NewsParent Topic: Strength Exercise

Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Roadhouse” Workout, Critiqued by Strength Coach Zack Telander


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Actor Jake Gyllenhaal is a chameleon. Not literally — in 2024’s Roadhouse, Gyllenhaal morphs into Elwood Dalton, a former MMA fighter turned hired muscle for a roadside bar. Gyllenhall is no stranger to physique transformations for film roles, but he stepped into the shoes of Dalton’s previous actor, Patrick Swayze, looking absolutely peeled. 

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And he has to be. After all, Gyllenhaal tangles with renowned MMA superstar Conor McGregor on screen. On March 28, strength coach and combat sports enthusiast Zack Telander took to YouTube to critique Gyllenhaal’s Roadhouse workout routine

Telander deftly separates the worthwhile workout principles from, as he puts it, “weaponized specificity,” a term he coined to describe the idea that an athlete’s training should exactly resemble the sport they’re training for.

BarBend spoke with Telander to pick his brain on where he believes Gyllenhaal’s time in the gym was well spent and where it fell short. 

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About the Expert

Zack “Coach ZT” Telander is a Texas-based Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and veteran weightlifting coach with nearly a decade of experience training professional athletes and martial artists. 

The Good & the Bad of Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Roadhouse” Workout Routine

Gyllenhaal trained under Los Angeles-based celebrity trainer Jason Walsh to prepare for the role. Walsh said Gyllenhaal needed “athleticism, resiliency, and overall strength” to portray Dalton authentically. 

Gyllenhaal & Walsh spent most of their time mimicking the movement patterns that fighters perform regularly. But Telander thinks that, for athletes, the weight room is meant to shore up weaknesses via strength training, not replicate the training goal as closely as possible:

If you’re training for a sport, you’re already getting a lot of specific practice. Progressive overload occurs on the mats.

To that end, we asked Telander about the major strengths and weaknesses of Gyllenhaal’s Roadhouse workouts: 

3 Good Aspects of Gyllenhaal’s Workout Routine

According to Telander, Gyllenhaal’s Roadhouse workouts succeed in three major ways. There’s an emphasis on constant movement, a high importance on general athleticism, and the workouts keep Gyllenhaal’s heart rate elevated.

  • “Walsh does a good job of keeping Gyllenhaal focused,” Telander says. “It’s a very underrated aspect of coaching — cueing the athlete well without constantly stopping them to adjust their form.” 
  • Telander believes that Walsh succeeds in keeping Gyllenhaal “in the zone” in a way that works synergistically with his acting. “He’s learning his part in the gym, even though he’s not really acting during his workouts.” 
  • Walsh’s workouts keep Gyllenhaal’s heart rate up high. Telander appreciates this because it ensures he burns lots of calories to lean out without doing too much cardio. 

[Related: The Best Cross-Training Shoes You Can Buy]

3 Weak Points of Gyllenhaal’s Workout Routine

However, no training plan is perfect. Walsh and Gyllenhaal produced a spectacular on-screen result, but Telander urges caution to anyone wanting to replicate the Roadhouse training style. 

  • Telander wished to see more cohesion in the design of the workouts. “What we see is just a snippet, but I often notice celebrity workouts utilizing too many flashy exercises that could be accomplished with one solid compound exercise,” he notes.
  • Telander also believes this plan may have too much variability, saying, “There doesn’t seem to be enough time spent on each aspect of athleticism to ensure that Gyllenhaal is adapting and progressing.” 
  • There’s also an apparent lack of progressive overload to the Roadhouse workouts. “Many trainers fail to track their clients’ progress over time, or they use movements that are hard to track progress on in the first place,” Telander notes. 

[Related: The 15 Best Barbell Exercises Out There]

What You Should Do

Zack Telander wants YOU … to train with a full range of motion, whether you’re a combat sports athlete or a regular athlete in the gym. “The biggest thing any athlete can benefit from is progressively overloaded, large range-of-motion movements,” he says. These are your barbell or dumbbell squats, rows, presses, etc. 

Why? Telander explains that combat sports athletes need to learn to control their joints rather than mobilize them: “Martial artists are usually very flexible by default, so I prefer to help them learn how to control all that range of motion against a fixed load. I tend to avoid using hyper-sport-specific moves in the weight room since the athlete is getting that skill work in anyway.” 

[Related: How to Build Your Own Workout Plan (+ Sample Template)]

In short, if you want to adopt some of Gyllenhaal and Walsh’s training principles for your own workouts, Telander is a fan. But he thinks you should proceed with caution and focus on: 

  1. Using the weight room as an opportunity to strengthen your weaknesses with exercise that differs from your primary sport.
  2. Training through large ranges of motion whenever possible.
  3. Use bilateral (two-limbed) and unilateral (single leg or arm) strength training exercises, and keep your rest times relatively short to ensure your heart stays pumping — as long as it doesn’t detract from your strength or focus. 

All that said, Telander can’t guarantee you’ll leave the gym looking as ripped as Gyllenhaal did during his on-screen brawls. But you can incorporate some of his workout principles to ensure your own workouts pack a punch. Roadhouse premiered on Amazon Prime on Mar. 8, 2024.

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Featured Image: @jakegyllenhaal / Instagram

The post Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Roadhouse” Workout, Critiqued by Strength Coach Zack Telander appeared first on BarBend.

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