Daniel Craig is, by far, the first actor to change the way we think about Agent 007 – he’s turned bond from a charming, fit man, into a ripped, charming, fit man. It’s therefore no wonder that guys from all over the globe are trying to figure out what exactly the 44-year-old Daniel is doing to achieve and maintain such great conditioning. And that’s exactly what you’re going to learn here.
The first thing you should understand is that once a man is past a certain age, his testosterone levels begin to slowly plummet. This not only reduces your muscle-building capacity, but also has a lot of additional psychological and physiological consequences associated with it. In this sense, it was definitely an up-hill battle for Craig.
But he pulled through. I mean, he had to. After all, consider what he had to say about his role in Skyfall:
But also I’m running most of the time during this film – he [Bond] doesn’t really just walk into a room and sit down, he tends to jump through the window and sit down, so I had to stay in shape.”
What you may have not known is that Daniel Craig had lost a ton of weight by the time he finished filming the movie Cowboys & Aliens. Daniel felt that he would best portray the role of a cowboy if he was thin and scrawny, and therefore lost a lot of muscle mass employing a calorie-deficit diet. This made the task of putting on all the necessary muscle within a few months and even more difficult one.
His Fitness Instructor
First things first: Daniel’s fitness coach. Simon Waterson – because that’s the guy in question – is an ex-marine who specializes in conditioning celebrity actors for their most physically-demanding movie roles. Do the names Chris Evans and Pierce Brosnan ring a bell? Because that’s who he has worked with in the past.
Simon Waterson strongly believes in putting a lot of effort into developing a strong posterior chain, as it makes the body less prone to injury as well as helps significantly straighten out your stature.
He also likes to put his clients on a Monday-through-Friday workout program, with weekends being rest days on which even drinking alcohol is allowed. This applied to Craig as well.
So what was the exact workout that Simon Waterson had prescribed to Daniel Craig in his preparation for Skyfall?
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Daniel Craig’s Skyfall Workout Routine
His routine comprised of 7 exercises, with a few isolated and a few compound movements in the mix. Like I said, Craig was working out basically 5 days a week, with weekends being active rest (he went to the swimming pool on weekends).
Exercises In the Skyfall Workout Routing
Here are the exact exercises he was performing:
Clean and Jerk: this is mainly an exercise for building power and is not usually used for bodybuilding purposes, though obviously muscle will grow as well assuming a calorie-surplus diet is in place. The movement is very difficult to describe properly in less than a few hundred words, so make sure to check these out: Clean & Jerk instructions, and the Clean & Jerk How-To video – it is divided into three parts, so make sure to check each of them out.
Squat: needs no introduction I presume. The unusual thing here is that Simon Waterson recommended that Daniel do squats with body-weight only – meaning no barbell. Not sure if there was a medical reason for that, but that’s definitely not something you would want to do if muscle gain is your goal. The squat, when properly performed, works your thighs, your butt, your hamstrings, spinal erectors and abdominal muscles (obliques as well!), and even calves. It’s THE exercise to be doing. Here is a Yo Elliott episode on How To Squat Low Like A Prof. Make absolute certain that when you are ascending, you are using your hips to push up the weight, not your back and/or arms. Tighten up them glutes, too!
Bench Press: no introduction required here either. Great overall upper body exercise that will work your chest, triceps, your deltoids (anterior mostly), and even your biceps to an extent. Daniel Craig was instructed to take 1 second to lift the weight up, and then lower it back down over the course of 3 seconds. He was advised not to lock-out his elbows at the top, so a very slight bend in the arms was maintained. See this Proper bench press form video.
Pull ups: done with a wide, over-hand grip. You simply pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Some prefer to keep going until their chest touches the bar – if you’ve got the strength, by all means go for it. This is a great exercise for working your lateral muscles, the biceps, posterior deltoids, your middle and outer back, and even your pecs to a degree.
Dips: the basic version, done on parallel bars. Daniel Craig lowered himself until his elbows formed a 90-degree angle, at which point he went back up and repeated. This is a very simple exercise that will target your triceps, anterior delts, chest, lateral muscles, and even the biceps and traps. This video on triceps dips will make everything clear.
Barbell Curls: Craig was instructed to do this one with a straight bar. Remember not to throw the weight up by jerking your body or shoulders – if you need to do that, then lower the weight. This is an isolated biceps exercise. Here’s my favorite how-to video demonstrating proper form – it’s kind of hilarious!
