Kit Harington is best known for his role as John Snow in the hit series Game of Thrones. Although not known for his sheer muscle mass and strength, like Europe’s Strongest man Thor Bjornson who also stars in Game of Thrones as the giant warrior ‘The Mountain’, Harington was able to transform his pretty average frame into a shredded, fully functional physique. To be fair to Harington we hardly ever saw him in anything less than cloaks and fur, his character was dour steward of the Knight’s Watch which saw him inhabit some pretty inhospitable, cold terrain, so he can be forgiven for not shredding up during this time. With his new starring role as Milo, hero of Gladiatorial film Pompeii, Kit Harington soon realised he had to shape up…and shape up properly!
What did he do?
Firstly he recruited top conditioning trainer Nuno de Salles who quickly got to work on identifying Harington’s short fallings (and apparently there were several). Harington has just been on an around the world promotional tour for Game of Thrones, during which time he ate and drank relatively freely, which according to Nuno saw Harington enter the training and eating regime in pretty poor condition. His underlying level of strength was reasonable, but his bodyfat sat at around 17%, not terrible, but nowhere near low enough for those abs to start popping.
There was work to be done meaning a training routine was set over 2 months, which saw Harington train 6 days a week involving high intensity, explosive movements coupled with regular strength training. Producers even commissioned a fully functional gym to be built in the film studio, such was the urgency of the transformation, so that Harington could train between takes! Nuno explained that Harington had very limited experience in the gym environment, but he soon picked it up, going on to become a ‘bit of a demon in the weights room’. According to Nuno, Harington was ‘quite the genetic specimen’ evidenced by his uncanny ability to adapt to the training stimulus and grow muscle.
Pull- up king
Apparently Harington quickly noticed that he had an affinity to pull movements, especially the pull- up. He was able to just keep on going, wide grip, close grip, underhand, overhand or jumping pull- ups, you name it Harington could do it. This is evidenced by his impressive taper and vascular, bulbous looking biceps during the opening scene in Pompeii which sees him take out multiple enemies in one fail swoop.
As I said, the first part of his training regime consisted of bodybuilding and explosive movements, this was because the stunt director wanted Harington to perform a lot of his own stunts to maintain authenticity. The plyometric movements consisted of plyo jumps, sprints and bounding, as well as regular stretching and mobility work. The volume of work varied from high to low in order to allow for recovery and adjustment, without the risk of overtraining. The latter part of the routine involved more compound movements and regular isolation movements such as bicep curls.
3 week training cycle
In order to keep the training fresh and targeted, Nuno programmed a 3 week cycle consisting of 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps in the first week, followed by the same number of sets but with slightly less total volume, and finally he would do 5 sets of heavy lifts that were around 70-80% of his 1 rep max, but not entering powerlifting territory due to the injury risk, it just wasn’t worth it for his goals. Cardio was kept to a minimum because of the high intensity exercises constituting a HIIT like routine.
By the end of his training and nutrition plan, Harington was down to 6% bodyfat, but had also managed to increase his total muscle mass too…win win!
Harington’s training routine
Day 1: Chest
Day 2: Back and Biceps
Day 3: Legs (yep, he didn’t skip leg day)
Day 4: Shoulders and triceps
Day 5: Abs and core
Day 6: Arms
Key Supplements (according to December issue of Muscle & Fitness)
Wide- grip chin- up
Close- reverse- grip chin- up
Parallel- grip chin- up
Seated wide- grip lat- pulldown
EZ bar curl
One- arm concentration curl
Muscle and Fitness, (2014). From the ashes. How game of thrones star kit Harrington got shredded for his lead role in action blockbuster Pompeii. December Ed. 2014.