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Tom Cullen’s 4-day ‘Knightfall’ workout program to get jacked medieval-style

Cullen's character on the legendary new History series is the medieval equivalent of a Navy SEAL. Here's how the actor got into battle-ready shape.

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Tom Cullen's 'Knightfall' Workout Routine
Courtesy of A+E Networks
Tom Cullen's 'Knightfall' Workout Routine
Courtesy of A+E Networks

The Knights of the Templar were a Catholic military order that Cédric Proust, stunt coordinator for History’s legendary new series Knightfall, describes as the “most advanced special forces” of their time. Founded in the 12th century, the Templars were the most skilled (and deadliest) warriors of the Middle Ages, a medieval equivalent of the Navy’s SEAL Team Six or the Army’s Delta Force unit.

Becoming a Templar was no easy task then, and it sure as hell isn’t one now—even if it’s just for television. Just ask Tom Cullen.

For Knightfall, Cullen had to be in peak physical condition to play Landry, a veteran crusader and newly initiated leader of the Templars. To achieve that build, Cullen went through an “insane” training program that ultimately transformed his body into the “biggest and bulkiest” he’s ever been. Here’s how he did it.

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“My training process, personally, was long because I had to…get myself into a physical condition whereby I looked like someone who’d been fighting in a war since he was 11 years old,” Cullen says.

Before donning any armor (which weighed more than 50lbs) or picking up a sword, Cullen weight-trained for three months. “I did a program called Get Swole, which was so hard,” Cullen says. “It was insane. It was super-setting push and pull, and it would take about an hour and a half every day, just to get through [all the sets]. It was nuts.”

Then came a two-and-a-half-week boot camp with the entire cast, when Cullen could finally put his months of training to work. Along with his fellow brothers of the Templar (or at least the actors who portrayed them), Cullen circuit-trained in the morning, then boxed, practiced sword combat, hit the weights, and finally finished off the day with some horse riding and more sword training—with only a brief break for a quick lunch of lean protein. Exhausting? Yes. Fun as hell? Absolutely.

“It was the most fun,” says Cullen. “Also, for me personally to challenge myself to get that kind of fit. I’ve always been fit, but to get big and strong like that was a real fun journey and challenge to go on.”

How it works

This four-day workout regimen is based on a program called Get Swole that Cullen used (and adapted in places) to train for Knightfall. “The important thing to remember,” says Cullen, “is not to be put off by the amount of reps” and to “try and lift as heavy as you can and superset as fast as possible.”

The best part? “The growth is fast,” he says.

Directions

Do each day of this workout consecutively and take three days to recover. Exercises marked A and B are done without rest in-between (superset). Afterward, rest 90 seconds, and repeat for the prescribed number of sets. Complete all sets for one group before going on to the next. Perform exercises not marked A and B as straight sets.

Before tackling each day of the workout, Cullen ran a leisurely mile to the gym to gradually increase his heart rate. Once he got there, he sprinted for 10 minutes (30 seconds on, 30 seconds off) on the treadmill as a warmup.

Knightfall premieres December 6 at 10/9c on History.

Routine

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Tom Cullen's 'Knightfall' workout to bulk up fast

Day 1: Chest and back

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 6

Wide-Grip Pullup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
5
Reps
To failure
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 2 of 6

Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
90 sec.
Exercise 3 of 6

Incline Dumbbell Flye

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 4 of 6

T-Bar Row

Equipment
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
90 sec.
Exercise 5 of 6

Wide-Grip Pullup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
5
Reps
Failure
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 6 of 6

Dumbbell Floor Flye

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
90 sec.
Support your upper body using a Swiss Ball.
Exercise 7 of 6

Pullover/Triceps Extension

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
6
Reps
12
Rest
As needed
Exercise 8 of 6

TRX Pushup

Equipment
TRX
Sets
5
Reps
To failure
Rest
As needed

Tom Cullen's 'Knightfall' workout to bulk up fast

Day 2: Legs and abs

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 9 of 6

Squat

Equipment
Squat Rack
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 10 of 6

Leg Press

Equipment
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
90 sec.
Exercise 11 of 6

Stiff-leg Deadlift

Equipment
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 12 of 6

Hamstring Curl

Equipment
Swiss Ball
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
90 sec.
Exercise 13 of 6

Walking Lunge

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
5
Reps
12 (each side)
Rest
0 sec.
Use a barbell for added weight.
Exercise 14 of 6

Standing Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
90 sec.
Hold a pair of dumbbells.
Exercise 15 of 6

Ab-Wheel Rollout

Equipment
Ab Wheel
Sets
1
Reps
50
Rest
As needed

Tom Cullen's 'Knightfall' workout to bulk up fast

Day 3: Biceps and triceps

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 16 of 6

Cheat Curl

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
6
Reps
8
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 17 of 6

Lying Triceps Extension

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
6
Reps
8
Rest
90 sec.
Set the bench on an incline.
Exercise 18 of 6

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
6
Reps
8
Rest
0 sec.
Set the bench on an incline.
Exercise 19 of 6

Triceps Pushdown

Equipment
Elastic Band
Sets
6
Reps
20 (last set at 1/4 range of motion)
Rest
90 sec.
Exercise 20 of 6

Bench Dip

Equipment
Bench
Sets
5
Reps
To failure
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 21 of 6

Biceps Curl

Equipment
Elastic Band
Sets
5
Reps
30
Rest
90 sec.
Perform as an angled prone curl.

Tom Cullen's 'Knightfall' workout to bulk up fast

Day 4: Shoulders and abs

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 22 of 6

Arnold Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 23 of 6

Upright Row

Equipment
Barbell, Dumbbells, Kettlebells
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
90 sec.
Exercise 24 of 6

Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
0 sec.
Exercise 25 of 6

Front Raise

Equipment
Resistance Band
Sets
5
Reps
12
Rest
90 sec.
Exercise 26 of 6

Crunch

Equipment
Swiss Ball
Sets
1
Reps
50
Rest
As needed
Use a Bosu ball.
Exercise 27 of 6

Russian Twist

Equipment
Medicine Ball
Sets
1
Reps
50
Rest
As needed
Exercise 28 of 6

Crunch

Equipment
Swiss Ball
Sets
1
Reps
20
Rest
As needed
Perform each rep slowly.
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