It started when Ellis began training with Paolo Mascitti for Season 3. “We’d been working together for about nine months or so, and he kept saying he’d like to take the training to another level,” says Ellis. “I’d just hit 40, and was looking for a new challenge, but I just didn’t have the time. So as we came towards the end of Season 3, we made a bet.”
The terms of the bet were simple; if Lucifer was renewed for a fourth season, Ellis would commit to a three month training plan. “And then of course the show got cancelled,” laughs Ellis. “I was devastated, but one thing I did think was at least I’m off the hook! And then everything happened with Netflix, and the first call I got after the show was picked up was from Paolo, saying ‘we’re on.’”
During the three-month hiatus before shooting began, Ellis threw himself into the program, training remotely in London via Facetime. “It was like a new full-time job,” he recalls. “This was the first time I’d ever truly committed on all fronts; training, diet, persistence. It was mainly about building muscle mass to begin with. I didn’t have a lot of body fat; it’s actually quite difficult for me to gain.”
Ellis only had about three months to increase his muscle mass, Mascitti says. “We focused on the basics: mostly compound movements, lots of pull-ups, squats between bench presses and dead lifts," he says. The workout routine we used was four days—split between upper and lower body—with heavy weights and two days of high intensity interval training. We used bodyweight, kettlebell and medicine ball [movements], with variations on squats and jumps; two minutes at moderate intensity and one minute pushing to the limit," Macitti says. When it came to his diet, Ellis had five regular meals and two shakes per day. The meals were macro balanced, with carbohydrates coming from mostly vegetables.
Ellis gained about nine kilograms in the first two months, then started stripping down in the last month, changing from heavy compound to smaller, medium weights, doing supersets on different body parts, and starting every session with a sprint session on the treadmill.
“Paolo said ‘there’ll be a point when you wake up one day and your body will look different,’” he says. “And I remember that day, I was in Atlanta, and I woke up and it was weird how different I looked. It’s an illusion of course, but it seemed to have literally taken shape overnight.”
One of the biggest obstacles that Ellis had to overcome was the change to his diet, where he admits to having always been “a little slack,” and in particular, giving up beer. “I’ve always been a social person, I’ve always loved beer–or liquid bread, as Paolo calls it,” he says. “So cutting out all alcohol for three months was the big challenge; that was my go-to at the end of the day to unwind. And some days I would really want a drink, but I had Paolo checking in on me every day. He was literally my conscience! It’s so different when you feel accountable to someone. I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Once that three-month window was over, Ellis went back to shooting Lucifer, and his six-day-a-week training schedule was pared back. “We got to a point where we were happy, and now it’s more about maintenance,” he says. “We cut out all the heavy weights and compound movements; it’s a case of trying to keep surprising my body. A lot of kettle bell flows, a lot of own body weight stuff, push-ups, pull-ups. High intensity, short rest, then back into it.”
The results of all that hard work are on proud display in Netflix’s teaser trailer for Season 4, and Ellis can’t wait for fans to see what is in store for both Lucifer the show and Lucifer the character. “What I’ve loved about this season is that, because it’s on Netflix and only ten episodes, it’s a really strong, tight story throughout," he says. "It felt at the time that we were doing the best season yet, and now that I’ve seen the new episodes I think it really is, because the stakes are so much higher for all our characters. It’s a leaner, meaner Lucifer.”
And is beer still off the menu? “I’ve just become a lot more conscious about it,” he says. “Now in the evening if I want a drink, I might just have one, but other nights I’ll just have a peppermint tea. It’s nice to be able to get up in the morning and feel fresh."
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This article originally appeared on Men's Health US