Workout Routines

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.

by
AJ Buckley
Per Bernal
Per Bernal
Duration 60 min.
Exercises 8
Equipment Yes

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.

“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.”

 

A.J. Buckley’s SEAL Team Workout Try this workout, which Buckley often performs in the wee hours of the morning.

Exercise 1

Dumbbell Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lateral Raise thumbnail
3 sets
12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Cable Lat Pulldown How to
Cable Lat Pulldown  thumbnail
3 sets
12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Pushup How to
Pushup  thumbnail
3 sets
100 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Arnold Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Arnold Press thumbnail
3 sets
15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell, Bench How to
Barbell Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest
For each rep tap the bar twice on your chest

Exercise 6

Kneeling Lat Pulldown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Kneeling Lat Pulldown thumbnail
3 sets
15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7

Fire Hydrant Kicks You'll need: No Equipment How to
Fire Hydrant Kicks thumbnail
3 sets
35 per side reps
-- rest
Use a bench

Exercise 8

Weighted Dip You'll need: Ankle Weights, Dip Station How to
Weighted Dip thumbnail
3 sets
15 reps
-- rest
Place weight in between legs

Exercise 9

Walking Lunge You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Walking Lunge  thumbnail
4 sets
20 steps reps
-- rest
NONWEIGHTED, bounce twice at the bottom of each step.

Exercise 10

Dumbbell Curl You'll need: Dumbbells
Dumbbell Curl  thumbnail
2 sets
15 reps
-- rest
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