How three actresses buffed up
By Los Angeles Times
Search Most e-mailed
The goal: Sculpt Hilary Swank’s slender body into that of a boxer, with a wide, full back and a boxer’s round shoulders, a transformation that plays out on the screen in her Oscar-winning role in “Million Dollar Baby.”
The workout: Two hours of boxing practice daily with trainer Hector Roca provided Swank with a great cardio workout as the actress prepared for her role by sparring and hitting the heavy bag and speed bag. So trainer Grant Roberts and Swank focused exclusively on weights and nutrition to help her build up her light frame.
Their workouts varied, focusing on single body parts, upper- and lower-body workouts, and opposing body parts. A key to the workouts, Roberts said, was “training beyond failure” using drop sets: For example, Swank would take a pair of 35-pound dumbbells to perform as many shoulder presses as she could, with Roberts spotting her to safely squeeze out the last few reps. Then she’d pause just long enough to pick up a lighter weight, say 25-pound dumbbells, and perform more presses until fatigued. She would continue to work her way down the weights until 15-pound dumbbells felt like a ton of bricks.
Because Swank was playing a boxer, there were no froufrou touches. How, for example, did she finish off a typical leg workout? A little move that Roberts likes to call “pushing the truck”: He would take Swank outside and have her literally push an SUV in neutral gear across the parking lot. “Sounds crazy,” Roberts said, “but it’s a very good finisher for polishing off the legs.”
The signature move: Pull-ups, to sculpt her back and biceps. Swank couldn’t do one when training began. Nine weeks later “she could bang out 10 reps, easy,” Roberts said.
The diet: High protein, low carb — more extreme than Roberts would recommend for the average person. Swank consumed about 4,000 calories a day, or more than twice what the average woman would need, but an amount that allowed the actress to build muscle weight even as she was burning substantial calories during her vigorous gym workouts. Breakfast: usually a protein shake blended with egg whites, oils, vitamins and minerals. Similar protein shakes were used as snacks throughout the day. Lunch and dinner: fish and lots of green vegetables. There was little variation, and on most days Swank’s carb intake was a stingy 50 grams or less. “I’ll be honest. It was not a pleasant diet,” Roberts said.
The results: Swank gained nearly 20 pounds of muscle and impressive abs. She also earned the admiration of “Million Dollar Baby” director Clint Eastwood, who has bragged about Swank’s transformation, noting that the movie billboard and posters that show Swank’s rippling back muscles needed no photographic touch-up.