Alexander Skarsgård worked with Magnus Lygdbäck to sculpt his insane physique for ‘The Northman.’ Let’s just say it’s a lot of hard work
Robert Egger’s latest film, The Northman, explores a deadly, brutal tale of redemption and revenge. Alexander Skarsgård plays wronged Viking prince Amleth, and his performance has hacked, slashed, and roared its way into several instances of critical acclaim since the film’s launch announcement this month.
As you can see in the teaser, Alexander Skarsgård is absolutely ripped (and terrifying) in this film, while as Tarzan in The Legend of Tarzan, he was pretty lean and mean, The Northman’s extended action scenes, stunt work, and physicality demanded much more, and it seems that the Swedish actor’s trainer certainly had his work cut out for him.
Pro trainer Magnus Lygdbäck is also a Swede, and the pair became fast friends after working on the 2016 Tarzan flick, and were eager to team up for The Northman. He’s also known for training Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck for their DC Universe appearances.
“I was so excited”, said Lygdbäck to Men’s Health, regarding the day he received a call from the production team. “You know what you’re getting with Alexander. You know the work ethic, his genetics are great and he never complains.”
As we’re about to see, Skarsgård’s routine definitely warranted some degree of complaining.
Like most Hollywood trainers, Lygdbäck puts a serious bit of emphasis on nutrition.
“It’s not a 50/50 or 60/40 split – it’s 100/100. You have to get on top of both. You can’t train and have a poor diet and expect results. You can run a marathon but it’s not going to give you a six-pack,” he says.
As far as volume goes, Skarsgård’s was as hungry for food as his character was for revenge – he chomped down 3,700 to 3,200 calories a day, depending on whether he was packing on muscle or cutting down fat; those abs weren’t going to show up on their own, after all.
Lygdbäck adopted a three-phase strategy to get Skarsgård’s body in shape for the film.
This started with a ‘bulk up’ phase, where the actor ate massive amounts of protein, along with calories to fuel strength training workouts to pack on layers of muscle. “The build-up phase was a long one,” Lygdbäck added, and that’s no doubt considering the huge bulk his buddy had to put on.
This was followed by a ‘diet’ phase, where the genetics mentioned earlier greatly worked to Skarsgård’s benefit. Fortunately, for the 45-year-old Swede, he happens to possess a fat-unfriendly metabolism. “Here, you try to maintain as much muscle mass as possible but lose all the body fat,” explained Lygdbäck. “We only did three weeks of this because he didn’t need to cut that much – he doesn’t gain much body fat naturally.”
Finally, came ‘maintenance,’ as once you got the goods, it’s important to keep them in shape — a particularly challenging concept considering that The Northman was shot from August 2020 to December 2020, meaning that the cast had to remain in shape for over 120 days.
“You’re already there – you have low body fat and high muscle mass and you have to maintain that while filming and doing all this crazy stuff all day”.
While Lygdbäck’s clients are usually on the more extreme side when it comes to resources, he did drop a few tips for us mere mortals. His first piece of advice — don’t make it too hard!
“I don’t advise food restrictions,” he says. “Three out of twenty meals make sure you eat whatever you want. Don’t work out seven days a week – five might be the sweet spot. Find something you love to do, something your body needs, something you want to master and get better that. Try to think more holistically about it.”
The Northman, starring Alexander Skarsgård and Anya Taylor-Joy, releases in theaters worldwide, on April 22nd.
(Featured Image Credits: @magnuslygdback/Instagram, Universal Pictures)