Best known for being the skinny kid in the Kick Ass films, T-J could actually be a smart choice. Recent turns in Tenet and Bullet Train have shown he’s handy with the action stuff. And, should a new film start shooting in the next few years, he’d be the youngest Bond since Lazenby, meaning he could play the role for a good while without starting to look creaky.
Oh, and did we mention the dude’s jacked? Like really jacked. It isn’t just for his upcoming Marvel movie Kraven The Hunter, either, Taylor-Johnson’s been steadily building size for years. So, what better time to take a look at how he built his Bond-worthy body?
Now, pay attention, 007…
After working in fitness modelling, PT Matt Hodges found himself called upon to work with celebrities looking to get in shape. He was put in contact with Taylor-Johnson around the time of Kick Ass 2 via LinkendIn – presumably with the highest level MI:6 clearance. Now the owner of exclusive gym the MPH Method, he has developed a full-proof plan for success on any mission.
“You come in for a two-hour biomechanics assessment, also looking at nutrition, posture, injury, body fat testing, strength testing, cardiac testing, the lot,” Hodges explains. “After that, you train with me four times a week with a weekly sports massage, bespoke nutrition and the option of clinical metabolic testing.” In short, a fitness programme fit for a 00.
After eight weeks, a client is ready for any mission.
“I believe in ‘foundational strength’,” says Hodges. “It’s like building a house; strong foundations can support a big frame.”
Taylor-Johnson built his frame over a course of many years. With this base now ready to build on, he’s now able to add size or power by tweaking his programme as required, instead of starting from scratch each time. “Sixteen weeks is what I would call a minimum for putting on decent size,” says Hodges. That’s four months of dedicated work. While daunting to the beginner, it’s simply an even more intense period of training for someone like Taylor-Johnson.
But, here’s the thing – not even James Bond looks like James Bond. (Whisper it: He isn’t real). So if you’re struggling to match unrealistic on-screen bodies, here’s a secret:
“People don't realise this, but most actors are actually quite small,” Hodge explains, coming dangerously close to breaching the actor’s Official Secrets Act. “Because of this, when they're onscreen they tend to look a lot bigger than they are in real life. I know a lot of the 300 guys and not many of them have the physiques that they look like they had on on screen.”
One thing that wouldn’t sit well with M is passing out mid-mission. But that’s exactly what happened to Taylor-Johnson while shooting Bullet Train. The culprit wasn’t an enemy nerve agent or a particularly potent femme-fatale, but the much-debated overlord of the modern fitness industry, the keto diet.
“I got all scrawny and lean for this, so I basically had low blood sugar levels,” Taylor-Johnson has explained. “We were in a fight sequence and I get drop-kicked across the room. And the one sharp bit of the corner where there wasn’t any padding took a chunk out of my hand. And I literally went wham, passed out.”
The result? A night in the hospital.
“Keto is gaining momentum at the moment and is thrown around social media a lot,” Hodges says. “It’s a very quick way of losing weight, but I think a lot of people don't understand why it's so good, and why it's so devastating at the same time. You need carbs for glycogen to make your muscles look bigger, so when you reduce those, you become very depleted. Because of that, there is no longevity in keto, in my opinion.”
Instead, Hodges recommends a balanced diet catered to supporting hypertrophy work. After all, not even Jimmy B himself can perform lots and lots of heavy lifting on an empty stomach.
So how do you do it properly?
No matter how dedicated you are to lifting weights, you won’t build Taylor-Johnson size without dialling in the nutrition. Hodges rule of thumb for his clients is to ditch the dirty bulk and opt for clean meals instead; sure pizza is a great source of carbs, but it’s also high in artery-clogging fat, too.
“My general advice is increase your protein, probably by double,” he explains. “Most people are under eating protein. Increase your carbs wisely: potatoes, rice, things like that.”
To get in the frankly hulking shape he’s currently in, Taylor-Johnson packed on the calories to fuel his training sessions, growth and recovery. It should go without saying, though, that exercising only your jaw muscles will result in an entirely different kind of bulking.
“If you're consuming a lot of calories, and you're not moving enough you are going to be putting on weight, and it will be fat,” Hodges warns. “If you’re consuming 5000 calories and not doing at least one session a day, you're just gonna look fat.”
Which brings us to…
To build that foundational fitness from which you can build size, Hodges advises that “You should focus on big movements that work for your body. Not everybody can deadlift, not everybody can squat with a barbell on their back,” he continues, “Find a trainer who can get you to grips with really good strength training. Once you've done a prolonged period of strength training, you will pile on a lot of muscle.”
With that in mind, here’s a Hodges-approved workout based on Taylor-Johnson’s physique. Complete four sets of four to six reps of the below, with two min’s rest between sets.
Using a heavyish kettlebell or dumbbell, plant your feet shoulder-width apart, the weight held to your chest. Squat down onto an imaginary bench, keeping your back straight and the weight in place. Drive through your heels and push your hips forward to return to standing.
Standing Military Press
Start with a barbell or dumbbells resting on your upper chest, at shoulder height. Push the bar overhead until your arms are almost fully extended. Finish the rep by lowering it back to your collarbone. Keep your chin up, back straight throughout.
Think of this like a deadlift, but with the barbell starting just below knee-height on a rack instead of on the floor. Brace yourself as you would for a deadlift: feet shoulder-width apart, chest is up, shoulders back, torso straight. With a slight bend in the knees, lift the bar, pushing through the heels and extending through the hips. Pull the weight back, locking your shoulders out. Hold, then return to the rack by reversing the movement.
Dead Hang Pull-ups
Grip an overhead bar with your palms facing away. Engage your shoulders and upper back to take your weight off the floor, while hanging still. Hold for as long as possible before dropping to the ground safely to end the round.
Finish by super-setting the below for four rounds with one minute’s rest between sets.
Barbell Forward Lunges (10 each side)
Hold a barbell across your back. Don’t overload it, and do be aware of who/what’s around you. Step forward until both knees are close to 90 degrees. Push through your heel to return to standing, then swap feet.
Ski Sit (1 minute)
Sit against a wall with your feet shoulder width apart. Imagine you’re sitting on an invisible chair that beasts your abs. Hold it. Hold it a bit more. Check the time. Swear. Slide back up the wall to return to standing.
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