For her debut as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, actress Jennifer Lawrence had six weeks to get into warrior shape. And according to her conditioning coach, Dr. Joe Horrigan, it was an intense month and a half.
Stunt people taught the actress to climb trees, scale rocks, and jump logs, but Dr. Horrigan recently told us that he focused on movement basics and taught Lawrence to move like a natural athlete. Along with track work and agility drills, the conditioning coach used these three basic drills when working to transform the actress into the trilogy’s famous heroine.
To master running, you need to sort out the arm movements first by pumping them forward and backward. Dr. Horrigan explains, “You want the elbow to stay about 90 degrees. You want your elbow to come back and the hand to come forward, right about in front of the face. We’re not supposed to swing way out with arms straight. We’re not suppose to swing way back.”
Next, start to bring the knees into it, by marching in place with a high knee motion. But don’t cross the knees past the center of your body. “Make sure the legs are going straight because the whole point is to move forward,” says the conditioning coach.
That marching progresses into good old-fashioned skipping. During one training session, Lawrence took off practicing her moves, and when she turned around, she was “grinning from ear to ear,” according to her coach. She told Horrigan, “How could I not be happy skipping?”
The side step is also another athletic movement the 21-year-old used in her training. It’s a simple step to the side: the foot you’re pushing off of stays on the ground until your other foot is on the ground as well. The movement is small with the knees bent in an athletic stance. To progress the movement, Dr. Horrigan says, “We take them faster and then a little bit deeper, and change direction very quickly.”
Adding the grapevine into the routine means mixing up the footwork even more: cross one foot in front of the other, then behind, and keep crossing over back and forth while moving sideways. Squatting down into an athletic position increases the difficulty of the drill, and then you go faster. The final progression is direction change.
“Jennifer did all of these drills, and she just kept getting better and better until after one day, she turned around and said, ‘I got it!'” To which the very proud coach replied, “Yes, you did.”
Lawrence has said that acting during the superphysical scenes in the movie was a serious challenge for her. But working with Horrigan on these basic athletic movement patterns certainly helped make her portrayal of Katniss catlike.
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