Did Jake Gyllenhaal take steroids to build his impressive Southpaw physique, or is it possible to make such gains naturally? Find out here.
Many times has it been the case that actors had to transform their bodies to fit a particular role. From dropping an incredible amount of weight to radically changing their physique, actors had to put themselves through tremendous changes in their lifestyles and routines. Sometimes they even resort to some dangerous and expensive shortcuts, such as plastic surgery. In cases where a male actor is required to build up a large amount of muscle mass, steroids often come into question, depending on the severity of the change.
In the case of Jake Gyllenhaal and his transformation for his iconic boxer role in the movie Southpaw, questions rose from fans and critics alike on whether or not his buildup was steroid enhanced. Luckily, methods other than drug tests can be used to discern the truth of the matter. We can approach the topic logically. So let’s take those steps in the following text to dissect the evidence and come to our own, rational conclusion.
What Do We Know?
For his role in Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal had lost 30lbs, later regaining them and adding another 15lbs preparing for Southpaw. In preparation, he spent six hours daily in training. He had six months to transform into the boxer we see in Southpaw.
What Was His Daily Routine?
During his training, he had to change to low fat, low carb, sugarless diet, high in fibre and protein. That kind of food burns fat and builds muscle in tandem with the workouts, of which he did plenty. We can see clearly from the results that his body fat appropriately went down to a maximum of 5%.
The six daily hours he spent in training sound like overkill for most of us. But when pressed for time with a significant role in the balance, Jake showed the discipline needed. We can assume that is a well to do an actor; he had no day job taking up his time, so he could entirely devote himself to exercising.
We know that pushing one’s body too hard can at some point become counterproductive, like hitting a wall. But that is why we all start at our own pace, increasing the time spent and difficulty endured in time. That way we minimise the discomfort and the body resists much less. So with a steady buildup pace his trainers no doubt enforced, a balanced diet and enough sleep, there is no doubt Gyllenhaal could handle the stress of this training without needing steroids.
Speaking of which, we know his workout routine included morning runs, jump rope, footwork drills, shadow boxing, weightlifting, bag work, conditioning and strength training, and the tire. His mornings started with an 8-mile run followed by 15 minutes of jumping rope. Every boxer knows how essential footwork is, and shadow boxing helps muscles retain the memory of the various punches. Offensive and defensive motions with the bag train precision but also strengthen the core. The speed bag trains arms.
Kicking It up a Notch
Starting with 500 daily sit-ups, Jake Gyllenhaal worked his way up to 2000. Followed by a 100 pull-ups, dips and pushups. Remaining after that exhausting ordeal is the 250-pound tire which boxers train with regularly. They either hit it with a sledgehammer or lift and flip it.
Anyone who would stick to this routine for six months, not even at the intensity of six daily hours, would come out of it completely transformed, regardless of genetics. Furthermore, considering Gyllenhaal’s body was at a good, slim, starting point, it makes the result that much more believable.
Some would argue that the weight he gained in the first months of training, being 20lbs, is some indication of steroid use. In reality, that is a perfectly reasonable result of dieting and exercise. Especially, knowing that the first couple of months show the fastest gain in muscle. Muscle mass is far more substantial than fat, making 15-20lbs gain perfectly reasonable for anyone in their first months of working out, especially with strength training.
We also know that he was in a similar physical state when filming Prince of Persia, five years before Southpaw. So we know training is nothing new to his body. Admittedly, his muscle mass is more significant and his form slimmer in Southpaw, which means more work on the toning.
Were There Indicators of Steroid Use?
When accusing him of steroid use, some draw attention to his well-defined deltoids. It is true enough; he built his shoulders up to be broad and robust. That led to the “Dorito effect” of making his torso form a down-facing triangle. This result is attainable naturally, and in fact, all boxers have great shoulders. They come from the hours with the boxing bag and flipping and lifting the 250lb tractor tire.
Another indicator could be his abs, which are very thick. That does come as a result of steroid use. But also, and more likely, it is a result of doing up to 2000 sit-ups a day at the peak of his training. Who said becoming a boxer was easy?
Given that all his achieved mass can be brought about by disciplined training and a diet to boot, all we have left to look at are the common side effects of steroid use. A few of them are jaundice (yellowing of the skin), swelling of feet or ankles or bloating. Other symptoms are nervousness, trembling, a sudden and severe onset of acne and gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is an increase in estrogen leading to men growing breasts. Only naming those of the symptoms we can see, it is obvious he has none of the above.
The Final Verdict
Considering that Jake Gyllenhaal diet and workout routine, combined with the time allotted, was explicitly designed to achieve these exact results, we believe it is safe to say his transformation was gruelling, painful, and all natural. His results look most suspicious to those of us who lack the time or discipline to achieve the same.
We are quick to point fingers at Hollywood stars when it comes to these kinds of transformations. We assume surgeons and steroids were involved because stars have the cash to burn. They have the luxury of taking the easy way out. But the movie industry is also a harsh one, and for actors that aren’t willing to put in the time and effort, there are ones that do. Fame only gets you so far, but hard work takes you the rest of the way.
Overall, the evidence points to his appearance being a natural result of dedication and hard work. Spend the time he did that type of training for six months. You will see the results. The man is an image of perseverance and discipline. He even landed himself the title of the Fittest Hollywood actor at present, and it is well earned. He won over the respect of his peers and fans, as well as ours.