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American Sniper Workout

American Sniper was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed movies of the past decade.  Actor Bradley Cooper portrayed US military sniper Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in all of US military history.  Cooper trained long and hard to gain almost 40 pounds of lean muscle, transforming his ‘pretty boy’ fit Hollywood physique into a burly stack of functional muscle – essential for an accurate portrayal of Chris Kyle.  Let’s check out some tips to achieving the American Sniper physique.

Be the Strength

In most movies, actors train to be fit and lean, and allow Hollywood lighting and a bit of padding make up the muscle mass they display on the big screen.  The kind of muscle that Cooper had to show onscreen in order to pull off the insanely muscled look of Chris Kyle just wasn’t achievable using the old Hollywood tricks.  Cooper decided early on that he would have to achieve true strength, built from hard workouts focused on moving lots of heavy weight, if he was to achieve the look needed to deliver an accurate portrayal of Chris Kyle.  Most viewers would agree that he certainly achieved that!

Put in the Time

Actor Bradley Cooper never missed a workout while training with Coach Ben Bruno in preparation for the American Sniper movie role.  Cooper would train with weights for up to four HOURS each day, engaging in strength training, eating and taking a few hours to rest, and jumping right back into it.   His coach was with him every minute of the way, often ‘in the trenches’ with him, moving body weight and iron in order to achieve a look which couldn’t be faked with Hollywood magic.  It was all strength, all real muscle, achievable only with hundreds of hours of real training. 

Dedicate Yourself

Bradley Cooper had a brief phone call with Chris Kyle regarding the movie shortly before Kyle was killed in a shooting incident at a gun range.  That changed the movie role for Cooper.  Suddenly, he went from doing a nice adventure movie about a living hero, to a filming a legacy piece dedicated to honoring the memory of one of the most well-known heroes in American history.  Cooper decided at that point to dedicate himself to the serious hours of training that would be required to gain real muscle so that he could most accurately play this role. 

Be the Change you Desire

It was Bradley Cooper’s desire to look the very part of a brawny sniper – so he trained just like one, engaging in seriously rigorous combat training.  He lived his daily life as if he was a sniper in training.  He wasn’t a casual movie actor hitting the gym to keep a contract intact.  He lived as if he was Chris Kyle – and his on screen performance proved that.

Split it up

Cooper would train as a strength athlete every morning, then return in the afternoon to return like a bodybuilder.  His morning workouts focused upon heavy powerlifting movements of bench press, squats, and deadlifts.  His afternoons were spent focusing upon more finishing movements to build up his muscle base.  This two pronged approach is very useful for building up muscle AND strength, which is the goal of most lifters.

Maintain your Mindset

One scene in the American Sniper movie required actor Bradley Cooper to lift weights while filming.  Most movie sets use fake weights as a rule.  Cooper’s dedication to realism extended so far that he insisted on using real weights while filming.  His 24/7 dedication to legitimacy and an authentic portrayal of Kyle extended from the training right into the actual filming. 


Cooper enjoyed a diet rich in the right kinds of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, in order to achieve the awesome physique he displayed onstage at the red carpet unveiling of American Sniper.  Beef, chicken, eggs, and whey & casein protein powders were ideal protein sources.  Carbohydrate sources such as pasta, beans, rice and fruits & vegetables fit the bill.  And fat is not a four letter word when building the American Sniper physique… daily intake of almonds, egg yolks, and fish oil is essential for muscle creation.  You can’t gain that much muscle without enjoying all these macronutrients on a daily basis. Training, recovery, and growth require it!

Train to failure

With Slipknot and Metallica blasting at 80 decibels, Bruno and Cooper would train to failure for a big chunk of their workouts.  A precise precision model was used, and Cooper would knock out his 5, 6, 7, 8 reps per set until his muscles reached the point of failure and could no longer move the bar for another repetition.  Most trainers don’t recommend using this style unless your nutrition, rest, supplementation and recovery factors are completely on point.  Cooper ate and slept in a highly disciplined manner while training for the movie, which allowed him to train to failure on a majority of his training sets. 

Display the Results

Most people make goals in their bedroom, snap a few selfies, and enjoy the changes they achieve, or shake their head I they fall short, in the privacy of their own home.  Bradley Cooper had to display the results of his months of 4-hour a day training sessions in front of the country.  If he came in too bulky, he’d look fat on the big screen. If he didn’t gain enough functional muscle, he’d look small and scrawny. Cooper’s results were displayed on the screen in a big way, and his emotional, physical, and mental transformation into Chris Kyle for this critically acclaimed role was a successful one.  Cooper gained 37 pounds of muscle for the role, and looked like an entirely new human being as a result.

American Sniper training requires serious dedication and determination.  You have to be willing to train like a strength athlete in the mornings, and like a bodybuilder in the evenings, envisioning the goal you wish to achieve then living the lifestyle needed to achieve it for months on end.  Are you up for the challenge?

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