Jon Bernthal might be Walking Dead alumni, but it’s his role in Netflix’s Punisher series which has well and truly resurrected his muscles out of the dead zone.
This is the strategy he used to shape up to become the vengeful Frank Castle…
Becoming a Punisher, Jon Bernthal’s punishing workout schedule
Most actors keep in shape using the safety of the weights room, but Jon Bernthal has always sought fitness similar to his latest on-screen persona. “I boxed for a long time and a big chunk of my life involved boxing – my nose can bear witness,” he says, laughing.
“I’ve broken it over a dozen times now. Boxing is definitely my base when it comes to keeping fit.”
It’s a smart move, because just 15 minutes on the heavy bag can fry 114 calories and if you’re worried about the health of your grey matter when you take this skill to the ring, it’s actually just as dangerous to head the ball in soccer, according to a study from the University College London.
What is The Punisher?
After his wife and children witness a mob hit and are subsequently ‘silenced’, Frank Castle becomes the Punisher: A vigilante whose tools of the trade include murder, torture, and extortion, as he wages A one-man war on crime…
The right habits
Just like you, Jon follows a single ethos when it comes to fitness: consistency. “Now with acting, the training and physicality is extremely important in whatever I do,” he explains.
“It’s an important part of playing these parts. And with The Punisher… look, television is demanding with the hours, so you have to regiment your life and take it seriously. It’s a part of the deal, and you just have to be consistent.
“I take this role seriously and I desperately want to do it right, so training and being disciplined is a big part of that. With everything I do – and especially with Frank Castle, because I know how much this character means to so many people – I care about it and the character with all my heart.
“You just want to nail it on every level, and you get that comfort by giving it your all, which we did. I just absolutely want to get this right.”
Looking the part
If you’re struggling for cues on how intense your sessions should be, learn from the master. “The main thing is busting your ass and being disciplined: that’s always the key with training,” he says, laughing as though thinking about a particularly tough workout.
“With this, it’s a big part of your life. The look is a part of it, but for this character it’s more about being able to hang when it comes to doing the fight and combat scenes – the physicality needs to look and feel lived in. We do so many different things, mix it up with different techniques and work with different martial artists or military people.”
Finding the right balance
When it comes to looking deadly, it’s better to set yourself up to be a jack of all trades rather than a master of one. “My training is a mix,” he explains. “In the morning, it’s strength work and metabolic conditioning.
“We often start with strength work – the classics with bodybuilding and supersetting using five sets of three reps at a maximum weight”
start with strength work – the classics with bodybuilding and supersetting, using five sets of three reps at a maximum weight. There is also about 20-30 minutes of metcon, to get that movement and agility right. With the metcon, it’s often about doing 5-6 full-body moves like pull-ups, cleans and deadlifts.
“In the afternoon, we do boxing and jiu jitsu and strike work, then the fight choreography and weapons training is another big aspect of it. With that, the stunt team are absolutely incredible. It’s intense.”
We asked Jon how strict he was with his knife and fork, which saw a change in his intensity. “Oh, yeah man, I don’t play around when
I’m on the job,” he explains. “I’m strict about that when it’s needed, and it’s also a mental thing for the character of Frank Castle. You want food that is about fuel that will get me through the day, but it’s quite simple: lean meats and vegetables for the most part.
“You just have to do it, commit to it.” If you’re looking for a diet to follow, listen to him because he’s got the goods.
To binge or not to binge?
After making a crucial appearance in Daredevil, this is his first outing in a stand-alone show, so of course, we wanted to know if it’s going to affect our sleep and resulting exercise recovery.
“Frank Castle is a soldier. He’s very much a father and husband who lost his family,” he explains.
“He’s reeling, he’s suffering, and he’s making people pay. He’s brutal and damaged, but there’s a lot behind it, which is interesting. I don’t want to get into it too much, but I promise we worked our butts off on it, and we aimed to be as bold as possible”
“The Punisher is very much about how Frank goes about continuing to live life, and when you have someone who puts so much time closing himself and putting a wall up around his heart, what happens when light starts to shine through that wall a little bit?”
Yep, sounds like the kind of show that’ll give you a tiring workout tomorrow.
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