EVER SINCE Tyler Durden first took his shirt off in Fight Club, cigarette still dangling tantalisingly from his mouth, men and women have been Googling just how Brad Pitt got himself in that kind of shape. To this day, despite the countless superhero films and brawny action heroes that have come and gone since David Fincher’s psychological thriller, Pitt’s look in the film remains one of the most desirable ever.
Pitt’s Fight Club physique set pretty much the platonic ideal of what the ideal male Hollywood body should be. After the bodybuilder-dominated action films of the ‘80s, Pitt created a new type of heartthrob: quietly powerful, wiry, svelt and undeniably ripped—more supermodel than superhero.
It’s a formula Hollywood hasn’t really strayed from since, with the exception of the bulked-up superhero bodies brought back into fashion by the MCU. Pitt himself experimented with attaining more of an action hero physique in 2003’s Troy, where he bulked up ever-so-slightly (while attaining that all-important poster boy six-pack) to play mythical warrior Achilles. Then two decades later, he got his top off once again in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, proving he can still well and truly attain a movie star body.
Brad Pitt’s Fight Club Workout
Despite it being the physique that launched a thousand copycats, the way Pitt trained specifically to get in shape for the role has, funnily enough, never actually been revealed by any trainer who actually worked with the actor. Plenty of PTs since have made informed guesses, however, with the likelihood being that Pitt followed a fairly traditional weightlifting program to build upper body mass, along with a stricter regime of cardio in order to account for the excess calories he would have had to consume to build the muscle in the first place. Many theorise he likely also opted for higher rep ranges in his exercises, adding a little extra cardiovascular spice as opposed to lifting heavy weights for fewer reps.
Of course, the fact will always remain that attaining a body like Pitt’s, particularly during his Fight Club days, is a task completed as much in the kitchen as it is the gym. Pitt’s body fat percentage during the filming of both films was likely in the mid-to-high single figures—a figure simply unattainable without considerable changes to one’s diet. Whether or not Pitt initially bulked up before going on a crash diet, or ‘cut’ to reveal those iconic abs has never really been revealed, but it tends to be the easiest course of action for most compared to carefully trying to only put on lean mass.
Brad Pitt’s Troy Workout
Pitt has altered his approach dramatically to suit different roles, as his PT Duffy Gaver revealed to Esquire a couple of years ago when revealing how the two prepared for his role in Troy.
Troy and Gaver looked to classical warriors and artworks as inspiration for Pitt’s physique in Troy, aiming to build the kind of body that would have been revered in antiquity. As Gaver notes, warriors in the time of Troy would likely have had wider backs and stronger posterior chains, with less focus placed on building the chest and shoulders that many modern bodybuilders pursue.
“We talked about what is good aesthetically on the male body,” Gaver said. “If you look at Roman-Greco wrestlers they don’t go to the gym, they just do their job but they happen to look amazing. You don’t want the audience to go ‘Wow, I bet he benches a lot’. That doesn’t have anything to do with the film.”
As such, Gaver and Pitt focused more on pull-based exercises to help build width in Pitt’s physique. “If you really want to build a good physique, my take is you need a good thick back, decent shoulders and decent arms,” Gaver said. “And then you can worry about leaning out.”
Here’s the workout he used to do it
Rest 30 seconds between sets for all exercises.
3 sets x 10 reps
3 sets x 10 reps
3 sets x 10 reps
6 pyramid sets in descending order and increasing weight (20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6)
Superset: T-bar Rows & push-ups
5 pyramid sets in descending order and increasing weight (20, 15, 12, 10, 8)
Superset: Dumbell rows & push-ups
5 sets x 10 reps, superset with 10 push-ups
4 sets x 10 reps