With his starring role as a naval detective in the 2009 TV series NCIS: Los Angeles, Chris O'Donnell has finally consigned Batman's sidekick Robin – a role he played in two 1990s films – to history, and he's glad to be moving on. "I had a lot thrown at me early on," admits the 39-year-old now. "It was overwhelming."
One legacy of his time as the Boy Wonder was a bad back, thanks to a herniated disc caused by a stunt that went wrong. The injury and the demands of various roles during his career meant that his weight has fluctuated over the years – but starring alongside rapper/actor LL Cool J in NCIS encouraged him to get back to his best. "His arms are insane – they're as hard as a wall," he says. "I'm just an average guy trying to keep my body in good condition so I can still do the things that I love. I don't want to give up sports. I want to move around with my kids and play football in the backyard. [But] I'm about to turn 40 and I have to work hard to stay fit."
Help came in the form of fitness coach James Bolden. "It was easy training Chris because he is a natural athlete and very good at listening to advice," Bolden says. "If he had decided to become an athlete instead of an actor he would have done very well. His training as an actor enables him to focus on the task at hand."
Bolden believes that anyone can make significant improvements to their body, no matter what shape they're in. "My training philosophy is consistency and simplicity," he says. "Everyone wants to know the secret of losing fat and adding muscle. It's simple: go to the gym, do push and pull exercises, eat clean, sleep deep and avoid unnecessary stress, and you're good to go."
Here's O'Donnell's full workout.
Chris O'Donnell's Workout
Light stretching, stretch band rotations and core work with a gym ball.
Main weights workout
15 reps of each move
- Cable row
- Barbell curl
- Single-leg press
- Chest press
- Medicine ball throw
- Leg curl
- Bodyweight squat
- Seated press
- Triceps dip
Five minutes of each
Ten minutes of light stretching.
Below you'll find guides to all the machine-free and machine-light moves in O'Donnell's workout.
- Hold a barbell in front of your groin with an underhand grip.
- Stand tall with your shoulders back.
- Keep your elbows tucked into your sides.
- Lift the weight towards your chest, stopping it a few centimetres before it touches flesh.
- Lower it slowly back down to the starting position.
- Keep your core muscles braced for support throughout the move.
Feet-up bench dip
- Put a step just further than leg length away from a bench.
- Put your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart on the bench and lift your feet onto the step.
- Lower your backside slowly down towards the ground, using your triceps to control the move.
- Stop about 10 centimetres above the ground, then come back up.
- Brace your abs throughout the move.
Bodyweight prisoner squat
- Wrap your fingers around the back of your head.
- Adopt a stance with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Sink down until your thighs are horizontal, keeping your back straight and knees in line with your feet.
- Look forward and maintain a natural arch in your back throughout the move.
- Place your hands on the ground just wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and you should be on your toes.
- Lower down slowly until your face is five to 10 centimetres from the ground.
- Press up powerfully.
- Keep your abs braced throughout the move.
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Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.