Jake Gyllenhaal made a lot of heads turn when he portrayed the role of a middleweight champion in the boxing drama “Southpaw.” The hit summer blockbuster was the latest in Gyllenhaal’s string of blockbuster movies, starting with “Prince of Persia” in 2010.
Gyllenhaal is the first to admit that he knew nothing of boxing before he started shooting for the film. Southpaw director Antoine Fuqua pushed his actor to train like a fighter, encouraging him to work out in the gym twice a day every day. So Gyllenhaal heeded his director’s request training six hours every day for six months.
He was trained by a former boxer, Terry Claybon who split his daily workout into two three-hour sessions. He would do three hours of boxing, then three hours of cadio vascular and strength conditioning. He would also squeeze in a set or two of sit-ups. And he also got to see a real boxing match featuring undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in Las Vegas.
His typical day would be something like this—an eight-mile run in the morning followed by sparring. Then he takes a 30 minute rest followed by a body weight and core workout.
Body Weight and Core Workout
His body weight and core workout consisted of two to three rounds of circuit training. He begins with 10 repetitions of pull-ups, one of the best exercises for building mass and increasing strength. He continues with 10 repetitions of arm walk-out and 10 repetitions of single leg and arm plank.
Gyllenhaal continues to target his arms and shoulders by doing 10 reps of dips, and 10 repetitions of push ups. He finishes the circuit training with 20 repetitions of tire deadlift, using 200 plus pound tires for this exercise. Gyllenhaal would lift up and flip over the 250 pound tractor tire 20 times a day, which is captured in the film.
When he was not flipping the tire, Gyllenhaal would pound it using a sledgehammer for three minutes. This move was also captured in the film.
Gyllenhaal would only give himself 60 seconds of rest after completing each exercise.
His strength workout involves four sets of 12 repetitions of the following exercises:
- Barbell flat bench press
- Pull Ups
- Parallel bar dip
- Walking lunge
- Seated dumbbell shoulder press
- Dumbbell shrug
- Barbell back squat
- Barbell deadlift
He would do four sets of 12 reps of the aforementioned move to build muscles. For increased strength, he would do three sets of 5-8 repetitions of the said workout, resting a minute in between sets.
The flat barbell bench press is one of the most frequently practiced exercises in the gym. It is a staple exercise for building muscles in the chest. It works the triceps, front deltoids, traps and muscles in the back. Like the flat barbell bench press, pulls up are great for building the muscles around the muscles. It also improves upper body strength.
Parallel bar dip, on the other hand, is a body weight exercise that works the anterior deltoids, chest muscles, and triceps. Another exercise that targets the upper body is the seated dumbbell shoulder press which targets the shoulders, lats, and abs. Dumbbell shrug meanwhile develop the upper trapezius muscles found in the shoulders.
Walking lunge is a high intensity workout that strengthens the thighs and hips. It complements another exercise for the lower body, the barbell back squat, which targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors. Crunches are one of the best exercises for targeting the abs.
Because Gyllenhaal was to portray the role of a boxer, he obviously had to do boxing drills as part of his preparation. The actor confessed that he had no idea whatsoever about the sport prior to the movie, but his director said he was able to grasp the concepts quickly.
Gyllenhaal worked on his footwork and defense by boxing for three rounds, or a total of nine minutes, with a quick break in between. He also did a lot of shadow boxing, allotting six rounds for this or a total of 18 minutes. He threw different punches and learned forward-step movements.
He would also work on a speed bag for nine minutes or three rounds, which he would do during the morning and afternoon.
Gyllenhaal said he would have six to seven meals a day. He ate every three hours so he would have energy for his training sessions. His diet consisted of lots of chicken, eggs, apples, bananas, fish, almonds, cacao beans, pasta, and potatoes. He also ate a lot of vegetables like broccoli, as well as fruits.
Gyllenhaal showed a lot of will power to go through strenuous workouts for half a year. The results were impressive, though, as he reported to the shoot of “Southpaw” looking like a champion fighter.