You've probably seen Alexander Ludwig before--he's had roles in movies such as The Hunger Games and Grown Ups 2--but you've never seen him like this. He stars alongside Mark Wahlberg, our January/February cover guy, in Lone Survivor, and underwent a hefty transformation for his role in the film. Ludwig recently sat down with Men's Fitness to tell us about his workout routine leading up to the film, his partnership with fitness brand RYU, and what's next for his career.
Men's Fitness: For those who haven’t seen it yet, what is Lone Survivor about? What’s your role in the movie?
Alexander Ludwig: Lone Survivor is based on a true story about Marcus Luttrell, a Navy SEAL, and what he had to go through in Afghanistan while on a mission called Operation Red Wing. It’s a story about brotherhood and courage. I play Shane Patton, the youngest Navy Seal in the squadron. I’m Mark Wahlberg’s kind of younger brother character – everything [Shane] knows, he learned from Marcus. All he wants to do is to go on these missions with the boys and be part of the action. Basically, when all this stuff goes down in Afghanistan, Shane’s one of the main reasons they go to save these four guys. Obviously, things don’t go as they’d all hoped and it’s devastating, but it’s truly an incredible story about these real people who have to go through extraordinary circumstances to survive. It’s very intense.
Did you have to go through any special training for the movie?
Nothing compared to what those guys go through, but we did have Navy SEALs on set every day, coaching us through how they live their everyday lives. If we were doing anything wrong, they’d be there for us. I wanted to put on as much weight as I possibly could to make it look as real as possible. A lot of these guys aren’t skinny, normal-weight guys, and Shane definitely wasn’t, so I gained 30 pounds of muscle for this role. A lot of the workout regimen I actually developed myself. I didn’t have enough time between Grown Ups 2 and Lone Survivor to actually work with a trainer. I ate like a caveman–nutrition is so important. I ate lots of meat and vegetables. I did lots of heavy lifting–lower number of lifts and heavy weight. I did supersets of chest and I did this one ab workout I created. It was exhausting and gruesome. I’d work out six days a week. Every day I’d alternate among back, biceps, chest, and triceps, then legs.
Did you normally work out before?
Nothing like this. Generally, I like to be kind of leaner, nothing huge. I had to put all that weight on and it’s a struggle now to lose it. It’s way easier to put on weight than it is to lose it. My everyday workout now is I swim in the morning and go to the gym in the afternoon. I still lift but nothing as heavy as I was lifting then.
Can you expand a little on what your diet was like?
I ate lots of tuna, fish, lean meats, chicken, steak. I would eat oatmeal in the morning. When I needed that extra help–when I was trying to put on a lot of weight –I used Iso-Mass, which is a weight gainer. Now, I don’t take any protein but I still eat pretty healthy. In the morning I’ll have a gluten-free cereal, or oatmeal with banana in it, or an egg white omelet. At lunch, I’ll have chicken salad or tuna salad. For dinner, either a steak with a sweet potato or chicken. It definitely takes a lot of effort to eat healthy and be creative, but my girlfriend happens to be into that stuff too so it’s really easy when you’re working with someone else.
How did you get involved with the fitness clothing brand RYU?
Basically, I fell in love with the product one day in Vancouver. I’d seen the product in one of the founder’s stores and it just so happened that his kids were huge fans. So he went up to me to ask for autographs and a photo and was like “Do you like this product?” And I was like "I love it, I cant believe I haven’t seen it anywhere, it’s fantastic." So we ended up talking and we grew a bit of a friendship. The next thing you know, I was involved. I wanted to help this company grow. The way it’s made is a lot more environmentally conscious. I love living actively, being adventurous, and also looking good while doing it. RYU is a great product and very durable. You can feel the quality when you wear it.
What is your personal style like?
I love being a little bit ballsy and trying new things. Before, I would always just wear a simple leather jacket and whatnot. I’m a bit of a cowboy that way. Nowadays, I still wear that–I love my Frye boots and aviator sunglasses–but I’ll definitely venture out. I like experimenting with new trends and new styles. I love fashion. I think a lot has to with when you have a girlfriend, they start getting very involved in what you’re wearing, so that definitely helps.
Tell us a bit about your next role, playing Bjorn Lothbrok in the History Channel series Vikings.
Vikings is coming out in February. It’s a fantastic show–I loved it before I even got involved. They offered me the role and, at first, I was unsure if I wanted to be involved in a TV show. It’s a big sacrifice for how long you have to be away and they film in Ireland, but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was the best decision of my life. I’ve grown so much as an actor being involved. It’s a very physical role but also, and more importantly, I get to show a lot of range. I have an accent and my character shows a lot of growth.