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William Zabka Lost 20 Pounds for 'Cobra Kai'

Men's Health logo Men's Health 4/26/2018 Vinnie Mancuso

How William Zabka prepared to reprise his role as Johnny Lawrence, the iconic 'Karate Kid' villain, 34 years later.: William Zabka Lost 20 Pounds for 'Cobra Kai' © Getty William Zabka Lost 20 Pounds for 'Cobra Kai' William Zabka on reprising his role as an iconic '80s villain.

The older you get, the harder it becomes to sweep the leg.

At least, that's the lesson William Zabka is learning as he steps back into the dojo for YouTube Red's Cobra Kai. As intense teenage martial artist Johnny Lawrence in the original Karate Kid, Zabka singe-handedly ushered in the quintessential blonde '80s villain, providing the perfect foil to Ralph Macchio's Daniel LaRusso and ensuring "sweep the leg, Johnny" would be drunkenly yelled at sporting events for decades to come.

But times have surely changed, both on-screen and off.

"You definitely have to work harder to keep the pounds off. It's not as easy to keep the muscles tight as it was when I was 18," Zabka told MensHealth.com at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Cobra Kai, which sees both Zabka and Macchio reprising their roles 34 years later.

a group of people posing for the camera: Karate Kid cast © John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival Karate Kid cast When Zabka got the call, he immediately got to work on whipping himself back into Johnny Lawrence shape.

"I actually dropped about 20 pounds from the time I announced the show until we started screening it," he told us.

Looking for quick results, the 52-year-old partnered with Chad Landers of California's PUSH Private Fitness for a rigorous, high-intensity workout plan partnered with a high-protein, low-calorie diet.

"Chad whipped me into shape really fast," Zabka said. "About two weeks."

He added, "I took it really seriously. I looked at it as, 'What would Johnny be doing today?' And that was great, because I was able to get back into that mindset all over again and I'm back to where I want to be shape wise."

Zabka largely credits his ability to stay fitness-focused on the training he received from Pat E. Johnson, the award-winning black belt and Karate Kid choreographer who, Zabka says, "built Johnny Lawrence from the ground up."

"The mentality of Johnny was so instilled in me [by Johnson]," the actor said. "More than just the physicality of martial arts - it’s the mental part. It’s discipline. Martial arts instills so much incredible self-esteem ... That stuck with me for a lifetime."

Gallery: 6 reasons you're gaining back all the weight you lost 6 Reasons You're Gaining Back All the Weight You Lost


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