If you don't know already, please "do not believe" everything you hear or see on the internet. And this is especially true when it comes to the realms of fitness. We get it. You want to be the best version of yourself in 2023, both mentally and physically. But a lot of the internet's favorite influencers are false prophets — individuals who sell unrealistic fitness goals often packaged in overpriced supplements while they themselves are getting a lot of help from "anabolic substances." Take a look at the whole Liver King debacle this past year.
Even more so, within these bubbles, you'll hear about an actor gaining 20 pounds of muscle for a movie role in a few of months. I promise you; you will not gain 20 lbs of muscle in three months in 2023.
With all that being said, some actors and fitness professionals have done some impressive work in the realm of fitness. In this mini-series, we decided to highlight some of pop culture's most coveted natty fitness bodies and take a look at what we can learn from their workouts, diet, and mental health. As you probably guessed, we are starting with Jake Gyllenhaal's impressive Southpaw workout regimen today.
When Gyllenhaal was originally cast as fallen-from-grace champion Billy Hope in the boxing drama Southpaw, people were shocked. At the time, most of Hollywood really only knew Gyllenhaal for his role as the scrawny lead in Donnie Darko, the scrawny boy in the bubble from Bubble Boy, or the scrawny sexually conflicted cowboy in Brokeback Mountain. He'd done End of Watch a couple of years earlier, but "scrappy LA cop" is a hell of a lot different from "champion prize fighter."
People were shocked yet again in the months leading up to the film's release when photos started surfacing of Gyllenhaal looking like, well, a badass prize fighter. He was completely stacked.
Luckily, Gyllenhaal was very public about how he transformed himself from the scrawny obsessive ambulance-chasing videographer in Nightcrawler (a role he lost 30 pounds for, by the way) to the hulked-out madman he was for Southpaw.
Everything you need to know about the Southpaw workout in 2023
To Act Like a Fighter, He Trained Like One
In a promotional video released before Southpaw’s debut, director Antoine Fuqua revealed that when Gyllenhaal first signed on to the film, he told Gyllenhall that in order to act like a fighter, he had to train like one.
To Fuqua, that meant being in the gym working out twice a day, every day — even on Sundays. Fuqua even set him up with experienced boxing coach Terry Claybon out of LB4LB Boxing Gym in Los Angeles to make sure Gyllenhaal was doing everything to a T. For reference, Claybon was Fuqua’s own boxing coach, and also trained some of the greats — like Muhammad Ali.
The other thing Gyllenhaal said helped him was having Fuqua as a partner. Knowing the training would be super intense and very difficult for Gyllenhaal, Fuqua actually trained right along side him. They’d train as early as 4:30 a.m. for their first session, and then show up later in the afternoon for another — and Fuqua was there every step of the way.
One great way to get in shape in 2023 is boxing. According to the Strength and Conditioning Journal, boxing is regarded as one of the world's most mentally and physically demanding sports. Both part of a solid boxing training plan, high intensity training paired with strength training can be excellent for creating the physic that you want in the New Year.
In 2018 American Council on Exercise (ACE) sponsored a study to test the effectiveness of a HIIT protocol for resistance training, not only does pairing the two lead to better body composition, it can actually make you stronger. We are not saying that you should step into the ring with last year's heavyweight titan or a Paul brother. However, if you want to improve your strength, speed, coordination, and aerobic capacity, boxing will be your skeleton key.
Intense Cardio and Strength Conditioning
When all was said and done, Gyllenhaal tacked on a total of 18 pounds of lean muscle for his role in Southpaw, and with as much cardio as he was doing, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scratching my head trying to figure out how. If anything, he probably put on 18 pounds with maybe a few pounds of that actually pure muscle gains.
Gyllenhaal started his morning — every morning — with an eight-mile run as well do 1,000 sit-ups (yes, seriously) and then run a staggering eight miles — all before the day’s “training” even began.
It didn’t stop there. Claybon also had Gyllenhaal doing 15 minutes of intense jump rope training, and if you think “jump rope” and “intense” don’t belong in the same sentence together — feel free to go try it out for yourself.
Additional conditioning and strength training included, on average, another 1,000 sit-ups; a mix of over 100 pull-ups, tricep dips and push-ups; and extensive medicine ball training.
Jumping rope is one of my favorite workouts of all time. It can boost your heart health, improve your coordination, increase running speed, and help build/maintain bone density according to minds over at Nike.
Furthermore, calisthenics — bodyweight strength training — is an excellent option for building a more robust body that can be done from the comfort of your home with little to no equipment. It can help you lower your body fat, which helps increase muscle definition.
