An Interview: Celebrity Trainer Duffy Gaver Gets Adam Sandler In Great Shape!

Duffy tells exactly how he transformed Adam Sandler from average to muscular and ripped and shares his views on training, nutrition and supplementation.

Star of the new blockbuster "You Don't Mess With The Zohan", Adam Sandler, needed to get into the best shape of his life for his Zohan role as a Mossad Special Forces combat veteran turned New York City hairstylist, and turned to one of the best to get the job done in the fastest possible time: L.A.-based, Duffy Gaver.

As an ex-Marine and ex-member of the Navy Seals, Duffy is known for his ability to work all-out with his clients in the practical, realistic and disciplined manner required to achieve optimal results fast. And his results speak for themselves.

The muscular physiques of Brad Pitt in Troy, Toby Maguire in Spider-Man one, Ashton Kutcher in the Guardian, and now Adam Sandler, along with countless others, are all recipients of the Duffy, no-nonsense approach to shaping up.

In the following interview, Duffy tells exactly how he transformed Adam Sandler from average to muscular and ripped, and shares his views on training, nutrition and supplementation.

What kind of shape was Adam Sandler in when you began training him for his latest role?

He wasn't at his best.

In saying that, was he out of shape or did he just require some fine-tuning?

He needed to put on quite a bit of muscle, and drop a fair percentage of body fat.

Does his new role require him to look like a bodybuilder or will he have more of an athletic look?

Well not so much like a bodybuilder. The idea is that he is a former Mossad Special Forces combat veteran so what he really needed was the physical prowess and enough muscle and fitness to convey the fact he had been in the Mossad Special Forces organization - not so much his present, but maybe that he was in amazing shape a while back but he is past that and tired of it now.

How has he progressed since you began training him?

Fantastic. He was very dedicated from the word go and willing to do the work that was necessary.

So in that sense he was an easy client to train?

In that sense yes: his willingness to work hard, his willingness to show up and do the workouts - very easy in that capacity.

So since training with you, what gains has he made exactly? Do you have any specific results you can share with me?

You know, I don't ever check my clients' body fat, and don't necessarily weigh people that much. My whole take on fitness is: I don't give you numbers. When I meet you and you can't do a pull-up, but when I am done training you and you can do 20 pull-ups, you will look good. The guy who can do 20 pull-ups doesn't look anything like the guy who can't do any.

So you go by how your clients perform and their progress in this area as opposed to what they weigh and what a body fat test reveals.

Yes, because I tend to feel - and I know the majority of people train that way, taking body weight and testing for body fat and doing hydrostatic tests - like that is such a whipping post way to do it. It is sort of like, "your numbers aren't good and they need to be better," as opposed to "last time we did 12 pull-ups, this time you do 13, last time we did 13, but you did it with more rest, now we are going to do it with less rest."

As long as I can keep changing your (performance) numbers, that is what I will do. And every time they come and they can achieve that, this is a sign of progress. But you have got to watch the client.

Like if I was training you and you came in and were having an off day, I'm not going to push your numbers, I'm going to let you get by on some easier numbers. I'm always going to want some progress. Whether it is shorter rest intervals, greater weights, (a) greater (number of) reps, or longer distances.

Under the approach you choose not to use, is the client, in your view, likely to become obsessed with what the scale or calipers tells them from week to week as opposed to monitoring what they can actually do, and gauging their results based on this?

That's exactly it. I had a client once and when I met him he was pulling one-arm dumbbell rows with 10 or 15 pounds and he was doing them for sets of ten reps. And it was completely kicking his @ss.

At one point in training we were out of the country and I set him up to do 1-arm dumbbell rows and he sets up and he picks up a 90-pound dumbbell and he cranks out a set of 12 and puts it down. And for the next set I put a 15-pound dumbbell down and he reached down to pick it up and he looked at me and he goes: "are you kidding?" and I go, "No, that's what you used to pick up."

And his physical results reflected the fact he had become stronger?

Yes. Like I am saying: the guy who can do 15 one-arm dumbbell rows for ten and it is taking all he's got, looks completely different to a guy who can pick up a 90-pound dumbbell and whip out a set of 12 and be like, "Where is my next set?"

And that philosophy would apply to each of your clients' entire training programs?


Sandler in His Last Movie

Including cardio?


Exactly what kind of shape can we expect to see Adam Sandler in when his latest hits the big screen? Will he look radically different compared to what he looked like in his last movie?


Was motivation ever really an issue for Adam?

I think I have been fortunate - and this is with Adam as well - that my clients like a challenge. So I haven't really run into that many clients who weren't up for a challenge. And Adam was certainly up for a challenge. I think if you just present the challenge in the right way, it's not a problem at all.

In the sense that he enjoyed the challenge he was able to accomplish everything that you set out for him?


Describe the training program you had Adam on.

