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Ain’t No “Brokeback Mountain” High Enough to Keep Muscular Actor Down

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal is best known for his portrayals of “Donnie Darko” (2001) and cowboy Jack Twist in Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” (2005), opposite the late Heath Ledger.  Lately, though, the amazing results of Gyllenhaal’s training regime prior to and during filming of Disney’s “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” (2010) has really set the fitness community abuzz.

As Prince Dastan, Jake is shedding some long-held perceptions.  You see, most of us know Gyllenhaal as a tall, somewhat lanky figure – not quite the action-hero type.

Sure, he was already in good shape, but it’s been quite astonishing to see Jake’s transformed “Prince of Persia” physique: lean, ripped, muscular and athletically functional.  Not surprisingly, he graced the May 2010 cover of GQ Magazine, and earned a top-ten placing (#8) in Men’s Health’s “2010 Best Summer Bodies” list.

For Advanced Level Gym Rats Only

Acknowledging that the “Prince of Persia” title role was “massively physical”, and with less than four months to build up his body, Gyllenhaal enlisted the help of celebrity strength and conditioning coach Simon Waterson (Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig).  The two literally worked out together during “Persia” pre-production with a “two-a-day”, dual cardio and resistance training routine:

Early morning: 90-minute outdoor cardio workout while wearing a 20lb flak jacket to simulate the weight of armor:

  • 60-minute run, including 20 minutes in the hot Moroccan sand.
  • 10 sets of plyometrics exercises (e.g. squat thrusts), followed by five 27-yard hill sprints
  • Stretching and cool-down exercises.

Evening: One hour of plyometric circuit training: Five (5) exercises done five times apiece, i.e.:

  • Cable exercises to simulate sword fighting; thrusts, pull-ups, press-ups, barbell squats.
  • Stretching and cool-down exercises.

The goals were simple, even if the workouts were not:

The ultimate goal with Jake’s training was to provide a functional, strong and agile physique which would enable him to carry out the huge workload and stresses.  My main aim was to build athleticism — but he also had to look amazing, too.  – Simon Waterson

Persian Combat Training Bootcamp

In addition to a brutal daily workout regimen, Gyllenhaal had to learn martial arts, Parkour (i.e. French movement training) with originator David Belle, and horseback riding for the endless battle scenes.

As you can see, the pre-production “Prince of Persia” workout was strictly short-term, since this level of activity can easily lead to overtraining and burnout during actual filming.  As a result, Waterson and Gyllenhaal cut back to 45-minute sessions six days a week during production with a 50-50 cardio/resistance training split.

Cannon’s Conclusion

Copying the exact Jake Gyllenhaal Prince of Persia workout is unrealistic for most of us (who gets to run around in sand all day?), but using modified gym-ready exercises will get you on the road to better muscular development and fat loss.  Please consult your doctor and a certified fitness trainer before embarking on a “Gyllenhaal Lite” workout schedule.

Jake Gyllenhaal was already a Hollywood A-lister, respected for his acting talent and background before “Prince of Persia” came along.  However, thanks to his workout transformation, Jake will probably receive more offers in the action-adventure genre.  The ability to perform stunts and feats of daring do is still respected in the industry, in spite of the predominance of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in current action blockbusters.

BTW, didn’t “Prince of Persia” start out as a video game?  (Answer: Yes, it was created by Ubisoft Montreal in 2003)

In spite of Prince of Persia’s mixed reviews, the movie has already grossed nearly $330 million dollars worldwide, and is poised for a big DVD and Blu-ray release on September 14, 2010.  Proving once again what a bankable, physically fit leading man like Jake Gyllenhaal can do for a film.


“Celebrity Workout: Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia” ed.,

James, Amber. “Jake Gyllenhaal’s Abs Didn’t Come Easily, Says Trainer.” www.popeater.com 29 May 10.  http://www.popeater.com/2010/05/29/jake-gyllenhaal-abs-prince-of-persia-workout/ 08 August 10.

Chris Cannon
Chris Cannon

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