Shooting a bow and arrow isn't as easy as it looks, and neither is trying to land palm strikes against a punching pad while a 130-pound woman pulls you in the opposite direction with a belt across your waist.
This was one of the many exercises that a group of us ladies endured at Croft Camp. With only a little over a month to go before the release of the new Tomb Raider reboot, SYFY WIRE was invited to attend an interactive event curated and hosted by famed Swedish trainer Magnus Lygdback. Going from period pieces to being the lead of an action film was not a walk in the park for Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander; to become the character who slings arrows and sprints through a dense jungle, Alicia spent month training with Lygdback, doing everything from weight lifting to climbing, boxing, and even a bit of MMA.
Coined The Magnus Method, this training regimen along with a nutritional diet has helped stars such as Vikander, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, James McAvoy, and Alexander Skarsgard pack on the muscle and stamina.
The morning started out with a breakfast similar to what our leading lady would eat and drink on daily basis. A shot of lemon, tumeric, cayenne, pepper, and water would give us natural energy that would make a cup of joe unnecessary; we'd follow that with egg salad canapes, served on whole grain toast, topped with cucumber petals, and salmon tartare, baby peppers, with pomegranates, and preserved lemons. For the vegans in attendance, the chef served up a nice plate of baby peppers topped with a light avocado dressing, and plantains. For those who still need a cup of java, Magnus is a big fan of cold brew coffee, which was offered in small juice containers.
The group of 30 or so reporters, fitness trainers, and vloggers were split into three groups and were assigned to start at one of three stations for a 20-minute workout session. The three stations -- Magnus Method, Movement, MMA -- were designed to give you a taste of Alicia Vikander's day-to-day training regimen. The Movement portion of the workout was the most brutal of them all. One should stretch for a good five minutes or so before performing 20 minutes' worth of squats, curtsy lunges, and bear crawls, among other slow movements. A week later and I am still feeling the pain of "leg day."
After our workout and us feeling like we can scale the side of a mountain with a pickaxe, it was time for everyone's favorite part of the day -- lunch. You may feel like you deserve a heavy calorie-filled meal after powering through 60 minutes of exercise, but that is not the right move to make. According to Lygdback, everything is about balance. The key to getting cut muscle and abs like our leading lady is to cut empty carbs (pasta, cereal, white bread, crackers, instant oatmeal) and lower your sugar intake (yes, that includes alcohol). The celebrity trainer recommends five meals a day (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner).
Afterward, we were able to spend a few minutes talking with Magnus about his thoughts on the curious backlash that initially greeted the news of Vikander landing the coveted role, and whether action stars should do their own stunts.
Besides their gender, what makes training a character like Lara Croft different from say, Batman or Tarzan?
Magnus Lygdback: It's the skill set that she needs. It's always about building the character. We know that Lara Croft is strong, gritty, bold, and far from perfect. She's trying to find her place in this world. We wanted that to be part of the character. At the same time we know she needs a lot of skills like climbing, archery, MMA, and physical aspects. Strong, but not too bulky. Every character is unique, but those are a few of the things that we wanted for this character.
In your opinion, what stunts in the film can be possible to do without the aid of CGI or harnesses?
Well, I don't think anyone should try to do anything in this film, 'cause it's pretty hardcore. I can tell you that Alicia tried to do most of her stuff on her own, which was very inspiring to see. Some of the stunts you can do, but some of the stunts you should definitely not try.
How do the two fighting styles differ between Alicia and Angelina Jolie's?
That's a good question. I'm a big fan of the old movies, but to be honest we didn't really compare to the old movies at all. I haven't thought about that. This is an origin story. It's more bold and gritty, and realistic. Just like you see James Bond evolve …
You're now training Gal Gadot for Wonder Woman 2. So when Alicia and Gal Gadot were cast in their action roles, they were criticized by some people for being "too skinny." What do you have to say to all the naysayers who said they couldn't embody "strong females"?
Well, I'm laughing, because I saw that too, obviously. When I build a character I love to go online and see what the fans think. What do the fans want for this character, because you're building a character. I think it's important to keep that in mind. I'm laughing now, because everyone thought she [Alicia] was too skinny, and she would never pull it off. I want to see where are those people now. You can do anything as long as you know what you're doing, and you get someone like me to help you. It's going to be fine.
Regarding nutrition, I'm a vegan who works out. There are a number of professional athletes who are vegan. Have you ever had to train a vegan or a vegetarian?
What's your regimen for someone with that lifestyle?
I'll meet you where you are. I've worked with vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, people who eat gluten-free. It takes more work as a vegan. You need to have more knowledge. You need to prepare more. It's hard, but it's doable. You need to eat more protein, lentils, beans, chickpeas. That should be your base in every meal, because you're going to struggle to get enough protein versus energy. I've been involved in projects where I think it would be hard to take them there if they wouldn't have been vegans.
Correct. That's a good example. Here's the thing. The reality is, I know this is sensitive, this is debatable. I'm not going to say too much, but when it comes to as a male being on a vegan diet, the cortisol drops a lot on a vegan diet. Which is great, but you also need cortisol to take up testosterone. I've seen firsthand how some men who are on a vegan diet can drop a little on testosterone, which is not good if you want to look like the Hulk.
How long have you been working on the Magnus Method?
Eighteen years. When it comes from nutrition, to life coaching, to training, it's all about experience, and trying things, obviously education. It's a little bit of everything. I've been vegan. I've been vegetarian. I've tried it all. Every single body type on every single diet.
How did you become Alicia's trainer?
She contacted me. We have common friends. She's friends with an artist called Tove Lo who I've worked with, Icona Pop, and Alexander Skarsgard. She knew about my work before. So she hit me up when she knew that she needed to get ready.
Be sure to follow Magnus Lygdback on Instagram, because whether you want to be Batman, Tarzan, or Lara Croft, his tips will get you to where you want to be.
Tomb Raider will be pickaxing its way into theaters on March 16.