How Keanu Reeves’ John Wick Stays in ‘Assassin Shape’

The man's played John Wick for a decade. How the hell does he do it?

April 4, 2023 9:52 am
Keanu Reeves in "John Wick: Chapter 4."
If you kill a man's dog, he'll...apparently stay in incredible shape for an extra 10 years. Here are some of Keanu's secrets.
Murray Close/Lionsgate

Keanu Reeves had no idea what the next decade of his life would look like when screenwriter Derek Kolstad first pitched him the character of John Wick.

The actor had plenty of action credits on his resume at the time, like Point Break, Speed, Street Kings and Man of Tai Chi. But it was his work in The Matrix that truly paved the way for him to become the unstoppable assassin we know today. It was on that set that he met stunt choreographers Chad Stahelski and David Leith, who would become the co-directors of the original John Wick

From the beginning, the directors wanted the action to be raw and unflinching, captured in long and focused takes. Which meant Reeves would need to perform as much of the action as possible. He unknowingly signed himself up for the most intense film shoot of his life…in his late forties. Then, of course, the first movie was an unexpected smash hit, spawning a multi-sequel franchise. All of a sudden Reeves had to stay in assassin shape deep into his fifties.

Training for John Wick

“Over the years of physically training for John Wick, learning martial arts and weapons, I know I’ve gotten better,” Reeves said while promoting John Wick: Chapter 4, currently the biggest movie in the world.

Before each film, Reeves has participated in a multi-month boot camp, where he trains the skills needed for each particular story. It’s an exhausting level of preparation…but it’s only preparation. Once those cameras come on, the real work starts. The crew would regularly film Wick’s now-iconic fight sequences late into the night. 

Here’s how Reeves has managed to bring John Wick, the Baba Yaga, to life across four crackling shoots — and live to tell the tale.

Meet Patrick Murphy

The first step on Reeves’ journey was getting set up with expert trainer Patrick Murphy of Murphy Fitness, through Stahelski. The director realized his actor was going to experience an insane amount of physical strain while learning jiu-jitsu, judo, and sambo, plus the set’s very own hybrid fighting style, which they eventually dub “gunfu.”

So the priority was finding Reeves a trainer who would be able to A) get Reeves strong while B) vastly improving his mobility. Murphy’s work with Reeves was so successful, he was also called upon to lead the fitness journeys of multiple other cast members — like Ruby Rose, who later joined the John Wick universe. 

AMRAP workouts

Reeves’ training started many months before John Wick went into production. The work in the gym was done in concert with the work that the actor was doing with the 87eleven Action Design. Due to the taxing nature of the stunts Reeves needed to perform, they avoided heavy lifts or pulls altogether. That strategy was also in line with the character, as John Wick is more of an athletic assassin, who works with silent efficiency rather than brute force. 

In line with that description, there’s never been any need for the actor to bulk up. Instead, Murphy put Reeves through high-rep routines with light free weights, resistance bands, cable machines, and in some cases purely bodyweight. No training would take place before a long dynamic warmup, which typically included lunges, push-up variations, and quadruped stretches. 

These calisthenic workouts were done in the AMRAP formula, which means “as many rounds as possible.” So while the weight was kept low, they kept the reps high — in order to build greater endurance for the action sequences. Sometimes there could be as many as a dozen exercises deployed in a sequence, all in the name of giving Reeves the stabilization and strength he needed.

Keanu’s grindset

“I have never seen anyone with his kind of work ethic,” said Murphy. “He puts ultimate respect into every area he’s trying to study.” Reeves would train with the stunt teams for anywhere between four to eight hours, and Murphy would spend an hour with Reeves after his stunt sessions. Whenever possible, they would get together for a few workouts on the weekend. “The way that he operates is not normal,”said Stahelski. “We push him to his absolute limit, and he always brings an extraordinary level of commitment. Keanu doesn’t want this special kind of treatment, he wants to do the hard work, side by side with the stunt team.”

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The John Wick Diet

Nutrition was kept fairly simple throughout, but there was a general concentration on anti-inflammatory ingredients and supplements, along with a few select additions. Murphy had Reeves on a whole food diet, meaning they kept away from any ingredients that were processed or unnatural. To make it easy, Murphy gave Reeves a guideline of foods to avoid, including things like bread, cereals, corn syrup, fried foods, jellies, pasta, and potatoes. 

By the time the fourth movie came around, Reeves’ supplement regimen was dialed in, too. Murphy created a program that included Life Extension’s Super Bio-Curcumin Turmeric Extract, Super R-Lipoic Acid, Super Omega-3 Plus EPA/DHA, NAD+ Cell Regenerator, Resveratrol Elite, and Thorne’s L-Glutamine. Of course, hydrating throughout the martial arts practice and training was also imperative.


Over the years, Reeves learned to lean into his character’s “hobbies.” He’s now spent hundreds of hours at the gun range with Taran Butler (one of the most renowned three-gun competition shooters in the world), and become a regular at the famous Taran Tactical Innovations in California. Standing in the sun drilling away with high-powered weapons is a workout in its own right, as many regular shooters can attest.

The lines between the character and the actor grew blurrier as the movies went on. Another prime example? Reeves’ predilection for motorcycles. The first bike shows up in the second movie, in the form of the Suzuki GSX-S750. Spending hours maneuvering on the pavement is another great workout, and Reeves invested the necessary time to ensure those high-octane chases look convincing.  

Taking licks

The dynamic warmups and workouts were designed to make sure Reeves’ body was as ready as possible — and the supplement regimen was even put together with cell regeneration in mind — but make no mistake, there was still plenty of damage inflicted. According to Murphy, it was critical for Reeves to get daily deep-tissue massages after his training each day. Reeves admits that as the movies have gone on, the physical punishment has only gotten worse. “It’s one thing to hit somebody, and it’s an entirely different thing to get hit,” says Reeves. “Getting ready to play Wick is very demanding.”

The actor also did routine ice baths to bring down the swelling to his joints and muscles so he could recover faster and get back in the fight. Luckily, despite what might be seen in the final moments of John Wick: Chapter 4, it doesn’t seem like Reeves is done with the character. And we might see Wick back in the fight sooner than later, with Lionsgate thriller Ballerina on the horizon. Whatever comes after that, trust Reeves will be prepared.

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