Dumbbell Lateral Raise: an excellent way for targeting the lateral deltoids, as well as working the anterior delts and traps along the way. Daniel Craig’s trainer recommended doing this one with arms bent at a 90-degree angle. Lift the dumbbells to shoulder level using only your upper arms and shoulder muscles – don’t jerk the weights up with your entire body. This variation of the exercise is also referred to as L-Lateral raises – here’s a solid how-to video.
The above covers the exercise part of things. I do have an opinion regarding all of it, and I will go over what I personally like and don’t like about this routine a little later, but for now let us take a look at the repetition and set schemes in Daniel Craig’s Skyfall workout, because there is a slight twist involved.
Repetitions and Sets In the Skyfall Workout Routine
The way Daniel did all of this is by employing what is known as “giant sets”. This basically means that, instead of doing each exercise for a few sets and then moving on to the next one, you do all of the exercises one after the other (one set per exercise), with almost no rest in-between exercises, until you’re done with all seven exercises, and then return to the first exercise and repeat the whole circuit.
Daniel Craig did 4 giant sets in his preparation for Skyfall, with 15 repetitions in each exercise/set. He almost didn’t rest between exercises (only as long as it took to position himself for the next exercise), and only rested for 1 minute at the end of each giant set. Here’s an example of what this would have looked like in practice:
- Clean & Jerk: 1 set, 15 reps. No rest, jump right into the next exercise.
- Squat: 1 set, 15 reps. No rest at the end.
- Bench press: 1 set / 15 reps. No rest.
- Pull ups: 1 set / 15 reps. No rest.
- Dips: 1/15. No rest.
- Barbell Curls: 1/15. No rest.
- Lateral Dumbbell Raises: 1 set of 15 reps.
Once the last exercise (lateral raises) is performed, there is a 60-second rest period, after which the entire process is repeated again. This is done four times in a row, and the entire routine took Daniel Craig around 45 minutes a day to complete.
Now, the idea behind using this approach is that it is supposed to keep your heart rate elevated, and thereby increase your body’s energy expenditure and result in better fat loss. I will tell you later why I think that this is complete rubbish of an approach for muscle gaining purposes, and why Daniel Craig would have had far better results and would have looked even better in Skyfall if he didn’t do these giant sets.
But first, let’s take a look at how Craig kept himself motivated throughout the ordeal, shall we?
Daniel Craig’s Motivation
First things first: Daniel trained at the same time as Simon – his coach. This means that both of them performed the exact same routine, motivating each other to keep going and probably introducing a bit of a healthy rivalry that helped Craig push through it.
In an interview, Daniel also mentioned that when he read the Skyfall script and noticed a scene where he was required to be topless, his “vanity kicked in” and he felt extremely motivated to workout. I guess having your body seen by tens of millions of people worldwide is pretty good motivation.
Finally, and as Simon Waterson had put it:
Craig had 100% focus on what he wanted to achieve.
This is always a consistent element that you will see in anyone who manages to do things that others seem to admire. FOCUS. Don’t wait until you have the time to do it – MAKE the time.
My Own Observations And Criticism Of Daniel Craig’s Skyfall Workout
Right. Let’s get back to planet earth for a moment and try to look at things objectively, without being carried away by thoughts like "OMG OMG it’s Daniel Craig, I’m sure he has the PERFECT plan."
Let’s take a closer look at a few of his pictures first:
Looking at this snapshot, it would seem that Daniel Craig had a decently built back, which definitely shows some dedication and attention to detail, as the back is something most people tend to ignore – not unlike the legs. However, it’s worth to note that lighting conditions in this snapshot, as well as the way Daniel is pushing his shoulders together, contribute significantly to what we are seeing. His triceps seem very well-developed here, and from this picture I’d venture a guess that his body-fat levels were somewhere within the 9-11% range.
This one looks a little bit less flattering in my opinion, though still a very decent physique for a 44-year-old. His body-fat levels seem higher to me in this one and I would judge it to be around 14%. Overall though, you can definitely tell he’s been working out.
Now, let’s take a look at the routine that Simon prescribed for Daniel.
The Giant Set Thing
I really don’t like the idea of circuit training (that’s just a fancy name for the “giant sets” I described above). Yes, it’s true that this will elevate your heart rate and make you burn somewhat more calories, however this effectively turns the entire routine into more of a treadmill run or another cardio workout rather than a muscle building routine.
