Stunt riders do what the rest of us only dream about. The incredible and adrenaline-fueled feats they perform land stuntmen a spot on the list of truly high-risk jobs. But a stunt rider doesn’t go looking for danger: They take dangerous moments and perform them as safely as possible.
This is true not just for Hollywood stunt riders but for stunt performers all over the world. A motorcycle stuntman in New York or New Zealand will always look to get the perfect take, but they’re also very keen on walking away intact. Like other high-risk jobs, it’s about planning, precision, and execution.
Good preparation for dangerous stunts starts with good health - and that comes from a balanced diet and exercise. But given the added adrenaline of being a stunt rider, there are some additional tips and tricks to make sure you’re taking advantage of your body’s full potential.
How stunt riders can stay in top shape
Some stunt performers specialize on four wheels, while others dedicate themselves to being a professional motorcycle stuntman. The vehicle you choose for your stunts will affect which areas of the body are most in need of fueling, strengthening, and resistance training.
The fastest way to learn which of your muscles and joints need training is to pay attention to what aches at the end of the day.
Aching is natural after strenuous activity. Protein fibers are working hard to replenish and replace tissue damaged by the daylong pressures of physical activity. But how long it takes to replenish protein cells is something you can control.
The body learns that every time it’s tested, it needs to build back stronger and more resistant. For many muscles, this means expanding the surface area, but for other areas it simply means stronger reinforcement of ligaments.
Bigger can mean better, especially when it comes to raw strength, but experienced stunt riders know that reinforcing muscles and ligaments (rather than just bulking up muscles) can elongate careers.
For all stunt riders, prioritize resistance training and nutrition over everything else.
But which muscle groups should you work on most? Here are our recommendations for stunt performers.
What muscle groups to focus on training
If you are a motorcycle stuntman, your body’s core is always under pressure. In addition to your abs, your quads and the flexor carpi ulnaris in your forearms are going to feel sore at the end of a long day of shooting.
Car-based stunt riders need precise movements from the arms too, specifically the anterior deltoid, biceps, and flexor carpi ulnaris. Stunt performers undergoing strong G-forces also need to build up powerful neck muscles to handle the pressure of rapid braking or changes of direction.
Stunt riders know that the more control you have over the wheel, the safer the stunt will be.
So when it comes to exercise, look for movements and training regimes that target all muscle groups in your applicable field as a stuntman. Simulator steering-wheel training with incremental resistance bands is a new popular go-to for professional Hollywood stunt riders and motorsports drivers alike.
There is a growing field of personal trainers that specialize in motorcycle stuntman or stunt rider resistance. You may wish to work with one to build a specific workout regimen based on the kind of stunts you perform.
Whatever exercise routine you decide on, keep it consistent and don’t risk injuries by pushing too hard before you’re ready. Warm up with targeted stretching - especially of the muscle groups you’re working on - to reduce the chance of straining or pulling these muscles as you work out.
Of course, exercise is only one portion of your overall health. It’s important to understand how to fuel your body efficiently too.
What to eat as a stuntman
You always need gas in the tank. That goes for whatever vehicle you’re working with, and for your own body. Your motor gets its energy from the gas it burns, and in many ways so do you - except that energy comes in the form of calories.
Stunt riders, like athletes, should usually aim for a general caloric intake a little higher than the average diet.
Given the extra work that a stunt performer does, the body needs more carbohydrates for energy. It also needs more protein to build and reinforce muscles and keep them action-ready.
Carbohydrates come from a wide variety of sources, and complex carbohydrates such as those found in beans, oatmeal, or whole-wheat bread serve athletes better than simple carbohydrates.
Why? Complex carbohydrates take more time to break down in the stomach and digestive system, the result of which is that the energy is well-rationed for the day (rather than receiving all of it in one burst).
As stuntmen and stuntwomen know, it’s better to be fueled for the long road. You never know how long the work day will go! You can always take some fast-acting carbohydrates prior to a big scene if you feel it’s necessary, but keep that baseline of complex carbohydrates fueling the body throughout the day.
Protein plays a huge role in staying in shape as a stunt rider too. Protein is the nutritional element that strengthens and shapes muscles and ligaments - and these areas of the body are constantly under pressure as a stunt performer. That means they need ample refueling.
Good protein sources include not only meat and poultry, but also eggs and dairy products. In addition, fish makes a great protein source with added healthy fats. These suggestions are all foods high in collagen.
