Warrior Workouts: Jason Momoa’s Trainer Shares the Secret Sauce of Shaping a Superhero

Jason Momoa rock climbing at home.
Jason Momoa rock climbing at home.Jeff Lipsky for Men's Journal

Spoiler: There’s no singular Jason Momoa workout to become Aquaman. It’s also important to acknowledge Momoa probably woke up like that to a certain extent (you can’t cheat a hulking frame or propensity to easily build muscle). But that doesn’t preclude the apex badass from enduring the most beastly workouts to prepare for each warrior role he plays.



We recently visited Momoa’s interim Toronto residence to chat with Damian Viera, dynamic movement and recovery therapist, who’s worked closely with Momoa for the past dozen film productions. Viera graciously (not all heroes wear capes) details the holistic approach he prescribes to physically prepare Momoa for roles ranging from apocalyptic nomadic warrior to king of Atlantis.

As Viera sees it, the primary goal is to avoid injuries by staying ahead of the stunts. And rightly so—with his rapidly multiplying pursuits in film, production, crew and schedules depend on Momoa’s sound health and form. “When it comes to preparing Jason, we see these stunts well in advance in the scripts,” explains Viera. “It’s a matter of deconstructing the stunts and putting the body into that space, that framework. The more often you put the body in that space, with that stress, the more comfortable it becomes—the body itself evolves.”

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Viera demonstrates this with their training regimen for the second season of See, where Momoa plays a blind samurai, for Apple TV+. “If you visualize the way a samurai moves—he’s deep in his base stance, and the movement goes from his legs upward through his body, until finally the tip of the sword does the cutting,” he says. “The sword is the final expression, but the movement actually begins at the feet. So, the more Jason’s body can assimilate the stress of that low posture and movement, the faster he can recover and the harder he can push his body. We analyze what he’ll need to do in the future and we train for that in the present.”

A Jason Momoa Workout for Every Movie: The Secret Sauce of Shaping a Superhero

1. Bulgarian Squats

When shooting a scene in See, for example, Momoa may have to go in and out of a deep-seated squat position for several hours. It’s not quick, like the final scene will be. And, although it may appear otherwise, he’s not a real samurai, so his body is like, What the fuck?! It’s a deep position to hold all day long. At the center of most of See’s fighting scenes, Momoa goes from hunched over to deep squat, back to hunched over. “But Jason normally stands tall and has a long torso,” explains Viera. “So in order to be hunched over or in a deep horse stance for extended periods of time, we really have to stay ahead of it through our training.” The answer: Bulgarian split squats.

Sample Jason Momoa Bulgarian Split Squat Workout: The lower-body exercise is great for conditioning the body to deal with that kind of stress and for faster recovery. “We blast legs,” Viera says. “The split squats are also good for hip rotation. We’ll run six sets of split squats for each leg, with 10 to 12 reps for each size of kettlebell. Right now, we have 53-, 61-, 70-, 88-, 97-, and 106-lb kettlebells.” To further the intensity, they’ll do variations with single and double kettlebells and tack on a weighted vest.

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2. Kettlebell Work

“We do ladder workouts using kettlebells to actively engage and strengthen muscle tissue,” explains Viera. “When certain tissues get exacerbated, that can create injuries and take away the ability for specific movements. You want to release the tension and address the wear and tear passively, then actively engage the tissue that might be weak to make it strong.” Viera turns to kettlebells because they let you train unilaterally and offer more versatility than dumbbells.

Sample Jason Momoa Kettlebell Workout Ladder: It includes a series of double-KB squats, double-KB deadlifts, double-KB swings, one-KB swings and one-KB cleans. For each of these exercises, he’ll usually run through 6 sets of 10 to 12 reps for each size kettlebell. “We’ll work up the ladder to get them all in.”

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3. Power Training With Medicine Balls

“The nutrition, movement, and healing work are very different as we switch from the samurai sword in See to the trident in Aquaman,” says Viera. It’s all dependent on Momoa’s size, movement, and recovery needs. “Aquaman is very aesthetic with some fight scenes. Because the trident is a heavier weapon, it’s a completely different movement that uses more leverage, and requires more work to prevent injury to the rotator cuff.”

Sample Jason Momoa Medicine Ball Workout: To train for the trident-throwing king of the sea, Momoa does a lot of exercises using 10-, 15-, and 20-lb Dynamax medicine balls. He’ll mix up isolated chest passes, hammer rotations, bilateral passes and other tosses. “And somewhere in there, we’ll do other things like dips, pushups, and resistance band work,” says Viera.

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4. Rock Climbing

“Jason is an excellent climber and constantly tests himself with hard problems and difficult routes,” says Viera. “A rock-climbing wall serves as his primary movement therapy. This helps keep his body pliable so when we go into dynamic movements, injury is prevented.” The good news for Viera is he doesn’t have to train Jason to climb—he’s damn good at it. “There’s already a built-in knowledge base and postural patterns with his advanced rock climbing skills. He has all that intuition from a lifetime of experience. You can’t train that level, but you can inspire him to meet his highest performance. I set the base up and he makes the ascent alone. And when he’s done performing at that level, at his peak, and he’s back down, that’s where I come in and heal him.”

As Viera points out, the activity doesn’t have to be rock climbing. “Use physical activities that you love in order to do those dynamic movements that test your performance and enhance your range of motion. I’m not teaching you how to run or ride or play golf, I’m equipping you to do those things to your best ability.”

5. Wu Tang Yoga

“We dare not use the Y-word around here—there’s an element of softness that makes yoga a snore-fest for Jason,” says Viera with a laugh. “When I integrate postural medicine into his routine, I’ll call it ‘Wu Tang yoga’ or ‘Slayer stretching!’ ”

Want more Momoa? Read the actor’s July/Aug 2021 cover story here.

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