Spider-Man workout tips
Build spider-strength with these workout tips from Armando Alarcon, who trained Andrew Garfield for The Amazing Spider-Man 2
What was your goal in training Andrew Garfield? After the first film, The Amazing Spider-Man, I already had a visual picture of what I wanted. I talked to the director, Marc Webb, and Andrew about how this film differs from the first one, and what they really wanted to get across was the fact that he’s a little bit older – not the teen he was in the first film. To make him look older we had to mature his muscles and make them thicker and denser. You can always tell the difference between a teenage boy and a man — the muscle just looks different, and the body is carried differently. And we wanted to do that in a much more heightened way, since he is a superhero and needs to have that type of body, with nice wide shoulders and a big thick back but a narrow waist.
Andrew Garfield has said he’s not a ‘weights guy’. Does that make it a little difficult to train for something like this? That’s funny. 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. Even though he preferred not to, we still did a lot of it. He would say that it was too heavy, or too much, and then we would continue on and he would move right into it. In the first film we didn’t use a lot of weights, but in this film we did. The split was 50-50 with bodyweight exercises, which you can easily make harder by just slowing the movement down or adding more reps.
When did you start training him? For The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we started in November 2012. I think he started filming in February 2013 and we continued training the whole time.
What would a typical day in the gym look like? To begin with he would come in and do stretching and warm-up exercises and then we would move into a very heavily weighted exercise, usually an Olympic lift. It was always very multi-functional, so there was nothing like a regular bench press or shoulder press—the whole body was being used. After doing something very heavy we would then move into several sets of different types of exercises, changing the levels of difficulty. One move would be fairly hard and then the next would be of medium difficulty, then we would do bodyweight exercises toward the end. Finally we would close out with core and abs work.
How long would a typical training session last? Anywhere between an hour and two hours.
Was that pretty much daily? Yes, that was every day. The only time that we wouldn’t do it was if he just physically couldn’t.
Did you also work with him on his nutrition? Yes. Andrew has such low body fat—he burns so many calories—that the only way we could continue to build muscle was to give him 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day. But it wasn’t just any type of food — it had to be immediate sources of energy such as vegetables and lean meats. Because his body fat is so low, his body couldn’t use fat for energy, so it would attack muscle instead to create energy, and we didn’t want him to lose any muscle, so we had to give him high-energy foods. 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.
Were there any scenes in the film that you had to prepare specifically for? The big fight scenes. I wanted to ravage his body so hard that he understood what it felt like. He and I were able to create workouts that made him feel so tired and beat up that by the time he got to filming the scenes, he was already in the place that he needed to be. We did that by just lifting and constantly moving, wearing him down, mentally and physically. To me those were the most fun parts of the workouts.
But they weren’t for Andrew? No, not for Andrew!
What was the most challenging part of the training? It was really just keeping Andrew motivated. Even though he 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. They really do. They’re on set 12 to 16 hours a day. 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 he would get excited about training, and so that he wouldn’t get injured. I had to create an environment where I could get 100% out of him. That was probably the most difficult part, but again, Andrew was a gift to work with.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is in cinemas nationwide from 16th April.
Armando Alarcon is a former US army ranger and firefighter who now works as a personal trainer. His previous film credits include Thor and The Green Hornet. For more info click here (opens in new tab).
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