The ‘Suicide Squad’ Boot Camp: The Workout That Got the Cast In Shape (Together)

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 Courtesy Warner Bros.

Once the cast of Suicide Squad read director David Ayer’s script, it was clear their characters were nuts, but they all admit to being shocked how crazy the ensuing workouts were. The film, about a group of DC comic villains enlisted to a government task force against their will, came with an all-out boot camp experience.

“I wanted to create a gymnasium of sorts for my actors,” says Ayer, who is a U.S. Navy veteran. “I wanted them to work and to suffer together so that camaraderie would come through onscreen. The fastest way I saw for them to really reveal themselves was to beat them up, and have them beat the hell out of each other.” 

The first step Ayer took was to get his crew into the dojo of Richard Mesquita, a respected teacher of Kempo Karate. Sparring became a consistent routine amongst the whole cast, and everyone earned a yellow belt in the martial art before filming wrapped. The combat was so intense that Deadshot actor Will Smith tore his calf, and Rick Flagg actor Joel Kinnaman blew out his knee.

On location in Toronto they all worked out together in a training facility Ayer had built, mostly led by L.A.-based trainer Brendan Johnston. “They were like a family,” says Johnston. “You wouldn’t imagine having a cast this big, with so many different personalities, would be a good training environment. But they pushed each other to go harder. It sounds cliché, but everyone was bringing out the best in one another.”

Jai Courtney, who plays Captain Boomerang, was already big when he started training for the film, but with Johnston’s regimen he added 20 pounds of muscle and leaned down to 7 percent body fat. “The gym was a place we could all descend on,” he says. “There was absolutely a boot camp mentality. Ayer expects a lot from his actors, but the reward was in the results.” 

Jared Leto, meanwhile, modeled his frame for the Joker after that of a MMA fighter. “In addition to the bodybuilding sessions, I had Jared doing a lot of weighted calisthenics," Johnston says. "He was throwing a lot of punches throughout the day.” Leto was noticeably happy with the results, posting a few shots on his Instagram during his workouts.

Inside the Two-Day Suicide Squad Training Routine
Johnston created a basic workout schedule that was carried out in addition to the cast’s sparring and boxing. They got a day off for every four days they were on.

Day 1

Heavy Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps

Heavy Backrow: 5 sets of 5 reps

Bike Sprints: 15 sets of 1 minute on, 1 minute off

Day 2

Jogging: 15 minutes

Deadlift (pyramid set): 29 sets, starting with 15 reps light weight up to 1 rep max weight, then back

Power Cleans: 30 reps

Pull-ups: 4 sets of max reps

Jump Rope: 15 minutes

The Meals
“Replenishing is the most important method of recovery after a workout,” Johnston says. “They were drinking protein shakes as soon as they were done with their sessions. I had them eating something every two hours to keep their metabolism firing.” 

Leto eats vegan, so he abstained from the meats, filling the gap with multiple protein shakes. “I don’t like too much in the shakes I’m having people drinking,” Johnston says. “So I do ice, water, protein, almond butter, fruit, and maybe a little stevia to sweeten if you absolutely need it.”

Meal 1
• Protein shake
• 12 almonds
• Fruit

Meal 2
• 6 eggs
• Chicken breast (12 oz.)
• Oatmeal

Meal 3
• Protein shake
• Fruit

Meal 4
• Chicken breast (12 oz.)
• Green vegetable
• Sweet potato

Meal 5
• Protein shake
• 12 almonds

Meal 6
• Steak filet or salmon (12 oz.)
• Brown rice
• Green vegetables