ICYMI: Magnus Lygdback Shares How Actor Alexander Skårsgard Built His Viking Physique for “The Northman”

Skarsgård went through a bulk, a cut, and a maintenance phase during filming cycles.

Actor Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth, the revenge-seeking Viking prince, in the blockbuster movie The Northman, released on April 22, 2022. Skarsgård’s physique was shredded for battle, ax-wielding, and high-adrenaline combat sequences for the gritty role.

Skarsgård’s trainer, Magnus Lygdback, uploaded a video to his YouTube channel on April 29, 2022, wherein he breaks down the typical diet Skarsgård followed during his bulking phase to build his washboard abs, thick back, and rounded shoulders.

You’ve got to have the optimal diet for what you are doing. If you have a poor diet, the risk of injury is so high, that it will most likely happen at some point.

Lygdback discusses how he split Skarsgård’s programming into three nutritional cycles: build-up, cut, and maintenance. Lygdback focuses on the build-up phase in the video below:

Lygdback explained the long process of taking on a role like this. Skarsgård prepped for three to six months and filmed for another five to six months. There are many different phases he had to go through during those cycles.

You have the build-up or the bulk up phase…then you have the cutting phase…then you have the maintenance phase.

Each of these three phases had different diets based on the objective. Skarsgåard maintained a caloric surplus when bulking, so the body has the energy necessary to build muscle due to resistance training.

The Build-Up, Cutting, and Maintenance Phases

During the build-up phase, Skarsgard stays steady in a caloric surplus while putting on as much muscle mass as possible. Some fat gain is expected.

Try to put on as much muscle mass as possible, and you don’t really care about body fat…

During the cutting phase, Skarsgård incrementally drops the body fat accumulated during his bulk. Lygdback and Skarsgård achieved this by lowering Skargård’s carb and fat intake while ensuring he consumed enough protein to maintain his muscle mass.

We have these two phases [because] it is a more optimal way of building strength, mass, and getting shredded.

Once Skarsgård looked the part of a shredded Viking and started to fill back out, he and Lygdback had to ensure the muscle was maintained while body fat remained low during filming. The maintenance phase consists of five to six months of prep.

“This is probably the hardest phase,” Lygdback reveals, “because you have an actor who is on set every day, working extremely hard, doing something physical, not enough sleep — you have to make sure he eats enough food, not too much, not too little, just the right amount to look the part.”


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A post shared by Alexander Skarsgard (@alexanderskard_official)

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The Plan

Skarsgård ate around 3,700 calories daily, sometimes more, during his bulk. Lygdback had him consume 200 grams of protein, 450 grams of carbohydrates, and 150 grams of fat spread across five different meals: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner.

Protein Sources

Carbohydrate Sources

  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Farro
  • Crispbread

Fat Sources:

Typical Build-up Daily Diet

  • Breakfast: Large omelet consisting of four to five eggs, potato, avocado, vegetables
  • Snack
  • Lunch: Chicken or chickpeas, vegetable blend, quinoa
  • Snack
  • Dinner: Ribeye steak, potato, asparagus, broccoli, and vegetables 

Lygdback shows that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring. While it may be tough eating the quantity of food required to build a Viking-level physique, Skarsgård was up for the challenge — made easier by the variety of his meals. The process Skarsgård went through to develop his physique was extremely focused — something that a large production budget and full-time dedicated trainer and nutritionist enable.

Even without a big-budget support system, taking the time to allow the body to grow through a calorie surplus before cutting weight via a manageable calorie deficit is a more reliable way of maintaining the physique rendered as a result. If building quality muscle is the goal, the method Lygdback implemented with Skarsgård could serve as a malleable blueprint.

Featured image: @alexanderskard_official on Instagram