One of the most impressive actor transformations in the movie industry is the Bradley Cooper workout, where he gained about 40 pounds of muscle to prep for his movie role as a Navy SEAL.
Not only did he gain massive amounts of muscle during his workouts, he also focused on becoming brutally strong to make his character as authentic as possible. To achieve this, Cooper worked on strength training in the mornings and then muscle building workouts in the afternoons. These types of workouts can be classified as powerbuilding, because not only are they focused on building muscle, they are also designed to maximize strength.
Bradley Cooper’s crazy dedication and sacrifice to transform his body for this movie role can be an inspiration for others who are looking to achieve similar results.
For his title role in American Sniper, actor Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in US military history. To pull it off, Cooper had to look the part, which ultimately meant gaining 37 pounds of lean mass and going from pretty boy to burly badass.
“Knocking the Pretty Off”
“I might have to tie you up with a rope and drag you behind my truck to knock some of the pretty off of you,” Chris Kyle told Bradley Cooper during their first phone conversation.
“Thank God I got to talk to him once on the phone. It was a very quick conversation. But I did tell him how serious I was about making this movie,” Cooper told USA Today. “And he should just know that whatever fears he had about Hollywood, to just put them aside and trust me. That I was going to do everything I could to tell this story.”
More Than Just Another Movie Role
Not long after the phone call, Kyle, along with a friend, was shot and killed by a troubled young Marine at a lodge in Texas. That changed things for Cooper. Cooper said that the only way to be sure that the movie lives up to Kyle’s legacy is if his family loves it. “His life merits this. I hope we have stepped up to the challenge,” Cooper said.
Cooper knew he had to physically transform himself into a Navy SEAL. That was obvious. But he wanted to go deeper. This had become more than a movie role. This had become a promise.
From Fit to Brutally Strong
Along with rigorous combat training with the SEALs, Cooper knew he had to look the part of the brawny sniper the enemy dubbed “The Devil of Ramadi.”
Cooper turned himself over to trainer Jason Walsh at Rise Movement Studio, who’s known for transforming the physiques of actors and actresses for movie roles. But Cooper was already in good shape. This was different. This transformation had to be about much more than adding a little muscle here and there and getting “Hollywood abs.”
Kyle, before joining the military, worked on ranches and competed in rodeo events busting broncos. He had a ruggedly strong look — broad shoulders, tough — the kind of look that couldn’t be faked with padded suits and good lighting. Kyle was a lifter and a warrior, not a bodybuilder.
Cooper needed to gain 35-40 pounds to accurately play the part, and most of that had to be muscle. Most importantly, Cooper had to not only look strong, he had to be strong. There was just no other way.
For one part of the movie, the film crew wanted Bradley to use fake weights for a workout scene. Cooper insisted that real weights be used, and he had to be ready for it.
A Plan Was Made
Walsh planned to train Cooper harder than he’d ever trained an actor. He met with coach Ben Bruno and bounced ideas off of him, fine tuning a twice per day workout plan that would accomplish all of the goals. Not only would Walsh train Cooper for up to four hours a day, he’d also train with him, saying, “I love to get into the trenches with my clients who have to go through this type of intense training. The camaraderie keeps them motivated.”
“Bradley never missed a workout. He came in early, trained brutally hard, and followed the supplement plan to the T. He showed a kind of dedication to his training that we seldom see with actors,” Walsh said. “This kind of intense training is unfamiliar to the Hollywood crowd. These weren’t smoke and mirrors workouts. He trained like a strength athlete in the morning, then he came in again in the afternoon and trained to build muscle.”
Walsh added that Cooper didn’t just use his workouts to create the right look for the role. He used them as a springboard to transform into Chris Kyle. The intensity of the workouts got him into the right frame of mind. Cooper would often place a picture of Kyle on the wall of the gym and he blasted Kyle’s personal playlist during workouts, listening to the kind of music that defined Kyle, everything from Metallica and Slipknot to Toby Keith.
The only way to put 35-40 pounds on Cooper was to push him to the point of breaking. Cooper had to follow the carefully designed workout plan using a precise progression model. Walsh traveled with Cooper to make sure it happened, even going with him for shoots in Morocco.
Walsh knew that Cooper not only had to survive the workouts, but also recover from them as quickly as possible so he could do it all again the next day. He had to be properly fueled.
The Supplement Expert Called In
Walsh approached Biotest founder Tim Patterson with the challenge. Could he devise a supplement plan to help Cooper train for both strength and hypertrophy, recover fast, and build the rugged physique of a SEAL in a limited amount of time?
Patterson agreed but he had concerns. He wanted to make sure no mistakes were made with the supplement plan. So he custom made ready-to-drink bottles of Plazma and Mag-10 — which is the stuff in the bottles — and shipped them overnight directly to Cooper. Patterson also created a private webpage just for Walsh and Cooper that contained the entire supplement plan.
“It’s my job to keep the athlete fully recovered and going into the gym excited, full of energy, ready to train,” Patterson said. “Bradley Cooper is highly motivated and works hard, which is a combination I’ve never seen fail. I really expected his gains to outpace everyone’s expectations. I had no doubt that we could make this happen.”
Bradley Cooper started the program at 186 pounds and ended at 225 with roughly the same percent body fat. By the end of the program, he was performing rack pulls with 425 pounds for 10 reps.
The program was a success. And Cooper’s transformation into Chris Kyle — physical, mental, and emotional — is truly impressive.