The Push Day Exercise That Blew Up Pablo Schreiber's Again for ‘Halo’ Season 2

For actor Pablo Schreiber, there’s a lot of weight that comes with portraying the beloved protagonist Master Chief in the Paramount+ series Halo, based on the iconic video game. And we’re not just talking about the 55 pounds of armor he wears when suited up as the Spartan super soldier. There are also the lofty expectations from the game’s passionate fans, who had no problem making their grievances known with the first season. Those critiques didn't fall on deaf ears; the crew worked feverishly behind the scenes to make a stronger second season.

It brings a dramatically increased level of action. Lead by new showrunner David Weiner, Halo Season 2 plays out like an eight-part war epic rather than a television series. Knowing how heavy the workload would be given the brutal fight sequences and his responsibilities on set, Schreiber put in long hours at the gym before filming began with long-time trainer Eddie Raburn. 

The end result? Halo Season 2 is bigger and better in every way. Hard work really does pay off.

Men’s Journal sat down with Schreiber to discuss his training, filming the battle sequences, and the weight of Master Chief. Scroll down for an example workout Schreiber used to bulk up even more this go-around.

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Men's Journal: Given the fandom, expansive universe, and production value, how has it felt to be . 1 on the call sheet?

Pablo Schreiber: I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard. The first season was difficult and the second was no walk in the park. It didn’t get easier. I’ve learned a lot navigating a franchise and an IP with so much history. The project has been amazing to be a part of and getting to play this role has been such an honor. I’ve really felt the pressure of carrying the mantle of Master Chief. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. There are no days I can show up too tired or too weak to do what is required. There are sometimes a thousand people on set waiting for me and others to get the job done. But these are the challenges I live for. I’ve worked my ass off to play this role.

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What were your goals for Season 2?

One of the first things my friend, and our new showrunner, David Weiner said as we were preparing the second season was he wanted to make an eight-part war movie. That's exactly what we set out to make and you can feel it in these episodes. The battle sequences are next-level, and I think that has a lot to do with the subjective way he’s approaching them. That’s also thanks to our great stunt coordinator Philip Silvera. You really feel like you're in the war. You're seeing the battle from the eyes of the soldier.

I think that helps raise the stakes, which is important when you're living in the Halo universe. Every scene feels more dangerous. The Covenant is on the doorstep at the beginning of the season, then they're inside our home. I think he’s found a darker and more mysterious tone for the series that really works. The end of the season, there's a lot of loss and a lot of tragedy. But that’s what happens when you're doing a war movie.

The suits you and your fellow Silver Team Spartans wear are pretty bulky. I know after last season you were hoping to get that weight down. Any luck?

They did a bunch of work on the suit, but to be honest it didn’t make it any lighter or easier to deal with. We're still carrying around 55 pounds of artifice. But the weight is one of the costs of doing this role. The work did help aesthetically though and they look incredible. The better look combined with the new way we're shooting the action sequences, up close and personal, has really added to the overall intensity. longer are we relying on these long-distance static shots. Everything is more kinetic and the armor works in those sequences.

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How did you approach bulking up for this season?

For our training, we're always progressing. We went hard for the first season and we didn’t want to just repeat that same process. We wanted to make an improvement on it. This series is about Master Chief but it’s also about the man inside the armor and under the helmet. That was the concept from the beginning, so I knew I needed to be as physically imposing as possible without the suit as I was with it. That means I needed a muscle base that looks impressive.  

What was the most challenging part for you?

I'm naturally pretty lean, so the real mission is putting on the right kind of weight. I have no shortage of motivation or ethic. The ceiling I have to deal with is my body at my age. I’m 46 years old, and I’ve had a few injuries in my day. That means additional time in the warmup and recovery, which means less time for everything else. But I need to effectively be adding mass and mobility. One can’t be sacrificed for the other.

I’ve always been good at lifting heavy, and that part of the program is important to get the density we want. So we don’t give that up in any way. But Master Chief is also incredibly mobile so that was a constant focus. What we did was add the mobility work to every session, and make sure that when I’m moving weight there are at least a few reps or sets where I’m being explosive. Sprinting is huge for Master Chief, so we do a lot of running in our programming. Because I’m making a lot of moves out of the suit as well, it's important for me to be able to do everything practically as well. I was hitting the track at least one time a week for drills.

Did you find it difficult to maintain the mass once filming began?

