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When actor Kumail Nanjiani signed up to play Kingo in The Eternals, someone at Marvel Studios must have forgotten to tell the Big Sick star that CGI exists, because he spent an entire year training like his life depended on it. And holy crap, did Dinesh from Silicon Valley get jacked.
“I found out a year ago I was going to be in Marvel’s Eternals and decided I wanted to transform how I looked,” Nanjiani wrote on an Instagram post showing off his chiseled physique.
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I never thought I’d be one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless, but I’ve worked way too hard for way too long so here we are. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I found out a year ago I was going to be in Marvel’s Eternals and decided I wanted to transform how I looked. I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world. I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time. So big thanks to @grantrobertsfit who started working with me at the beginning of the year and made me understand true physical pain for months and months. Then, once we started shooting, a massive thanks to @davidhigginslondon and his team (@ellispartridge, @thebeardypt, @tomcheesemanfitness) for training me almost every day and making me strong, limber and injury free. I can almost touch my toes now. (And thank you for forcing me to do cheat meals David.) Matthews Street Catering for their delicious and healthy meals. And finally, the biggest thanks goes to @emilyvgordon for putting up with me complaining and talking about only working out and dieting for the last year. I promise I’ll be interesting again some day. #thirstyshirtless (Photo by @markupson.) (edit: I left off one very important person: @lancecallahan who trained me for 6 years and helped me build the foundation I could use to do this. Thank you!)
The Eternals, which is set to hit theaters on Nov. 6, 2020, is based on the comic book series of the same name. Although there’s not much detail about the plot just yet, “The Eternals are a race of god-like beings locked in a millennium-old conflict with the less evolved Deviants and their originators, the Celestials,” according to Marvel. So far, Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek are set to star in the film alongside Nanjiani.
Maybe it was all of that time that Nanjiani spent with Dave Bautista on the set of Stuber, but the funnyman was serious about getting in shape for the role. In the picture, he has a thick chest, six-pack abs, cartoonish deltoids, and is lean enough that you can see veins across his arms and even his abdominals. Getting there, though, took a lot of work.
It was early January 2019 when Nanjiani reached out to celebrity trainer Grant Roberts, who was one of the trainers who prepped Zachary Levi for Shazam!. “Kumail was a pretty blank slate when I met him,” Roberts says. “He was about 150 pounds and doughy, to be polite.”
To achieve a body worthy of the MCU, Roberts, who is a former Mr. Canada bodybuilding champion, focused on bringing up Nanjiani’s shoulders, biceps, and chest. “His triceps and back were pretty decent, and now he has this crazy Robby Robinson biceps peak,” the trainer says. “But he was narrow in the shoulders.”
Nestled in an undisclosed Beverley Hills location sits Robert’s Granite Gym. It’s an invite-only facility with an underground parking garage and a secret alleyway entrance (fit for any superhero). It is, as Roberts describes, “completely paparazzi proof.”
The gym has all of the typical training accouterments—barbells, dumbbells, machines aplenty—plus a few extras. Complete with a 3D body scanner, fitness gene testing, and a body comp analysis machine, Roberts has everything he needs to analyze his clients to a T and then craft a plan.
For Nanjiani, this meant five workouts per week, each lasting a little over an hour. He followed a typical bodybuilding split, focusing on one or two body parts at a time, with Roberts consistently tweaking the reps to exhaust the star’s muscles in different ways.
Another critical factor was Nanjiani’s nutrition. He followed a high-protein, moderate-fat diet, keeping his carbs low, 200 grams or less, during the week and then loading up on the weekends. “I’d make sure he had more carbs before we worked the muscles that needed the most growth,” Roberts adds.
Ten months later, Nanjiani weighed about 175 pounds and lowered his body fat percentage from 20% to 10%. “That was a huge lean mass gain for Kumail.”
Of course, the plan only works if the client does, and Roberts asserts that Kumail was an ideal trainee. “He was ferocious about learning. I have thousands of texts from him asking tons questions, and I can appreciate it,” Roberts says. “ He drank the Koolaid, and he’s going to maintain this lifestyle—he’s all in.”
What’s really great about this, though, is Nanjiani’s willingness to talk about the advantages that money and fame afforded him.
“I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world,” he wrote. “I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time.”
This is a similar sentiment that Rob McElhenney, the star of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, shared when he got shredded for season 13 of the FX show.
Nanjiani is right: having a team behind you makes the process a whole lot easier, but you still have to give the man some serious props. Now, If Nanjiani’s acting career ever takes a dive, he could always throw on a pair of board shorts and sign up for a men’s physique competition.
Directions: This is an example of one of the workouts Robert’s put Nanjiani through. Typically, the star stayed on the higher end of this broad rep range, but they occasionally worked with heavier weights for fewer reps. “I think he liked lifting heavier since those sets were over quicker,” Roberts jokes.
|Dumbbell Front Raise*||4||to failure|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise*||4||to failure|
|Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise*||4||to failure|
|Seated Dumbbell Press**||4||6-20|
|Behind-the-back Cable Lateral Raise||4||6-20|
*This first tri-set is meant to pre-exhaust the delts, says Roberts. Go until they’re exhausted, and then move on to the next move, resting only as needed.
**You can swap this move for any similar pressing movement.
***Hold two light dumbbells in each hand and press them overhead. From here, lower your arms down to your sides, keeping your palms out and a slight bend in your elbows. Once they’re below parallel, raise them back overhead.