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Matt Damon’s Superstar Workouts

Matt Damon promoting the film The Bourne Ultimatum

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 DepartedInvictusTrue Grit and most recently Elysium.

So let’s see what we can gather about how he stays in shape.

Will Hunting

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.


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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.

Jason Bourne

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:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Shoulder Press
  • Bent Over Rows
  • Pull Ups / Lateral Pulldowns
  • Chin Ups / Bicep Curls
  • Tricep Extensions

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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.

Elysium

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


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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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  22 comments for “Matt Damon’s Superstar Workouts

  1. Pro Fitness Blog
    April 19, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Boxing training is amongst the most effective sports training to getting a extremely powerful lean body.

    Good article.

    Ryan

  2. matt
    June 19, 2009 at 2:07 am

    Hey, i am just curious, what are the sets numbers and rep numbers on this workout? any word on how often to run, or for how long?

  3. MotleyHealth
    June 19, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Start with 3 sets of 6-12 reps for each exercise. As for running, work towards a daily run. 30 minutes running every day will get you very fit. If you can run in the morning and then do the weight training in the evening, this can work well. But juggle it around and do what works for you best.

  4. matt
    June 21, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    thanks a lot, i wasnt sure if he was doing hi rep low weight, but i guess if he is doing the running, that will give your whole body some good endurance.

  5. matt
    June 21, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    would he also do all those exercises all together 3 times a week, or how would they be done?

  6. Rambotrees
    June 23, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    The fighting style Damon used is called Krav Maga, which is a combination of the most effective parts of many different fighting styles. I suggest you google it, and tell me if that doesn’t look some of the most fun you’ve ever had in your life.

    To use Good Will Hunting references as a basis to what Damons workout would be like, is just plain ridiculous. You might want to go back a figure out the point of that scene, because you’ve missed it. Those exercises listed are great,but anyone with some gym experience will recommend those, however they need to be added to. If you want a good work out routine go to bodybuiding.com.

  7. MotleyHealth
    June 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Thanks for your comment RamboTrees. You are right regarding Good Will Hunting, however we are speculating, based on what is seen and said in his film work. Art mimics life, and the references to bench pressing in two of his films may well be a sign that he is proud of his bench pressing achievements. He did write the script for the film.

    There are so many resources for bodybuilding workouts available on the internet, but short of interviewing Matt Damon himself, we can only guess at what he did based on a combination of bodybuilding knowledge and references made by him.

    It is probably time we contacted his agent for an interview.

  8. Rambotrees
    June 23, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    No, Damon AND Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting, together. So, by your logic, Damon has killed, beaten up, and had creepy relationships with many people in his films, does that mean he likes men and is he’s proud of his butt-kicking and killing abilities also? I’ll tell you what; If you guys get Damon (with proof, I mean real proof), to even talk to you, I’ll give ya a million dollars. Dead serious, no B.S.

    Umm, seems like you can’t handle the truth.I thought this was a discussion. I suppose you can’t accept the fact that you’ve written an article that has no real basis in reality. I guess I’m just as big of an idiot for caring that this information is basically useless, and not factual in any way.

  9. MotleyHealth
    June 24, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Rambo, you may well be correct. We do know that Matt Damon used to workout a lot before having kids – “I really used to have no life outside movies. I’d work all day, go to the gym and go to sleep,” Source: People.com

    So maybe even though he used to workout a lot, and that he co-wrote bench pressing specifically into a script, and in another film placed free weights and a bench by his bed, then maybe this is all irrelevant. But then, this is precisely what we meant by “we can only speculate”. This is the basis of the article. It is not fact, and never meant to be. It is a look at both Matt Damon and Jason Bourne (a fictional character). Art imitates life, and life imitates art.

    But as you say, “Those exercises listed are great”, and yes, any gym instructor can recommend them. That is what is so great about working out. You do not need to adopt secret methods developed by ancient monks to get in shape. With a little basic knowledge on bodybuilding, reading a few interviews, watching some films, looking at his body type and muscles, then we can gain some insight into the type of exercises he does, or did, to get in shape.

    By the way, we are reaching out to Matt’s agents over at Endeavor, and look forward to doing business with you!

  10. Rambotrees
    June 24, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Have you guys read People magazine?It’s a tabloid, a nicely printed tabloid, but a tabloid none the less.Most qoutes are taken out of context or fluffed up for whatever end the publisher has in mind.People magazine, or it’s affiates, are not accurate referfence sources, and should in no way be represented as truth.Try writing a simple undergrad paper with sources from the supermarket checkout, and see what grade you get.If you get a C, i’ll give you a million dollars.

    The bench press, deadlift and squats are “the” exercises most guys use measure themselves with others, so your not gonna hear; “hey Will, look at this massive chest fly”.”Wow, Chucky your a beast”.
    I guess the real reason this is bothering me so much is, kids love guys like Bourne, Durden,and Bond, and want to look like them.So they go to these sites without having much experience or knowledge about working out. They say”ooh, this worked for Damon, it will work for me”.Which, at best, leads to poor results.

