That's not a statement one would normally associate with a former underwear model, but then again, you probably have not met Kellan Lutz. Broad shoulders, massive biceps and a shredded 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame (and no missing teeth in the megawatt smile) suggest a lack of challengers in trading blows. But as the native North Dakotan tells it, that wasn't always the case.
"I had so many older brothers who beat up on me"-he counts six of them in total, one of them a Marine - "so I'm a tough kid. I love mixed martial arts, weapons training, guns, knives, driving fast cars and motorcycles. I love it all. I'm a thrill seeker." It appears Lutz is in the right business, because action keeps calling.
Many know this 26-year-old rising star for his breakout role in the Twilight series, the vampire franchise that vaulted him to teen heartthrob status. And while the latest installment, Breaking Dawn, Part I, hits theaters this fall, it's his November release, Immortals, that really has him pumped.
Playing the role of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea and earthquakes, challenged Lutz to transform his physique into one worthy of a mythological deity who goes by the nickname "Earth-Shaker."
In this case, CGI just doesn't cut it. Lutz's combination of acting chops, physique and a track record for dramatically changing his body for roles made him a natural pick.
"Gods in movies are usually these old guys, but my take was if you lived forever, you'd want to look young and fit forever," says Immortals director Tarsem Singh. "When Kellan came in to read, I thought he was perfect. His physique and work ethic were fantastic. And I didn't need to do any [physical] enhancements in post-production, so he made my job easier."
"I always wanted to play a Greek god in something," says Lutz as we sit together over iced coffees at his local Starbucks, just a few blocks from where he lives in Venice, Calif. Most actors appear smaller in person without the benefit of a big screen or camera angles. Not Kellan. The actor's forearms are pure Popeye when you see them up close.
"I love Poseidon," he continues. "His trident - his weapon - is really cool." (For those of you in the dark about classical weaponry, a trident is a 3-pronged spear commonly seen in gladiator flicks, and, name-checked by Steve Carell, as his murder weapon in Anchorman.) "What Tarsem did in [his previous films] The Fall and The Cell is mind-blowing. It's visually stunning. You see that in Immortals, too."
Kellan Lutz's personal trainer, Rich McDonald, knows how to engage the core-and the biceps, triceps, quads and hamstrings - all at once.
"Too many outdated workouts break the body into pieces," he says, which allows a fitness enthusiast to focus too much on one area, too little on another. Injury often follows suit.
"And maximum performance can't be reached," he adds.
So McDonald advises his high-profile clients to "tie it up." Below, a breakdown of how he puts Lutz and other hard-bodied believers through their paces.
SINGLE-ARM CABLE ROW IN A LUNGE POSITION
Set the cable pulley at its lowest point. With one hand on the cable handle and the other on your waist, drop into a full lunge position but with the back leg straight. While tightening your glutes and core, lean over with your back straight so your torso is 90 degrees to the cable.
Perform 10-to-15 single-arm rows while keeping the rest of your body still and tight. Switch your legs and arms and repeat the exercise for 10-to-15 reps.
ROLLING MEDICINE BALL PUSH-UPS
Set yourself in a push-up position with one hand on the ground and the other on a stiff 8-to-10-pound medicine ball. With your glutes and core tight, perform one push-up with your hands in this position. Roll the ball to the other hand.
Your opposite hand should now be on top of the medicine ball while your other hand is on the ground. Perform another push-up. Repeat for 10 to 20 push-up reps.
DUMBBELL OVERHEAD PRESS IN A LUNGE POSITION
Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Drop into a standard lunge position with both knees at 90 degrees. With your glutes and core tight, move the dumbbells to their starting position at ear level.
Perform 10-to-15 alternating overhead presses. Switch legs and repeat.
LEG BLAST CIRCUIT
Superset these three exercises:
Barbell Full Snatch
Place a barbell on the floor. Grab it with hands at twice shoulder width, bending over the bar with your hips. Keeping your lower back arched, explosively extend your hips and knees, shrug the bar, and let the momentum help you raise it overhead.
Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat
Place your back foot up on a bench or short plyo box. Similar to an in-place lunge, stand tall, then bend your front knee and drop straight down. Keep your front foot flat, and press hard to stand back up. Perform 10 to 15 reps on each leg.
Start in a standard lunge position with both knees bent at 90 degrees. Explode into the air from this position and switch your leg position before landing into a full lunge. Continue alternating for a total of 20 jumps.
Place your hands in a standard pull-up position on the bar. With your core tight, perform a pull-up while cycling your legs forward and backward as if you were sprinting down a track. Repeat for 8 to 20 pull-ups.
A female barista cleaning tables spies us sitting together, zeroes in on my digital recorder, and gazes unabashedly at the action star while buffing a tabletop long enough to remove the finish.
If Lutz notices, he doesn't let on. Instead, he tells me about how the film's on-set nutritionist and trainer, Ricky Blanchard, got him superfit for the movie. Blanchard had only a month to transform the cast into gods. This entailed 3-a-days of functional training that combined CrossFit, boxing, plyometrics, and stunt work. "The first thing Kellan said to me when I first met him was, 'You know, Ricky, I love food. I love steak. But I'm gonna bring it every time,' " Blanchard recalls. "And he did. He brought maximum intensity to the gym every day. Working out with him, he motivated me and kept me on my toes."
The cast also includes new "Superman" Henry Cavill, gorgeous Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire fame, Stephen Dorff, and Mickey Rourke.
