Matt Damon has had a very successful career as an unsuspecting action hero. His career started with dramas, and it was Good Will Hunting which propelled him to international stardom. Since then he has appeared in a variety of films including Saving Private Ryan, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13, The Bourne series, The Departed, Invictus, True Grit and most recently Elysium.
So let’s see what we can gather about how he stays in shape.
At first appearance Matt Damon does not seem to be your typical body-builder/athlete. However, he is in excellent shape in the Bourne films, and in earlier films such as Good Will Hunting (co-written by Matt Damon), there are clues to his fitness regime.
For example, on Will Hunting’s first meeting with Sean Maguire they discuss weight training, specifically bench press. Sean Maguire makes a joke about Jazzercise, and Will asks him “Do you lift?” (meaning lift weights), and he says that he does. Will asks if he uses Nautilus (a popular brand of home gym equipment), and Sean says “free weights“.
Most serious weight training enthusiasts use free weights rather than resistance machines. Will confirms that he too uses free weights, and then asks “What do you bench?”. Sean benches 285 (pounds), which is equivalent of 130kg. Will is impressed with this.
So, what can we determine from this? Well, if the script was written by anyone else, then it would not really mean much at all. But as the script was written by Matt Damon, it is very possible that this is an insight into Matt Damon’s training philosophy, i.e. train with free weights, and go heavy, with powerful compound weight training exercises taking precedence over high rep resistance weight training. But, this is Matt Damon from his time before making Good Will Hunting in 1997.
Matt Damon’s character, Jason Bourne, from the Bourne Trilogy, is in a fantastic shape. In the films, Jason Bourne combines weight training with intensive cardio exercise to maintain his fitness and strength.
Although we can only speculate whether Matt Damon performs a similar workout as seen in the films, there are several clues that can be gathered to help guess what Jason Bourne / Matt Damon do to get in such good shape.
The Bourne Identity was made in 2002, and the final film, the Bourne Ultimatum, in 2007. 10 years have passed since Good Will Hunting, and Matt Damon has bulked up considerably. He has the physique of someone that has continued to concentrate on weight training, with some emphasis on compound training as well as bulking the upper body, with plenty of bicep curls, tricep extensions, and shoulder/bench presses.
In the first film, the Bourne Identity, a free weights bench, set in the inclined position, can be seen in one of his apartments. Once again the free weights are out, and bench presses seems to be “advertised” as his preferred exercise. However, judging by his biceps, Jason Bourne also works hard on his arms as well as chest.
The second film of the Bourne series, The Bourne Supremacy, starts with Jason Bourne sprinting flat out along a beach in India. Jason Bourne spends a lot of his time running, so cardio fitness is essential. One of the best ways to improve your cardiovascular fitness is through interval training. Long distance jogging is not the best method, as the body falls into a slow, steady rhythm. With interval training, where periods of gentle exercise are interspersed with periods of extreme energy, such as sprinting, the entire cardiorespiratory system is pushed to its limits. If you doubt the effect of extreme high intensity training, then consider how exhausted 200m runners are after 20 seconds of extreme exercise. Even Athletes at the absolute prime of their fitness can become exhausted in a very short time when performing high intensity training.
Jason Bourne’s weight training workout would probably be something like this:
- Bench Press
- Shoulder Press
- Bent Over Rows
- Pull Ups / Lateral Pulldowns
- Chin Ups / Bicep Curls
- Tricep Extensions
Jason Bourne is also an excellent fighter, so martial arts would play a role in his training. In an interview during the making of The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon used boxing training and Kali style martial arts (Escrima), which is a martial art from the Philippines involving a lot of grappling, breaking and ground work, as well as standard strikes.
“I learned to box because Doug had a theory that I thought was really interesting and turned out to be right. He wanted Bourne to walk like a boxer because he felt there was a real economy of movement in the way those guys carry themselves, an assuredness in their posture. I’d never boxed before, but I had six months to learn. I went training and it really changed my body and even the way I walked a little bit.” Matt Damon.
Matt Damon confirmed that he continued his boxing training after the filming of Bourne Identity, as he enjoyed it so much. Boxing is an excellent way to get fit, especially if you train like a boxer – read our article on Training Like a Boxer for more information.
Jason Bourne has in some ways surpassed the likes of James Bond and Bruce Lee as the ultimate action hero, as he combines all the aspects of an action hero – fitness, strength, fighting and intelligence. He is as cunning as James Bond and as lethal as Bruce Lee, and a good looking guy too. To be like him, you have to train like him – martial arts, weight training and extreme interval training.
Matt Damon’s latest action blockbuster is Elysium, a science fiction movie in which he plays a member of the underclass who struggle on Earth and live under the tyranny of robots, while the privileged live on a floating paradise in space called Elysium.
So prepare for his role in Elysium Matt had to follow a strict diet and exercise intensively. According to Metro he worked out for up to 4 hours a day in the gym to get his body in top shape. However, this is certainly not the real Matt Damon! When asked about how he felt looking in such great shape he said:
“It’s just not a natural way for somebody to look. These people who look that way are either genetic freaks or they’re just living in a gym.”
Matt Damon is fortunate as he has a solid background in fitness training now. While he had to gain a large amount of weight for roles in movies such as The Informant! he can also quickly lose the fat again by follow tried and tested workouts and diet plans. He obviously has the help of a personal trainer too.
Matt Damon the Runner
Matt Damon is a good runner, both over short sprints and longer distances. While working on The Adjustment Bureau he would often outrun his stunt double and his strength coach, Matt Baiamonte, has said that Matt “killed me on long-distance runs“.
This running working was shared by Menshealth.com which says that while he has done many different workouts over the years, one of his favorites are the running workouts he does with his strength coach. The workout is in 5 stages:
- 1. Warmup: Jog slowly for 1 mile, stretch, rest 5 minutes.
- 2. 1-Mile Interval on a Track. Do 4 laps total (no rest). Each lap is 400 yards: Do 100 yards at 25 percent max speed, then 100 yards at 75 percent max speed, then 200 yards at 25 percent max speed.
- 3. Dashes: Do a 25-yard dash at full speed. Rest 12 seconds, and then repeat for a total of 20.
- 4. Suicides: Do 5-, 10-, 15-, and then 20-yard dashes. Rest 15 seconds. Work up to a total of 15.
- 5. Cooldown: Jog half a mile, then stretch.
Matt Damon’s Fitness Tip:
”Try to find something you can improve at, because that will keep you doing it. And that will make it fun,”
Sound advice Matt!
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Matt Damon's Workouts and Diet