    Now, I’ve read other articles on this site and they are bang on the money.They totally blow the doors off stuff like these “celebrity workouts”.Maybe you guys should suggest some of your other articles to them first, or put a little note that says”do this first”.

    In the end, I still believe
    that the title”Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne Workout” is a misreprentation, without much factual evidence, and should be clearly represented as such.

  11. MotleyHealth
    June 24, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    You have made some good points, and as we always strive to improve our content, the title has been amended, which hopefully provides a better indication of the content of the article. I do not have time to take you up on the checkout challenge, but am still working on the interview!

  12. Rambo Trees
    June 25, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Wow, I had you guys all wrong.I actually don’t know what to say, so i guess i’ll start with “thank you”.You’ve really shown alot of backbone and i am very impressed.
    I hope to read more of your articles in the future, where I can be more constructive with my commentary.But ya’ gotta understand many sites really don’t care what their audience thinks.You’ve shown to be a real cut above the rest, and proven to be concerned with what your readers think.
    Sorry for being a jerk,and thank you again,

    rambo trees

  13. matt
    July 2, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    would he also do all those exercises all together 3 times a week, or how would they be done?

    that was my original question, but there was a tyrade of comments after mine, n e help here?

  14. MotleyHealth
    July 2, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Matt,
    He would have probably worked with his fitness instructor most days, splitting the week into weight training routines (again splitting muscle groups) and cardio workouts.

    To get a body that good, you have to put the work in big time, there are no short cuts.

    For a good balance of cardio and weight training, it is probably best to lift 2 days a week, and run / martial arts etc. on 2 or 3 other days. Focus on upper body weight training on the days before your weekly longer run.

  15. matt
    July 2, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    okay excellent, i just started muy thai boxing, and i am soon to be in the army, so i am working up to the running as well. Also, since you are only doing weights for 2 times a week, is that enough to actually build muscle power, endurance, and strength? I am not too concerned on gaining size, as i am happy with where i am now. Also, do you advise lower body workouts if you are running? Because you say to do squats, are these still necessary?

  16. MotleyHealth
    July 3, 2009 at 12:24 am

    In that case, you may be better off sticking to martial arts and bodyweight strength training to start with. Have you seen our article on military strength training? This is based on the British army fitness training, but should apply just as well to any army. Also, if you are joining the army, start building up your endurance running / quick marching with a pack – we have some military running tips here too. Ditch the weighted squats, but do plenty of bodyweight squats when doing circuit training workouts. Your martial arts class should provide enough of this (if it is anything like the clubs I have been to!).

  17. Tom
    August 31, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I’m sure Krav Maga was in the first two,
    but in the DVD extras the master is clearly teaching Kali to Damon.

    The fighting style Jason uses in the Bourne flicks is derived from an old Philippine martial arts style called Escrima and Pekiti Tirsia Kali. The Escrima being the Filipino martial arts that emphasizes stick and sword fighting. The Pekiti Tirsia Kali is more of a close quarters combat style; it is actually based upon a traditional Filipino dance.
    And it is one two martial arts that uses “trapping” techniques.

  18. Jason
    September 16, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    is the impact of cardio of cycling and running different? I am concentrating cycling more than running since I have torn ligament on my right knee making running quite painful.

  19. MotleyHealth
    September 16, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Yes, cycling is very low impact when compared to running. Running affects not just knees, but all joints and even the spine. Long term, without proper conditioning, it can cause problems. But even with cycling you should warm up well beforehand to reduce risk of injury.

  20. Anderson
    December 30, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks very much for this post. It offers some great insight.

  21. glyn
    January 30, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    the fight chorographer was Jeff Imada teaches escrima the Philippine art so krav maga it is not

  22. MotleyHealth
    November 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Matt Damon is campaigning to feed America. When I first heard about this I assumed that he was campaigning to encourage American’s to eat more healthily, in the same way that Jamie Oliver has done so. But no. He is campaigning to raise awareness, to help feed America’s 50 million people that are living in hunger.

    It is hard to imagine that the nation that is crowned the most obese in the World, with an obesity crisis that is crippling the health service and killing hundreds of thousands of people, also has 50 million people living in poverty. But according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA) there are over 50 million Americans that are living in hunger, and this includes 17 million children.

    Matt Damon is working with Feeding America and the Ad Council to make a series of public service announcements. Other celebrities have joined the campaign too, his old friend and colleague Ben Affleck is amongst them.
    Matt Damon’s Public Service Advertisement for Feeding America

    More information:
    Feeding America is America’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity – http://feedingamerica.org/

    Ad Council is America’s leading producer of public service adverts – http://www.adcouncil.org/

    USDA Economic Research Service provides economic analysis on efficiency, efficacy, and equity issues relating to agriculture, food, the environment, and rural development – http://www.ers.usda.gov/

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