Workout Routines

Daniel MacPherson’s muscle-building, fat-burning ‘Strike Back’ circuit workout

The Australian actor added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame to play Sergeant Samuel Wyatt on the high-octane Cinemax series. This routine helped him sculpt that physique.

Daniel MacPherson Strike Back
Liam Daniel/Cinemax
Liam Daniel/Cinemax
Duration 40
Exercises 10
Equipment Yes

When filming started on location in Jordan and Croatia for the Cinemax series Strike Back, the hard work in the gym didn’t stop for actor Daniel MacPherson and his castmates.

To prepare for filming, MacPherson focused on adding size to his shoulders, chest, and back to get “really thick” to emulate the look of the special operations soldiers and Navy SEALs he met while doing research. By employing fasted cardio, high-intensity workouts, and eccentric exercises—as well as a high-protein diet—MacPherson built an imposing physique and the strength to easily carry 30-40lbs of equipment.

Following those months of preparation, the actor and his castmates—including former pro-fighter-turned-actor Warren Brown (Sergeant Thomas "Mac" McAllister), Roxanne McKee (Captain Natalie Reynolds), and Alin Sumarwata (Lance Corporal Gracie Novin)—continued to keep an intense daily workout routine to maintain their gains.

“I was the heaviest I've ever been in my life,” MacPherson told Men’s Fitness. “Then, when we were shooting, we’d work until about 7 p.m. at night, get in a pre-workout meal, and go hit the gym for two hours. We also had weights on the set, so if you had a scene off or a moment off, you could at least just go and do a set of something, just to keep it moving. The physical transformations from Alin and Roxanne were incredible as well.”

While that daily routine was pretty intense, MacPherson saved his best for last. In what the actor calls his “Sunday Special,” or the “Sunday Fun Day” routine, MacPherson led the group in a circuit training routine that would “burn everyone for a couple of days”.

“I made it so we could scale up to whatever we needed,” MacPherson said. “During the week, we’d do maybe seven exercises. On Sunday we went to 10 exercises, 10 reps, for 10 rounds and worked down the rep ladder from 10 to 1 as we went. We’d mix in deadlifts, plyo pushups, kettlebell swings, pullups, chinups, maybe a biceps curl sometimes, or burpees, and that would hit all of our muscle groups. As you go down, we added weight, so you're getting super-heavy as you go. It’s a beautiful workout that was a bang for your buck. It helped us hit all of the aesthetics that we needed, as well as burning a ton of calories, which would give us a boost through the week.”

Directions

MacPherson started with an 8-minute rowing warmup, progressing from medium-to-hard-to-harder every 2 minutes. After the warmup, MacPherson jumped into the 10-move, 10-round workout.

In the first round, do 10 reps of every exercise. Do one fewer rep in each subsequent round (9, then 8, then 7, etc.) until you finish 10 rounds. We've labeled that below as "10–1".

MacPherson added weight to the barbells every second round. By the last round, he'd lift close to 80% of his one-rep maximum. Experiment with the weight increases, and make sure you're doing reasonable weights for yourself.

The 'Strike Back' workout Daniel MacPherson's 'Sunday Special' circuit routine

Exercise Warmup:

Rowing Machine
exercise image placeholder
-- sets
8 min at increasing intensity reps
As needed rest

Exercise 1.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
-- sets
10–1 (Start at 10 reps. Do one fewer rep each round.) reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 2.

Barbell Thruster You'll need: Barbell How to
Man performs barbell thruster exercise thumbnail
-- sets
10–1 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 3.

Wide-Grip Pullup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Wide-Grip Pullup  thumbnail
-- sets
10–1 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 4.

Toes to Bar You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Toes to Bar thumbnail
-- sets
10–1 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 5.

Close-Grip Chinup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Close-Grip Chinup  thumbnail
-- sets
10–1 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 6.

Burpee Box Jump-Over You'll need: Box How to
Box jump thumbnail
-- sets
10–1 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 7.

Kettlebell Swing You'll need: Kettlebells How to
Kettlebell Swing thumbnail
-- sets
10–1 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 8.

Plyo Pushup You'll need: No Equipment How to
Plyo Pushup thumbnail
-- sets
10–1 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 9.

Barbell Curl You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Curl thumbnail
-- sets
10–1 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 10.

Rowing Machine
exercise image placeholder
-- sets
500m (or as long as you can last close to that) reps
2 min. rest

Daniel MacPherson's 'Sunday Fun Day' alternate workout Another way the 'Strike Back' team got shredded

Exercise Warmup

Rowing Machine
exercise image placeholder
1 sets
8 min at increasing intensity reps
As needed rest

Exercise 1.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
1 sets
4-6 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2.

Seated Cable Row You'll need: Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Seated Cable Row thumbnail
1 sets
4-6 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3.

Incline Dumbbell Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Incline Dumbbell Press thumbnail
1 sets
4-6 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4.

Lat Pulldown You'll need: Cable Machine How to
Lat Pulldown thumbnail
1 sets
4-6 reps
-- rest
Use a wide grip for the pulldown

Exercise 5.

Dummbbell Flye You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Flye thumbnail
1 sets
4-6 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6.

Neutral-Grip Lat Pulldown You'll need: Lat Pulldown Bar How to
exercise image placeholder
1 sets
4-6 reps
-- rest
Use a reverse neutral grip

Exercise 7.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
1 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 8.

Toes to Bar You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Toes to Bar thumbnail
1 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 9.

Burpee Box Jump-Over You'll need: Box How to
Box jump thumbnail
1 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 10.

Rowing Machine
exercise image placeholder
1 sets
500m (or as long as you can last close to that) reps
-- rest
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