Lead Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

For his title role in American Sniper, actor Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in US military history. To pull it off, Cooper had to look the part, which ultimately meant gaining 37 pounds of lean mass and going from pretty boy to burly badass.

There are a lot of rumors floating around about Cooper's workout program. How did he really train? And what was the stuff in the bottles he had with him in the paparazzi photos?

In this T Nation exclusive, we'll answer these questions and give you the exact workout that transformed Bradley Cooper into Chris Kyle.

Bradley Cooper 2015
Splash News

"Knocking the Pretty Off"

"I might have to tie you up with a rope and drag you behind my truck to knock some of the pretty off of you," Chris Kyle told Bradley Cooper during their first phone conversation.

"Thank God I got to talk to him once on the phone. It was a very quick conversation. But I did tell him how serious I was about making this movie," Cooper told USA Today. "And he should just know that whatever fears he had about Hollywood, to just put them aside and trust me. That I was going to do everything I could to tell this story."

More Than Just Another Movie Role

Not long after the phone call, Kyle, along with a friend, was shot and killed by a troubled young Marine at a lodge in Texas. That changed things for Cooper. Cooper said that the only way to be sure that the movie lives up to Kyle's legacy is if his family loves it. "His life merits this. I hope we have stepped up to the challenge," Cooper said.

Cooper knew he had to physically transform himself into a Navy SEAL. That was obvious. But he wanted to go deeper. This had become more than a movie role. This had become a promise.

From Fit to Brutally Strong

Bradley Cooper 2014
Splash News

Along with rigorous combat training with the SEALs, Cooper knew he had to look the part of the brawny sniper the enemy dubbed "The Devil of Ramadi."

Cooper turned himself over to trainer Jason Walsh at Rise Movement Studio, who's known for transforming the physiques of actors and actresses for movie roles. But Cooper was already in good shape. This was different. This transformation had to be about much more than adding a little muscle here and there and getting "Hollywood abs."

Kyle, before joining the military, worked on ranches and competed in rodeo events busting broncos. He had a ruggedly strong look — broad shoulders, tough — the kind of look that couldn't be faked with padded suits and good lighting. Kyle was a lifter and a warrior, not a bodybuilder.

Cooper needed to gain 35-40 pounds to accurately play the part, and most of that had to be muscle. Most importantly, Cooper had to not only look strong, he had to be strong. There was just no other way.

For one part of the movie, the film crew wanted Bradley to use fake weights for a workout scene. Cooper insisted that real weights be used, and he had to be ready for it.

A Plan Was Made

Bradley Cooper Midway Through the Program / Splash News

Walsh planned to train Cooper harder than he’d ever trained an actor. He met with coach Ben Bruno and bounced ideas off of him, fine tuning a twice per day workout plan that would accomplish all of the goals. Not only would Walsh train Cooper for up to four hours a day, he’d also train with him, saying, “I love to get into the trenches with my clients who have to go through this type of intense training. The camaraderie keeps them motivated."

"Bradley never missed a workout. He came in early, trained brutally hard, and followed the supplement plan to the T. He showed a kind of dedication to his training that we seldom see with actors," Walsh said. "This kind of intense training is unfamiliar to the Hollywood crowd. These weren't smoke and mirrors workouts. He trained like a strength athlete in the morning, then he came in again in the afternoon and trained to build muscle."

Walsh added that Cooper didn't just use his workouts to create the right look for the role. He used them as a springboard to transform into Chris Kyle. The intensity of the workouts got him into the right frame of mind. Cooper would often place a picture of Kyle on the wall of the gym and he blasted Kyle's personal playlist during workouts, listening to the kind of music that defined Kyle, everything from Metallica and Slipknot to Toby Keith.

The only way to put 35-40 pounds on Cooper was to push him to the point of breaking. Cooper had to follow the carefully designed workout plan using a precise progression model. Walsh traveled with Cooper to make sure it happened, even going with him for shoots in Morocco.

Walsh knew that Cooper not only had to survive the workouts, but also recover from them as quickly as possible so he could do it all again the next day. He had to be properly fueled.

