Stephen Dorff was looking for a professional and physical challenge when he got the script for Embattled. The mixed martial arts drama would require the veteran actor to get into the best shape of his life to portray a flashy Octagon champ like UFC stars Conor McGregor and Cowboy Cerrone.
To achieve the build of a professional fighter, Dorff called Josh Perzow, whom he had met while preparing for the Immortals. The Montreal-based coach has extensive experience helping athletes – from boxers to NHL players – get fit for competition.
“The shirt should be off for most of the film, as he fights or trains in many scenes,” says Perzow. “So we wanted him to really dial in -[give him that] shredded figure during the fight sequences. “
Four weeks before filming, Perzow appeared at Dorff’s door in Los Angeles to make sure he got there. The result was 10 pounds of muscle and a compelling warrior body on screen.
Stephen Dorff’s competitive diet
Adding bulk to Dorff’s naturally sinewy figure meant putting him in a clean calorie surplus that required some experimentation. “You have to eat a lot to achieve greatness,” says Perzow. “But not anything. The food he ate was as organic and fresh as possible. “
Protein is the main building block for muscles. Perzow’s usual strategy is to produce one gram of protein for every pound of body weight, with an emphasis on lean sources like fish, turkey, and chicken breasts.
The rest of the calories after protein intake were broken down into healthy fats like almonds and egg yolks and healthy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and oatmeal, which Dorff liked to eat for breakfast with fruit. They didn’t skimp on the carbohydrates as Dorff needed them the energy to practice mixed marital arts for film.
The training that Stephen Dorff turned into Embattled into Cash Boykins
The Perzow program created for Perff is a modified push-pull program with additional work on the lower body. Three days a week were devoted to this traditional muscle building program, two days were devoted to body part-specific work and two days were devoted to rest.
“We have reserved training days for his biceps and shoulders so we can target those areas with his full energy as they would help fill in his frame while filming and give him a wider ring presence.”
During the program, they added segments of moderate to vigorous cardio to improve his endurance. This was crucial when he started training mixed martial arts on the set in Alabama. This was usually accomplished by ending the sessions on a treadmill or attack bike.
Example Pull Day from Stephen Dorff’s competitive training
Directions: Complete 2 sentences and pause for 2 minutes between sentences
1. Supported chest row: 2 × 10 repetitions
Directions: Put a bench on a 45 degree slope. Take a pair of dumbbells and spread the bench so that your chest is against it and your arms are hanging straight down. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold your elbows by your sides as you row the dumbbells towards your ribs. This is 1 rep.
2. One-armed lat pulldown: 2 × 10 repetitions
Directions: Attach a D-handle to a lat pulldown station on the cable and adjust it to the highest height. Sit on the bench and look at the machine. Then hold the handle with one hand with the palm of your hand facing your body neutral. Keep your elbow firmly by your side as you pull the handle straight down until your hand is just outside your chest. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for repetitions, then switch arms.
3. Landmine Row: 2 × 10 repetitions
Directions: Place the end of a barbell in a land mine attachment or wedge it in the corner of a wall (wrap towels around the end of the bar to prevent damage). Stand over the bar and look at the plate (s). Bend at your hips and slightly at your knees to grab the bar with both hands just below the plates. Keep your elbows close to your body and exhale as you row the bar to your chest. Hold on until two. Lower the rod to return to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
Directions: Complete 3 sets and pause for 45 seconds between sets
1A. Landmine Row x 12 reps
Stand over a loaded land mine dumbbell so that it is between your legs and facing the weighted end (not the anchor). Bend at your hips and slightly at your knees to grab the bar with both hands just below the plates. Keep your elbows close to your body and a flat back as you exhale and bring the landmine to your chest. Hold on until two. Inhale and then lower the landmine in a controlled manner. This is 1 rep. To repeat.
1B. High Kneeling Rope Sweater x 12 reps
Grasp two stirrup grips as you get into a high knee position facing away from the cable machine. The knees are on the floor and the back is upright. Start with your arms straight above your head and your palms facing forward. Begin the exercise by locking your lats into place and lowering your hands, pulling down the cables, keeping your arms straight, and stopping once parallel to the floor. Hold the button down to two and slowly bring your arms back to the starting position in a controlled manner. This is 1 rep. To repeat.
1C. Bentover Kneeling Cable Sweater x 12 reps
Attach the rope attachment to the top third of the machine. Get to a kneeling position facing the pulley, a few steps back with your hips hinged so your body is at a 45-degree angle to the machine. Grasp the ends of a rope so your elbows are bent 90 degrees, then, in a controlled motion, pull the cable down until your arms are straight out at your sides. This is 1 rep. To repeat.
1D. One-armed dumbbell preacher curl x 10 repetitions per side
Start on a preacher curling bank (or set an exercise bench to a 45-degree angle). Take a dumbbell and extend your arm over the bench, palm up. With control, roll the dumbbell towards your body until it reaches your upper chest. Hold up to one and press your chest and biceps. Back to the starting position. This is 1 rep. Switch sides.
1E. Seated Incline Cable Curls x 15 reps
Set an incline bench at 45 degrees, sit with your back against it, and hold the dumbbells by your sides. Roll the dumbbells, palms up, toward your shoulders. Hold the button down to two and then lower it back down to the starting position. This is 1 rep. To repeat.
Assault Bike Finisher: 15 seconds on / 45 seconds off x 15 rounds
Embattled is now playing in select theaters and on VOD.
Subscribe to YouTube for access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more!