The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which opens next week, Garfield weighed 165lb with 7pc body fat.

"It's a great thing being paid to work out for a living, it is just that the gym is not my ideal way of doing it," says Garfield. "I love being active and I need to be physical but lifting weights is not something that I would call fun."

Getting ripped must make him feel good, though, right? "Of course," he concedes, "and it's something I had never experienced before playing this role."

He played sports at school, but was always a somewhat gangly lad. "I was always the one getting concussed on the rugby pitch because of my less-than-huge stature, to put it kindly," he says. "I ended up playing basketball instead, which no one plays in England but it's my favourite sport."

Shooting hoops formed part of his training schedule for the new film, making up the cardio aspect of his regime. He'd often begin a typical workout with his trainer, Alarcon, at 5am. Alarcon would start each session by stretching out Garfield's muscles for 10 minutes before the actor would undertake a similar stint of active stretching on his own.

"That would be 10-15 minutes of active movement on his own just to warm up the body, without any weights, yoga, pilates, those types of movements," says Alarcon, who's also worked on the Hollywood movies Thor and The Green Hornet.

"Then for the next hour we would go into heavy weights, Olympic lifting and a lot of dumbbell training and barbell training, always going two for one, so you do two exercises in one direction and one going back.

"For example, if you do two chest exercises I want you to do one back exercise. And it was all multi-functional – the whole body was being used – and we would work with changing levels of difficulty.

"Something might be semi-hard and then it would be medium and then we would do body-weighted exercises toward the end," he says. "And then we would close out with mostly core and ab work.

"Also, we added in a lot of basketball, instead of running, because that kind of cardio is more fun for Andrew. We played a lot of basketball."

A large part of Alarcon's job was to keep his subject motivated during his gruelling schedule.

"Even though Andrew understood that he had to do it, and even wanted to do it most of the time, you have to understand that these guys work so hard," Alarcon says.

"They do 12 to 16 hours a day (on set). And then to squeeze in sleep and workout time, it's not always easy to keep going. So my challenge was to heighten the energy so that Andrew would get excited about his training, and so that he wouldn't get injured."

There was a dietary component to Garfield's regime as well, and the actor drank a lot of protein shakes.

"Andrew has such low body fat – he burns so many calories – that the only way that we can continue to build muscle is to give him 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day," Alarcon explains.

"But it wasn't just any type of food – it had to be immediate sources of energy, so vegetables and fish and simple lean meats, because he sits so low at four to 5pc body fat.

"His body doesn't have that fat which is normally an immediate source of energy," he continues. "And without fat, the body attacks muscle to create energy and we didn't want him to lose any muscle, so we had to give him high-energy foods.

"We wanted those muscles to be active. We needed to keep the muscle on his body. Every once in a while he would have pasta or something like that, and then he would tease me by eating the occasional piece of cake."

In between the two Spider-Man films, in 2012, Garfield took on the role of Biff in Mike Nichols' Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, and he allowed his muscle and bodyweight to soften. His trainer then used that extra weight as a foundation for the muscle-building they did for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Indeed, given Garfield's tightly regimented days on the new movie, his training would often bleed right into his filming schedule and his work with his trainer sometimes provided a platform for his performance in action scenes.

"The big fight scenes were great," says Alarcon. "When preparing him for those, I wanted to ravage his body so hard that he understood what it felt like to be all beat up.

"There was a way that he and I were able to create workouts that made him feel so tired and beat up that by the time he got to the scenes, he was already in the place that he needed to be.

"We did that through lifting and constantly moving," he explains, "wearing him down, mentally and physically. Those were the most fun parts of the workouts."

Alarcon laughs. "Well, for me at least!"

Irish Independent

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