Riz Ahmed had a very clear idea of what he wanted to look like in Sound of Metal. The British actor wanted to transform himself into a ripped rock star as his character Ruben is a former punk drummer with devastating hearing loss.
“Riz has an immense focus in everything he does,” says coach Leighton Grant II, who helped Ahmed prepare for the role. In addition to his fitness literacy, there was also an element of Rubens’ journey that Grant was closely associated with. “I wear hearing aids myself, so missing noises or conversation is a part of my daily life.”
Grant developed a varied and extensive training program for the three months they spent together before Sound Of Metal began filming in Massachusetts. Since Ahmed started with a particularly slim frame at the time, the mandate was to build muscle during the first set and then tear it down during the second thrust.
“I checked Riz’s weight and body fat percentage at least every two weeks so we knew exactly where we were at all times,” says Grant. “Given the story Ruben has, the goal for him was to have a seriously striped body when he showed up on the set.”
Since Ahmed played the drummer, her training paid special attention to rhythm and pace. This work came through especially during her agility exercises and boxing sessions. “I’ve found similarities between boxing and punk drumming,” says Grant. “There’s a level of aggression and musicality that comes through both of them.”
Between workouts with Grant and drum training with Guy Licata, Ahmed achieved an impressive transformation for Sound Of Metal. That’s how he did it.
Riz Ahmed’s Sound Of Metal Nutrition
During her three-month training session, Ahmed built muscle and lowered his body fat percentage by four percent. This was achieved by increasing his caloric intake in the first phase to aid in the filling period and reducing that amount by 1,000 calories in the second phase.
Since Ahmed was in the movie quite a bit and didn’t allow for daily face-to-face surveillance, they started with the baseline of meals from Kettlebell Kitchen, with some tampering from Grant. During the first period, he consumed approximately 2,500 calories. And during cut time, they switched from service to keto-based meals, where the actor ate between 1,500 and 1,800 calories.
There were also homemade meals based around clean protein, vegetables, and good carbohydrates. Sample breakfasts were eggs, ground beef, spinach, and sweet potato; Lunch consisted of chicken breast, quinoa, and vegetables. and dinner would always be green with a choice of protein. Depending on the type of exercise, fruit and a protein shake were added.
The workouts that transformed Riz Ahmed into Ruben in the Sound Of Metal
Training began with an emphasis on building muscle with traditional movements four days a week, divided into upper and lower body sessions. At the beginning of the program, cardio was kept to a minimum. As the weeks went on, Grant began conditioning Ahmed’s workout, which included everything from footwork to boxing to kettlebell stretches.
During the second phase of the program, lifting was kept low and more conditioning was introduced. The training was increased to six or seven days a week. As the exercise was constant, recovery became more important, and Grant stepped in occasionally to perform instrumental soft tissue mobilization. Wednesdays were dedicated to boxing to vote at Ahmed’s rhythm and get a great scrap.
Example upper body day from Riz Ahmed’s Sound Of Metal training
Directions: Complete 3 sentences of each superset with 45 seconds between the supersets, then move on to the next.
A1. Single Arm Weight Bench Flye x 12 reps (each side)
Lie on your back on a flat bench with a neutral-grip dumbbell in your right hand. Squeeze the dumbbell so it is directly over your shoulder and place your left hand on your left thigh. Pull back the shoulder blade of your right arm, unlock your elbow, and slowly lower the barbell to the side. Allow your elbow to bend a little until your arm is fully extended, the barbell at chest level. Reverse the movement by engaging your rib cage and bringing the dumbbell back to the starting position. To repeat. Switch sides after 12 repetitions.
A2. Barbell Chest Press x 12 reps
Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width and bend your back so that there is space between your lower back and the bench. Loosen the barbell and lower it onto your sternum. Pull your elbows toward your sides about 45 degrees. When the bar touches your body, put your feet in the ground and push the bar back up. To repeat.
B1. Reverse Flye on Cable Cross Machine x 15 reps
Set two cable machines for medium resistance and range. Stand up between the two cables and grasp the right cable with your left hand and the left cable with your right hand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Start with your arms crossed across your chest (as if you were hugging each other), then reach into your lats and extend your arms out to your sides until they are parallel to the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Slowly turn the movement back to the starting position. To repeat.
B2. Close-grip series x 12 reps
First, put a handle (V-bar) on the cable machine. Sit on a bench (or on the floor, just adjust the stacking height accordingly) and grasp the bar with a neutral grip with your palms facing each other. Keep your back straight as you row the handle towards your lower abdomen and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Slowly reverse the movement – keeping your back flat. To repeat.
C1. Single-Arm Reverse Dumbbell Flye x 12 reps (each side)
Take a dumbbell with a neutral grip (palm inward) in your right hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With a gentle squat, pivot your hips and tilt your torso forward and down so that it is almost parallel to the floor. Let your right arm hang under your chest with your left hand on your left knee for support. Activate your bib, raise your right arm until it is parallel to the floor, and keep a slight bend in your elbow throughout the movement. Squeeze the top of the shoulder blade together and slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position. To repeat. Switch sides after 12 repetitions.
C2. Arnold Press x 12 reps
Hold the dumbbells in each hand, palms facing you. Activate your glutes and abs as you begin to push the dumbbells over your head. Halfway through the motion, rotate your palms so that they are facing out. Extend your arms completely above your head, being careful not to overstretch your back. Reverse movement in a controlled way. To repeat.
D1. Hips walk plank x 20 reps
Get into a plank position, put weight on your wrists, hips, and align yourself with your back, and the core is locked into place. Lift your hips up while squeezing your abs, then hold them until two. Lower your back in a controlled manner. To repeat.
D2. Bikes x 45 seconds
Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the floor and your knees in the table position. With your hands on your head, pull your shoulder blades off the floor. Start with a bicycle pedal flick and pull one knee toward your armpit as you straighten the other leg. Rotate your torso so that the opposite elbow meets the opposite knee. Repeat for 45 seconds, then switch sides.
Sound Of Metal is now available on Amazon
Subscribe to YouTube for access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more!