We're shooting for nine months. Those months of running around in the suit, pouring sweat, make it very difficult to keep the muscle where we want it to be. I find myself operating so much on adrenaline during our production. I know I have to get some kind of sleep, but it’s tough with the working hours going early in the morning or late into the night. It’s really a marathon to get through the season. But, despite these blockers, we were able to get me to a place physically I've never been before. 

Related: 50 Best Shoulder Exercises To Target Full Range of Motion

Both the first and second season we see the Spartans training in futuristic, state-of-the-art gyms. Are those practical? Did you train in them?

Sadly we don’t actually get to train in those cool Spartan gyms you see in the show. They're just build-outs for those scenes. The gym in this season we built in Budapest. Before filming began, we were at my place or training in the baseball fields around where I live. Once in Hungary, where we film the show, we go to a well-equipped gym in Budapest. I also have a gym in my home while we're out filming. On set, I have a weight station by me so I can work out between scenes.

One of the most epic scenes is the fight sequence with John-177 and The Covenant without his armor. What was it like to prepare for that?

There's close-quarters action between John-117 and The Covenant, and it happens to be one of my favorite sequences. There's a knife fight between John and a Sangheili. Those kinds of fights are where the mobility and the explosiveness really come into play. That was really fast-paced. I had to block it all out with the stunt doubles, but the actual take was done without any bodies in the frame. Essentially, I’m having to act and battle with air before they put the aliens into frame with me.

The weapons on Halo are as iconic as the characters—like the battle rifle and the energy sword. Describe what it's like to work with them.

Our props department did a lot of work on the weapons during this past off season. My big issue from the first season is they weren’t functional at all, but that all changed this time around. Being someone who has done a lot of military movies, I’ve had experience with real weapons. So working with weapons that do nothing and have no responsiveness makes everything harder. This season our weapons had kick back and reverb. They even have a counter on them that lets you know where you are with ammo and when it’s time to change magazines. Those little elements help us in a big way when it comes to creating that realism. One of the most exciting weapons this season is the energy sword, which we got to swing around. There were even versions that light up.

Have you played the video game since you got the role as Master Chief?

I don’t get much time with the video games normally. But on set I popped into "Halo Infinite" when we were filming. [Microsoft’s] Kiki [Wolfkill] is the number one, and I was able to get a few games in with her! She even brought us some nice controllers all the way from Seattle. For a gamer, it’s good to know people at Microsoft and Xbox.

Related: Knees Over Toes Exercises: The 10 Commandments of Healthy Joints

The Back Workout That Bulked Pablo Schreiber's Upper Body for Halo Season 2


This is a sample pull day workout for strength and mobility Schreiber did with trainer Eddie Raburn, a military veteran and owner of CalCoast SC in California. Be as explosive as possible when moving the weight, while maintaining proper form. The routine begins with a warmup, moves into cable machine activation, gets into light-to-moderate strength work, then ends heavy for max hypertrophy. te: Mobility is key, so spend extra time in the warmup if needed.


Directions: Perform 2 sets. Rest 30 seconds in between.

1A. Hamstring Scoops x 12 reps 

How to Do It

  1. Stand with feet directly below hips, to start. Take a small step forward with your left foot, digging the heel into the ground and flexing your toes toward the ceiling. 
  2. Hinge at the hips and reach down toward your flexed foot's heel. In one fluid motion, sweep your hands along both sides of the foot, then overhead. That's 1 rep.
  3. Return your foot to the start position, then step your right foot forward and repeat. Alternate legs on each rep.

1B. Arm Circles x 30 sec. each direction 

How to Do It

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms extended, parallel to the floor, palms facing down, to start. 
  2. Keeping your arms outstretched, begin to make circles in a controlled manner forward, starting small, then getting bigger. Be sure to engage your core, back, and upper arms in the movement. 
  3. After 30 sec, repeat backwards. That's 1 rep.

1C. Deadhang x 60 sec.

Dead hangs are a great way to decompress your spine and work grip strength.

Dylan Coulter

How to Do It

  1. Stand below a pullup bar, to start. 
  2. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip with hands shoulder-width apart (or wider). 
  3. Engage your lats and pull your shoulder blades down your back. Keep your core and glutes activated throughout. After 60 sec., drop to the ground. That's 1 rep.

1D. Shoulder Dislocations x 12 reps  

  1. Hold a mobility stick or PVC pipe with a wide overhand grip, to start. The wider you place your hands, the easier it'll be. 
  2. Keep your torso tall and arms straight as you bring the stick overhead, then draw your hands back to bring the stick down by your butt. 
  3. Hold briefly, then return to the start position with control. That's 1 rep.

