If you see a Hollywood actor chewing up the scenery with a jaw-dropping physique, there’s at least an outward chance that David Higgins played a part in helping them build it.

Higgins has been so successful over the past decade in conditioning actors for the big screen that he’s even published a book—The Hollywood Body Plan— which serves as the building blocks of the strategies that allowed stars like Samuel L. Jackson, Gal Gadot, and Margot Robbie to strut superheroically across the screen. From its London-based gyms, the Aussie transplant also worked with Simu Liu and Kumail Nanjiani, who were both in great shape for their Marvel movies, Shang Chi and The Eternalsrespectively.

So what’s the secret ingredient in the training plans devised by a former Aussie rules football player and Pilates specialist who has so many top stars booking trips to London to work with him? Higgins offered some time from his busy schedule to tell us how his fitness practices help get his clients in the best shape possible for their successful roles.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Does a pure mass-building transformation vary significantly in its approach from a transformation that involves significant weight loss?

Gaining size is having the willpower to show up for an hour or two in the morning, take a nap in the afternoon if you have the chance, and then show up to do something else at the gym. sports in the afternoon. Consistency with diet and sleep patterns is also key, and when you’re already lean and trying to add muscle, you have the advantage of being able to see change happen quickly. It’s a real asset in convincing someone to stay the course versus someone trying to lose weight, which is a much more monotonous process. Guys who lose weight do a lot more cardio instead of high-pitched movements. When you pack, you get your testosterone pumping and you learn that it’s something you can enjoy on your own. It’s a lot more of a fun process than having to lose weight, but both destinations are rewarding when you get there.

So alongside the work these clients have to do in the gym, are you advising them to adhere to any dietary changes that are essential or critical to the process?

I truly believe that not all calories are the same, which is a bit of a misnomer. If you’re going to eat 4,000 calories to gain weight, a lot of people will say you can just put them in there, and it doesn’t matter where the calories come from, so you don’t have to worry about that. The reality is that you shouldn’t just eat Big Macs all the time to hit that 4,000 calorie mark. Instead, you should eat fairly healthy and follow a high-protein diet.

Does that mean you’re steering your customers away from consuming carbs?

This is another misconception: you need carbs to build muscle. Many people are skeptical about this, but carbohydrates are not the enemy; they just have a bad reputation. Your body is going to use carbs to build that lean muscle for you, so you need to eat carbs with everything else, including protein and fat.

Is there anything special you ask your customers to eat or drink?

I switch my clients through protein shakes. As you can probably imagine, shakes are a very effective way to get the nutrients you need into your system. I always advise my clients to drink post workout. I also advise my clients to also train on an empty stomach. From there, the first thing I have them take after their workout is a workout shake with creatine, and maybe also some collagen powder to mix it up a bit. It just gives the body an extra edge to use what you put into the system.

So they’re not showing up to practice with anything in their system?

If you want to go this route, you can also combine this with a dose of coffee in your system just to kick start your metabolism in the morning. It is also necessary to drink a mountain of water: two to three liters per day at least. Water is there to stimulate your body and give it the volume it needs to grow. This growth material has to come from somewhere.

Obviously, exercise selection is a crucial part of building muscle mass. Are there any exercises that you consider absolutely essential if men want to pack up fast, and does the fact that your star clients are movie stars influence any of those workout decisions?

When you’re working on this type of work, like when you’re an actor preparing for a movie, you don’t have a lot of time to get everything ready for the big screen. Squats, deadlifts and large functional movement patterns encourage the body to move and grow in size globally; I obviously recommend these movement patterns.

It seems to me that a movie star’s workout goals would be mostly cosmetic. Is it just supplementing squats and deadlifts with standard segmented body part training?

If you are training in traditional strength segments like back and biceps one day, and chest and triceps the next, you should know that I do not adhere to this method with my clients. Instead, I prefer to do more than one full-body circuit each day, but will apply different training loads each day. So, for example, Monday is a heavy lifting day and Friday is a high rep day with 20 reps for five sets. Between these days we will do a Wednesday training which is a hybrid day; we’ll do 10-12 reps in each set. On Tuesday I might implement a workout with kettlebell swings, or club-bell swings, and then on Thursday I might put them through a dynamic pilates reformer type workout. On top of all that, you’ll still have some cardio to do, but not a whole lot.

What is it about this style of training that makes it more suitable for a movie star than some of the other methods out there, like the bodybuilding-style training regimen you mentioned?

This type of training process creates a body that looks the way you want people to see, but it also gives your body the physical ability to do what you want it to do on camera repetitively. It will be strong and resilient. If you want to bulk up for movies or TV, you need a body that looks good, but still has to be able to handle the physical demands of the job.

As a package, this variety of workouts stimulate the central nervous system. Every day you hit the body in a slightly varied way instead of getting into the habit of isolating the same body parts over and over again. My belief is that if you throw a lot of it at your body, it will change much faster. I often think that if I had more time with my clients I could do things differently, but I never do.

Are there any special dietary or training considerations to take into account when managing older male transformations?

What I would honestly say is that the older I get the more I realize how little training my body needs. This means that if I work with someone in their twenties, I have to give them energy; they will need more of everything — food, training, etc. — than a person in their forties.

For an older client, I would ask them to do more intermittent fasting and stick to a really clean diet with an average calorie intake of 2,500 to maybe 3,000 calories. Someone in their twenties can eat all day and all night, consuming a lot more calories, and they won’t have to pay as much in the end. When you’re older, your body doesn’t need as much food as you give it, and as you get older, you tend to put on more fat because your body just wants to relax a bit more. I’m sticking to a 16 to 8 fasting window – 16 hours fasting and 8 hours eating – then one day a month I might do a 24 hour fast. I feel like it promotes muscle growth and recovery because your body isn’t constantly exerting energy being preoccupied with digesting food all the time.

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