How Alexander Skarsgard got ripped to play Tarzan 5 years ago

How Alexander Skarsgard got ripped to play Tarzan

Tarzan is looking pretty shredded in his new film.

Well, actor Alexander Skarsgard to be precise. The Swedish star went through a gruelling body transformation to play the role of the King of the Jungle in The Legend of Tarzan.


The 39-year-old, who you'll know from True Blood, stars alongside Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz in the film, which is set for a July release in the UK.

Skarsgard is a former anti-terrorist soldier in the Swedish army, and so is no stranger to hardcore training. But even he admitted the Tarzan transformation was like nothing he'd ever done before.

His physique had to be exactly as it was described in the original 1912 book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who said: "His straight and perfect figure, muscled as the best of the ancient Roman gladiators must have been muscled, and yet with the soft and sinuous curves of a Greek god, told at a glance the wondrous combination of enormous strength with suppleness and speed."

The film's director David Yates echoes this - he wanted a lean, longer and muscular man that looked like he'd been honed by the jungle, rather than a bodybuilder built in a gym.


It took Skarsgard four months of hard training and dieting to get him into the lean, muscular and athletic shape they wanted from Tarzan.

His punishing regime was outlined on the Fat Fighter site.


Skarsgard kicked off his day at 4:30am with a three mile run carrying a heavy backpack, according to the site.


His weights programme to build lean muscle was based around a classic five-day split: chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs from Monday to Friday.

Except he trained each body part twice a day. Mornings were focussed on building muscle mass, using heavy weights and lower reps in the 6-10 range.


Afternoons saw him going more metabolic with his workouts, burning his muscles out with high intensity, high-rep sets with a low weight.

He was hitting rep ranges of between 25 and 30 with short rest periods, which get the heart rate up, the metabolism firing and the body burning fat.

Saturdays saw the actor doing intense cardio with military boot camp-style sessions, followed by a rest day on Sunday.

Oh and that six pack? That came from specific ab sessions, which he did every day, including a no-rest circuit of medicine ball sit-ups, flutter kicks, leg levers, hanging knee raises and reverse crunches for 25 reps each.



The Fat Fighter site says Skarsgard was eating around 3,000 calories a day to fuel his double daily workouts.

Interestingly the site says Skarsgard's diet was split into two-week blocks. For the first two weeks he was eating a classic 'steak and eggs' diet popularised by legendary trainer Vince Gironda in the 1950s.

It's a zero carb, high protein, high fat diet based on steak and eggs for five consecutive days to get your body torching fat.

This is followed by a cheat day/carb up on the sixth day to replenish glycogen stores and hormones ready for the onslaught of training the following week.

The second two-week block his nutrition followed a macronutrient split of 40 per cent carbs, 30 per cent protein and 20 per cent healthy fats.

Sounds intense. eh? The results speak for themselves though.