Alexander Skarsgård's Trainer Breaks Down His Northman Workout

Alexander Skarsgård's trainer for The Northman, Magnus Lygdback, exclusively revealed to E! News what the actor did to transform and how you too can achieve a body worthy of a Viking warrior.

By Alex Ross, Gabrielle Chung Apr 21, 2022 7:41 PMTags
Watch: How Alexander Skarsgard Got Ripped for The Northman

You could say that Alexander Skarsgård worked his axe off preparing for The Northman.

To look the part of a Viking prince in the film, the 45-year-old actor teamed up with Magnus Lygdback, a fitness trainer he had previously worked with while preparing for the titular role in 2016's The Legend of Tarzan, for another body transformation. The intensive body transformation took six months, according to Magus. Still, the trainer says, anyone can look like a Norse warrior with enough hard work. 

"You don't have to be scared of something that's going to make you healthier and look better," he told E! News in an exclusive interview. "Trust the process."

And while Alexander was already "in great shape" before his training, Magnus noted that his program "is for everyone" who is determined. "Motivation is overrated. It's about showing up every day and being accountable," he explained. "The answer starts with one step."

So, just how did Alexander get into a fighting form for the film? Here's the breakdown.

Alexander Skarsgård Naked and Shirtless


To work out Alexander's entire body, Magnus broke up his training into hourly sessions spread throughout the week. In preparation for filming, he trained Alexander six days a week (five days a week during the shoot). The regimen targeted specific muscle groups each day and were surprisingly short. "I never like to go more than 60 minutes in the gym," Magnus explained.

As for the specific workouts, Magnus said that Alexander did "heavy strength training, free weights and some isolated movements" to build and tone muscle.

"And on top of that, a lot of mobility and stability work for shoulders and hips," he added, "because this is a Viking who's running around, jumping, swinging an ax."

Aidan Monaghan/ Focus Features


Alexander underwent three diets throughout his transformation: the build-up phase, the cutting cycle and the maintenance cycle, according to Magnus. "The build-up phase [is] when you want to build as much muscle mass as possible and don't care about the fat. That's when you overeat calories a little bit," he explained. "Then, you have a cutting cycle when you eat, you're in a calorie deficit. That's when you want to maintain all that muscle mass and lose some body fat."

As for the maintenance cycle, which Alexander was on while filming, "that's when you really want to dial it in and make sure that you keep that low body fat and high muscle mass and the foods are more or less the same," Magnus said.

Although there are more food restrictions within the last two cycles, including no fast carbs or sugars, Magnus noted that Alexander did indulge once in a while.

"There's also room there to enjoy life a little bit," said Magnus, whose favorite foods include smoked salmon and avocado. "We took the weekends off and had a glass of wine and cooked dinner."

Aidan Monaghan/ Focus Features


For Magnus, "mental aspect is everything" when it comes to transformations, which was why he was so pleased to work with someone who was so dedicated to training. "He's a hard worker. He never complains," Magnus said of Alexander. "As long as I get my client to show up and bring it every time, that's all that matters."

But for those who might find the whole process a bit daunting, Magnus has some extra advice.

"Start a little slower. Don't be too hard on yourself," he shared. "If they want to do a program, especially this Northman program, just know that it is for everyone. It works and just show up."

The Northman—directed by Robert Eggers and co-starring Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy and Björk—is out in theaters on April 22.