Beastmode: How Alexander Skarsgård Became Tarzan

We took a look at how the 'True Blood' star transformed his physique.



After Skarsgård had added the requisite jungle beef, it was time to trim him down and move into a sculpting phase. This called for a stricter menu that was devoid of sugar, gluten, wheat, and dairy. And, no, he doesn’t have any allergies.

“When we went to the stricter diet it was tough because it’s hard to make stuff taste good and interesting,” Skarsgård says. “You get sick of it. I love food and wine and beer and rich foods, but I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. In almost a sadistic way, [the austerity] was exciting.”

Lygdback adds, “We had five weeks of cutting and dieting before we started filming. We did 10 to 14 [training] sessions per week, including morning cardio. And that’s a lot for a guy who’s on a diet, less energetic, in a caloric deficit, and still working out hard.”

And then, disaster.

“Ten days before filming he had to do camera tests, and that was the first time he’d taken his shirt off in front of people [since he began training],” Lygdback says. “He was on a diet, so he was flat, pale, didn’t have volume in his muscle, and he had way too much body fat. He looked great, but not how we wanted him to look. We could tell David Yates wasn’t happy.”

Like precompetition bodybuilders, Skarsgård learned that the body begins to revolt against deprivation by holding on to every physique-obscuring bit of water it can. At this point in any athlete’s prep, the body is thinking survival, not stage. Still, that didn’t stop Skarsgård, who had tortured himself into this condition, from freaking out.

“I was stressing because we weren’t quite where we wanted to be,” he says. “I was eating what I was supposed to eat and training twice a day, and my body was holding on to that last bit of fat.”

Lygdback’s solution? Eat more, train less.

The approach left Skarsgård puzzled, and for the first time, he was losing trust in his trainer. But Lygdback assured him that his body was simply overtrained.

Lygdback says Skarsgård’s stress hormones were way too high so they cut his training volume in half and, in secret, Lygdback had the chef increase the carbohydrate and fat content of Skarsgård’s meals. The addition of calories, carbs, and fat would reassure Skarsgård’s body that the situation wasn’t so dire, coaxing it into reducing its production of cortisol and allowing it to burn body fat and shed superfluous subcutaneous water.

“The last few days he was trying to work out behind my back, and I had to physically stop him,” the trainer reveals. But, alas, by the time principal photography started, Skarsgård had whittled himself into the shredded character he was hired to portray.

The New Tarzan


To mimic Skarsgård’s transformation you’re better off following the overlaying principles than his macros: Take no shortcuts, increase calorie consumption, and stick to the plan until it’s time to change things up. The workouts themselves are rather unremarkable in nature, but they’re rooted in a philosophy proven to produce results.

“For me, it was the platitude of ‘eye on the prize,’” Skarsgård explains. “That’s what motivated me on a daily basis. I was excited when I woke up. Every day, every workout, every meal was a stepping stone, and every single one of them is important. There was also the challenge of ‘Can I do this?’ and ‘How will my body respond?’ I was really curious about that and very, very motivated.”

It just so happens that his exploration of becoming a beast also meant training like one.