The Christian Bale transformation left all of Hollywood and beyond with their jaws on the floor. In one of the most extreme transformations, Bale lost 60lbs to play the skin-and-bones Trevor Reznik in The Machinist, only to gain it back and then some in lean muscle mass.
The ultimate Dark Knight has become the master of shape shifting. We caught up with Christian and he told us how he did it for his most famous roles.
TRAIN: Talk us through the Christian Bale transformation – Which was the toughest one?
I stuffed myself after The Machinist. My first screen test for Batman Begins was a month and a half away after finishing The Machinist, so I had to get my weight back up. Then I had about five months to reach what you see in Batman Begins. At the start I was eating often and I was eating foods very high in calories because I lost 60lb.
It took me a while to even be able to work out properly after The Machinist as well, so at first it was slow progress exercise wise. I didn’t start running until a few weeks after I got my weight back up. I love running and it’s something I always do when I’m not working. I enjoy running more than weights. I think it clears the brain and obviously, it’s good for the heart.
“When I was able to workout again, I’d learnt a lot about training from American Psycho, Equilibrium and Reign of Fire. I learned a lot about bulking, cutting and nutrition, so that was something I brought into the Batman role. And my regime: I would do splits – every day focusing on a different muscle group.
I would do three sets of 10 to eight, depending on what I was working on. Usually, the last set was a little lower rep-wise because I’d want to be struggling, you know? Then I’d always shock my body with drop-sets and supersets.
“Actually, I gained too much weight in the run up to Batman Begins. I wasn’t the size that Christopher Nolan wanted, so I had to cut down 20lb or so just before shooting – I was a lot beefier at first. That cutting down was achieved by going on a calorie deficit and running more and for longer. I cut a lot of the carbs out of my diet for those few weeks as well.”
TRAIN: You seem to have your diet and nutrition down whether you have to gain or lose weight.
Not including The Machinist, Rescue Dawn or The Fighter – where I had to lose weight – my role for American Psycho was my most restrictive diet-wise. There were no cheat meals. It was all lean protein. No sugars, good fats and low carbs.
Playing Batman and my other physical roles while I was very dedicated to my diet wasn’t as severe. With Batman my goal was to be lean, yet have a muscular physique, but not as lean as I was in American Psycho.
My whole thing was about having speed, strength, stamina and agility – being that lean would be counterproductive to some of those things – I want a bit more weight there. Batman relies on speed and strategy. Diet-wise I would eat smaller meals every two or three hours. Each meal I would aim for a balance of lean proteins, carbs and good, healthy fats.
Pretty much every meal would have that mix. I’d also try to eat a lot of vegetables, drink good old H2O and more low-calorie fruits when I’m cutting.
TRAIN: To have speed, and agility, I imagine your workout regime didn’t revolve just around weights?
It wouldn’t just be weights. Say it was back day, I wouldn’t just be doing lat pull-downs. I’d also do wide-grip pull-ups and bodyweight-style moves as well, because I was aiming for speed, strength, stamina and agility. It wasn’t just about being muscular. If it was triceps I would do dips until failure and other bodyweight exercises mixed in with lat pull-downs and tricep extensions.
The workouts were intense. I wouldn’t play around. Every day was a mix of weights, bodyweight moves, compound moves and then a run. It was intense, especially on the first movie when I had to gain all that weight after The Machinist. I’m not comparing myself to an athlete at all, but I would treat it like a boot camp.
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