The World's Tallest Bodybuilder Shared His Plan for Building Monster Muscle

Actor Olivier Richters is 7'2"—five inches taller than The Mountain—and weighs 330 pounds.

olivier richters
Courtesy of Olivier Richters

Olivier Richters may just be the biggest thing in Hollywood.

Not by name recognition—though he’s working on that—but by sheer size alone: Richters is 7-foot-2 and weighs 330 pounds. To put that into perspective, he’s 5 inches taller than Thor Bjornsson—a man so big he was considered perfect for a character called “The Mountain.”

Known as the “Dutch Giant,” Richters is so big that the Guinness Book of World Records has named him the world’s tallest bodybuilder. And while he’s still growing his physique—and his acting career—his size has made previously impossible-to-film characters a reality for Hollywood directors. In Black Widow, he appeared as Ursa, a Marvel mutant known for being able to turn into a brown bear. And for the upcoming Borderlands film starring Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart, and Jamie Lee Curtis, Richters plays Krom, one of the game’s larger-than-life bosses.

“They originally were going to make the character CGI. But then the director found me on Instagram and said, ‘we need to make him in real life,’” he says.

Before you ask—yes, he can dunk, and has been able to since he was 14. While rehabbing from a recent injury, Richters sat down to talk about what he does on leg day, give advice for tall lifters, and how he has to eat 5,000 calories per day—when he’s cutting weight.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

In 2018, you did a video interview with in the Netherlands, and you talked about your daily eating schedule. Is it still the same? Or have you adjusted it since then?

I’ve actually simplified it. So what you see in the Men's Health video is that I really eat complete meals—you have the carbs, the rice and the meat and vegetables. And I ate that 6 to 7 times a day. And what I noticed, when I'm out of the country on a film set—for instance—I made a diet that's much easier to follow. All the macros are still the same. But first I eat my meat, for example, 200 grams of salmon. So then I have the proteins and the fats. That's really quick. I can do that in 2 minutes. And then nobody has to wait [for me] on set.

And after that I drink my oat shake. So that's ultrafine oats, blended with a whey scoop, and you drink it. So the shake is around 700 calories. Drink it in one minute, the salmon you eat in 2 minutes. So I have 1000 calories and around 70 grams of protein literally in 3 minutes. And that's simplified my diet so much and I've kept progressing with that diet—before my break, at least. I just prep the meat the evening before and then I make all these little bags of oats that I just drink on set.

What’s in that 700-calorie oat shake?

It's 150 grams of oats, 50 grams of whey protein with vanilla flavor, and enough water so it isn't cement. You just drink it. It's not like you're dining or anything. It's just drink it—if you have to eat 6 to 7 times a day, It doesn't really matter anymore. It's all about efficiency at the moment.

How many total calories are you eating on a normal, daily basis? And how many grams of protein?

It depends on what stage. For example, I was cast for [The Electrical Life of] Louis Wain, where they wanted me to be a boxer. I was way too bulky. So then I went to 5000 calories—and 5000 calories actually gets me shredded. Normally I'm between around 6,500 and 7,000, if I really have a lot to do on set. Because some more movies, you're really working and walking and talking all day. So then I really have to pump it up to 7000 just to keep the weight of 155 kilos.

Minimum is 300 grams of protein. And I go to 400 if I train along with it. It sounds ridiculous, but people sometimes forget how big my frame is and how much muscle damage that gives. The scale and the mirror just prove that I need it. So there are people that say, "that's way too much, it's 2.6 times your body weight of protein." If I go under, I drop a kilo of weight per day. That's how ridiculous this body is.

olivier richters
Courtesy of Olivier Richters

For other tall guys out there, do you have any lifting advice based on your own experience?

I discuss this a lot with my bodybuilding coach. He actually didn't want me to train differently than any other person, but I just need to make sure I reach the range of motion. And that's the problem for tall guys—I don't fit in machines. So if I have a chest press machine, I can only go for 75% [of the range of motion before the machine locks out]. So you will never see me in a chest press machine.

But I never switched exercises or didn't do them because I'm tall. And that might not be the answer that people want to hear, because they want to know a secret about tall bodybuilders. But for me, it was just a way longer road to see the gains. Because I was gaining 10 kilos every year, from 80 kilos to only 155 kilos. But the problem with tall guys is the muscles are so long that it takes so long to see the difference. My arms, before my break and in the movies, are only one centimeter different than Arnold Schwarzenegger. But if you see me in a photo, you won't see Schwarzenegger unless you put my arm next to a normal person. It's all about perspective.

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So sometimes that's why tall people are like, "Oh, I can never look like him." It just takes so much longer because you have to grow so much more to look the same in perspective compared to a smaller person.

