Search icon


23rd Jul 2018

How Christian Bale achieved the ultimate transformation

Bale bulked up in just over six months, in between filming The Machinist and Batman Begins

Alex Roberts

Christian Bale’s incredible transformation from The Machinist to Batman Begins is arguably one of the most impressive to ever grace the big screen

In just over six months, the Welsh-born actor bulked up no end, going from skinny to stacked relatively quickly. To understand just how he did it, JOE spoke to Dom Rzadowski, Senior Master Trainer at Anytime Fitness UK.

Key compounds

“To achieve this amazing transformation, Christian Bale would have had to focus on major muscle groups such as his back, legs and chest. To work these effectively, he would have had to perform compound exercises – movements that involve many muscle groups.”

“While you’re targeting the main muscle groups, these compound exercises would have also helped Bale work the smaller groups which play a key role in supporting the larger ones.”

Rzadowski has provided examples of the compound lifts that would have likely featured as staples of Bale’s resistance training regime.

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Pull-ups
  • Bench press
  • Standing overhead press

“Bale will also have made sure he had agility as well as strength, so it’s likely he would have challenged himself further with these moves by combining squats with other pull or pressing moves.”

In order to achieve the level of definition that Bale sported on set for Batman Begins, his training would not have been limited to basic sets of compound exercises, as Rzadowski explains.

“He would have had to focus on small muscles too. Depending on the phase of his transformation, the amount of repetitions, sets and rest duration would vary.”

Training cycles

Bale’s coach would have split his training up into different long-term segments, which you can also incorporate into your regime.

“More than likely, Bale’s training would have been broken down into mesocycles (different training phases with different intensities).

“For example, for the first four to six weeks he would have been doing more conditioning work to get his strength and fitness up.

“This would involve free weights alongside bodyweight exercises with high-reps. They would be performed with lower weights and have little rest between sets.”

After the first period was up, Bale’s workout programme would have altered slightly.

“For the second training phase, again for four to six weeks, Bale would have performed exercises with fewer sets and reps but with heavier weights and longer rest periods in between sets.

“He would then have returned to the original cycle and so on and so forth, until filming was complete.”

Diet and nutrition

You can hammer each muscle group all you want in the gym, but unless your nutrition is on point, results will prove hard to come by.

“For Bale to be able to pack muscle back on quickly, he would have needed to establish his nutritional needs with clear calorie and macro targets for the day.”

As a guide, this is what Rzadowski says he would have had to follow:


  • Performance: 3-10g (per kg of body weight)
  • Fat loss 1-3g
  • Muscle gain 2-6g
  • Health 1-4g


  • Health 0.8g (per kg of body weight)
  • Sport 1.2 – 1.4g
  • Bodybuilding 1.2 – 1.7g

The nutritional content of Christian Bale’s meals would also have been important.

“To gain weight quickly, Bale would have had to stick to a high protein diet and consume healthy fats with most meals.

“These would typically be found in foods such as whole eggs, avocados, nuts (particularly almonds) and fish with high fat content such as salmon and mackerel.”

Bale’s transformation was complete in a relatively short space of time. You can achieve similar results, but don’t stress about getting it done so quickly.

The film star would have had round-the-clock access to a coach and chef, with time for recovery also allotted and written into his schedule.

We’ve previously featured men who have undergone dramatic lifestyle changes, including a ‘bottle a night’ man who dropped almost half his body weight and an IT consultant who ditched a 4,000 calorie-a-day diet to get seriously ripped.

If you – or someone you know – has made an impressive transformation with a story to tell, you could be featured on JOE’s Transformation Tuesday!

Just send your nominations to [email protected]