The Supplement Expert Called In

Bradley Cooper Leaving the Gym with a Bottle of Mag-10 / Splash News

Walsh approached Biotest founder Tim Patterson with the challenge. Could he devise a supplement plan to help Cooper train for both strength and hypertrophy, recover fast, and build the rugged physique of a SEAL in a limited amount of time?

Patterson agreed but he had concerns. He wanted to make sure no mistakes were made with the supplement plan. So he custom made ready-to-drink bottles of Plazma and Mag-10 — which is the stuff in the bottles — and shipped them overnight directly to Cooper. Patterson also created a private webpage just for Walsh and Cooper that contained the entire supplement plan.

"It's my job to keep the athlete fully recovered and going into the gym excited, full of energy, ready to train," Patterson said. "Bradley Cooper is highly motivated and works hard, which is a combination I've never seen fail. I really expected his gains to outpace everyone's expectations. I had no doubt that we could make this happen."

Final Results

Bradley Cooper started the program at 186 pounds and ended at 225 with roughly the same percent body fat. By the end of the program, he was performing rack pulls with 425 pounds for 10 reps.

The program was a success. And Cooper's transformation into Chris Kyle — physical, mental, and emotional — is truly impressive.

T Nation, along with Jason Walsh, Ben Bruno, Tim Patterson, and Biotest, is honored to play a small role in helping Bradley Cooper bring Chris Kyle's story to the big screen.

For more about the movie, visit the official American Sniper site.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Bradley Cooper's Workout Program

SCHEDULE

Monday / Tuesday / Thursday / Friday

Time Supplement Dosing
5:30 AM Micro-PA™
Finibar™
6 capsules
1 bar
6:15 AM Indigo-3G®
Plazma™
6 capsules
1 bottle (500 ml)
6:30 AM Workout Plazma™ 2 bottles (1000 ml) (1)
Post-Workout Mag-10® 1 bottle (500 ml) (2)
2:00 PM Micro-PA™ 6 capsules
2:45 PM Plazma™ 1 bottle (500 ml)
3:00 PM Workout Plazma™ 1 bottle (500 ml) (1)
Post-Workout Mag-10® 1 bottle (500 ml) (2)
Pre-Bedtime Mag-10® 1 bottle (500 ml) (3)
(1) The goal is to front-load Plazma without making yourself feel uncomfortable. In other words, drink as much as you can during the first half of the workout. Then pace yourself so that you're finished with all bottles of Plazma by the end of the workout.
(2) Consume within one hour post-workout.
(3) Consume 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
CAL: 1721 PRO:  151 g   35% CHO:  259 g   60% FAT:  9 g   5%

Wednesday

Time Supplement Dosing
1:00 Pre-Workout Micro-PA™
Finibar™
6 capsules
1 bar
0:15 Pre-Workout Indigo-3G®
Plazma™
6 capsules
1 bottle (500 ml)
Workout Plazma™ 1 bottle (500 ml) (1)
Post-Workout Micro-PA™
Mag-10®
Finibar™
6 capsules (2)
1 bottle (500 ml) (2)
1 bar (2)
Pre-Bedtime Mag-10® 1 bottle (500 ml) (3)
(1) Again, front-load Plazma, then pace yourself so that you're finished with all bottles of Plazma by the end of the workout.
(2) Consume within one hour post-workout.
(3) Consume 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
CAL: 1268 PRO:  102 g   32% CHO:  175 g   55% FAT:  18 g   13%

Saturday / Sunday – No Training

Time Supplement Dosing
0:00 Preload Micro-PA™ 6 capsules
1:00 Stimulate HPS Mag-10®
Finibar™
1 bottle (500 ml)
1 bar
5:00 Preload Micro-PA™ 6 capsules
6:00 Stimulate HPS Mag-10®
Finibar™
1 bottle (500 ml)
1 bar
Pre-Bedtime Mag-10® 1 bottle (500 ml) (1)
Note:  The objective is to stimulate high-level protein synthesis (HPS) twice in six hours. Start anytime prior to noon, knowing that the second dosing period starts five hours later with a preload.
(1) Consume 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
CAL: 972 PRO:  92 g   38% CHO:  110 g   45% FAT:  18 g   17%

WORKOUTS

Monday AM Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Trap Bar Rack Pull * 3 10
A2 Ankle Mobility 2  
B1 Bulgarian Split Squat 3 8
B2 Farmer's Carry (heavy) 3 30 yd.