Vegetarians and vegan stunt performers can source the protein they need from nuts, soy, tofu, or other plant-based alternatives.
Again, having a baseline of protein readily available for the body to use throughout the day is the healthiest way forward but, before “lights, camera, action” is called, you may want to take advantage of protein supplements to give you a fast-acting burst for the big moment.
Of all the protein supplements out there, the best one for stunt performers is collagen.
Collagen: the best protein supplement for stunt riders
Collagen beats out all other supplements for endurance athletes for the top place on the podium. There are a number of great reasons why that is, and why collagen is the protein of choice when it comes to stunt riders.
Collagen may build resistance
A stunt performer's number one priority is injury prevention. The most common serious injuries a motorcycle stuntman endures are injuries to the lower leg and foot. Accidents can cause the bike to fall on the rider, or the rider can be injured if they come off the bike and try to land.
ACL and PCL injuries are a constant concern, and take months of rehab to return to normal. These ligament tears put careers on pause during recovery, which only adds to the frustration and pain of the injury.
But the strength and resilience of these ligaments can be bolstered.
80% of the dry weight of ligaments is collagen protein. Collagen weaves together fibers to give great tensile strength while also allowing flexibility of movement.
Collagen is the protein supplement best suited to building resistance in ligaments for stunt riders as it literally is the protein used in the ligament to protect against injury.
In tendons, where muscle connects to bone, it’s the same story.
Collagen also gives form and structure to muscles, and it’s also found in skin, blood vessels, organs, and bones. It’s the most abundant protein in the body for a reason, which is why taking it as a supplement is a more and more popular choice for athletes and people with high-risk jobs like a Hollywood stuntman.
Collagen makes a great post workout recovery supplement, and can help your tendons and ligament bounce back after an all-day beating.
Collagen may help ligament and ankle recovery
If the worst does happen and a ligament tears, collagen is perhaps even more essential than it was before. That’s because collagen can help to speed up the recovery of a sports injury.
How long it takes your body to heal from injury is often fairly synonymous with how long it takes collagen to reweave and reconstruct the injured area. With this in mind, keeping the body well fueled with the correct level of collagen protein becomes a no-brainer.
In one study, ankle injuries recovered faster and fewer follow-up injuries were reported in a group of subjects taking collagen versus a control group.
Remember, even a small injury to the ankle can destabilize the body and put undesired pressure on other muscles and joints. If a stunt rider does become injured, they need to recover efficiently and fully. For that reason, collagen supplements are an essential aid.
Collagen may boost wound healing
The most common injuries a motorcycle stuntman faces are the day to day cuts and scrapes to hands, limbs, and fingers.
Protective equipment and padding for big scenes are a must, but at the end of a long day’s shooting, a stunt rider may find nicks, cuts, and even gashes that they didn’t even realize they’d received.
When the body senses the presence of a wound, it rushes into action to seal the area and create a scab over it. Then, after the site is declared free from bacterial threats that could cause infection, collagen protein goes to work replenishing soft tissue cells and repairing the skin until the area regains its previous integrity.
Larger wounds caused by crashes and heavier impacts also heal in the same way. Although they take longer to recover from, the biological process is very similar: The body uses collagen for wound healing, making it of great use for stunt riders.
As you grow older, your natural collagen production slows down year by year. That’s why collagen supplementation is important for swift wound healing - you might not have enough stores of collagen naturally to get the job done in an expedient manner.
But what kind of collagen is the best for stuntmen and stuntwomen? We recommend a high-quality liquid collagen protein.
Collagen on the go for stunt performers
Being a stunt rider is undoubtedly one of the most high-risk jobs.
Collagen has so many of the attributes that stuntmen look for. It can lower the risk and severity of injuries, and speed up healing time in the event of one - shortening downtime and lengthening careers.
When it comes to collagen supplementation, you shouldn’t have to worry about it taking a long time to fuel up your body. Liquid protein shots, like those available from Frog Fuel, are nano-hydrolyzed for easy digestion, and are fully absorbable in just fifteen minutes.
The pre-measured, ready-to-go pouches are ideal for throwing into your bag and tossing back before your big scenes. And, if it’s a particularly long day of shooting, or you're just getting a very early start, caffeine and collagen mix well too.
No matter how or when you take it, keeping your body fueled with ample high-quality collagen protein will help protect you as a stunt performer - and prepare your body and career for success.