HEALTH SCENE: Aaron Williamson Trains Jai Courtney for ‘Terminator: Genisys’

by Jordan McGuire on June 30, 2015

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Aaron Williamson is a health advisor and fitness trainer to the film industry. He has helped craft the physical transformations of Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained, Zac Efron in Neighbors and Josh Brolin in Oldboy. He recently finished molding Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke into legendary action heroine Sarah Connor for Terminator: Genisys. Find out more at aaronwilliamson.net.

The character of Kyle Reese was portrayed by Michael Biehn in James Cameron’s classic film The Terminator, which came out in the early 80s. What’s in your mind when you think about crafting the physical look of the new Kyle Reese portrayed by Jai Courtney in Terminator: Genisys?
Jai is a genetic freak. He’s probably the most genetically gifted person I’ve ever worked with and I’m very jealous of that! He can naturally be a big guy but for the character of Kyle Reese, he doesn’t need to be a big guy. So the goal is to bring him down in weight and lean him out so he doesn’t look like a Terminator. We needed to soften the look a bit so it looks more realistic. Someone who trains, but trains like he’s in the field training, where your workout might be pushups or pull-ups and crunches, or just carrying about heavy stuff all day.

Yeah, Kyle Reese is this guy from a future where they don’t exactly have gyms to join.
A lot of his physique comes from weapons handling and constantly running from point A to point B. It’s that kind of functional stuff that we try to emulate in the training. Traditional weight training was completely out of the question because if he touched the weight, he just got big. We had to be very careful about that. His diet was very strict, very low carb, lots of vegetables, lots of avocados and nuts, good fats. He was eating anywhere from five to six meals a day. He actually started leaning out before he even came to New Orleans. He was set up on a program back in L.A. to get him prepped to come in because he was bigger coming off of his last film. Every morning, he’d get up and hit the treadmill right out of bed for an hour and he was taking some simple supplements – beet powder, l-carnitine, CoQ10 – just things that were good for the heart, good for the immune system and help with recovery and fat burning. He got here a little bit later than Emilia, so we had about two weeks of training before production began. We focused primarily on plyometric work, a lot of bodyweight training and TRX work. Anything that had weight and resistance, we had to be very careful about.

Usually you’re trying to bulk them up, so this must have been unusual.
Yeah. The goal was trying to bring him down to a weight that would resemble the Kyle Reese that everyone knows. And we definitely pulled it off. I can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction to him because he looks good, but he doesn’t look like he’s spent all day, everyday in a gym. It just looks real.

Once filming started, he’s doing very physical work on set. How did that affect training?
There were probably a few weeks where he would literally be running around barefoot. And if you’re running around on concrete or some type of hard floor barefoot take after take, it’ll beat the hell out of your lower back, your legs and knees. That was just one obstacle we had to work through. This production was very mentally and physically taxing on the actors. I’m pretty sure there were days where the last thing he wanted to do was see me in the gym! Haha.

It’s a real physical challenge on these action films. When you see someone running in a movie, that may have required the actor to run for hours a day for weeks on end at full speed. And being barefoot doesn’t help!
No, it doesn’t. Jai and Emilia both did a lot of deep tissue massage work to keep their body in check. It was a very stunt heavy film. Jai did some wire work where he’s strapped into the wire getting yanked around, so there were days when he’d come in just sore everywhere. I might have a plan, but that would have to go out the window and I would have to say, “We’re going do this instead.” Just being able to adapt was important so that we didn’t hurt him. In many cases we would incorporate the Concept 2 rower, the Stepmill and battle ropes into the training routine for the day. All very heart rate centric exercising.

What was the schedule like during shooting?
We started off five days a week, spending about an hour at a time. As filming went on, we dropped down to four. He was dedicated to staying in there, and occasionally we’d makeup sessions on the weekend, sometimes twice per day.

Did you work with him on set at all?
We would do a little bit here and there if we needed to, mostly some pump up work. But there wasn’t a real need to even do it. I just can’t even express how genetically gifted he is. It blows my mind. It’s almost like training a natural athlete. They just have it. Plus, he just knows his body. He did a lot of training for Spartacus, which was very physical, so he’s very familiar with what he can and can’t do.

Let’s talk diet.
He was dedicated. Egg whites in the morning, maybe an egg white omelet with some veggies. Lots of chicken and fish. Lots of mixed nuts. And Catering was excellent: they were good about getting his meals every few hours and just loading up the lean proteins for him, which he needed.

What else stands out in your mind from working with Jai?
Just the fact that he’s a solid guy and cares about everyone around him. It was fun to watch him work and it was fun to train with him. I can’t wait to see the film.

For more health and fitness tips, read the Health Scene online at health.sceneent.com and visit Aaron’s website at aaronwilliamson.net.

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