Michelle Rodriguez gained nearly 20 pounds of muscle for her role in "Dungeons & Dragons."
Magnus Lygdbäck trained her for three months to lift heavy weights with progressive overload.
She also ate a high protein diet consisting of five meals or snacks a day, he told Insider.
Michelle Rodriguez packed on up to 20 pounds of muscle in three months when preparing for her role as Holga Kilgore the Barbarian in "Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves."
Lygdbäck, who has also trained celebrities including Alicia Vikander, Alexander Skarsgård, and Gal Gadot, worked with Rodriguez for three months in the spring of 2021 before she went to Belfast, Northern Ireland to film the movie, he said.
They had one goal: Put on as much muscle and build as much strength as possible. The idea was to get Rodriguez into "Barbarian mode" and make her look vicious and strong, Lygdbäck said.
In three months, Rodriguez gained lots of muscle.
"The scale went up 20 pounds and she didn't gain fat," Lygdbäck said.
Rodriguez trained five days a week with a three-day split
The bulk of Rodriguez' training was weight lifting.
Because she was new to strength training, she benefited from the phenomenon of "newbie gains." When someone begins proper weight lifting, they can achieve fast muscle and strength growth and even body recomposition (simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain).
Lygdbäck ensured Rodriguez employed progressive overload, which means continually increasing the weight or reps. It's essential for building strength and muscle, he said.
Rodriguez trained for an hour five days a week, taking her rest days whenever she needed.
Lygdbäck devised a three-day split for Rodriguez, meaning they cycled through workouts with three different body-part focuses: legs; chest and back; and arms and shoulders.
All workouts included some core and mobility work as well as a cardio warm-up, Lygdbäck said.
An example leg day workout might involve:
10 minute warm-up and mobility work
Banded glute activation
Front or goblet squats
Bulgarian split squats
Core exercises like "stir the pot" (holding a plank with forearms on a Swiss ball and moving the ball in circles)
Lygdbäck has a training app, the Magnus Method, where anyone can follow a similar training program to Rodriguez's.
Rodriguez ate five times a day
While training with Lygdbäck, Rodriguez ate in a slight calorie surplus to fuel her muscle growth.
This meant Rodriguez could train extra hard and lift heavier while in the surplus due to having more energy, Lygdbäck said.
She ate plenty of protein, with a goal to eat one gram per pound of bodyweight. Eating lots of protein ensures you don't lose muscle when in a calorie deficit.
Three hours later, she had a snack to provide more protein and fiber, such as another protein smoothie, boiled eggs, or a chicken salad.
For lunch she would eat a protein source like chicken, beef, or fish; a complex carb like farro or barley; healthy fats from nuts or avocado; and "a ton of vegetables," Lygdbäck said.
She'd have an afternoon snack and then dinner would follow the same structure as lunch.
After Rodriguez finished the three months of training, she moved to a calorie deficit for a few weeks to help her lose fat and achieve a lean physique, Lygdbäck said.
Lygdbäck's nutrition philosophy is called the "17/20" principle, meaning 17 out of every 20 meals should be on point nutritionally, and the other three can be whatever you want.
Research suggests that being flexible in your diet and not cutting out all foods you enjoy is more sustainable. It also leads to greater weight loss and ability to maintain that loss in the long-term, studies show. This is why many nutrition professionals recommend the "80/20" rule, which isn't dissimilar to Lygdbäck's philosophy.
20 pounds of muscle in three months isn't realistic for many people
Rodriguez was able to build so much muscle in such a short period of time for a variety of reasons, including newbie gains, genetics, and her dedication both in the gym and out, Lygdbäck said.
The average person may not be able to achieve the same results even if they are new to working out, and experienced gym-goers won't be able to build muscle anywhere near as fast, although it varies from person to person.
The average man can expect to build 35 to 45 pounds of muscle over a lifetime, while the average woman can build 20 to 25 pounds of muscle, personal trainer and fitness author Mike Matthews previously told Insider. However, the vast majority of gains will be at the start, and genetics play a huge role.
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