From sweet starlet to ax-slinging assassin, Jena Malone transformed herself into the savage District 7 tribute Johanna Mason for the second installment of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire—and she’s got a killer body to show for it.
“Sometimes you just need to get sweaty in a gym and feel pain in your body like you've never felt before,” the 28-year-old actress told Vogue about getting in shape for her insanely physical role.
In addition to regular martial arts training taught by a fleet of professional stuntmen, Malone enlisted the help of Hollywood body-sculptor Patrick Murphy for intense strength training and agility sessions. Here, Murphy shares the strategies that helped Malone sculpt her fierce fighter physique.
SHAPE: Tell us about your training philosophy.
Patrick Murphy (PM): My personal goal for my clients is that they feel fantastic and are able to move pain-free in their later years. I stay away from exercises that can hurt posture or eventually lead to injuries such as bench dips and upright rows. Instead, I focus on proper form. So if you're doing a lunge or a step-up, maintaining optimal position and posture is most important to me.
SHAPE: Malone has said she trained with you five days a week for two months before she even started filming. What was your plan of action to get Jena Hunger Games ready?
PM: Truth be told, I had a great canvas to start with. Our game plan was to incorporate strength and power moves into balance and agility training, with four to five workouts a week. We targeted different muscle groups on different days with varied split routines each week, determined by how Jena was feeling. We might have focused on pushing movements one day and pulling movements the next, always doing core work too. On days we weren't doing resistance training, Jena would do high-intenstiy sprint intervals so we never hit a plateau.
SHAPE: And how did you see her body transform?
PM: Jena went from thin to lean and mean, and by the end of two months, seriously hard and ripped. She had a history of training hard—her body changed very quickly.
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SHAPE: In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Johanna Mason is known for being talented with an ax, how did you incorporate that into her workout?
PM: Her character would be in "do or die" situations so her movements had to be super focused with high intensity. Exercising with resistance bands, cables, weighted bars, and dumbbells prepared her to strike with any weapon; her wrist and handgrip became super strong. After many reps and much practice she made difficult movements look easy!
SHAPE: To sustain all her effort in the gym, what type of nutritional plan did you recommend?
PM: The great news for me was learning that Jena already eats super healthy. I did some fine-tuning by asking her to eat all organic and avoid processed foods; it helped her maintain amazing energy and achieve that lean, ripped body.
SHAPE: What's the best way for women to start integrating Malone’s training strategies into their routine?
PM: First and foremost, you need a strong mindset and the willingness to change—only then will you reach your fitness goals. Commit to becoming super fit and make it a top priority. Also, I recommend that everyone work with a fitness professional, even if it’s periodically to make sure you’re on the proper path for reaching your full potential.
Be sure to catch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, in theaters November 22.