Is that what Craig was going for? Because I don’t think so. From everything we know, he was attempting to put on considerable muscle mass after all that weight he lost while shooting Cowboys & Aliens, so it makes sense that his goal would be to gain muscle.
And if that is what he wanted to do, then he absolutely shouldn’t be doing circuit training. For optimal muscle growth to occur, you need to hammer the muscle pretty hard within a relatively short amount of time. By doing what Daniel Craig was doing, you are giving each muscle group far too much time to rest – this is
So here’s my advice: either focus on losing weight and eating at a calorie deficit, or focus on gaining weight and doing a calorie surplus. Trying to get “the best of both worlds” will always give you crappier results. Either eat a lot and focus on gaining muscle and completely ignore cardio and “burning extra calories,” or eat less and focus on maintaining muscle while doing the best you can to burn as many calories as possible. The two don’t mix and match – sorry Mr. Simon.
Excluding the above, it’s a pretty decent routine overall. And I would say that it’s great not only for guys at Daniel’s age, but also for women, as well as guys & gals of all ages, shapes and sizes.
Recommendations for beginners
If I had to make some kind of a recommendation for beginner weight lifters, it would be to drop the dips and pull ups. That’s because they are very difficult to properly manage as you are lifting your own body weight, so you don’t have much room to fine-tune everything or reduce the weight in case it’s too much – it’s not like you can cut off your foot now.
It’s also possible that I would consider dropping the lateral dumbbell raises and substituting them with something that would bang your posterior chain a little harder – probably the stiff-legged dead lift.
Again though, these are recommendations for beginner lifters. If you are intermediate or advanced, by all means go for an exact copy of what Daniel Craig did while preparing himself for Skyfall. Otherwise, consider the changes I’m suggesting so you don’t burn out too quickly and so your overall body development is even.
Oh, and don’t do this 5 days a week, not unless you’re going to run this as a circuit (which you shouldn’t be doing if your goal is to gain muscle). I recommend 3 times a week for beginners.
See now this is where things get a little hazy for me. I wasn’t able to find a single mention of what kind of progressive overloading scheme Daniel Craig was using, and to be honest that’s far more important than the kind of exercises he was performing. When I say “progressive overload,” I simply mean the way that Daniel was making sure that his muscles were constantly being put under more and more pressure, from day to day or from week to week.
Without some progressive overloading strategy, you are not going to grow your muscles. It is the constant increase in the weights that you are lifting, or in the number of repetitions that you are doing, that is going to give your body the needed stimulus for muscle growth.
This means that if you are constantly lifting the same weight for the same number of reps, you won’t see any gains past the first 6-8 weeks of training, and that’s only if you are a complete beginner to weight lifting.
I’m sure that there was SOME kind of progressive overload strategy involved in Daniel Craig’s workout. If not, then this simply means Daniel’s workout was geared towards weight loss, and if that is the case – the only way he could have gained muscle like he did would be through the use of steroids.
Also not much to be found on that, unfortunately. Diet is the single most important factor when it comes to gaining muscle and getting jacked like Daniel Craig did for Skyfall. Even the best workout in the world and the most determined mind will not result in additional muscle mass, unless it is backed by a calorie surplus diet – there is simply no way around this.
Simply put, building muscle requires tremendous amounts of energy; amounts that you won’t be able to provide if you are eating with the goal of losing weight. So you need to make a choice: either focus on cutting the fat, or focus on gaining the muscle. Your diet, however, is going to be the backbone of whatever it is you choose.
Final Thoughts On Daniel Craig’s Skyfall Workout Routine
The workout routine would have been OK in my book if not for the circuit training thing. This completely disqualifies it in my eyes as a bodybuilding routine, as I’m sure it does for every serious fitness coach out there (again – sorry Mr. Simon!).
If you want to grow your muscles, do the following:
- Eat A Ton – eat at a calorie surplus (more than what your body burns).
- LIFT Heavy Stuff – lift heavy, without employing circuit training. You can use the exact same routine as Daniel Craig did, although if you are a beginner I recommend taking advantage of my recommendations above.
- Gain, Gain, Gain – Focus your efforts on gaining the muscle, not on “gaining muscle while burning fat.” You’ll be better off for it.
Mark Nazzal is an online 1 on 1 weight loss and fitness coach who will make sure the job gets done, whether your Daniel Craig or not. You can ask him any questions you have over at his personalized fitness advice forum.