Exclusive First Look: Josh Hutcherson’s Catching Fire Workout

Maybe you could give two craps about the Hunger Games trilogy, but this you can respect: The 19-year-old who plays Peeta Mellark prepped for round two with a fast-track fitness plan from one of Hollywood’s star trainers.

Chances are you sat through The Hunger Games—or at least your girlfriend talked your damn ear off about that dark-and-twisted dystopian drama where kids kill each other to survive. (“The books are really good! I swear!”)

Well, the second installment of the four-part series, called Catching Fire, started shooting earlier this week. And before shipping off to the film’s Atlanta-area set, Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta—a.k.a. the young HG dude your little sis wants to see shirtless—spent his summer with hardcore celeb trainer Bobby Strom.

“Initially, everyone calls me up saying, ‘I want that Ryan Reynolds look—the washboard abs, the definition,’” says Strom, who has been working with Reynolds for eight years now. “But my training is always very functional, based on what they’re about to do in their movie role.”
And for Hutcherson, that meant meeting the demands of a high-action, fight-to-the-death flick—basically, being able to run, jump, chase, and battle hard with little more than his bare hands.

In fact…
“One of the guys he’s fighting in the movie was also training in the same gym,” says Strom, referring to Bruno Gunn, who is set to play Brutus in Catching Fire. “They had never met, and he walked up and said, ‘Hey Josh, I’m Bruno…and I’m going to be kicking your ass!’”

Strom didn’t say how Hutcherson responded to that ass-whipping (and all in good fun) trash talk, but he did disclose that he had under 12 weeks to whip his ass into shape. So what does it take to fast-track your fitness? Read on to get the details.

The Fast-Track Workout

Those familiar with The Hunger Games lore know that Peeta’s brute strength comes from a lifetime of lifting bags of flour in his family’s bakery. In reality, though, Hutcherson cut his stocky physique with five hour-long workouts a week—which included one league basketball game and four Strom-led, circuit-style gym sessions.

“I call them mash-ups,” says Strom. “We go from one body part to the next to the next, incorporating four or five exercises per circuit.”

Each session would typically include two fresh mash-ups—combining exercises from different disciplines, like TRX, pliometrics, and BOSU Ball workouts—performed four times, resting only after the entire circuit was complete.

“That way, the conditioning increases, the caloric burn is high, and you’re getting a lot accomplished in a short stint of time,” Strom says, “which is crucial when you have only 10 to 12 weeks to get things done.”

For guys looking for a quick trim, Strom also suggests giving the core lots of extra attention at first, because—while it may be big biceps that you’re ultimately after—you won’t be able to perform well in the gym without a strong middle.

“Men just don’t get how important it is,” says Strom. “It gives you better endurance to complete your exercises, plus that huge lift will never go up if you’ve got a weak core.”

The Nutrition Plan

Once Hutcherson enters The Hunger Games arena as Peeta, he’ll need to fight and forage for every scrap of sustenance. It’s ironic, then, that he spent his summer having his meals come to him via Zen Foods, which delivers five calorie-controlled, well-balanced meals and snacks to Strom's clients each morning.

A sample day, according to the Zen Foods site, might look like this:

Breakfast: Greek-style Quiche with Orange Slices
Lunch: Chicken Burger with BBQ Sauce and Grilled Pineapple
Afternoon Snack: Caprese Salad(Mozzarella Cheese & Tomato) with Balsamic
Dinner: Filet Mignon with Creamy Butternut Squash & Asparagus
Desert: Chocolate Cheesecake

In addition, Strom recommends that his clients have a protein shake before bed. (His pro tip: Use Pure Isolated Whey Protein from Species Nutrition, which he says has the least amount of fillers—or “that crap you don’t need.”)

“Nutrition is 99 percent of it,” says Strom. “I can kick the crap out of you in the gym, but if you leave here and have a pastrami sandwich, you’re not going to get the fast results you’re looking for.”

Now Hutcherson did get those results—a fit, proportioned, athletic physique with the core and stabilizer strength needed to film a physically demanding film— but Strom won't take too much of the credit.

“It’s clear why [Hutcherson] has come along so far at just 19,” says Strom. “He’s really dedicated and focused."

"Josh puts in 100 percent in his career," he adds. "And 100 percent at the gym, too.”

When Josh Hutcherson was first cast as Peeta Mellark in ‘Hunger Games’, there was a lot of criticism about whether he looked the part – however, Hutcherson’s intensity and commitment to the role won out any nay-sayers. Hutcherson is now speaking about how he gained that commitment, saying, "It was a bit of a challenge to physically embody the role. But my biggest mission was to do the best I could in the movie. I hoped by doing so fans would be OK with it."

As one of Variety’s Big Screen kids, Hutcherson says, “"I don't ever want to be seen as just one role. That's why I haven't done TV. It can be amazing, but you can definitely be typecast as that one role.”

He adds that he definitely wants to get behind the scenes one day, saying, “"I'm dying to get into more behind-the-scenes work. I want to produce and direct and create whatever I want some day."

Hutcherson’s upcoming movies include three more Hunger Games movies, a Red Dawn re-make, as well as an action-adventure movie called ‘Epic’.

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Josh loves his fast food and doesn't like going to the gym but you gotta do what you gotta do to make those millions