Suicide Squad Goals: Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang Workout
The actor reveals the training secrets he used to get in shape for his role as Captain Boomerang
It has been an up-and-down few years for Australian actor Jai Courtney. But we don’t mean his career, which has been on a steep upward trajectory since his breakout role in 2010’s TV cult classic Spartacus: Blood And Sand. No, we mean the number on his bathroom scales, which hasn’t stood still as Courtney changed his body shape dramatically for each little and big screen role. He went from ripped Ancient Roman in Spartacus to super-lean for his portrayal of time-travelling soldier Kyle Reese in 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. And now he’s packed on serious muscle mass for his role as Captain Boomerang in DC Comics’ summer super-villain blockbuster Suicide Squad, starring alongside Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie, among others.
We caught up with Courtney, and his personal trainer Brendan Johnston, to find out how he got into superhero shape. We've also got a week of Captain Boomerang workouts and a nutrition plan to follow, so you can give it a go.
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Jai Courtney On Getting Into Superhero Shape
Have you always been into training?
I was always pretty athletic as a kid. As an Aussie I grew up playing rugby league, cricket, swimming – so sport was always a big part of my upbringing. As I got older that led into a lifestyle of living healthy and keeping active and I have always liked training, but I’ve always believed that having balance is a big part of healthy living. As I get older – I’m 30 now – I certainly love having a bit of an off-season, if you know what I mean!
Well, I knew that from the very first day of filming all I’d be wearing was a bloody loincloth! So it was the first time I had taken my training seriously, rather than a bit of fun. It really opened my eyes to the science behind training and nutrition and how you can transform your body to better portray a character on screen. It was really interesting for me to go through that process and I learned so much. But I was younger and could get away with a lot more. It’s remarkable how things do shift and you can become more prone to injury and need to treat your body a little more carefully. But it also allows you to evolve the way you do things to get the right results. You can try different ways of training and new approaches to eating to find the right way that works for you.
How hard was it to get so lean for Terminator: Genisys?
I’m naturally a bigger-frame guy and it’s meant that I could always get away without doing an awful lot and still look in reasonable shape. When it came to Terminator, put simply, they told me I needed to drop a bunch of weight, about 12kg. That wasn’t something I’d ever had to focus on before. They wanted me to get away from being thick and muscle-bound and get really stripped down. So it was a totally different approach. I couldn’t lift any weights and my training was all low-impact cardio and a more restricted dietary regime than anything I’d ever done before. Honestly, it was pretty mind-bending.
It’s cracking the mental side of it, mate, 100%. You have to find relaxation and reward in what you are doing. If I’m working towards a physical goal, it’s amazing how negative the effect of stressing out about achieving that goal can be. It can shift your progress backwards in a major way. You need to be goal-oriented and clear about what you want to achieve in a realistic timeframe. It’s not healthy to assume that you can really change your body in a couple of weeks. Give yourself a couple months and that’s another story – you can see massive results.
How did you train for Suicide Squad?
The beauty of this movie was that I was told I could finally gain some weight! So I went from about 190lb [86kg] in Terminator to 230lb [105kg] for Suicide Squad. So for me the physical preparation was massive. We’d all train together. We did martial arts training together from the very beginning. Will Smith and I would roll on the mats doing jiu jitsu, I was lifting weights with Joel Kinnaman, and Jay Hernandez and I got the gloves on every day and we’d spar. There was a great group mentality. It was really cool. Yeah, it could get a little hot sometimes… but it was always cool, man, because he’s your brother. It’s great when there’s expectation across the board and everyone works together to reach physical goals. You use each other for some camaraderie and healthy competition to push each other.
Yeah. It’s competitive, not in that you’re looking sideways and thinking, “He’s doing better than me” but in a way that spurs you on positively to keep pushing. You want everyone to be doing their best. If you can lift with a buddy so he can spot you and push you harder so you hit bigger numbers, then that’s really cool, man. It keeps you fired. Team spirit, a sense of camaraderie, it’s a beautiful thing and as someone who played a lot of team sports growing up, I loved it. One of the best things about training is that you can do it alone, but you can also do it with your mates, teach each other to be better and have a lot of fun in the process.
Who was the strongest member of the Squad?
I can say me, right? Why not? I got pretty fucking big! Will Smith might not be a spring chicken anymore, but he’s in very good shape. There’s a man who knows how to look after himself. He’s strong, man. We were rolling on the mats in the gym and I think he nearly put me to sleep once or twice!
