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How Jake Gyllenhaal Got Ripped To Play A Former MMA Fighter In Road House

Amazon Prime's upcoming "Road House" reboot continues the trend of resurfacing 1980s action movie IPs, only this time, the calm, cool, and collected bouncer is a former UFC fighter, a backstory that puts hefty physical requirements on actor Jake Gyllenhaal's shoulders. A sizzle reel posted by the Prime Video account on YouTube offers a brief shot of him in the role, proving that he hasn't been skipping gym days while preparing for it. In fact, the man looks like an absolute powerhouse.

The fact that Gyllenhaal seems perfectly MMA-ready is fitting considering Patrick Swayze's portrayal of James Dalton in the original "Road House," released in 1989. While it remains to be seen whether this Dalton will be ripping out his opponent's throats as well, however, the actor's chiseled physique certainly makes this seem like a viable option. But how did Gyllenhaal get into such amazing shape in the first place?

Gyllenhaal's life is full of sports

One might expect it to take months and months of arduous preparation to assume the role of a former UFC fighter, but Jake Gyllenhaal was already well on his way toward his impressive "Road House" physique. As his trainer, Jason Walsh, noted to Insider, the actor likes to lead an intense athletic lifestyle.

"If he's not in the gym doing strength training and conditioning, he's swimming, he's outside playing paddle tennis, he cycles like crazy," Walsh described Gyllenhaal's fitness routine. "The guy does everything. He's just always looking for that stimulus."

Walsh, who has worked with several Hollywood stars, has an eight-year history of training Gyllenhaal, which might just make him the world's foremost authority regarding the actor's physical condition, and it's clear that the trainer feels that his diverse sports interests served him well during his preparation for the "Road House" remake.

Even Tom Holland can't keep up with Gyllenhaal's gym habits

If there's one media franchise that requires muscle tone from its main stars, it's the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As it happens, though, Jake Gyllenhaal's role in the MCU is Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, the special effects-themed villain in "Spider-Man: Far from Home" who spends most of his time in an imposing armored costume. Some people might use this as a handy excuse to take it a little bit easier at the gym, but Gyllenhaal isn't a shortcut kind of guy. Instead of slacking off and letting the costume do the work, he maintained such good physical shape that even co-star Tom Holland was intimidated ... after they'd already finished shooting, no less.

Though Holland got ripped to play Spider-Man, has an athletic background, and is in undeniably good shape, he's freely admitted that Gyllenhaal mopped the floor with him when they hit the gym together during a press tour. "I have to be honest. I didn't want to go," Holland said on "The Late Show on Stephen Colbert." "Because Jake Gyllenhaal is ripped, right? And I'm really competitive. ... So we go to the gym, we start working out, we're doing ab exercises and leg exercises, and then he turns to me and he goes, 'Tom, do you want to hop on the treadmill and warm up?' I'm like, 'Warm up? I'm roasting, mate. I'm finished!'"

Holland's story offers a glimpse at Gyllenhaal's fitness level and peerless training ethic ... and that was just a workout on the road between press junkets. If his "Road House" look is anything to go by, the actor has taken things to an even more dedicated level for his role as Dalton.

A vertical training machine was his secret weapon for Road House

Even though Jake Gyllenhaal was already very fit, his body still required some work to get that very specific MMA fighter look that's requisite for the role. To this end, trainer Jason Walsh told Insider that they relied on a combination of gym work and a VersaClimber — a vertical cardio machine that allows the user to "climb" in place. "He was going there a lot especially since we were trying to get him into UFC fighter shape," Walsh said of the VersaClimber classes Gyllenhaal took.

All of this training is doubly impressive since Gyllenhaal told the Guardian in 2017 that he considers it mere prep work that's outside the real acting process. "Putting the time into preparation, being agile ... I don't think transforming your body physically has anything to do with the craft of acting," he said.

Gyllenhaal's MMA moves are on point too

Since his "Road House" character has a mixed martial arts background, it's only natural to assume that Jake Gyllenhaal has also received some MMA training for the role. While neither the star nor his trainer has opened up about this aspect of the preparations, the movie features footage of Dalton fighting a character played by real-life ex-UFC fighter Jay Hieron at a UFC event, which MMA middleweight Fabian Edwards finds very believable.

"The flying kick was good. Solid," Edwards told GQ, analyzing Gyllenhaal's scene with Hieron. "He had a great finisher. You can see that he's put time and effort into this." So not only has the actor toned his body into that of an MMA middleweight, but it looks like the moves he's learned for "Road House" are accurate and his skills are fully able to impress fans and experts alike.

He's played physical roles before

Those who have followed Jake Gyllenhaal's career know that many of his roles don't exactly call for gym time. The eponymous character of "Donnie Darko," Jimmy Livingston in "Bubble Boy," and Louis Bloom in "Nightcrawler" have a distinctly nonmuscular vibe. Still, he's not one to shy away from playing physical leads.

Granted, Gyllenhaal's MMA body is one of the actor's more extreme transformations, but his Dastan in 2010's "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is a ripped hero with a penchant for sleeveless armor. In 2015, he was in even better shape as boxer Billy Hope in "Southpaw," and in 2022, he was in full Michael Bay mode as bank robber Danny Sharp in "Ambulance."

Perhaps the reason Gyllenhaal's level of fitness catches people unaware is that he tends to keep people on their toes by playing the entire genre field. After all, for every physically threatening character, there's one like pretentious art critic Morf Vandewalt in "Velvet Buzzsaw" on his résumé ... though even the scrawniest Gyllenhaal character may have a tough time balancing the scales now that Dalton is in the mix.