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William Zabka Did This To Get Back In Fighting Shape For Cobra Kai

When you're cast as a martial arts sensei in The Karate Kid-Cobra Kai universe, you'd best be ready to throw out a couple of crane kicks (or leg sweeps, depending on your moral compass). Johnny Lawrence actor William Zabka knew this when he was cast for the first film back in the 1980s, but he had the benefit of youth on his side back then. Even without prior knowledge of martial arts, he had the physicality of a healthy young man, so training was more about technique than it was about getting into shape in the first place.

In between then and production beginning for Cobra Kai, Zabka continued studying martial arts. At 55, however, he's not as young and spry as the Johnny Lawrence of yore. Practicing on his own time is one thing; being prepared to perform on set for a show people around the world are going to watch is another. With that kind of pressure, Health Digest reports Zabka determined that he had to get back into fighting shape and that he'd need help to do so.

That help came courtesy of Chad Landers, a celebrity trainer and nutrition consultant.  "He was in good shape," anders said in an interview with Onnit. However, given the adage about the camera adding 10 lbs., "You're always better off being a little bit leaner than not when you're shooting a movie or TV show." It was with that mindset that the two men set about bringing Johnny Lawrence back to life in prime condition.

Wlliam Zabka's Johnny Lawrence is as fit as ever on Cobra Kai

In the same Onnit interview, Landers noted that he would "intersperse strength training with interval cardio," making sure to give Zabka a breather between them. Zabka spent three or four days a week on this routine while varying the exercises as much as possible — from bench pressing to running on a treadmill —  and his physical condition improved beyond what it'd already been beforehand. He even lost a bit of weight.

Knowing Zabka would probably be executing a number of kicks on Cobra Kai, Landers also ensured that they spent time working on Zabka's muscle balance — which, while not quite the balance Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi taught Ralph Macchio's Daniel LaRusso, is still super important. "I didn't want to risk him being weak on one side or in any way that could hurt his performance," Landers said. So they did all the leg workouts on both sides of Zabka's body.

In an interview with PopCulture.com, Zabka also credited his return to form to a renewal of his martial arts training. From karate to taekwondo, he re-familiarized himself with the motions that would come with Cobra Kai's fight scenes. Aided by trainers that kept him "limber and safe," as well as a carefully regulated diet of lean proteins and vegetables, Zabka eventually felt that he truly embodied Johnny Lawrence once again.

The whole process required not only that the work be done, but that Zabka fully dedicated himself to it — lucky for Cobra Kai fans, that's exactly what he did. The next time he throws out some crazy kick, you can appreciate the effort that went into being able to throw it.