Landing the role of legendary WWE wrestler The Iron Sheik in NBC’s Young Rock represented a major turning point in Brett Azar’s acting career.
Until then, Azar, 34, was best known for being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body double in the later Terminator movies. (Spoiler: It’s Azar’s body, not Arnold’s, that you’re seeing from the neck down in those iconic shirtless moments.)
While Young Rock gave Azar a chance to prove he could also do some heavy lifting as an actor, he still needed to maintain something approximating the Sheik’s reportedly 6’0, 260-pound physique—no small feat, especially considering Azar had to begin training while quarantined in an Australian hotel room.
“They put a 300-pound weight set in my room, just the bar with 300 pounds,” Azar says. “I’m surprised I didn’t get fined for breaking the hotel furniture, because I took two chairs and I used that as the bench,” he says. “I put the bar down on the bench, and I’d bench off the floor. Then shrugs, deadlifts. Overhead press I had to do kneeling, or else I was going to put the weights through the roof.”
Somehow, this makeshift hotel room workout translated to Azar achieving the most shredded physique of his career. As many viewers pointed out, Azar looked even leaner and stronger than the Sheik in his prime. “When I came out of quarantine, I was 15 pounds lighter and shredded, with like the wings going up through the stomach and everything. The other [actors] were like, “Dude what the…?” And so right then, it became, “We’re going to the gym with you.” We’d all train together.”
Diet, naturally, also played a significant role, with Azar minding his carb intake and ramping up his protein. “I eat low-carb, high-protein, and moderate fat all day, and then at night, I’ll have whatever carbs I’m craving and go to bed happy.”
Much like the TV show’s namesake, those cheat meals are serious business, and occasionally approach the stuff of legend. Azar’s go-to involves cinnamon raisin bread with butter and jelly. “I’ll toast usually about four slices, and I’ll slap some butter and a little bit of grape jelly on there, and that’s my fix,” he says.
On Sundays, meanwhile, he goes all-in: “I’d sit down and have one meal. I’ll eat until I have to go to the bathroom, and then I go to bed. Pizzas, pastas, cookies, chips …usually by the time I got to ice cream, I was running to the bathroom, and then I was done.”
It’s a program Azar still adheres to today. “I’ll have like the like a little bit of carbs most days at bedtime, but then one night—like on leg day or the day that I really hit it really hard—I’ll just blow out a meal and pass out in a food coma,” he says. “I feel less guilty doing it on a day that I know I crushed. I’d feel guilty if I did nothing all day. You have to earn that meal. You have to crush it—and then you can go have your spoils.”
Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Azar, including what his Terminator training was like, as well as the viral campaign to see him take over for Dave Bautista as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy.
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