In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Adam Driver returned as the powerful and feared Sith warlord Kylo Ren. He took over as the Supreme Leader of the First Order—following his assassination of Snoke—and is tasked by the returned Emperor Palpatine to finally wipe out The Resistance. The epic intergalactic war called for lots of intense lightsaber action, which demanded more athleticism from Driver than what was required for previous roles. But the former Marine was up to the challenge and got battle-ready with London-based trainer Simon Waterson.
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“There is no doubt Adam’s military career came through in our workouts,” says Waterson. The trainer traveled with the cast during the long production period to make sure they were constantly keeping their fitness edge, as well as staying healthy. “I didn’t have to push Adam to go hard. He had all of that motivation. It was more about slowing him down.”
Waterson kept Driver guessing by taking taking two or more traditional exercises and combining them with a plyometric transition. The goal was to keep the actor limber, while also packing on muscle so he looked ominous inside of Kylo Ren’s armor.
Adam Driver’s Nutrition Principles
The nutritional guidelines were simple—high amounts of protein and a moderate amount of carbs. The carbs were necessary to keep Driver’s energy up because of how heavy and cumbersome his costume was on top of the extensive fight sequences. That also meant proper hydration was always a top priority. There were a few occasions, like Driver’s shirtless scene, that required him to dial back the carbs and ramp up the cardio.
Adam Driver’s Go-to Recovery Methods
Shoot days were very demanding for Driver, from the action to wirework stunts. After days on set and training, Driver did dynamic stretching and utilized trigger point precision tools (think Theragun or Hypervolt) to curb any muscle soreness.
The Workout That Transformed Adam Driver Into Kylo Ren
Waterson had plenty of time to whip Driver into shape, given that filming took place over seven months. This workout is part of the pre-production period, where the goal was to put on lean mass and enhance Driver’s explosiveness. The inclusion of Olympic movements helped build up Driver’s chest and arms, which are showcased a few times during the newest Star Wars trilogy.
“These workouts were all about the tempo and transitions,” says Waterson. “The movements should be fluid, like one continuous exercise without sacrificing form.”
Directions: Kick off the workout with a 10-minute dynamic warmup, then start the adapted superset workout completing 2 to 4 rounds of the full program depending on your fitness level. Because this is a full-body routine, you can repeat up to three times a week, with a cardio and core day in between. As you progress, see if you can advance the number of rounds you can do.
The Finisher: Cap off the routine with this ultimate burner: 5 sets of 25 ab-wheel rollouts with a 1-minute plank in between sets.
A. Deadlift to Squat Thrust x 12 reps
- Position a barbell on the floor roughly an inch in front of your shins and stand with feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart, to start. The weight should be challenging, but not overly heavy (try 130 pounds, plates plus bar).
- Bend your knees and grab the bar with an overhand grip, with hands placed just outside shoulders. Perform a deadlift by engaging your lats, driving through your heels, and extending through your hips as you straighten your legs and pull the bar up, keeping it close to your body. Keep your hips locked in place and shoulders back at the top of the movement, then lower to the ground (shown).
- As the plates hit the floor, shoot your legs back into a squat thrust (think burpee) with your hands still on the bar. Do a pushup, then jump your feet toward the bar and return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.
B. Squat Thrust to Pullup x 12 reps
- Start in a squat position directly under a pullup bar with feet shoulder-width apart, driving hips back and bending at the knees, to start.
- Jump up to grab the bar and do one pullup, making sure your head clears the bar (shown).
- Drop down and shoot your feet back to do a squat thrust.
- Immediately jump back into the starting squat position. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.
C. Reverse Lunge to Biceps Curl Sequence x 12 reps
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart holding dumbbells in either hand, arms extended, to start (weight should be challenging but not too heavy).
- Perform a reverse lunge (shown). Right before your back knee touches the ground, pause and curl the dumbbells. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position, but instead of standing on both feet, keep driving your back leg until the knee is aligned with your hip and you’re standing on one leg.
- Do a one-legged biceps curl. Return to starting position and perform the sequence on the other side. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.
D. Pushup to Side Plank Twist x 12 reps
- Come into a pushup position with hands directly below shoulders, core and glutes engaged, and elbows tucked close to your body, to start.
- Do a pushup. At the top of the move, immediately transition into a modified side plank by putting your weight in your left hand and right leg. Twist your torso to the right, sweeping your left leg under your right and swinging your right arm up toward the ceiling. It should now be aligned with your left arm (shown).
- Reverse the motion to come back to the starting position. Do the same sequence with opposite arm and leg. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.
E. Clean and Jerk to Shoulder Press to Bentover Row to Squat Thrust x 12 reps
- Position a barbell on the floor roughly an inch in front of your shins and stand with feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart, to start. The weight should be challenging but not overly heavy (try 110 pounds, plates plus bar).
- Bend your knees and grab the bar with an overhand grip with hands placed just outside shoulders. Perform a clean and jerk: Drive through your heels, keeping the bar close to your body and arms straight, extending through your knees; as the bar reaches your thighs, thrust your hips forward and come up onto the balls of your feet; once it’s in line with your hips, shrug your shoulders and bend your elbows to pull the bar to chest height; then come into a partial squat, driving your elbows forward, catching the bar in a front rack position. This is the “clean.”
- To perform the “jerk,” point your elbows down and make any micro-adjustments to your grip. Bend your knees, brace your core, then push the bar overhead as you straighten your legs.
Execute a strict shoulder press, then lower the bar to your chest before hinging at your hips and bringing the bar down by your knees, arms extended straight to perform a bentover row.
- Make sure your back is flat and you maintain a neutral spine, positioning your torso so it’s parallel to the floor or more upright. Row the barbell toward your ribs, squeezing your shoulder blades at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the bar to the floor (shown).
- Once the plates hit the floor, shoot your legs back into a squat thrust with your hands still on the bar. Do a pushup. Then jump back to your original position. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.
Author: Charles Thorp
Source: Men’s Journal: The Workout That Transformed Adam Driver Into Kylo Ren in ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’