Luke Evans’ trainer, Shaun Stafford, shares the brutal workout that got the Welsh actor ready to play a Special Forces soldier
Luke Evans, the Welsh actor best known for his performances in The Fast & Furious franchise and The Hobbit, is often commended for his dedication to
fitness and is also the proud owner of an enviable physique. Recently, Evans has been training for his role in the action-thriller series, Echo 3, and now, his trainer, Shaun Stafford, has shared the gruelling training plan that got him into Special Ops shape.
In the Apple TV+ show, Evans plays Alex ‘Bambi’ Chesborough, who, when his sister Amber goes missing along the Colombia-Venezuela border, ventures into the jungle with her husband, a fellow army commando, to get her back.
As you can imagine, it’s not a role that begins on day one of shooting. To get ready for the project, which required Evans to believably battle through the jungle and scale South American terrain, the actor employed celebrity trainer Stafford. The former rugby player and fitness model, Stafford, has extensive expertise in training clients to not only look the part, but is also adept at keeping them in peak condition for whatever filming throws up too.
Below, we delve into the actor’s preparations for his role in the action-packed thriller Echo 3 and explore the secrets behind Evans’ remarkable physique.
To prep for his action thriller role, Evans watched films such as Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker, but his real prep work was physical and done in the gym. Stafford was essentially training Evans to harness the muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness of a military soldier.
‘The main focus of the work we did for Echo 3 was to make Luke look like a deadly Special-Forces operative,’ says Stafford. ‘He needed to look strong, fit and incredibly functional to not only look the part but also to be able to handle the terrain and climate of the South American jungle’.
This meant that Evans wasn’t just running through bodybuilding moves and checking himself out in the mirror, but instead focussing on big lifts and athletic performance. Think Marine Corps style press-ups and dips, rather than lateral raises and mirror flexing.
Anyone serious about their weight training will likely recognise Evans’ training protocol, with Stafford encouraging a focus on push, pull, legs and core exercises. ‘We trained a minimum of three days a week,’ explained Stafford. ‘Any additional sessions were usually focussed around conditioning to stress the anaerobic energy systems and drop body fat ahead of the shoot. These sessions were always ‘bonus’ sessions with the weight training taking priority.’
Stafford made sure the training started with heavy lifts such as bench press and deadlifts. ‘We wanted to start the workouts with a few big, heavy compound lifts. Luke needed to look the real deal and for that we had to train like the real deal.’
But the reasoning for the intense style of training was not only for the physical adaptations, but also psychological. ‘This allowed us to not only get Luke stronger but also allowed him to push himself and get comfortable being uncomfortable, attributes he would absolutely need in the jungle.’
‘Following the big lifts, we would then look to crank up the density of the workout by incorporating supersets (back-to-back exercises with little to no rest between them). This would allow us to increase the amount of work we could get done in the hour training sessions we had, but it would also allow us to really put some extra focus on the muscle groups that would show up best on screen – namely the biceps, triceps, shoulders and abs.’
Despite his celebrity status, there was no swerving cardio for Evans, whose workouts would usually finish with an intense sweat session. ‘We would usually finish off with some aggressive form of cardio conditioning. This would usually take the form of some ski-erg intervals, weighted-vest runs or sled pushes.’
Now you’ve been prepped on the mission and the method, it’s time to complete the exact push-day programme Stafford gave Evans in preparation for Echo 3.
Set the bench flat. Begin by lying on your back with your nose under the bar and a slight arch in your back. Reach towards the bar with a wide grip and unrack the barbell so that it’s directly over your chest. Slowly lower the bar to touch the lower portion of your pecs. Push the bar away from you so that it returns to the starting position.
Begin standing with the barbell in the front-rack position. Keep your core engaged and drive the bar into the overhead position. Squeeze the traps at the top of the movement. On the downward portion, keep the weight under control and bring it down slowly ready to repeat.
Superset 1: 3 sets
Begin with the bench set at a 30 to 45-degree incline. Have your feet planted on the floor, core engaged and arms locked out with the dumbbells directly above the upper chest. Slowly lower the elbows into an arrow shape just below your shoulders so that you get a big stretch across the chest. Keep the dumbbells an equal distance the entire rep and don’t let them move further apart. Pause for a second before pushing the weights explosively away from you, back to your starting position as you exhale, ready to repeat.
Start sat on a bench or box. With the weight in your hands either side of your hips, shift your weight forward off the bench as you walk your feet forward. The further your feet are away from the box, the harder the exercise is. Bend your elbows directly behind you as you lower your body towards the floor, keep your back close to the bench. Push your torso back to the beginning position, ready to repeat.
Begin standing and reach to the handles either side of you with a slight bend in the arms. Keep a proud chest and set the shoulders down your back. Bring the attachments to meet in front of your chest and squeeze the pecs. Reverse the movement back to your starting position. Feel a big stretch across your chest between each rep.
Begin standing with the bar attachment in front of you, with hands shoulder-distance apart. Resist the weight as you bend the arms so the bar meets the midline of your pecs, push the bar away from you, ready to repeat.
Superset 3: 3 sets
Begin lying on a bench with a pronated grip (overhand grip) and the bar directly above your chest. Keep the elbows in place and bend the arms so that the bar almost meets your forehead. Push the bar away from you back to the original position.
Begin in the high-plank position with your hands a little wider than your shoulders. Focus on keeping your shoulders away from your ears with your core engaged and your entire body locked. Lower your chest towards the ground with your elbows below your shoulders, creating an arrow shape with your body. Explosively push the floor away from you until you fully extend your arms. Repeat.
Begin facing the ski-erg with a wide stance and your arms extended, gripping the handles. Hinge at the hips and send your bum behind your heels with a slight bend in the knee. Explosively pull the handles down in front of you, with your core locked. Bring the arms in a small-arc shape up to the starting position to repeat.
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