Last week, actor Max Thieriot, who currently stars on CBS's military drama series SEAL Team, shared a truly inspiring before and after photo of his physical transformation over his time on the show (which was just renewed for its fifth season). But as he tells Men's Health, the transformation has actually been a decade in the making. That's when he saw our cover with actor Ryan Philippe, which showed off the actor's transformation for his soon-to-be released film MacGruber.
"Honestly, that's how it all started for me. Ten years ago that magazine came out, and I said if this guy can do this, so can I," says Thieriot.
As a kid, Thieriot was always active, spending his time outdoors hunting and fishing. He played lots of sports, and started wrestling in third grade, which he continued through high school. He wasn't into lifting, and focused more on functional exercise.
"When that article came out in 2010, I weighed 145 pounds," says Thieriot, who is 5'11''.
He did start working out then, but admits he didn't know what he was doing. He started lifting and followed a workout Brad Pitt did for one of his roles. Thieriot notes that he was also doing lots of cardio, but quickly realized he "was a naturally thin dude with high metabolism, so I didn't need to do that much cardio." Soon after cutting back, he says he put on 20 pounds.
From there, he started getting advice from trainers and mentors in Los Angeles, including Eric the Trainer and Danny Hester. Once he landed his role on SEAL Team, it was a chance to use his job as an additional motivator to start training seriously.
"It was the perfect opportunity for me to have the excuse to really focus on my training and my diet, working out and putting on size," he says. "I focused all my energy on it."
At the time, he was told he wouldn't be provided a trainer by the show's brass—so it really was on him to get in the shape he needed to be in.
"I had to put in the work and put in the time," Thieriot says.
How Max Thieriot Trains for SEAL Team
Nowadays, Thieriot prefers to train at his home gym in Sonoma County, California. But when he's in Los Angeles, he will hit one of the many gyms he has a membership to, including Crunch and Gold's Gym, where he works with Eric the Trainer or Hester. He also trains with his co-star AJ Buckley.
"The past year, I focused on increasing my shoulder and back width," says Thieriot. "The SEAL build is big shoulders, arms, and traps. For my character (Clay Spenser), I wanted to show the evolution of going from regular SEAL Team to SEAL Team 6."
He follows two different routines that use superset splits focused on heavy weight and lower reps, followed by lower weight and higher reps.
"I do a lot of barbell work to try to build size. I love the incline bench and almost always work with barbells," says Thieriot. His workouts are filled with moves like pullups, bent-over barbell rows, deadlifts, squats, hamstring curls and leg extension, close-grip bench press, wide grip barbell curls, military barbell press, delt dumbbell flys, and a lot of shrugs.
"I will stick to one version for a few months, then switch and do the other," says Thieriot.
"It's more of a bodybuilder mentality, with days focused more on muscle groups," he says.
Monday - Chest and triceps
Tuesday - Back and biceps
Wednesday - Legs
Thursday - Shoulders
Friday - Arms
Take days off, repeat
Monday - Chest and back
Tuesday - Shoulders and legs
Wednesday - Arms
Take days off, repeat
How Max Thieriot Eats to Stay Ripped
Thieriot is now maintaining a weight between 185 to 195 pounds, and aims to sit around 10 percent body fat. That also meant working on his diet.
"I've done a lot of meal prep, but through trial and error I found what works for my body," says Thieriot. "I like eating food, and I'm a big foodie. I just try to eat good, healthy food—not junk. I wake up and slam a scoop of whey when I wake up to jumpstart my metabolism."
He's fastidious with his diet. For breakfast, that usually means one cup of oats, one cup blueberries, four whole eggs, two pieces of Ezekiel toast with Kerry Gold butter. Or yam pancakes. "Right now I make these yam pancakes with my own recipe for 1/2 yam, 1/4 oats, two whole eggs, a bunch of egg white, some protein and I blend it and make pancakes." For a morning snack, he eats whole eggs with Ezekiel bread.
"I work out after my breakfast meals, and have pre-workout. As soon as I lift, I have a banana and scoop of whey protein," he says. "Then I start cooking lunch. It usually consists of frozen white rice from Trader Joe's and chicken thighs with teriyaki and some avocado. It tastes good and it's easy."
After lunch, Thieriot snacks on protein shakes, almond butter, and apples. Dinner isn't complicated. "Something similar to lunch, maybe steak," he says. "I'm not really crazy regimented about eating certain volumes. I listen to my body. If I want sushi, I have sushi. I just don't eat a lot of garbage in general." The actor says he stays away from dairy and processed sugars like ice cream, candy, and soda, instead getting carbs from oats, yams and white rice. Protein is eggs, chicken, steak, wild game, or salmon.
Thieriot's physical journey has been inspired by the SEALs he and his castmates portray.
"Once you start obsessing over something and you put your mind to something, your mind can do amazing things," he says. "So many of these guys get through BUD/S [the intensive training SEALs undergo] because of will power and strength of mind. They force their bodies beyond limits. If another human can do that, I can force myself to stick to a routine. You just have to want it bad enough. It's easy to make excuses for anything."
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