I changed it constantly, and that's what I do with everybody. So if you come into the gym on one day, you might be doing very heavy weights with low reps and the next time you come back to that body part you will be doing much lighter weights for much greater reps.

And for the next training session for that body part you would change it back again or would you do something else entirely?

The next training session would be a different workout for that body part, but again going back to the heavier weights for lower reps - always giving your muscle tissue a new stimulus to get ready for.

That seems to be a common theme for all trainers: always give the muscle something new to try to adapt to.

Yes, a new thing to adapt to. Because that's all your body wants to do: adapt. Whatever it is you have decided is the thing. So if you want to sit on the couch and eat cheese puffs it will adapt to being the best 'sitting on the couch eating cheese puffs' body it can be.

And slacking off like that wasn't an issue for Adam? Was he strict with his entire approach to getting in shape?

He was pretty great about. I think the diet got a little tough, but he was pretty great.

What kind of nutritional approach did you take with Adam?

Just to stay with the leaner proteins, the chicken and the fish. All my clients know this: chicken, broccoli and brown rice.

Are there any deviations from this diet, such as a cheat day once a week?

I always say to take one day off per week, usually Sunday. I think it is good for your head, so you don't resent the whole program. As well as for your body - it gets a bunch of nutrients, including some fats and what not. But it's not really absorbing all of this in the course of the training week.

When it comes to diet, do you take a similar approach to your training strategy, whereby you would not have the client track specific nutritional numbers, calories and so on?

I'm very strict the first couple of weeks with portion size and everything, and then I kind of turn them loose because now that you've seen what that diet looks like on a plate, you get the feel for what it's going to be like in terms of a meal.

And then I'll tell them: "You look like you're falling off the diet, where are you at?" Or I will look at them and say, "You're moving along nicely, keep doing what you're doing."

So for the most part you are putting the responsibility on the client to maintain their diet?

A trainer is only going to spend so much time with their client. Say you spend four hours per day with a client - a lot of time - that gives them 20 hours a day to do anything they want. In the end the responsibility, outside of your guidance, lies with the client.

Some trainers have their clients use a nutrition journal to hold the client more accountable. Have you ever taken this approach?

My clients are pretty busy. If somebody came to me and all they were doing was training: maybe or maybe not. But when you have a client that's in production: in production on one film and in pre production on another film and leading their lives as well, it's a bit different.

So it must say a lot about someone like Adam in that he is able to maintain his busy schedule while still finding the time to train and achieve his physical goals. Is he a very driven person?


How long have you been in the personal training industry for?

About 10 or 11 years now.

And what was your background, before becoming a trainer?

I was a sniper in the Marine Corps and I was a Navy Seal.

So you clearly have a background in which you were required to have a disciplined mindset. In what ways has that influenced you as a trainer?

The reason I look at training the way I do has a lot to do with having been in the Navy Seals and having been in the military. The Seal training has an open door policy. Anytime you want, ring the bell and go home.

They make it easy - they invite you to. They are not forcing you into it and it is not a case of having to stay and do it. They just lay out the task in front of you and they give you the choice: "Do you want to do this, is this your responsibility or not?"

I think that is probably why I look at training the way I do. I'm going to lay out a task in front of you and you will either do it or you won't. It really comes down to you. If you don't want to do it you will end up in the shape that you end up in. but if you continue to accept the challenges, you will continue to achieve the goals you want to achieve.

So, to quote the great Navy Seal leader Richard Marcinko, it is a case of not necessarily liking it, but doing it anyway, if they wish to achieve their goal?

You don't have to like it you just have to do it.

Were there any obstacles to training Adam?

I think when you take a client that is used to a certain lifestyle diet-wise - and I think this goes for almost everybody - and have made the decision to get in shape, and their immediate friends are still on the same diet, I think that can be a little tough. To hold that discipline with your peer crowd when they are not on the same program, I think it is a little difficult at times.

Did this apply to Adam as well?

Yes, I think it applies to about everybody.

Did Adam do much exercise at all, prior to training with you?

I think he was doing some stuff on his own but as far as I know that was it. He was just going to the gym, playing some basketball and just lifting on his own.

When you first met Adam did he have a good level of fitness or did you have to start from scratch?

I wouldn't say starting from scratch but pretty close.

Did Adam use any nutritional supplements?

No, not at all - I'm a big proponent of food. I have a hard time with the fact that the fitness industry is about 90 percent industry, and about 10 percent fitness. The focus is not so much on food.

So they give you a protein powder that you pay 50 dollars for, which has no thermogenic effect, so then you have to turn around and buy a jar of pills that cost 40 dollars to get that thermogenic effect, when you could have just had a piece of chicken that would give you the protein and the thermogenic effect of breaking down food and utilizing it.

Did Adam have any existing injuries or other physical problems when he began training with you?


How would you describe Adam's athletic ability?

I don't think he was as athletic as he would like to have been. But he was very happy with how his basketball game improved; he was very happy with his physical ability to play basketball with his friends - after the training. And this is the thing; everybody that works out, everything about their life improves.

