Punch, Shoot and Snatch

Frank Trigg, former-MMA-fighter-turned-actor-and-stuntman credits CrossFit with keeping him fight-ready.
By Brittney Saline, CF-L1 ,

Frank Trigg’s heart hammered as he fled, sprinting as fast as his heavy boots and fatigues would allow. Bullets pelted the air to his side. He pulled his hat low to meet his sunglasses and returned fire, twisting sideways to aim his rifle at the cops to his left as he tore across the strip-mall lot.

He felt the shot before he heard it. His chest folded in as he flew backward into an 8-foot plate-glass window, landing lifelessly on a bed of glass shards in a small trinket shop.

“Cut!” yelled the director from behind a row of cameras just beyond the carnage.

The cameras stopped rolling, and Trigg sat up.

“Good death,” praised a fellow crew member.

“We walked through it 10 to 15 times before the cameras were set up,” Trigg, a professional stunt artist of nearly four years, proudly said, “and then we did it in one take.”

A regular stunt professional on CBS’s Hawaii Five-0, Trigg has performed in more than 15 movies and television shows like NCIS: Los Angeles, as well as several dozen appearances in television series, movies and documentaries as a professional mixed martial artist and wrestler.

Trigg, 43, began wrestling at age 12 in his small childhood town of Kendall, New York.

“In the winter, you either played basketball or you wrestled or [did] cheerleading,” he said, “and I was too short to play basketball.”

He also found the sport’s individual accountability appealing.

“[In basketball], one player can have a great game, you know, score 30 points, but the team still loses,” he said. “I don’t like to rely on other people. Wrestling also is a team sport, but if I did well that night, I could win. If I did poor, I would lose, and that result was on me.”

After going on to wrestle at the University of Oklahoma, where he also studied judo and mixed martial arts, he became a finalist in the 2000 Olympic Trials for wrestling. Three years later, he joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a premier MMA promotion, fighting professionally for the next seven years. But it wasn’t until 2011, when he visited the set of Hawaii Five-0 to watch a friend perform stunts that he discovered his next path.

“He was like, ‘Hey, I’m robbing a bank today, do you wanna come watch?’” Trigg recounted.

As Trigg watched his friend take shots, falls and hits, he struck up a conversation about fights with a man sitting nearby. That man happened to be Jeff Cadiente, director and stunt coordinator of Hawaii Five-0.

“He put me to work a few days later, and I got the bug,” Trigg said.

The transition from professional fighting to stunt work was a natural one for Trigg, who has spent most of his life learning complex fight moves.

“The fight stuff, which should be pretty challenging, for me it’s pretty easy,” he said. “It’s just a pattern. I’ve been raised to learn patterns.”

What didn’t come as easily was actually looking hurt, a skill he practiced for hours with the help of more experienced stunt professionals and mentors.

“I spent 35 years not reacting to getting punched in the nose,” he said. “Now all of a sudden, a punch being thrown at me that doesn’t even make contact, I have to act like it’s the biggest punch I’ve ever been hit by ever … I’ve thrown a hundred million jabs, but I haven’t jumped through a window a hundred million times.”

Since then, he’s spent anywhere from three to 30 days per month getting shot at, beaten up, choked, thrown through windows, hit by cars and even set on fire in a full-body burn. For the past two years, he’s added one more version of self-flagellation to the list: CrossFit.

Though Trigg’s fighting career had kept him fit, he missed being coached.

“I hate going to the gym by myself and trying to figure it out on my own,” he said.

So when a friend brought him to CrossFit Social City on a trip to Las Vegas, he stuck with it when he returned to Hawaii, joining Aloha CrossFit in Hawaii.

“For me, CrossFit makes sense because it’s all the lifts that I’ve been doing since high school,” he said. “Rope climbs, pull-ups, snatch, clean-and-jerk — I’ve been doing all that since high school.”

For Trigg, CrossFit isn’t as much about staying in shape as it is about learning to get comfy with pain.

“When I’m training for a fight, I might get thrown once or twice in a practice,” he said. “I might get hit for real four or five times in a practice ... and do 17 to 25 takes of the same thing.”

CrossFit, he said, helps train his body to move through the pain, describing a recent workout at Aloha CrossFit of 21, 15, 9 reps of deadlifts and double-unders followed by 15 and 10 reps of toes-to-bars and burpees.

“CrossFit’s all about high intensity,” he said. “Hitting the ground on a burpee, chest all the way down to the ground, you’re not slowly coming down on your burpee, you’re dropping to the ground, trying to get back up as fast as you can because it’s for time. So that constant banging on the ground, that constant hitting the ground over and over again … really trains your body to get ready to hit the ground and take multiple takes of the same thing over and over again.”

When Trigg isn’t on set, traveling or spending time with his girlfriend and four young children, he trains at Aloha CrossFit three to five days per week. And though being a stunt professional means being constantly sore, he wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“It’s pretty frickin’ awesome,” he said. “It’s great because you’ve always gotta learn, you’ve always got to pay attention.”

“There’s always camaraderie,” he added. “You might not know anybody the day you show up on set, but by the time you walk off set, you’ll know each and everyone of those people you’re working with because you’ve got to trust each other.”

Sounds kind of like CrossFit.

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