What I think is very important for tall people—why they train. I have one of the tallest backs in the world, and I never have back issues. I can only explain that with people who do have back problems, they're only sitting in an office and they don't go to the gym. I'm always in movements and I always keep the back strong. I think every person above two meters should be obligated to himself to go to the gym a few times a week to keep those muscles and tendons and everything strong because they're so tall and not always in the greatest postures in chairs, and you have to duck always. It's so important that your body is stronger than the average person to handle this.

What about advice you’ve gotten? In your Instagram videos, you’re lifting with lots of other big and big-name bodybuilders. What’s the best thing you’ve picked up from them?

The best tip I got was maybe from Jay Cutler. Because I did know that I was going to travel a lot. And I asked him, how do you keep this shape while you're traveling for all your fans? And he explained to me the concept that you don't have to do that much to maintain. You have to do a lot to give that incentive for the muscle to grow. But just to stay the same, just get a pump and go away. And later, my coach told me you only have to do 30 or 40 percent of what you have to do to grow muscle in order to maintain it.

So those were great tips on being on a film set, because sometimes I have to wake up at 5 a.m., I'm back at 8 p.m., and then I still have to go to the gym. I wake up at 5 a.m. Again. I can't do normal bodybuilding training. So I go back to the tip from my coach and Jay Cutler. Just get the pump in and get out of there. My body stayed exactly the same size.

olivier richters
Courtesy of Olivier Richters

Is there a body part that’s especially tough to grow or have size show because of your height?

It will always be the legs. My upper body grew faster than my legs, and my legs, for the last two years, are finally catching up because my upper body is starting to slow down. Because there's always a limit to what you can reach as a human being from your own genetics. With the longer muscles, I always say to people, compare it to chewing gum. If you have this little bubble and you stretch it out, it becomes thinner and thinner.

So imagine what happens with your muscles in your legs. They get stretched out while growing. They're so thin and they have to fill up so much. So you always see with tall guys, they're insecure that they have very skinny legs, and it's the hardest thing to get massive. In the beginning years when I posted to Instagram, they always said, "chicken legs" and stuff. And of course, I was training them, but it just takes so many more years to develop. And now when I post photos, nobody says anything anymore.

And what do you to do on leg day … when your leg isn’t broken?

With my training, I always switch between three things—stamina training, with drop sets and supersets, hypertrophic training, and strength training. I swap every six weeks. Here’s what I do when I’m trying to put on size.

I always warm up. If I don't do that, then I will notice the day after that my knees are not OK anymore. So warming up I usually cycle five or 6 minutes, and then I also warm up in the first exercise. For a normal day that would be squatting. I do two sets of 15 reps just with the bar, no weights on.

For all these exercises, each exercise is three sets—but each set is three times going to failure. Pick a weight that you think you could do plus-or-minus 8 reps. Then do not stop, but wait 1-2 seconds. Then do another three reps. Do not stop. Wait 1-2 seconds, and perform one more rep. Thus, each set will have 12 reps, but you go to failure three times with 8, 3, and 1 rep, each with 1-2 seconds in between.

So squatting is always first with me. I do the three sets. Then I do leg extension and leg press, three sets. And for me, that's really enough for the quads. Only 8 to 10 sets are enough for my quads to kill them. If I do more than that and it takes six days to repair them, that's ridiculous. That's not how far it should go.

If you don't recover within three or four days, then you know you have broken down the wall too much. If you recover from that too quickly—or not—then you can adjust it yourself until you're ready to do more.

The hamstring is very classic. Maybe it’s because I'm a tall person, but I really hate stiff-legged deadlifts, and that's because my hamstrings are still short. I'm trying to stretch them out. So: Lying leg curl, sitting leg curl. Those are two classic ones. Three sets.

And then the calf training—seated calf raises and standing calf raises. So I have around 7 exercises for leg training.

Speaking of being on set, can you tell us anything about Indiana Jones 5?

Even on IMDB, it doesn't say which character I am. That's how secret it still is. We just finished filming and going into editing now. If I'm say something now, they'll be really, really mad, so I can't.

What I can tell you is it's my biggest part that I've ever done from all the movies. I was eight months there. We went to Morocco, Italy, London, Scotland.

Playing with Harrison Ford and Mads Mikkelsen and Boyd Holbrook—I mean, those people are so much more further in their acting careers than me and great teachers. I had Boyd and Mads, we were doing scenes in the same room. And they weren't shy about giving me tips when I asked them.

Harrison Ford is 79 now. He had more stamina than me. I didn't see him sitting on a chair any day for eight months. In the breaks, he's on his bicycle. Always energy, always flirting with the extras on set. I don't know how he does it.

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