Is Adam the kind of guy you think will continue his present training efforts when he finishes training with you?

I think he will probably train periodically, but I think as busy as he is, he probably will not stay at the same training level he has been while preparing for Zohan. But I'm sure it is something he will want to get back to from time to time.

He may need to get back into it for another role?

Well not necessarily just for another role, although I am sure he'll do that, but more so just to stay fit. As we all age, things like being with your kids or being able to play a little weekend basketball with your friends is a lot easier on you when you work out.

Do you have any progress statistics at all from Adam's training efforts that you can share?

I couldn't tell you. I can tell you this: when I met him he could do 3-or-4 pull-ups and when we were done training he could do sets of ten. And I do this with all my clients. I'm much less concerned with how much you weigh and what you body fat measures, as opposed to "show me what you can do."

I have a very simple workout that I take everybody through. If I met you today, I would put you through the same workout and it doesn't mater how you perform, it will give me a barometer, a measurement. And we will train all of your systems and periodically we will re-visit that workout.

But clients often like to measure their progress by how they look as opposed to how much they can lift. Do you encourage the use of the mirror or any other way of physically assessing progress?

Well nobody is going to stop themselves from doing that (checking their physical progress).

Was Adam at all motivated by the way his body was responding?


So he didn't resemble a bodybuilder but had added considerably more muscle. To clarify was this what you were aiming for?

We talked a lot about this at the beginning (of the training process): what is a good build, what is well proportioned? For instance, you referenced the term bodybuilder.

Bodybuilders generally come with large chests. But if you look at a classic Greek sculpture, or a well-built athlete, they don't have large chests. Because a large chest really doesn't serve a lot of purpose other than to say, "I can bench a lot of weight." Or for an NFL player it gives them a few more pounds to carry forward on the field.

But in terms of physical performance and athleticism, you're not going to see any Olympic athletes with big chests. Now big shoulders, good-sized arms and a wide back: that's athleticism!

So with Adam you were aiming for the more sculptured look with an athletic component, rather than just pure muscle?


Whom else have you trained, celebrity-wise?

Brad Pitt for Troy, Toby Maguire for the first Spiderman and Ashton Kutcher for the Guardian. I also just finished training Marlon Wayans and Channing Tatum for the upcoming G.I. Joe film.

And what did these three share as far as their approach to training went?

They are very focused people, all of them. And they had unbelievable work ethics.

To your knowledge, have any or all of these three men continued to use what you had shown them?

Oh yeah. I know Ashton still works out to this day and I still train Brad from time to time.

What is Brad like personality-wise?

He is a great guy.

And a serious guy when it came to training?

I would say so, yes.

Thank you for your time Duffy. Could you provide a final message for those wanting to get into their best shape?

Yes. If there was one thing that I would want to get across to anybody, it's really the fact that the people who work hard get in shape. And it doesn't have anything to do with having the right diet or the wrong diet necessarily.

There are guys who eat McDonalds who are in shape because they work that hard. And I think when people stop trying to buy the answer, and they just start achieving the answer, they will win.

All that I am is guidance. I can provide you with information and guidance, and I can try to give you some motivation. You need to show up with will, desire, determination, focus and discipline or I'm screwed. I got nothing.

If you don't turn up with those things, I can't do anything at all. And when you talk to people about that, the ones that when you look them in the eye and see that they really get it, you know that it is not going to be bad at all and that they will make great progress. The ones that tend to look at you like, "hang on a minute I thought you were going to do this," won't progress as well.

Often clients will think that since they are paying for your service you must go easy on them.

The ones that you have that conversation with, who really check in and get it right away, you are off to a much smoother start with. Everybody's going to face that (the decision to apply themselves or not) obviously at some point because that's the truth. I would go to the gym and do the workout for you if I could. I like working out.

If I could do it for both of us, I would be happy. But I think that in the end, when you present it that way and they do achieve their goals, they have a much greater sense of, "Wow - look what I did." And I tell them, "It was all you; all I gave you was a little guidance. It was all on your shoulders, all your responsibility and all your doing."

So the number one requirement for getting into shape in your book is the willingness to do whatever it takes training-wise.

Look, the military gets hundreds of people in shape at a time. They get fields full of people in shape. And they do it with pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks: basic calisthenics.

And that is why the military worldwide - the French, the Germans, the Italians - they don't go to gyms, they don't take a bunch of supplements, they do calisthenics, they run and they swim and they go really hard. And they are all in shape.

That is admirable, but of course that is the military where people are actually told to train that often and that hard as part of their job. It is something that is scheduled into their workday.

But for the average person with an 8-to-10 hour per day sedentary job, the desire to find something like supplements or training aids that will work in the shortest possible time frame is often the main goal. Would you agree with this?

I would say quit looking at supplements, be stricter about your diet and buy some running shoes.