Sebastian Stan may be one of the longest-running actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — first appearing in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger — but his tenure in this franchise is about to be taken to the next level as he finally gets a lead role in the upcoming Disney+ series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. He reprises his role as the brainwashed mercenary-turned-superhero — the Winter Soldier — as he teams up with his buddy, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), to take on new, imposing threats as Phase 4 of the MCU kicks into high gear.
Bucky Barnes may have a bionic arm in most of his film appearances, but that doesn’t mean Stan can slouch when it comes to looking the part. Throughout the MCU, he’s gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). Stan needed to look a certain way to sell the role, and to accomplish that, he’s turned to renowned celebrity trainer, Don Saladino, who’s worked with numerous other actors to get them in shape, most notably with Scarlett Johansson to prep for her Black Widow role.
Here’s how Sebastian Stan got in shape to play the Winter Soldier.
Sebastian Stan’s fitness regimen has changed over the years
Just like the Winter Soldier himself has changed allegiances over the course of his time in the MCU, Sebastian Stan’s fitness routine has undergone similar alterations. The actor sat down for an interview alongside his trainer Don Saladino, in which he discussed how landing the Marvel role forced him to reconsider how he was exercising. Prior to getting the part, he said he "felt like I was just doing what I think a lot of people do, you know, when they’re out there. They just know to go to the gym, and you bench press or you get on the treadmill… But you don’t have a plan really."
When he first donned the mantle of the Winter Soldier, that’s when things started to change. For Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he had a pretty simple mission in mind: "I knew I was gonna be shirtless in it, and that was like, ‘I just want to look good… naked.’" Suffice to say, he achieved that goal and then some. But things started to turn when he was set to reprise the role in Captain America: Civil War. He may have just wanted to look good for Winter Soldier, but for the sequel, "I knew these guys were gonna be massive around me. I was like, ‘Let’s just get as thick as possible.’"
For anyone wanting to look as good as Stan does in these films, the interview serves as a good reminder regarding the importance of having a goal in mind. Do you want to build muscle or get lean? That completely changes what your regimen should look like, and even if you don’t have a celebrity personal trainer, you can still see exceptional results with a goal-oriented approach.
Sebastian Stan has a detailed chest workout
Throughout his time in these superhero movies, Sebastian Stan’s chest has regularly been on display. This has necessitated the actor to really focus on that area of the body, and his trainer, Don Saladino, put together what’s clearly an awesome regimen to accomplish precisely that. "I threw in a lot of gymnastic movements before we even started training. Before every workout, there was about 20 to 30 minutes of functional movement. Fun bodyweight exercises like this got us warmed up but also got us excited to train," Saladino told Men’s Journal,
From there, he goes into five minutes of handstands, five minutes of Turkish get-ups, five minutes of arm bars, and five minutes of front levers. Stan’s routine then transitions into two separate weight blocks, the first of which consists of flat dumbbell presses, dumbbell squeeze presses, and cable flies. The second block has him doing incline barbell presses, alternating flat dumbbell presses, and dips.
Stan’s routine doesn’t neglect the arms
The Winter Soldier’s bionic arm is the most noteworthy aspect out of all his physical features; therefore, Sebastian Stan has to make sure his other arm and upper body support the aesthetic. This is another area for which trainer Don Saladino developed a personalized workout routine to build muscle. "The fact is, [biceps and shoulders aren’t] a major muscle group, so I like to throw in an arm day when the rest of the body isn’t feeling up to being pushed. When you are trying to build the arms, I always like to start with a heavy movement, putting pressure on the tissue," Saladino told Men’s Journal.
As such, there are two workouts Stan does on arm days. The first is a kettlebell carry workout, which starts with an overhead carry of 50 yards for each arm. He then goes into a rack carry for 50 yards, a bottom-up carry for 50 yards, a one-arm suitcase carry for 50 yards, and a farmer’s walk of 100 yards to finish it off. To work out his arms, Stan gets into various forms of weightlifting, including tricep pushdowns, hammer curls, skullcrushers, and heavy barbell curls. If anything, the results of this regimen may have worked out too well. Stan told Men’s Health that when he got fitted for his prop arm for Captain America: Civil War, it no longer comfortably fit on him. As he puts it, "The arm was a bit tight. I was losing circulation." Guess you could call him the Winter Swole-dier.
Diet is just as important
When it comes to getting in shape, what you eat plays just as important a role as how much you’re exercising. For Sebastian Stan, that means sticking with a diet that allows him to stay lean while still packing on muscle mass, and according to Fitness Clone, it involves plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Yes, while fats tend to get a bad rap, there are some that are still good for you, such as avocados, fish, and nuts, which are great for building muscle and providing energy during workouts.
When training for his Winter Soldier role, Stan tends to eat once every two to three hours and avoiding anything that could undo all the process he made in the gym, including refined sugars, salt, and commercial meats. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Stan doesn’t really eat at restaurants while he’s training because he can’t really get anything that tastes halfway decent. On top of that, Stan makes sure to get adequate sleep when he can, somewhere in the vicinity of eight to ten hours a night. As it turns out, sleep is one of the best things a person can do when trying to pack on muscle, as it accounts for a great deal of the body’s muscle repair and growth.
Sebastian Stan was able to do a lot of his own stunts for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
It’s one thing to look buff on camera; it’s another thing entirely to put your fitness regimen to the ultimate test to perform fight scenes and ridiculous stunts. As it turns out, Sebastian Stan is willing to put himself wholeheartedly into the role of Winter Soldier, as confirmed by his stunt double for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, John Nania. During an episode of the Screen Forum Podcast, the stuntman talks about what a pleasure it was to work alongside the actor for the Disney+ series. "There’s gonna be quite a few moments where it’s more a lot of [Stan] that you’re looking at doing certain action parts, because he stepped up, and he put the training in… From that point, it was like, ‘Well, we know he can do this, let’s push it even farther.’"
By the sound of it, Stan isn’t going to get a break from pumping iron any time soon as he’s allegedly set to stick around as the Winter Soldier for quite some time. Nania goes on to tell the Screen Forum Podcast, "I don’t think the Winter Soldier is quite over with in the Marvel universe; there’s still a lot more to ride out on that one, and I look forward to being part of it." It may not be an official confirmation of season 2 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but we’ll take what we can get at this point.
It’s a lot of hard work to play a super soldier, but Stan has proven he’s up for the challenge time and time again.