Brad Pitt has been fit since he appeared in Hollywood, but there are some of his movie characters that are engraved on our brains indefinitely. The first is the fight club, where he played underground resistance leader Tyler Durden. The dirty, shirtless picture of him standing over a bloody opponent and hanging a solemn cigarette on his lips has remained a physical pillar of masculinity for many young men (even if it’s a bit stereotyped).
But there is one movie that can keep up with his Fight Club body – the gritty Guy Ritchie drama that he made right after, Snatch.
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As a tattooed Irish bat “One Punch” Mickey O’Neil on the screen, Pitt was still the epitome of lean, but he gained more bulk, especially arms and shoulders. Between the two projects, he built between five and ten pounds of muscle, a reasonable amount given his frame. The feat was accomplished with the help of legendary boxing trainer Joe Goossen, who has trained professional fighters from the famous Ten Goose Boxing Gym in Los Angeles for decades.
“The fact is, if you spend much of your day hitting heavy objects, you get pumped,” says Goossen. “He didn’t just want to look strong for these scenes in the film, he wanted to be strong.”
Goossen gave us an insight into the five-week boot camp he had prepared for Pitt to play “One Punch” Mickey, as well as an insight into his training.
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How did Brad Pitt find you and the gym?
It started with actor Peter Dante. Peter knew Brad, who mentioned that he would do Snatch and Fight Club, and said that he needed a boxing coach. Peter recommended our gym, which I’ve been in since 1990, and that’s how he ended up there.
What were his training goals?
The first thing we discussed was the film and its role. The character he was playing was supposed to be a one-punch knockout artist – a bat with godless power in his right hand. One of the goals was to give him a right hand that looked really good – the kind that got you on the floor – and of course a strong push to complement it. For his right hand to look good, he had to have his shoulders, hips, hands, and everything else in the right position. The secret was to give him all the tools and teach him the basics. You have to have balance and finesse. You only get that if you work on the left hand and everything else. It was a well-rounded program. I wanted to make him a complete fighter.
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What was your first assessment of Pitt?
I treated him like any person who comes in my door and wants to be a boxer. I asked him if he had ever done sports or boxed in high school, and I was shocked when he said he didn’t. The way it is put together, it looks like someone who has been on a field or in a ring before. Brad showed up for work every day of those five weeks. The sessions lasted at least two hours each time. I always say don’t appreciate what some of these actors do. He went through the mill to get to where he had landed. I really put it through its paces.
How did boxing lessons start?
I didn’t let him get hit in the first few days. And before we even started jumping ropes or shadow boxes, I wanted to make sure he was in the right posture. I let him walk in the right position on the balls of his feet and heels up and down. The idea of footwork was probably the most challenging element of his education. But it only took about a week before he went in the right direction. I have worked with many young amateurs who are becoming professional fighters. You come to the gym ready to work, but you may have some bad habits. I trained Brad the way I would train these amateur fighters, of course without the heavy sparring.
There is nothing better than hitting something with the weight of a man and really filling up.
How did you make him throw blows?
First we started with the most basic blow, the push – to keep these movements but insert the left push into the process, then uncork the right hand. All of this has to be done right up to a straight point in front of you. As soon as we got the basics out of the way, we started with hooks. Although the script did not require that he have a catch, I wanted to give him a full feel for his skills.
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What kind of pocket work did he do?
After the first week of footwork and hand placement, I put him in the speedbag, which he got under control very quickly. We would follow the one with the double-sided pocket to help with its timing. In the third week we worked on the heavy bag and threw his punches on the hanging 150 pounds. There is nothing better than hitting something with the weight of a man and really filling up.
When did you let him step in the ring?
I brought him into the ring about the second week and we started working there with the focus gloves. I let him encircle me and make shocks, hooks and body shots. Then I could really test his speed and agility and give him guidance on positioning. I later threw the pillow on my body and had it hit me. I am used to taking some heavy punches from my fighters so that I don’t go into phases too much, but he really could swing. In the end, he had a real strength behind these hooks.
Did you have him shadowbox?
That was our finisher for most training days. The gym I work out in is filled with mirrors so I could get a good look at its shape and he could see what his own movements were like. The key to a good punch is torque. I had to see it, and I could only do that when he let go. As soon as we found the right form, I let him give everything – in the shadow box and on the pockets.
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What was it like doing these training days with him, beyond fitness?
