Ryan Reynolds’ ‘Free Guy’ Body Double Shared His Muscle-Building Workout

Ryan Reynolds’ ‘Free Guy’ Body Double Shared His Muscle-Building Workout

When Aaron Reed was considering moving to California to train at Gold’s Gym Venice, the legendary bodybuilding studio on “Muscle Beach” where talent scouts would go to recruit jacked dudes, he didn’t find a lot of support.

“Everyone kept telling me, ‘The magic’s gone. It’s not like it used to be.’ And I always said, ‘I disagree. I think it’s still there.’”

Reed was coming from Tampa and had so little money he had to borrow $100 from his little brother, and the first night he got to Venice, he slept in the parking lot of a nearby Walgreens. But in the end, he was right: The magic was still there.

After he got cast to be Ryan Reynolds’ body double for Free Guy, a movie about a bank teller discovering he’s a background player in a video game, he asked the director how he found him.

“Well, we just Googled the biggest, tallest, most jacked motherf–ker we could find, and your name popped up.” However, it wasn’t until a visual effects guy said that he’d seen Reed at Gold’s Gym Venice that the team decided to bring him in for casting. They liked what they saw—all 6’7”, 315 pounds of him—and gave him the part.

So, we talked to Reed about how the rest of us, smaller, shorter, less jacked motherfu–ers could build muscle, too.

What’s your general fitness routine look like?

I love going to the gym. I don’t like to take off more than one day a week, or I start feeling a little sluggish and tight. So, I go six days a week and spend about two hours in the gym, though that doesn’t mean I’m training the whole time. Some of that is warming up and stretching, and some of it is just chatting with somebody once it’s over, but typically it’s two, two and a half hours total.

Walk us through your routine.

I do eight to 10 minutes on the stair mill to warm up. This is really not cardio because about the time I’m sweating, I’m almost getting off of there. So, I warm up and then I stretch for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then I do the same core routine that I’ve done since I was 17 years old.

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And what is it?

For my abs, I do two sets of sit ups laying on the ground with nothing touching my feet. And then I do two sets of leg raises with my hands under my butt and nothing else touching me.

For my obliques and serratus [a muscle on the side of your chest], I stand up and do a twisting motion at high velocity, which simulates sprinting. It’s kind of like a Russian twist, but I stand up and twist to the left and right and count to 50.

Why these movements specifically?

I love doing those because it really will carve out your ab cavity and give you a lot of deep, grooved definition in your abs. I’ve never trained with weights in any movement in my midsection ever in my career.

And what does the workout itself look like?

I do high-intensity, low-volume training. So let’s take a chest day. The first couple of sets are warm-ups, so I’ll put a plate or two on there and do anywhere from 10 to 20 reps with each one. And then after that, I’ll put on three plates and do what I call a “feeler” set where I might do it for just one or two reps. Then, I’ll put on four plates and do another feeler set of one our two reps.

These are huge jumps—90 pounds each.

Yeah, well, I don’t want to overdo my warmup because I put everything into one set. So let’s say I get to four plates. Then, I’ve got a spotter, and the idea is to do eight to 12 reps. When I get to the point where I can’t do another full rep, I have my spotter help me get a couple reps, but I always tell them, “Let me die. Let me die.”

I’ll get to the point where I’m barely pushing the bar off my chest. Then, I have my spotter help me get the bar up and I’ll lock my arms out and hold it as long as I can. And sometimes I’ll do a negative with that and have them help me, and then I take the weight down again. And that’s it—just one huge drop set.

And how long does this take?

I’m usually working for about four, four and a half minutes.

And when you finish that bench pressing, you’re done with chest for the day?

After that I’ll go directly over to a machine next, like a strength or some kind of bench machine. And I’ll usually put as much weight as I can on there right away and try to get something for like eight reps the first time. And then I go through the whole routine again except I’m not doing any feeler sets now because I’m already pre-exhausted.

Then I go straight to the heaviest weight I can handle. And then again it’s one long drop set, and then I usually move onto something like a pec deck movement and do the same thing one last time.

Aren’t you worried at all about injuries?

Yeah. I got so strong training this way and was also able to stay lean, but the downside is that you risk injury a little bit. When you’re getting really lean and you’re using these massive weights, that’s where the danger comes in.

I always tell my spotter, “Let me die,” but I’m pushing past failure. I’ve done everything I can to move this weight and I can’t move it anymore. I like that—because now, in my mind, I feel like my body and also my nervous system knows, “We failed. We went to failure, and we tried to go past, and we’ve done everything we can to move this, but we can’t move anymore. We have to get better.” That’s why I think it works—it really forces the body to adapt.

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You’re putting a lot of faith in your spotter. Do you have a specific training partner who knows your technique and goals?

Usually I like to have a good spotter, but unfortunately, I’m not always able to find one, so I just kind of coach them real quick and then I yell at them if they’re doing it wrong, like ‘Don’t touch it!’”

You’re just grabbing random people in the gym to help you with these massive drop sets?

There are some days I can’t find anyone, so I’ll change my workout a bit, but yeah. Like there’s times I’ve had my girlfriend spot me, and she’s a bikini physique competitor.

How does nutrition factor in?

I prep my meals every Sunday like clockwork—I’ve been doing that for 10 years—and I prep them according to the principles from my book, The SuperNatural Lifestyle. I eat whole foods, I don’t mix my sugar and fats, and I time my nutrients.

How strict are you about your diet?

I don’t want to lose out on the social aspect of life, so during November and December I just tell myself, “Just know you’re not going to eat all your meals. You’re going to miss a couple of workouts. You might have some long nights and late mornings, and that’s okay. Just let it happen.”

The filming of Free Guy was stopped because of the pandemic and then picked up again in January of 2020. Was it an issue that you were coming straight from your “off season?”

That’s the real son of a bitch about working with Hollywood. Like, they just call and you gotta be ready. But, I was.

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