‘Heels’ Star Stephen Amell’s Wrestling Training Was Even More Intense Than the Salmon Ladder on ‘Arrow’

Stephen Amell fans know all about the salmon ladder. Arrow showed Oliver Queen (Amell) working out on it frequently. Now, Amell plays a professional wrestler on Starz’s drama Heels. He had to get into a different sort of shape for the ring, and the salmon ladder wasn’t involved. Perhaps he missed the salmon ladder after wrestling training. 

Heels: Stephen Amell carries the belt into the ring
Stephen Amell | Starz

Amell and Heels costar Alexander Ludwig spoke with reporters via Zoom about Heels on Aug. 3. They discussed the training for the show and how it compared to the salmon ladder. Heels premieres Aug. 15 on Starz and airs new episodes every Sunday. 

Stephen Amell said goodbye to the salmon ladder before ‘Heels’ 

One of Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow workouts was a series of chin ups. Once he brought his body above the bar, he’d lift the bar to a higher rung before doing another chinup. When Oliver Queen retired, so did the salmon ladder. Amell said some of the wrestling training for Heels was starting over with a whole new gym.

“I’m not doing the salmon ladder in my wrestling training,” Amell said. “We did do a bunch of resistance chinups which is kind of the same thing. No, they built us a beautiful gymnasium. We’ll see if we can add the salmon ladder for season 2 if we get one. We’ll pop one in there.”

Amell challenged his costar to the salmon ladder. Ludwig and Amell play brothers in a pro wrestling family on Heels.

“I’m 100% confident in Alexander,” Amell said. “I can get him doing it in five minutes.”

Alexander Ludwig says ‘Heels’ training is plenty intense without the salmon ladder 

Ludwig plays Ace Spade, the hero of the Duffy Wrestling League. Jack Spade (Amell) is the heel. Behind the scenes they’re brothers who have just as much tension as their ring characters. While working on the show, though, Ludwig and Amell are in it together. 

Alexander Ludwig and Stephen Amell prepare to enter the ring
L-R: Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig | Starz

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“We did do a hell of a lot of training for this before we ended up shooting,” Ludwig said. “We worked with a guy named Chavo Guerrero in Los Angeles for months before. He comes from a very prolific wrestling family, and then when we got to Atlanta, we were training in the gym that they had built for us and then in the ring with a lot of pro wrestlers. I haven’t done the salmon ladder yet, that’s for sure, but we did a lot of other things. It was just an amazing experience.”

Filming wrestling was different than performing live

If they were training for a real match, they would perform the fight all at once for a live audience. Since Heels is a TV show, they can spend all day filming one match from different angles. Amell said they had to keep that in mind as they trained and exerted themselves.

Stephen Amell pins his opponent in Heels
Stephen Amell pins his opponent | Starz

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“You gotta be careful that in between setups, you’re staying warm,” Amell said. “So we did a good job of really blocking out the day, trying to shoot the match sequentially and as best we could. Part of the wrestling is just remembering where you are in the match. You’ve got a lot of energy at the beginning but as you get through it, you’re going to get tired. So they did a good job of making sure that we, it could make it as close to an actual match as humanly possible.”