Brad was just a fun person, no questions asked, and we enjoyed the time. He met all the boys in the gym. The next day, when he found out that we loved Krispy Kreme Donuts, he brought a few boxes for everyone.
How did you feel about how boxing looked on the screen?
You don’t really get a sense of where he was in the film as a boxer because it’s peppered with different scenes. There was only a taste of his skills. But it will appear on the screen in just a few moments – the feeling that he has been in the ring before. The work we do is not easily forgotten. Brad was in his mid-30s, with his full manpower, and he definitely showed it.
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Train like Brad Pitt: The Snatch Boxing Workout
Manual: Perform the following exercises in standard boxing rounds: Work 3 minutes, let rest for 1 minute. Start with 3 rounds per turn and then build up to 5. The best way to familiarize yourself with these exercises is to find a good boxing or MMA gym near you. You can also do these exercises yourself with a partner.
1. Jump rope
Why it works: The jump rope improves foot coordination and strengthens the muscles around your feet and ankles, which prevents injuries.
How it goes: Hold both ends of the rope at waist level. Twist your wrists to swing the rope without moving your arms too much. When the rope comes around, jump with both feet at the same time. Be sure to stay on the balls of your feet and land gently. Keep your abs busy and your shoulders loose. Repeat until the set is complete.
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2. Speed bag
Why it works: Speedbags teach a fighter to hold their hands up and shift their weight between their feet when struck. The small surface also improves hand-eye coordination.
How it goes: Stand square in front of the bag, a little closer than arm’s length, with both feet equally spaced from it. The eyes should be level with the bottom of the bag. First, hit your fingers on the bag with a loose hand to get used to the rhythm. Your hands should move in a small circle that goes from right to right to left to left. This is the easiest pattern for beginners.
3. Double-end pocket
Why it works: The rapid movements of a double-ended pouch – a small, circular pouch attached to the anchor points at the top and bottom with elastic cords – force boxers to increase their response time and accelerate punches. This reinforces the importance of head movement, promotes the use of angles and footwork, and promotes high volume punching.
How it goes: In the combat position, hit the bag with constant combinations to keep it moving without the bag slowing down. Transition between throwing combinations, then go to defense, let the bag ricochet off your guard, and then start attacking again. The basic rhythm for beginners is left-left-right and right-right-left with bumps and crosses.
4. Focus gloves
Why it works: Focus gloves close the gap between handwork and sparring. They are used as a supplement to sparring and develop good punch combinations and defensive maneuvers such as slipping, seesawing and weaving.
How it goes: It is always helpful to get an experience trainer in your gloves, but not necessary. You can also put them on a training partner’s hands to get started. Make sure you work out the beat patterns with your training partner and start with simple combos. At the beginning, just focus on the push. Hit the pads further with the push and increase the speed and power to get a feel for what a real blow to the gloves feels like. Start adding the right or left cross to your butt and end the process with a checkmark that results in the combination of butt and cross.
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5. Heavy bag
Why it works: The heavy bag is an important piece of equipment. It is an incredible goal for a boxer to practice and perfect kicks, blows, hooks, angles and combinations, and to increase strength, speed, footwork and movement.
How it goes: The blows on a heavy bag are not only about strength, but also about speed and speed. Do not push the bag with your punches. Instead, focus on your form until contact and then snap your hand back so the bag moves as little as possible. When you have made it easy to properly throw combinations on the bag, practice good footwork by moving in the river and circling left and right.
6. Body pillow
Why it works: The body pillows or protectors are designed so that the boxer can train his body punch combinations during training. They are usually combined with focus gloves. They offer a more realistic workout because the boxer can perform a variety of punches.
How it goes: As with focus gloves, it is good to do a few sessions with an experienced boxing trainer wearing the body pillow, but it can also be practiced with your training partner. Use all the skills learned during this exercise by throwing the previous combinations onto the focus gloves, but adding thrusts to the body. Once you hit them with a combination – or a push to the left or right – follow another attack. Practice your defense by letting your training partner take a punch with your gloves and block them with your guard.
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7. Shadow boxes
Why it works: When done correctly and with the right goals in mind, shadow boxing can improve your drilling technique, strength, strength, speed, endurance, rhythm, footwork, attack and defense, and general combat skills.
How it goes: Stay light on your feet and throw blows in the air. Make simple jab, cross and hook combos.
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