Now should you be doing 1,000 - 2,000 sit-ups a day? No. There are an array of compound exercises that will help you strengthen your core. Even deadlifting activates your core more than doing sit-ups. Finally, there is a misconception that you can "tone" your core. This is not true. You can not spot-train a specific muscle. The good news is that everyone has abs, and in most cases, it is just hiding behind a layer of fat.
If you want rippling abs, you will need to bring your body % down. What's one of the best ways to burn fat? Strength training.
Footwork, Shadow Boxing and Bag Work
Of course, there’s no fight prep without a ton of footwork training, shadow boxing and bag work — and there was plenty of that.
Gyllenhaal needed a lot of help with his footwork, so they’d practice it for three rounds and a total of nine minutes per session. This wasn’t set in stone — sometimes they’d go for hours.
After working defense on the footwork training drills, they’d move on to shadowboxing. Six rounds — for a total of 18 minutes — spent learning forward-step movements, throwing punches, working combinations and learning all the moves Gyllenhaal would need for the movie.
Finally, they’d move on to the bags, transitioning from heavy bag to speed bag for another three rounds, at nine minutes apiece. It was here Gyllenhaal trained not just on punch accuracy, but also on things like technique, mixing offense and defense, and really learning how to kick ass.
Learning how to defend yourself is an important part of growing up. I am not saying that you should be walking around challenging every person that you see. But, knowing that you can protect yourself if situation arise is handy tool, and gives you a little more swagger in your step.
The Mighty Tractor Tire
One of the cornerstones of Gyllenhaal’s daily workout routine was his work on the 250-pound tractor tire. It’s technically considered strength and conditioning training, but it was such a huge part of his daily routine that I thought it deserved its own mention.
Here, Gyllenhaal would do traditional flips, something like 20-ish times, which makes for an incredible total body workout. When he burnt himself out on that, he would also do some extensive sledgehammer training. In other words, he’d beat the fucking dust off of the tractor tire with a massive sledgehammer. Surprisingly, this exercise doesn’t just improve stamina and power, but it’s also an excellent core, hand and forearm workout.
Exact Routine (as per TRAIN Magazine)
Ok, great. So we know a little bit about how Gyllenhaal trained for his role in Southpaw, but do we know exactly what one of his daily routines looked like? Well, actually, we do.
Gyllenhaal sat down with the folks from TRAIN to discuss, in detail, what an average day in the gym looked like:
An 8-mile run
1-2 hours of boxing/sparring
1 hour of core workouts
1-2 more hours of boxing/cardio
1 hour of weightlifting (shrugs, bench press, tire flipping, etc.)
1,000 additional sit-ups before bed
And that was it. Every single day.
Do I cosign this? If you are an actor preparing for a role in the next eight months and that is literally your only job, sure, you can try this. But for the rest of us, this is a bit much.
In 2022, researchers from Edith Cowan University shed light on the importance of consistency vs. how long you workout. In short, consistency, no matter how small (to a certain degree, of course), will be the ultimate measure of your success.
You can get that rippling boxer body from Southpaw. But you are going to need to be consistent. You will need to prio strength training and throw some HIIT in the mix. Though a bit of an oversimplification, starting here and creating a schedule that works around your body, needs, and time is a solid starting point on that journey toward your goals.
Six or Seven Meals per Day, Every Day
Of course, all of this intense working out would have been for nothing were Gyllenhaal not eating right. In fact, he was quoted in several places as saying that his entire look for the film really came from his diet.
On average, he would eat six or seven meals per day, every three hours or so. The general idea was that he’d load up on carbs in the morning to help give him the fuel to burn through his workouts, and then shift to a higher protein diet in the afternoon and evening to help build and repair all that muscle.
In an interview with Bodybuilding.com, Gyllenhaal said the following:
“My diet would consist of lots of eggs, chicken, fish, bananas, apples, almonds, cacao beans, raisins, goji berries, rye bread, pasta, couscous and potatoes, and lots of steamed vegetables and salad: avocado, tomatoes, broccoli, and other dark-green leaves. Nothing was fried, and everything was as natural as possible. I would drink plenty of water throughout the day, as well. In terms of supplements, there was vitamin D3 and vitamin C, and then also protein shakes.”
So, there ya have it, folks. No voodoo, no steroids, no bullshit — just good old fashioned hard work.
After you hit your fitness goals, you are going to need to cop some new clothes, stop by our Highsnobiety shop to freshen up your wardrobe in 2023