Actor Matt Damon arrives for the Universal Pictures movie premiere of “Jason Bourne” at Caesars Palace hotel-casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S ., July 18, 2016. Illustration taken July 18, 2016. REUTERS/ L.E. Baskow – RTSIN3J
Matt Damon is nothing if not malleable.
He convincingly played a heroin-addicted Gulf War veteran in Courage Under Fire , a resolute paratrooper in Saving Private Ryan , and of course the memory-challenged assassin Jason Bourne , whom he portrays for the fourth time in the movie of the same name that opened July 29.
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When the first trailer for Jason Bourne ran during the Super Bowl, with a glimpse of a shirtless Damon delivering a one-punch knockout with his burlap-wrapped left to right, you couldnt help but be awed by Damons latest transformation.
At 45, he looks like he could wipe the floor with the comparatively puny Bourne he played in Identity , Supremacy , and Ultimatum .
Careful readers of Mens Health wont be surprised to learn that his trainer is Jason Walsh, owner of Rise Movement and Rise Nation in Los Angeles.
Walsh was the agent of change for Bradley Cooper in American Sniper and John Krasinski in 13 Hours .
How Walsh started working with Damon is a Hollywood story nearly too weird is correct.
When Damon signed on to star in Elysium , a sci-fi movie set in twenty-second-century L.A ., the administrator had a vision of how his character should look.
So he attached a picture of Damons head to a picture of an impressively jacked physique and mailed him off to hire a trainer who could put the parts together.
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They craved him to look like a badass with his shirt off, Walsh tells. Lean and mean.
But there were, as youd expect in a Hollywood story, complications. For one, they had just a few weeks to pull off the transformation.
For another, Damon was 42 at the time, and had been working around a longstanding shoulder problem and a back harm suffered a few years before.
Most people that have back suffering, it comes from weakness, Walsh tells. Your glutes dont work, your hips arent very stable, and your lower back ends up taking the brunt of it. Its the first to go.
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The problem, Walsh suspects, dates back to Damons appearance in a 2009 comedy.
For The Informant ! he put on one tonne of really bad weight, he tells. That was the specific characteristics. He was a middle-aged American white guy who eats at Burger King four or five times a week.
It wasnt a ton of weightmore like 30 -ish poundsbut Walsh believes the flab had lingering results that contributed to core-muscle imbalances.
So the first goal was to strengthen Damons upper back relating to the shoulder problem.
The second objective was to address his back harm by improving his mobility and flexibility, while simultaneously increasing his strength.
Then, because its a Hollywood story, Walsh had the added pressures of limited time, high expectations, and big money on the line.
Damon had to be buff enough to satisfy the directors vision and healthy enough to carry a $115 million action movie, for which he was reportedly paid $20 million.
They developed four hours a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Elysium objective up with mixed reviews and did just okay at the box office when it came out in 2013.
But Walsh, at least, arrived through: Damon was indeed jacked.
A year later Damon contacted Walsh again, this time with an even bigger challenge: He planned to shoot three action movies in a row, with hardly any break in between.
Moreover, he was playing completely different characters in each: an astronaut in The Martian , a civilization-saving knight in The Great Wall ( which comes out in February 2017 ), and then the newly muscled Bourne.
They had a couple of months to get ready for The Martian , which began filming in late 2014 in Hungary.
He merely needed to look like an astronaut who takes care of himself, Walsh tells. He had to be in good physical shape, but he didnt need to look like a badass. So we focused on getting him back on track.
The next stop was China for The Great Wall , an epic with a reported $135 million budget. It was a physical role, Walsh tells, requiring Damon to journey a pony and swaying a sword, often while wearing heavy armor.
Some of it was shot in the Gobi Desert. He didnt need to look like Jason Bourne yet, so our focus changed from esthetics to merely retaining him healthy, he says.
But when it came time to focus on turning Damon into the leaner, meaner Bourne seen in the trailer, they had yet another complication: We were in the middle of nowhere, Walsh tells. We didnt have any equipment.
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So Walsh and Damon did conditioning work through the streets of Dunhuang in northwestern China, near the Mongolian margin. People would look at us like, What the hell is going on?
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Which is similar to the reaction to that eye-opening Jason Bourne trailer, and the fact Damon, at 45, has the most impressive physique of his 20 -year career as a leading man.
The fight scene was shoot on Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, on the first day of filming.
Damon and Walsh had two weeks back in L.A. to get him ready for it.
They no longer needed to train for four hours a day, but the fat-stripping workouts were nonetheless brutal. Instead of sprinting through the streets, they did conditioning is currently working on VersaClimber machines at Rise Nation.( Walsh posted the video below on Instagram of one of their workouts1 2 100 -foot climbs, with a minute of rest in between .)
Their strength work, as before, included a lot of single-leg exerts and high-volume pullups.
He love challenges, Walsh tells. We got to the point where we were doing 100 pullups two or three times a week. Wed see how many decides it takes to get 100. Once you lose some of that extravagance weight, pullups get a lot easier. He was doing 30 -some pullups per set.
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Also notable is what they werent doing, like barbell back squats and heavy deadlifts from the floorexercises that were considered indispensable for both strength and mass-building when Walsh started as a strength coach two decades ago.
While those are undeniably effective exerts, Walsh now sees them as falling on the wrong side of the risk-reward continuum.
You have to be smart with the type of people we work with, he tells. My biggest worry was him breaking. The star of a $100 million movie? Thats a lot of pressure.
The pressure was tripled this time around: Retaining him injury free for two straight times, doing action cinemas, was the biggest accomplishment.
And that makes this Hollywood story a happy purposing, even if its not a part of the plot the Bourne audience will ever learn or know about.
Lou Schuler is an award-winning journalist and contributing editor to Mens Health. Check out his new volume Strong: Nine Workout Programs for Women to Burn Fat, Boost Metabolism, and Build Strength for Life, with coauthor Alwyn Cosgrove .
This article originally appeared on MensHealth.com .