Cable Machine Activation

Directions: Perform 1 round. 

2A. Crossover Row x 12 reps

How to Do It

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, in front of a double pulley system set at chest height, to start. 
  2. Grab the left handle with your right hand and the right handle with your left hand. 
  3. Step back until your arms are outstretched before you, with the cables crossing each other at a 45-degree angle. 
  4. Row the cables back until your elbows go past your torso, keeping your forearms parallel to the ground. 
  5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a moment before returning to the starting position in a controlled manner. That's 1 rep.

Justin Steele

2B. Crossover Reverse Flye x 12 reps

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, in front of a double pulley system set at head height, to start. 
  2. Grab the left handle with your right hand and the right handle with your left hand. 
  3. Step back until your arms are outstretched before you, with the cable handles together and your palms facing each other. 
  4. Engage your upper back to stretch your arms out wide, keeping your core engaged. 
  5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, holding briefly before returning to the start position in a controlled manner. That's 1 rep.

2C. Crossover Pulldown x 12 reps 

How to Do It

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, in front of a double pulley system set at the top height, to start. 
  2. With an underhand grip, grab the left handle with your right hand and the right handle with your left hand, crossing your forearms just below the elbow. 
  3. Your arms should be fully extended above your head in the start position.
  4. Pull the handles down until your elbows are at your sides, keeping your core engaged throughout. 
  5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, holding briefly before returning to the start position in a controlled manner. That's 1 rep.

Light Work

Directions: Perform 3 rounds. Rest 60 seconds in between.

3A. Supported Single-Arm External Rotation x 8 reps each side

How to Do It

  1. Sit on a flat bench with your right leg bent, foot flat on the bench, left leg bent, foot flat on the floor, left hand grabbing the edge for support, and right hand holding a 5- to 10-pound dumbbell. (Angle your body toward the left, not straight ahead.)
  2. Place your right elbow on top of your right knee for support with your forearm parallel to the floor, palm facing down.
  3. Keeping your back straight, look ahead, and rotate the forearm up without moving the elbow or the knee. At the top position, your forearm is perpendicular to the floor.
  4. Keep the elbow flexed at 90 degrees. Lower to the start position with control. That's 1 rep.

3B. Pullover x 12 reps

Pullovers are an excellent exercise for the lats—not to mention a sneaky core workout.

Andreas Endregaard

How to Do It

  1. Lie flat on a bench holding a dumbbell with arms straight over your chest, to start.
  2. Keeping your upper arms in the same position, lower the weight until your elbows are bent 90 degrees.
  3. w, lower your upper arms until they’re parallel to the floor.
  4. Pull your arms back to the starting position, straightening your elbows on the way up.

Heavy Work 

Directions: Perform 3 rounds. Rest 60 seconds in between.

4A. Behind-the-Neck Press x 12 reps

Behind-the-neck press

James Michelfelder & Therese Sommerseth

How to Do It

  1. te: Image depicts standing variation. 
  2. Load a barbell onto a squat rack with a bench and sit down with the bar behind you, to start. 
  3. Reach back, grab the barbell with an overhand grip, hands placed just outside shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Plant your feet solidly on the floor with your legs bent at 90 degrees, knees wide. 
  5. Lift the bar off the rack and place it along your traps. 
  6. Inhale, then press the bar straight up behind your head, exhaling to assist the push. 
  7. Hold for a moment when your arms are fully extended, then lower to the start position in a controlled manner. That's 1 rep. 

4B. Upright Row x 12 reps

James Michelfelder & Therese Sommerseth

How to Do It

  1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip, arms extended, to start. (The barbell should rest against your thighs.) 
  2. Drive your shoulders up toward the ceiling to row the barbell up along your torso. Keep your back straight with your eyes facing forward through the motion. 
  3. Hold at the top position briefly, squeezing your shoulder blades together, then lower to the start position in a controlled manner. That's 1 rep. 

3C. Seated Arnold Press x 12 reps 

Because of the wrist rotation, the seated Arnold press targets all three deltoids.

James Michelfelder

How to Do It

  1. Sit on an adjustable weight bench, with the back support up, holding two heavy dumbbells on your thighs with a neutral grip, to start. 
  2. Kick your knees to help guide the dumbbells in front of your chin, palms facing you. 
  3. Press up while rotating your wrists so when your arms are fully extended, your palms are facing away from you. 
  4. Pause briefly at the top, then lower to the start position in a controlled manner. That's 1 rep.  

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