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The Upper-Body Workout That Took A.J. Buckley From Scrawny to Brawny

Actor A.J. Buckley went from average dude to on-screen Navy SEAL, and he built an impressive upper body in the process.

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  • 60 min.

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AJ Buckley
Per Bernal
AJ Buckley
Per Bernal

When A.J. Buckley walked into the casting room to audition for SEAL Team, the same casting director who had cast him in CSI: NY took one look at him and exclaimed, “Holy shit! What the fuck happened to you? You look like a completely different human being.”

He practically was. Five years ago, while starring on CSI: NY, the 5’9″ Buckley tipped the scales at a mere 140 pounds. Then his father passed away, and he packed on weight, hovering at 200 pounds with 40% body fat. Eventually, the actor—who had always wanted to play a Navy SEAL—reached out to Hollywood physique expert Eric the Trainer and made a commitment to fitness. He is now walking around at a chiseled 185 pounds, with about 10% body fat.

“You only have one shot at this,” says Buckley of his opportunity on SEAL Team, which is now a hit series on CBS. “So you have to go hard.” On the show, Buckley plays Sonny, a weapons specialist. But the actor—who was born in Ireland and grew up in Canada—doesn’t have a military background or a long history with firearms. In fact, the first time he shot a gun was for SEAL Team.

But now, handling weapons (albeit the fake kind) has become part of his daily routine.

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“I get up at four in the morning and go to the gym, then go to work,” Buckley says. “I fly around in a Black Hawk helicopter, blow stuff up, go home, and drink a Bud Light and have a steak. It doesn’t get better.”

But Buckley didn’t just hit the gym to prepare for the role. His character suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), so Buckley researched traumatic brain injury (TBI) to learn more about the mental trauma that many SEALs deal with when they return from battle.

“There is a lack of help for them when they come home. They’re on their own,” says Buckley. “They’re training at such a high level to perform in the most intense circumstances and be cool, calm, and collected. Then they come home to normal situations that are sometimes more difficult than the battle.

I know how strong I think I am, but I could never make it as a Navy SEAL. They’re on a different level.”

A.J. Buckley’s SEAL Team Workout

A.J. Buckley’s fellow cast members call him a nutjob for waking up at four in the morning to work out before shooting SEAL Team. But Buckley loves it. “There’s something spiritual about it,” he says. “You get in a hard workout and exhaust yourself in the gym. The sun is just coming up and you’ve already kicked some ass. It’s a different mindset. It feels good.”

 

Routine

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A.J. Buckley’s SEAL Team Workout

Try this workout, which Buckley often performs in the wee hours of the morning.

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 8

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12
Rest
--
Exercise 4 of 8

Arnold Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15
Rest
--
Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
--
For each rep tap the bar twice on your chest
Exercise 6 of 8

Kneeling Lat Pulldown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar
Sets
3
Reps
15
Rest
--
Exercise 7 of 8

Fire Hydrant Kicks

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
35 per side
Rest
--
Use a bench
Exercise 8 of 8

Weighted Dip

Equipment
Ankle Weights, Dip Station
Sets
3
Reps
15
Rest
--
Place weight in between legs
Exercise 9 of 8

Walking Lunge

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
20 steps
Rest
--
NONWEIGHTED, bounce twice at the bottom of each step.
Exercise 10 of 8

Dumbbell Curl

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
15
Rest
--
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