One of the most surprising movie franchises in the last few years, John Wick, has one of the most surprising leading men: Keanu Reeves, who made his name in the ’90s and early aughts before stepping out of the limelight of mainstream movies for a time.
The actor proved he could take up the mantle of an action hero with his roles in The Matrix trilogy, so his gun-toting, bone-breaking turn as John Wick wasn’t totally out of character—but that series started 20 years ago. Reeves was 50 when the first John Wick movie hit theaters in 2014, and with the third film, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum coming out this month, the now 54-year-old star is one of the most electric action stars in the business. Fittingly, John Wick‘s director, Chad Stahelski, was Reeve’s stunt double for The Matrix and other roles before stepping behind the camera.
Reeves performs his own stunts for the film series, but there’s even more to the exquisitely choreographed sequences than what you see on screen. Footage of the actor working through training maneuvers with weapons emerged online, highlighting the technical skills he developed for the role in real life. He wasn’t just playing a part for these movies—he was mastering the skills it takes to inhabit the character.
“He wasn’t lifting crazy heavy weights—it was just a mindset.”
To be able to deftly switch between weapons and fighting styles, Reeves had to be in top physical condition. He enlisted L.A.-based trainer and corrective exercise expert Patrick Murphy to help to get him into shape—which presented a big challenge, as the actor isn’t young, with a lengthy injury history to boot.
“Playing that role is very hard on his body,” Murphy said in a call with Men’s Health discussing the John Wick workout regimen after shooting a video at HVY Industry. The key to the program was building up Reeves’ muscular endurance without overtaxing his body. Murphy’s philosophy is to create the safest environment for his clients with high-benefit, low-risk exercise programming. “He wasn’t lifting crazy heavy weights—it was getting his body moving, getting his muscular endurance and stability—it was just a mindset,” Murphy said. “He would leave the gym exhausted, but feeling great. Where his body got beat up was in all those scenes [filming the movie].”
The program called for a high-volume routine with low-impact exercises and limited rest. “I would fit in, within the hour and a half, five to six circuits,” he said. “Just think of Keanu Reeves performing a thousand reps a workout, minimal rest, and it was just go time.”
Another of Murphy’s famous clients Albert Hammond Jr, singer, songwriter, and a guitarist for seminal rock band The Strokes, joined the Men’s Health crew to demo the Reeves program. “He’s basically a model client for me,” Murphy said of Hammond Jr. “We’ve established really good posture and alignment and we’re getting away from pain and numbness as we’re establishing positive adaptations with this 1,000 rep workout.”
Keanu Reeves’ John Wick Circuit Workout
Perform 20 reps of each exercise consecutively as a circuit, with as little rest as possible between moves. After finishing the round, rest for 2 minutes. Repeat for 6 total rounds.
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