I love the stunts, man! It’s a lot of fun and I love that side of acting. The most physically demanding work I’ve done was the fighting scenes in Suicide Squad. There’s a sequence at the end of the film that was tough for all of us. We were put under some conditions we had to maintain for about a week - and it wasn’t comfortable! So it’s not always the physical element of a stunt or scene that make them so hard – sometimes it’s the environment you’re in that takes them to another level. You’ve got to stay healthy and do things safely. It’s the only way. It’s easy to drop the ball if your mind wanders if you’re tired, or under-nourished, and that’s when you get hurt.
Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang Nutrition And Workout Plan
The inside info including a Captain Boomerang weekly workout and the nutrition plan Jai Courtney used to get into shape for the film.
Building up Captain Boomerang
When experienced personal trainer Brendan Johnston of CrossFit BMF in California was hired to get Jai Courtney into shape to play Suicide Squad’s Captain Boomerang, he had just two months before shooting started. And once filming commenced he had another four weeks to really dial the Sydney-born actor’s physique into peak condition for some of the film’s most intense and physically demanding scenes.
Johnston says Courtney was in “decent shape” when they first started training together but there was still a lot of work to do. “Jai’s a big athletic guy, but he needed to drop body fat, add muscle, and bring his cardiovascular conditioning up to par,” says Johnston. “Specifically, he needed to put on about 9kg of lean muscle, drop his body fat below 8%, while simultaneously bringing his cardio up to handle the workloads required by the workouts.”
To add so much lean muscle mass in such a short time, while also stripping away his body fat and honing his cardio fitness, the pair had to hit the ground running. “He needed to build up his body, so heavy weights were required to add lean mass, but he couldn’t compromise on his ability to perform in front of the camera so working on his functional fitness was paramount,” says Johnston. “Jai couldn’t just look the part, he had to be physically and mentally able to perform it too.”
To this end, every single workout Courtney performed was a circuit to provide the muscle stimulus needed for growth while also working his heart and lungs hard to improve his fitness as well as creating the right hormonal response to encourage his body to burn fat.
And because he was training so effectively there was no need for any drastic measures. “There was never a need for fasted cardio,” says Johnston. “The key was to get all the high-quality calories in needed to build full, dense and functioning muscle tissue, while lowering body fat levels. And if you train hard and consistently and eat good and healthy whole food then that’s what will happen!”
Captain Boomerang Nutrition Plan
Courtney’s diet was simple and easy to follow. “As soon as Jai woke up he’d drink 450ml of water to make sure he started the day hydrated, then a shake with two scoops of protein powder and a tablespoon of almond butter, and then a piece of fruit,” says Johnston. “Then we’d train. After that he’d have a proper breakfast of six eggs, one grilled chicken breast and a cup of oatmeal.”
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In mid-morning Courtney would take on more protein in the form of another shake with almond butter, then for lunch he’d have 225g to 340g of lean protein, either from chicken, fish or steak, along with fresh vegetables. His mid-afternoon snack would be another protein shake (this time without almond butter). Dinner would be 300g serving of lean protein - a different source from lunch - with more veg.
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“My training plan for Jai would change week to week depending on how was feeling, how he was progressing and his schedule,” says Johnston. You can follow his typical week’s training below – and don’t be afraid to change a few variables or shake things up. Changing something up every week is healthy, because variety is key both to keeping your mind fresh and focused and to ensuring your body doesn’t get time to get too comfortable, so you keep improving.
The Captain Boomerang Workout
This is what Courtney did each week to get in shape for Suicide Squad – try it to add muscle, burn fat and feel fitter and healthier.
Bench press warm-up, then:
- Bench press – 5 reps
- Double-unders – 50 reps
- Cable triceps extension – 20 reps
- 35m sprint – 5 reps
- V-sit crunch – 50 reps
Complete 5 circuits.
Back squat warm-up, then:
- Back squat – 3 reps
- Biceps curl – 20 reps
- Box jump – 15 reps
- Row – 150m
- Crunches – 20 reps
Complete 10 circuits.
- Lat pull-down – 10 reps
- Press-up – 20 reps
- Dumbbell lateral raise – 10 reps
- Weighted Russian twist – 50 reps
Complete 5 circuits.
- Deadlift pyramid: start with a light weight for 15 reps, then with each set increase the weight but lower the reps to 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2. Then decrease the weight and increase reps to 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15.
- Cable flye pyramid: use the same pattern.
- Finish with 10 sets of 100m sprints
Body-part day: pick a body part you want to build then choose a compound lift that works that muscle group. Warm up, gradually increasing the weight and reducing the reps per set. When you’re at your work weight, do 10 sets of 10 reps.
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From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.