You may know Khary Payton by sound alone: For 16 years, he’s been the voice of numerous animated characters, including DC Comics hero Cyborg. But over the past couple of years, while playing dreadlocked Ezekiel, the mercurial “king” on AMC’s The Walking Dead, Payton has become a live-action hero with a tiger for a sidekick. The actor knows better than to share any secrets about TWD, which wrapped up its eighth season in April, but he is willing to share some secrets he utilizes to stay fit.

Lifting and Creatine

“When I got the audition, I had been hiking a lot in the hills of L.A. It’s steep, and I’d put my youngest daughter in my backpack and hike up. By the time I was done, my legs were rubber, and I got really lean. But I noticed that the comic book version of Ezekiel was a bigger guy. So I went back in the gym for four weeks, took some creatine, and put on eight pounds.”

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Basic Training

“We film in Atlanta where it’s hot and humid, and I lose weight if I’m not doing something. So I have this CrossFit-style regimen that’s just 20 minutes. I do five pullups, 10 pushups, and 15 body-weight squats. I do as many rounds as I can in 20 minutes. By the time I get halfway through, I’ve got to cheat on the pullups. By the time I’m done, I’m in a pool of sweat on the floor. My best is nine rounds.”

Top Tools: Khary’s Recs

Weight Vest

“When I’m hiking, I wear a weight vest, the V-Force short vest from When you’ve got a 4-year-old on your back or a 25-pound weight vest on, you really feel it. But I don’t want to break my daughter, so I usually go with the vest.”

Trail Shoes

“I have these Salomon hiking boots, the X Ultra 3 Mid GTX. They’re comfortable, and they’ve got a nice sole on them, so I feel like I can run when I want to run. One of my favorite things about hiking is running down the mountain.”

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