MH Interview with LBH

April 2013 Men’s Health Interview: Lee Byung-Hun

Source: Men’s Health Singapore

Even with his character, Storm Shadow, slain in the 2010 smash hit G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the irrepressible Korean star Lee Byung-Hun refuses to stay down. Thanks to the resurrection of the supposedly dead ninja villain in Retaliation, the second installment in the Hasbro toy live action series, the 42-year-old will once again be dazzling cinema goers with more pulsating katana- and hand-to-hand combat scenes. So committed is the already fit and trim tae kwon do exponent to perfecting those fight sequences, he has willingly been enduring a training regime which would make any G.I Joe cringe. The actor shares the secrets to building the ripped physique – and killer moves – of a ninja with Men’s Health.


Are we expecting a very different Storm Shadow in Retaliation?
As we now already know, Storm Shadow emerges from The Rise of Cobra, very much alive. So, to make him more credible, I felt that I had to improve my fitness and my physique – I imagine that this was what this ninja assassin would have done anyway. To become stronger and bigger, I changed my diet and embarked on a strict training programme.

Tell us more about your training.
My weekly training programme included five weights-room sessions, stunt training and a couple of runs. These weren’t my only physical activity. Because I was playing a ninja, I had to learn how to wield different weapons, like the Japanese sai and katana. To maintain my flexibility, there were also stretching sessions aplenty for me. Thankfully, my prior training in tae kwon do proved very helpful.

We heard that you were pumping iron to failure.
Mine was an intensive weights training programme, designed by a personal trainer from Los Angeles, because I had to build more muscle mass. He got me to work the major muscle groups using isolation workouts. And yes, we weren’t too concerned about counting reps – I always had to work to failure. There were four to five types of exercises – just for one muscle group. That wasn’t all. I had to complete four to five sets of each exercise. Because lower-body workouts were especially effective in burning calories and building muscle, I had to train my legs intensively. And even though strength training was the most important component of my regime, I didn’t neglect cardio workouts. I biked, walked and exercised on the elliptical machine quite a bit.

Did you make any changes to your diet?
Yes. I was prepared to make the sacrifices which were necessary to get my body in tip-top condition. For example, I stopped consuming fast food and alcohol. For The Rise of Cobra, I was dieting more and using protein powder to help supplement my meals. For Retaliation, however, I opted for more natural protein. I had a chicken breast and broccoli meal about five times every day. I also drank plenty of water and made sure I got enough rest.

How do you keep fit when you’re not training for ninja assassin roles?
I lead a very active lifestyle. When I am not working, I enjoy snowboarding in winter. I golf and swim in the summer months. However, trying to find the time to exercise when I am traveling is quite a challenge. I find myself working out at hotel gyms quite regularly – just so that I can keep up with my training.

What tips do you have for someone trying to build your physique?
Start by trying to eat healthy. And, do exercise regularly – even if it is just walking. Having – and keeping to – a regular exercise routine is crucial. And forget about those extreme diets – they aren’t healthy.


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