The Dane that Digs the Outdoors: Nikolaj Coster–Waldau Approach to Staying Game of Thrones Knight-Level Fighting Fit

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Nikolaj Coster–Waldau Fit

HBO’s larger than life fantasy-drama television series, Game of Thrones is well into the fifth season. Characterized by a huge ensemble cast and massive sets located all over the world, every episode costs about 6 million to bring alive the exotic, primitive world of knights, dragons, magic and murder. With an average of 18.4 million viewers per episode of season four, Game of Thrones is one of the most downloaded, pirated and watched television series worldwide.

Right in the midst of the ominous politics, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays the character of Jaime Lannister aka Kingslayer, who has survived not only all the abrupt plot twists of being killed off unexpectedly, but also undergone the greatest evolution within the story line. He started as a downright villain to emerge as a complex anti-hero. His character development not only keeps the viewers on edge, but also increasingly earning him a bigger piece of action in Hollywood. Nevertheless, Nikolaj continues to reside away from the glitz and glamour of LA, in his home in Denmark, when not working. So, how does the 45-year old actor manage to sustain a fitness routine constantly interrupted by travel all over the world as a part of work?

“My standard workout routine is to NOT have a standard workout routine. I get very easily, bored,”

is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s self-assured reply when Details magazine made the same enquiry.

Nikolaj Coster–Waldau - Game Of Thrones Level Fitness

Strength over size

Nikolaj prefers performance to appearance. Not one to fret over the symmetry of his body, he keeps his workouts interesting by training with a gym-buddy as often as he can, to create a more competitive environment in terms of repetitions performed and weights lifted. Sustaining success is a matter of crushing your goals. With a definite number to beat, Nikolaj leaves no room for weakness. It comes as no surprise that his preferred form of cardio, when not running outside is number crunching high-octane body weight circuits that include moves like pull ups, medicine ball slams, plyometric push ups, hand-stand pushups, T-pushups, hand walk-outs, lunges and burpees.

Nikolaj Coster–Waldau workout in the gym

Pre-habilitation over rehabilitation

As much as the lean and lanky Danish actor dislikes going to the gym, he admits that it is something he has to do to improve the quality of his life. Lifting weights and training his core along with plenty of mobility drills helped him get over a chronic back injury. The approach to his workout regime rests upon getting stronger, while minimizing injury risk at the same time.

The Dane might love to run outside, but he keeps his long runs infrequent to avoid aggravating his back issues. He performs all pulling and hanging movement on rings rather than a bar to minimize stress upon his shoulders and spends as much time foam rolling and using all kinds of massage balls to stay loose as much as he focuses on sustaining his strength.

Nikolaj Coster–Waldau doing pull-ups
Nikolaj Coster–Waldau doing pull-ups

Clean bulking is never easy

In the year 2015, Nikolaj intends to bulk up, gain plenty of muscle, and intends to depend largely upon heavy squats and deadlifts to help him achieve that goal. His personal trainer, Jesper Mouritzen resorted to Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 system of strength training for these highly taxing compound moves, in which one starts with 75% of max weight they can lift for five reps, followed by lifting at 80% capacity for three reps and finally build up to performing one rep at 90% max.

Power training coupled with less demanding hypertrophy work is actually the more enjoyable part of bulking. The constant eating, however, is a different story. Nikolaj was skeptical of consuming large amounts of protein that is highly recommended to gain muscle and get stronger, until he tried it for himself and saw the results. For an impressive transformation, he confessed that one does need to have “shitload of protein,” which usually amounts to 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight for an experienced lifter. However, he advises against over dependence upon protein shakes. Include more vegetables and protein-rich whole foods like eggs, fish and chicken.

Nikolaj Coster–Waldau Healthy Advice

Nikolaj’s top advice: Never let go of your fitness, the road back is too painful

There was a time when the Danish actor would get really fit for a project and once it wrapped, would let go of any exercise completely until the next big role came along. He concedes there is nothing more agonizing than trying to recover your strength and stamina after a long period of inactivity. Now, he looks up to actors like Hugh Jackman and Will Smith as inspiration. They have managed to maintain exceptional physiques for over a decade and are still consistently improving upon their strength levels and physical skill set, well into their forties.

Digging deep into his sportsman psyche, the actor uses the gym to build as much strength as possible to enable him to do all the fun activities outside like mountain biking, cross-country skiing and paddle boarding. Particularly in favor of riding a bicycle, the actor insists that you are not only doing a more enjoyable form of cardio, but also resorting to the best way to experience a new place.

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