British actor Henry Cavill is going to be big this year. His rise began when he starred in 2011’s Immortals, the 300-with-gods fantasy-action movie that made over $200 million at the box office and looks set to claim a cult following on DVD. He’s following that with The Cold Light Of Day, a thriller in which he takes top billing ahead of Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver. And the hype machine for the forthcoming Superman reboot Man Of Steel is already rolling ahead of the film’s 2013 release date. Expect it to hit full speed in summer, with Cavillmania not far behind.
More importantly, Cavill is going to get bigger because he’s serious about the time he puts in at the gym. ‘He turned up for filming already in pretty decent shape,’ says trainer Ricky Blanchard, who put the Immortals cast through their paces. ‘He was extremely focused, knowing that he’d be the star of the film.’
He also had competition. The gods of Immortals look more like underwear models than the traditional bearded pensioners of Greek legend, from Twilight heartthrob Kellan Lutz as Poseidon to Clash Of The Titans star Luke Evans playing Zeus. ‘Kellan came in at the top of his game and we spent a lot of time working out,’ says Blanchard. ‘Luke came in thinking it’d be easy to get in shape, but he adapted to the work ethic very quickly. Sometimes I’d have finished for the day and I’d get a call from him saying, “I need to go back to the gym”.’
The cast’s workouts were based on functional, high-intensity moves, with a dash of prehab/rehab to avoid injuries from the punishing fight choreography – tennis elbow from excessive sword-swinging was, apparently, a constant concern.
The stunt team and actors often worked out together. ‘We had a regular one-hour high-intensity Monday session,’ says Blanchard. ‘Everyone would be in the same room and we’d feed off each other’s energy.’ The schedule was brutal. ‘We’d work out, have a protein shake break, then get straight into stunt training and fight work,’ says Blanchard.
The cast’s secret weapon for last-minute figure-tweaking: resistance bands. ‘They’re great for a quick workout or for getting ready for a scene,’ says Blanchard. ‘I’d walk around with a bunch of them hanging off me. People would grab them and get a quick pump before the cameras rolled.’
Of course, all that training needed fuel, and nutrition was the final piece of the puzzle. ‘People say “don’t eat carbs” these days but when you’re training at high intensity, without carbs you’d crash,’ says Blanchard. ‘We’d do carb cycling – a day or two on low carbs, then a day with more carbs from good sources like brown rice or sweet potatoes, and some fruit.’
Blanchard knew better than to use a one-size-fits-all approach. ‘Some guys needed to eat more to gain muscle – we told Daniel Sharman, who plays Ares, to eat double,’ he says. ‘We also kept the team healthy with daily multivitamins and BCAAs.’ Because even deities need a helping hand now and then.
Once you've had a look at the workout, check out Henry Cavill's Immortals meal plan.
Bring the thunder
Sculpt yourself the body of a Greek god with Blanchard’s hellish circuits.
5 rounds 1 minute skipping, 1 minute rest
30 seconds’ work, 10 seconds’ rest
Weight plate halo
Dumbbell clean and press
Mountain climbers on upside-down Bosu
Gym ball jackknife with hands on Bosu
Side to side press-ups on Bosu
Medicine ball wall toss
2 minutes’ rest
Repeat the circuit from the first round but with 40 seconds’ work, 10 seconds’ rest
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From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.