He might be renowned for being Hollywood’s ‘nice guy’, with the kind of affable charm and endearing personality that makes him beloved in households around the world, but make no mistake: Matt Damon is a beast. Underneath that friendly exterior is a man-made machine, one that can throw a punch and spar with the fittest, need we remind you of the action sequences that stunned in Jason Bourne?
Damon, now 50, isn’t exactly young. He’s not quite over the hill yet, but in an industry known for churning out talent quicker than a TikTok viral trend, the staying power of this actor is remarkable. Not only that, but Damon’s ability to transform for every role is something that sees him join only a rare few who can do the unthinkable.
Acting chops aside though, Damon’s physique is something he works hard for and for this we can only respect the guy. In the 2013 sci-fi dystopian flick Elysium, Damon revealed his most impressive physical transformation to play labourer-turned-hero Max de Costa, a man who fights his way out of the slums after a radiation-based accident. Damon bulked up and dropped body fat for the role, appearing like something of a demi-god carved in marble. If you were in the cinemas, you’d likely have been witness to the audible gasp as audiences watched with slack jaws at such a feat.
Now, the man behind Damon’s physical transformation is sharing the secrets. Hollywood PT Jason Walsh, founder of Rise nation, grew up with a passion for outdoor exploration and calisthenics. After training the likes of Jessica Biel and more, his reputation grew and soon he got the call to meet with Damon in 2012. Speaking to Men’s Health, he says: “Matt was living in Malibu. His agent has been a client of mine for 15 years and recommended me. Matt had signed on for Elysium and had to be in incredible shape – the movie had a lot of demands physically.”
Then in his 40s, Damon was feeling the wear and tear of arduous training and gruelling filming schedules. “Matt was reluctant to work with anybody,” Walsh explains. “I went out to talk to him. He said: ‘Listen, I’m injured. My back is jacked, my shoulder is hacked. And it all came from trainers. I’ve worked with a dozen different trainers and every one of them has hurt me.’”
Walsh had a secret though. He focuses on biomechanics issues specific to each client and asked Damon to give him a week. That week turned into a lasting relationship. With injuries still to heal, and further damage to prevent, the pair worked on natural, fundamental movement, led by calisthenics.
“The crawling movement is the most important movement that the body has,” he says. “Your’e moving cross-laterally across the body. You’re developing muscle and coordination across the body in a way that’s very strong.”
Instead of burpees and bench-press, Walsh focused on functional movements that tied in multiple muscle systems without putting undue strain on any one area. “I’ll have people learn to roll, or plank or crawl. It sounds ridiculous but they work,” says Walsh. “As a species, we’ve moved away from [those sort of movements] because we’re sitting at desks all the time and have bad posture. Even in the gym, we were never meant to just sit on a bike for hours or do lots of reps in a fixed position.”
Now, Walsh is sharing a routine inspired by his work with Damon. He suggests working through it twice a week alongside your usual workout. You might notice imbalances at first, but as you progress you will become looser and perform better in the big lifts too.
Rest: 60 seconds
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly out, then push your hips back and lower your body as if sitting onto a chair (or one of Jason Bourne’s enemies). Keep your weight on your heels as you drop as far as possible (your thighs should be at least parallel to the ground at the bottom of the move), pause, then drive back up explosively.
Reps: 5 metres forward and back
Rest: 30 seconds
Get down on all fours, then crawl forwards moving alternate hands and feet together. Simple, right? Don’t worry about looking daft; crawling opens the body up to new planes of movement, helping to increase functionality and prevent injury. In other words, it’s one of the best things you can do for your body.
Rest: 60 seconds
From standing, lunge forward with your right leg and sink down until your left knee is almost touching the floor. Now drive up explosively, swapping legs at the top and repeating the movement. Do ten per leg, and embrace the burn.
Rest: 60 seconds
Grab a kettlebell or dumbbell of your choice. Typically, it should be slightly too heavy to hold comfortably, but if you’re new to it, you can opt for something lighter. Keeping your back straight, chin up, and shoulder square, hold the weight by your side as you walk in a straight line to a pre-agreed point at least ten feet away. When you get there, swap hands, turn on your heels and return to the start for one.
Rest: 60 seconds
A great one for opening up the chest while simultaneously beasting the legs. Get hold of a sled (whether you add weight or not is your call). Get down low with your core engaged, back flat and chest up and push through your legs to move the sled as fast as you can to the end of the track. Turn it around and return to the start – that’s one rep.