How Will Smith Got an 8-Pack for ‘Suicide Squad’

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 Warner Bros.

This weekend Suicide Squad seized the record for largest domestic opening in August, but that is not the only thing decidedly big about the film. One of the opening sequences reveals a cast of characters locked up at Belle Reve Penitentiary who have used their incarceration to get massively fit. Despite being an ensemble effort, Will Smith’s character Deadshot is the main supervillain, and looking the part is a responsibility he took very seriously.

“I knew from the very beginning that this was going to be a big movie for me,” says Smith. The training regimen that followed was so intense that during a cast sparring session early in production he tore a leg muscle. “It was really scary to be in that position," he says. "When you’re 47 years old, no injury is a mild injury anymore. I was stepping back to throw a blow, and my calf popped. Everyone heard it. The doctor there told me that I was going to be down for six weeks, but I couldn’t allow that.”

That kind of grit and work ethic reverberated through the cast, inspiring them to all push harder in the gym. Actor Joel Kinnaman recalls the moment that inspired him to take his own training for Suicide Squad to the next level. “When the biggest star on the movie is such a hard worker, it does a lot for morale on set. If he was a minute late to anything, you’d see him running.”

Some of the movie’s best scenes feature Smith’s Deadshot and Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg in contention, but what you see onscreen is only a fraction of work that they were putting in for the project. Both received tactical gun training, meeting with Delta Force and Army Ranger members. Then on location in Canada, the two tackled intense strength sessions together, led by Smith’s personal trainer Aaron Ferguson.

“I like a more traditional body-building routine,” says Ferguson. “Using very controlled motions with not too much weight, but perfect form, because we couldn’t chance anyone getting injured again. We were trying to build up the shoulders and slim down the waist to give that real action-figure look, which I think we accomplished.” 

Here’s a sample of one of their five-day routines:

Day 1

  • Push-Ups: 3 sets of 20 reps
  • Barbell Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Incline Barbell Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Upright Cable Flys: 3 sets of 10 reps (high to low)
  • Lying Dumbbell Punch: 2 sets to Failure

Day 2

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Seated): Standing 2 sets of 20 reps
  • Barbell Shoulder Press (Barbell): 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Seated): 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Behind-the-Neck Barbell Press: Standing 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell Front Raises: Plate Front Raise 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Dumbbell Air Punch: 4 sets to Failure

Day 3

  • Chin-Ups (Front, Wide-Grip): 50 reps
  • Dumbbell Bent Over Row (One-Arm): 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Barbell Bent Over Row: 2 sets of 6 reps
  • Barbell Bent Over Row: Reverse Grip 2 sets of 6 reps
  • Pulldowns (Front, Wide-Grip): 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Chin-Ups (Front, Wide-Grip): 3 sets of 10 reps

Day 4

  • Cable Pushdowns (Heavy): 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Barbell Arm Curls: 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Barbell Triceps Extensions: Incline Bench Skullcrusher 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell Arm Curls (Incline): Alternating 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbell Triceps Kickbacks: 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 4 sets of 8 reps

Day 5

  • Hip Abductions (Machine, Seated): Seated or Cable 20 reps
  • Front Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Full Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Dumbbell Lunges: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Leg Press: Single Leg 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Box Jump: 4 sets of 30 seconds

The Eight-Pack Abs Routine
“He’s always had a big chest, but one of our main goals was to make Will’s abs really pop,” Ferguson says. He did that utilizing two fundamental exercises.

Crunch Machine: “You want to go super heavy so you fail in the Hypertrophy range (6-8),” he says. “Make sure to power into the crunch and then do a slow three count on the way back. Keep your head down so you are looking to your stomach to increase the intensity of the crunch. Go all the way back until the weights almost touch but not quite. Keep your back flat on the way back so your abs get fully stretched. So you're almost in a backbend, then explode forward again and repeat.”

Leg Raises Using a Pull-up Bar: “Keep your legs straight and power them up so your feet are above your head and your legs touch the hanging bar,” Ferguson says. “Then just fight the resistance on the way down again for at least a slow three count. Once your legs have dropped, extend them back behind you a little to power up so you stretch the abs. There is a small amount of time at the bottom of the movement that the tension will come off. You'll probably need this for a bit until you build up the strength. Very few people can get through four sets of eight of this exercise.”

The Diet
Ferguson didn’t babysit Smith when it came to diet. “He knows what he’s doing,” he says. “He was usually taking in about 3,500 calories, and as long as he hit that goal, I didn’t care how many meals he took to get it. Usually we were doing about five.” During sessions they would occasionally take a spoonful or two of protein powder from Optimum Nutrition. Smith’s go-to dinner was a grilled chicken breast, with sweet potato and broccoli. He didn’t even touch a carb on Christmas. “It was terrible,” Smith says.