To get into Greek-god shape, Lutz didn't need to venture far from home. "I like to wake up with the sun around 6:30 and go out and meet the day," he says, meaning right here in Venice, with its many dip bars and ring sets on the sandy beaches - which attract the area's hardcore-fit hoi polloi (not to mention the paparazzi who relentlessly stalk a shirtless Lutz pumping iron). "I'll just go for a run, drop and do some push-ups, run some more, do lunges, grab the rings, and do pull-ups."
Lutz regularly works out with personal trainer and occasional actor Rich McDonald, a former championship pole-vaulter who now devotes his skills to making strong guys like Lutz even stronger. The two first met in 2007 on the set of HBO's Generation Kill, a miniseries about American Marines fighting in Iraq.
Lutz, McDonald, and their fellow castmates spent seven months in Mozambique, Namibia and other African locales shooting the project, working out constantly, and setting the bar ever higher for one another.
"We competed," Lutz says. "I ate 16 eggs every morning. I got up to 220 pounds of solid muscle. We'd work out every day. Shooting one scene could take all day - and when that's just driving a Humvee at five miles an hour, we had energy to burn. We were doing push-ups on top of the Humvees. We were throwing wheels and rocks. We were timing each other, betting who can do the most push-ups, just to keep our sanity. We did these [UFC fighter] Bas Rutten tapes, where it's like, 'OK, shadowbox! Defense! Shadowbox! Drop to the ground!' Within 30 minutes, you're dripping. And it's Africa. So it's hot as balls out there. We pushed each other to be the best we could be."
When the cast and crew returned Stateside after filming wrapped, Lutz and McDonald kept training. "
He's always been seriously fit and capable," McDonald says of his famous client, "but he'd been doing a lot of standardized things in terms of his workout. He needed to work on tying his body together as one piece."
Lutz credits McDonald's "tie it up" method with enabling him to work through fitness plateaus and achieve noticeable results. "Rich told me, 'Kellan, if you want to build up your top, you gotta work your legs, too.' "
But Lutz had another challenge for his friend and trainer: "I hate routine," admits the actor, who claims he's up for any kind of sport - as long as it's extreme. "I'm an action junkie at heart," says Lutz. "I love pushing myself to the limit. I don't really have fears as far as heights, skydiving or bungee jumping. I'm very strong. That's why I love football, playing safety. I can hit someone really, really hard. I'm a tough guy, and I'm down to get dirty."
So when it comes to a regular workout regimen, the actor threw down the gauntlet. "He told me, 'Never the same thing twice!' " laughs McDonald. "He said, 'Shock me every single time,' which is great, because at his level, his body needs to be shocked frequently in order to maintain the great results full time.
Nutrition, of course, plays a key role. "Eat the rainbow," McDonald instructs, referring to richly colored and leafy vegetables that come in dark hues of red, yellow and green. Plus, down a gallon of water every day. And include plenty of healthy protein - eggs, tofu, lean meats - all of which help to maintain lean muscle mass.
Fighting to stay in top form while competing for Hollywood's best roles may come naturally for Lutz, so it's no surprise he's willing to put real muscle behind achieving his other goals, too. Lutz is the latest celebrity to lend his chiseled presence to a clothing line called Abbot + Main, which takes its name from the high-action intersection of Abbot Boulevard and Main Street in his Venice 'hood. Unlike some celebs who lend their name only to a project, Lutz insisted on being involved in the actual business of fashion.
"I treated it as I do my acting career: I take the slow and steady path," he says of bringing Abbot + Main from inspiration to rollout. "It took a little longer. But if I'm going to make a product and be the face of it, I want to make a good product that I'd actually like. Nothing happened unless it came through me first. Design, colors, fabrics. Danny and I talked or Skyped every day."
"Danny" is denim impresario Danny Guez, creator and founder of hipster brand William Rast, a line he debuted in 2005 with partner Justin Timberlake. "Kellan is such a sheer force to work with," Guez tells me. "Multiple celebrities have approached me to partner with them on their clothing lines, but just because you can sell an album or blow up the box office doesn't necessarily translate into clothing sales. With design there's no room for error. Kellan is involved every step of the process."
I decide to check out the goods, which is how I find myself one late summer afternoon inside Nordstrom department store at The Grove in Los Angeles for the Abbot + Main launch event. The PR hoopla is movie premiere-worthy with its army of severely dressed women towering in 5-inch heels bearing walkie-talkies and directing the throng with military precision. You'd think you were at Grauman's Chinese Theatre - if it weren't for the racks of clothes everywhere.
The actor appears and immediately pumps hands and poses for photos with his wide-eyed admirers. He seems as relaxed as the dark denim he dons from the Abbot + Main collection-which, along with a gathering of well-cut knit tops and graphic tees, is artfully tailored for a man with his strapping build.
For Lutz the business of fashion, much like making it in Hollywood, is just one more mountain to climb. And since he spent his teenage years modeling for the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch and Levi Strauss, he has a leg up on the competition. "I'm very knowledgeable about fit and quality," he tells me with confidence and even a touch of swagger. He also knows from his own experience how tough it is to find stylish clothes if your shoulders span three times the width of your waist.
Lutz says he makes "a vision board every year," referring to an annual list of personal and professional goals. Working with director Tarsem was one such target ambition. Using his own considerable brainpower - Lutz left California's Chapman University midway through a chemical engineering degree to scratch the acting itch - to market a new clothing brand was another.
"It's great when you get to check off dreams," he says, smiling broadly. A woman in black holding a clipboard suddenly touches his elbow, then leads him away and back toward the fan frenzy. No matter what the goal, Kellan Lutz likes to fight to make it happen.