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Fitness & Health

14th Jun 2018

Superhero workout series: train like an assassin

How did Michael Fassbender get jacked for Assassin's Creed? Film PT David Kingsbury takes you through the process

Alex Roberts

To perform like an assassin, Michael Fassbender had to train like one

A live action role as seen in Assassin’s Creed commands an armoury of lean muscle, strength and functional fitness. Achieving this was no small feat, so help was enlisted from David Kingsbury.

Kingsbury is a film personal trainer with a reputation for superhuman results. David is best known for his work behind the scenes on films such as The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Huntsman.

The goal – be an assassin

Every successful workout routine begins with a set goal in mind. These goals must be ‘SMART’ – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-orientated.

Kingsbury and Fassbender certainly set this in stone when beginning work on Assassin’s Creed.

“For every film I work on, we have clear goals for what we need to achieve. Assassin’s Creed was no exception.

“The demands for athletic performance as well as creating the right “look” were crucial to make it look and feel believable.

“The planning process starts months before the camera starts rolling to ensure the cast are fully prepared.

“Initial discussions with the director as well as getting to grips with the script gave me the insight I needed to plan the training and nutrition for the duration of the prep.”

Actors don’t have an infinite period of time in which to work. Each blockbuster has a deadline, and even then actual workout time is constrained.

Time spent working out was invaluable, so it was essential the right training programme was put in place.

The workout – strength, speed, movement

Workout programmes need to be tailored to the individual in order to garner the greatest results. Bog standard, cookie cutter routines often equate to bog standard results.

A starring role requires box office results, so Kingsbury was keen to focus on all aspects of physical performance.

“Most actors I work with have a base level of strength and fitness prior to our first session. This base means we can get right into focussed sessions.

“The goals for the cast of Assassin’s Creed required utilising a number of different training techniques to achieve the desired outcome.”

Free weights

Weight training should feature heavily in your routine, irrespective of whether you’re set to star in a film or not. Kingsbury endowed Fassbender with a consistent resistance-training programme to build lean muscle mass, strength and power.

“We used compound lifts primarily, to maximise total body strength, with movements such as –

  • Trap bar deadlifts: 4 x 6-8 reps
  • Dumbbell clean and press: 4 x 8-10 reps
  • Dumbbell walking lunges: 4 x 12 reps (each side)”


Bodyweight movements, termed calisthenics, are often overlooked in the gym environment due to the abundance of kit and the fact that, when done properly, sort the men from the boys.

These formed the basis of Fassbender’s functional fitness.

“As well as using conventional weights, bodyweight movements featured heavily.

“We were able to achieve a number of our primary goals – strength, muscular endurance and hypertrophy (muscle gain).

“We also incorporated weighted variations of bodyweight movements to target different rep ranges –

  • Pull ups & weighted pull ups
  • Dips & weighted dips
  • Push ups & weighted push ups
  • Bodyweight rows & weighted prone rows”

Martial arts

The nature of Assassin’s Creed involved a lot of choreographed stunts and fight sequences. To aid Fassbender and other cast members in these, Kingsbury incorporated fight training into training sessions.

“The key purpose of this type of training is to

  • Improve conditioning
  • Improve ability to follow choreography
  • Improve movement
  • Have some fun

“Boxing and martial arts are a great way of increasing cardiovascular fitness whilst learning a skill and doing both of these in an enjoyable way.”

Performance nutrition

Goal-focussed nutrition is a crucial element of any successful training plan. Get it right and you will achieve your goals, get it wrong and your hard work in training could go unrewarded.

“For our goals on Assassin’s Creed, we needed to build lean muscle, improve body composition and recover effectively from training.

“Different goals may require separate phases of nutritional planning, but in this case we used a period of time in a calorie surplus as well as a period of time in a calorie deficit.

“Calorie surplus with correct macros and training = muscle gain. Calorie deficit with correct macros and training = fat loss

Despite your dietary preferences, the content of what you eat is not as important as the quantity and volume.

“Whilst the quality of your food is important, ultimately your calories and macros determine your results. For this reason, the diet doesn’t have to be drastic or overly restrictive.

“Foods aren’t off-limits as long as you hit your daily calories and macros. Yes, this means you can still eat bread and have a six pack.”


Consistency is key, and adhering to this plan ensured Fassbender and Kingsbury achieved the desired goals.

“The results in this film where some of the best I have ever achieved. The goals were so diverse, and both the look and performance of the cast were incredible.”

For more information on David Kingsbury, his film work and online personal training visit