One of the more memorable moments in Stranger Things 4, amid a whole bunch of twists and shocking reveals, was the scene where Hopper got undressed in front of Joyce and the viewer saw the dramatic toll that recent events have taken on his body. The weight loss was both a plot point in the season—if you spend several months in a gulag, the pounds are going to come off—as well as an unfortunate punchline at times, but for David Harbour, who played him, it was important to show what the character had been through.
“When I took my shirt off, I wanted to reveal this body that had been hardened by this prison, you know, a guy who was more brutal but was also thinner and had not been eating as well,” he explained in a recent Instagram Live, where he and trainer and physical therapist David Higgins discussed his 75-pound weight loss.
Harbour recalled how in 2019, he suffered an Achilles rupture which made training incredibly difficult, especially during all of the stunt work he was doing on Black Widow. “I was in pain a lot… I just thought I was an old guy,” he said. “I was 44 at the time, and I thought it was just over.”
It was on the set of Black Widow that he met Higgins, and together they put together a plan to help Harbour overcome his injuries and get back in shape ahead of filming Season 4 of Stranger Things, envisioning a lean, boxer-like physique. “I’m a bear, bull-like physique.” Harbour said. “The idea that I would get down to some lean light heavyweight was insane to me.”
For the first couple of weeks, Higgins kept Harbour focused on simple mobility and activation exercises to help him overcome some of the knee issues which made working out hard. He then progressed onto kettlebell workouts, and introduced steady-state cardio into his routine. “It really did add up,” he said. “It was the simple things that I continued to do that made a difference.”
On the nutrition side, Harbour began intermittent fasting. “It’s kind of the fad diet of the moment, but it really did work for me,” he said. “It wasn’t so much about what I was eating, it was about the how, and that was much better for my lifestyle, because I don’t cook, and all these guys in fitness are like ‘you’ve got to steam chicken breast and vegetables and a little bit of rice,’ and it’s just not my vibe. I did find, though, because I was really big, the weight came off pretty easily.”
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“There’s health, and then there’s aesthetics, like how you look, and then there’s how you feel, and I think sometimes those are the same, and sometimes they’re very different,” Harbour continued. “My whole relationship to my body changed… I felt I could trust this machine more, I could do things… It’s those little things I’m grateful for. I don’t have aches in my hip and knee anymore because I’ve strengthened my core. Those are the things that are really invaluable.”
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