There's more to being a leading Hollywood trainer than just depleting an actor's carbohydrate intake and repping out a few bicep curls ahead of a shirtless scene. Often, there can be months (years, sometimes) of preparation in the weights room and on the gym floor ahead of a film's production schedule.
This is something that Simon Waterson (Captain America, No Time to Die, Star Wars, Avengers, Spectre) knows all about. Having cut his teeth in the UK military, Waterson went on to become the point man for transforming some of Hollywood's most recognisable leading men, including Chris Evans, Daniel Craig and Adam Driver.
As with his clients, no two of Waterson's workouts are the same. But that doesn't mean he doesn't stick to certain fitness fundamentals that can help metamorphosise men into machines — and it could do the same for you. Below, as part of our ongoing '5 Exercises' series, Waterson sheds light on the exercises that he keeps in his back pocket for scene-stealing results.
With your feet flat beneath the barbell, squat down and grasp it with your hands roughly shoulder-width apart.
Keep your chest up, pull your shoulders back and look straight ahead rather than up or down.
Lift the bar, keeping it close to your legs and focus on taking the weight back onto your heels (rather than your toes). Think about pulling the weight towards you on the way up. Lift to thigh level, pause, then return under control to the start position
Let the weight come to a complete rest between each rep. While it's on the floor, take a second or two to make sure your body is in the correct position – chest up, upper back tight and eyes looking forward – before lifting it up again.
Why: "The conventional barbell deadlift is great for all-over body recruitment, especially with the posterior chain," explains Waterson. "It's also good for strength and hypertrophy and for metrics for your own mental motivation. Essentially, you could survive on this exercise for overall gains on its own as it's easily adaptable just by adding a shrug or going off blocks. Nail this and everything else will fall into place."
Grab your bars with your palms facing inward and your arms straight.
Slowly lower until your elbows are at right angles, ensuring they stay tucked against your body and don't flare out.
Drive yourself back up to the top and repeat.
Why: "It's a great exercise for strength gains and development for your chest, shoulders and triceps," says Waterson. "The feeling of being able to move your own bodyweight is important for your mindset and you can add weight for even more resistance. Being able to nail three sets of 25 reps is a great goal for anyone."
Stand with your feet more than shoulder-width apart - this wide stance will allow a deeper squat, getting your glutes and hamstrings involved.
Hold a barbell across your upper back with an overhand grip – avoid resting it on your neck. Hug the bar into your traps to engage your upper back muscles.
Take the weight of the bar and slowly squat down – head up, back straight, buns out. Lower yourself until your hips are aligned with your knees, with legs at 90 degrees – a deeper squat will be more beneficial but get the strength and flexibility first.
Drive your heels into the floor to push yourself explosively back up. Keep form until you’re stood up straight. That's one.
Why: "Never skip legs! Squats are another exercise that you could probably live off, as it uses so many major muscle groups and is great for your core — stabilisers are being utilised on every rep," explains Waterson. "Play around with weight, tempo, foot position, heel height and depth. It's another great exercise to use weight as your metric. Watch it grow week in, week out."
Low Cable Standing Flyes
With the cables at a low setting, grab the D-handles in each hand and raise them up so they meet above your chest.
This movement gives you increased width in your lower chest. Squeeze your pecs together at the top of the move to increase definition at the centre of your torso.
Why: "It's great for stabilising muscle recruitment as well as that final squeeze on the chest to maximise shape and development," says Waterson. "Your arms are seriously involved with biceps really working, especially if you get the hands up at forehead height."
Grab the ab roller, wheel or barbell with an overhand grip, with hands at shoulder width.
Position your shoulders directly over the roller or the barbell and roll forwards, pausing, then reversing the move.
The further you go, the harder the move gets. Roll to a distance that's challenging, but don't force your hips to sag — the focus of the movement should be coming from your core.
Why: "It's one of my favourite exercises for core stability and is great for development," says Waterson. "If you really pause with a slow tempo, you're adding an isometric plank at the out phase of the exercise. This really helps control of the core and also can be easily adapted using varying angles."
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