Get a body like Paul Walker
Paul Walker says he’s in the best shape of his life at 37 – and that doing the things you love is the fastest way to look great.
Back in the 1980s, the path to being a Hollywood action star was straightforward – and it took in lots and lots of biceps exercises. Back then, success was less about talent than it was about having arms that looked capable of crushing Commie necks. The likes of Arnie, Sly and Dolph ruled the silver screen and audiences couldn’t get enough of their muscular antics.
Now, big biceps aren’t enough. Action stars need to look strong, but they also look like they could turn their hand to surfing, deep-sea diving or krav maga. Californian actor Paul Walker, star of the hit Fast And Furious movies, got his lean, powerful body by doing what he loves rather than by spending half his life lifting metal.
As a result, he’s in constant demand for both action roles, and we’ll soon be seeing much more of him: he was recently unveiled as the new face and body of Davidoff’s Cool Water fragrance. Walker says he’s in the best shape of his life, and he talked to MF about how he built his A-list physique.
Do you always try to stay in great shape?
I’ve always been very active. My father and grandfather are active, outdoor types, and I guess it rubbed off on me from an early age. So getting into shape wasn’t really a conscious decision. My family set a good example, which I followed as a youngster. As I got older I started on the weights.
Do you still do a lot of lifting?
I did a lot of heavy weights when I was younger but now I’m older, flexibility and mobility are more important. But I’ve been big. I’m 6ft 1in [1.85m] and I’ve been over 200lb [91kg], which is big considering it was all upper body – like so many young guys! My endurance levels were shocking and it got to the point where I couldn’t do the things I loved doing. I couldn’t shoot a basketball because my shoulders were too big.
What is your training motivation these days?
Maintenance. In your 20s you’re thinking about hooking up with girls, but now I focus on enabling myself to keep doing what I love.
Were you apprehensive about the Davidoff shoot?
Yeah, I was beforehand. I’m not 27 any more, I’m 37, so I carry more weight than I used to. But you know what? I am stronger than I’ve ever been before. If I wanted to max out right now, I have no doubt that I would be lifting heavier weights than when I was in my 20s.
Did you do any specific training ahead of the shoot?
Not really. I stuck to the stuff I do all time – sled pulls, bodyweight moves, plus non-traditional stuff like TRX suspension training and kettlebells. My training is almost always circuits because I find my body responds better. It doesn’t take as long to recover afterwards compared with split body-part sessions.
Don’t you do Brazilian jiu jitsu as well?
Yeah, I’m a purple belt. I got into it in the early days of the UFC when there were no weight classes and Royce Gracie was kicking ass. I was hooked. I started training about eight years ago and I love it. It’s a lifestyle sport; there’s no lawsuits because you’re not smashing anyone up – it’s all submission. It’s really just big kids’ Mercy!
What do you love doing to relax?
I love to hunt and fish and go backpacking – I’d call myself an all-round outdoorsman. I love the tropics and surf a lot, but not as much as I used to. Surfing is so condition-dependent. If you’re not in the right shape it won’t go well.
Do you train when you’re filming on location?
I’ll inevitably fall short. The real bitch of it is the vicious circle this creates. If I don’t train then there’s no way I’ll have the energy levels I am accustomed to, and the levels I need to give my all when filming. So I have to find the time.
What’s a typical session?
I start with 15 minutes of cardio, working up from a gentle jog to all-out sprints. Then I do circuits, usually classic bodyweight moves – press-ups, squats, lunges. I call it the ‘jailhouse workout’ – it’s real basic but I love it. There’s nothing better than natural, compound movements. How often do you find yourself flat on your back trying to press something up and away from you? Never, unless you’re on the bench press.
What are your top workout tips?
Work on your weakness. It’s tempting to train where you are already strong, but you’ve got to work harder on your weak spots. My chest has always been a weak spot, but my shoulders are dominant. So I do less shoulder work and more upper torso stuff to even things up.
Between a Rock and a Diesel
Paul Walker’s Fast And Furious Five co-stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson are two of Hollywood’s biggest stars – but Walker says they don’t intimidate him.
'I’d be lying if I said that around those guys I didn’t feel insignificant: they are big guys. With Vin it’s OK because I know I am faster and more athletic than him. I couldn’t say that about Dwayne. He is one of those guys that is a phenomenon, a freak of nature. He is big – huge – but moves like he’s more like 150lb [68kg]. He looks so big, like a bear, lumbering, but make no mistake – he’ll come at you like lightning. It’s frightening how strong and fast that guy is. A real freak.
But I don’t feel any pressure to “look the part”. I think I’ve got a real-world body and with my physique there’s not many things I can’t do. I don’t think Dwayne could climb halfway up a mountain – he’s carrying too much weight – whereas I could. I prefer my slighter build because it gives me more versatility.’
For workouts with and training tips from other Hollywood stars, subscribe to Men's Fitness. We'll give you five issues for £5.