* Trap Bar Rack Pull — The progression was as follows:
Weeks 1-3 3 x 10
Weeks 4-6 5 x 10
Weeks 7-9 7 x 10
Weeks 9-12 10 x 10
He also started at Pin 5 (just below knee level) and worked down to Pin 3 (mid shin) as mobility improved.

Monday PM Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
A1 TRX 3-Way Shoulder Series * 3 6
A2 Triceps Pushdown 3 15
B1 Trap Bar Shrug 5 10
B2 Lateral Raise 4 Reverse 21s
B3 Wrist Roller * * 4 3

* TRX 3-Way Shoulder Series — 6 of each exercise.
* * Wrist Roller — Up/down = 1 rep.

Tuesday AM Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Low Incline Bench Press * 3 6
A2 Sled Face Pull * * 3 15 yd.
B1 Dumbbell Fly / Squeeze Press Combo 4 8
B2 Supported Landmine Row 4 8

* Low Incline Bench Press — The progression was as follows:
Weeks 1-3 3 x 6
Weeks 4-6 4 x 6
Weeks 7-9 5 x 6
Weeks 10-12 6 x 6
* * Sled Face Pull — He did an equal number of sets of face pulls as presses, so the volume increased every three weeks.

Tuesday PM Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Cuban Press 3 12
A2 Seated Dumbbell Curl 3 12
A3 Band Pull-Apart 3 15
B1 Single Arm Incline Bench Lateral Raise 3 10
B2 Wrist Curl / Reverse Curl 3 10 / 10
B3 Pushups * 3 AMRAP

* Pushups — As many reps as possible.

Wednesday AM Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Lat Pulldown (1.5 reps) 3 8
A2 Straight Arm Pulldown 3 10
A3 Face Pull 3 12
A4 Dumbbell Pullover 3 10
A5 Kayak Row 3 8 / side

Thursday AM Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Trap Bar RDL 4 8
A2 Hip Thrust 3 10
B1 Trap Bar Split Stance RDL 3 8 / side
B2 Bulgarian Split Squat 3 8
C Heavy Sled * 5 30 yd.

* Heavy Sled — 15 yard push/15 yard reverse drag.

Thursday PM Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
A1 TRX 3-Way Shoulder Series * 3 6
A2 Dip 3 15
B1 Trap Bar Shrug 5 10
B2 Lateral Raise 4 Countdown 6-1
B3 Plate Hold 4 30 sec.

* TRX 3-Way Shoulder Series — 6 of each exercise.

Friday AM Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Seated Barbell Overhead Press * 3 6
A2 Kneeling T-spine Rotations 3  
B1 Barbell Chest Supported Row 5 10
B2 Ring Pushups 4 10

* Seated Barbell Overhead Press — Bench was set to a very high incline, not totally vertical. The progression was as follows:
Weeks 1-3 3 x 6
Weeks 4-6 4 x 6
Weeks 7-9 5 x 6
Weeks 10-12 6 x 6

Friday PM Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Shoulder Complex * 5  
B TRX Inverted Row / Pushup Countdown * * 1  
C1 Sled Biceps Curl 3 15 yd.
C2 TRX Triceps Extension 3 10

* Shoulder Complex (using dumbbells) — Consists of the following:
6 Muscle Snatches
 6 Upright Rows
 6 Overhead Press
 6 Push Press
 6 Bent Over Rows

* * TRX Inverted Row / Pushup Countdown — Consists of the following:
10 rows / 20 pushups
 8 rows / 16 pushups
 6 rows / 12 pushups
 4 rows / 8 pushups
 2 rows / 4 pushups

For a toal of 30 rows, 60 pushups. Going back and forth with little to no rest.