Captain America’s Heroic Legs Workout

Chris Evans Captain America legs workout
(Image credit: Unknown)

With Chris Evans set to appear onscreen as Captain America for a fifth time in Captain America: Civil War, later this spring, we caught up with his trainer, Simon Waterson, to find out how the First Avenger gets in heroic shape at the gym. Spoiler alert: the legs workouts are brutal.

“When I first started working with Chris for the original Captain America film, the studio had a very specific idea about how they wanted him to look,” says Waterson, who was also responsible for transforming Daniel Craig into 007 for Casino Royale and trained Jake Gyllenhaal for Prince of Persia. “My brief was to build Chris a strong, big and lean body that was realistic, functional and in proper proportion. In the movie, his character is physically transformed into the perfect soldier specimen so he had to look the part.”

Under Waterson’s guidance Evans increased his weight from 77kg to 82kg, while reducing his body fat percentage from 12.5 to just 8%. To help Evans add lean muscle mass quickly, Waterson gave the actor a training regime based on high-weight/low-rep sets of the classic compound lifts, specifically squatsdeadlifts, incline bench presses and weighted dips and chin-ups.

“He also did a lot of bodyweight moves and included some plyometrics to fire up his fast-twitch muscle fibres, such as squat-to-box jumps,” says Waterson. “The aim was to keep his heart rate high throughout the workouts. I didn’t want to ignore this aspect of fitness because once filming started Chris was effectively going to have to work out on camera during the action scenes while wearing a 6kg costume, as well as carrying a helmet and shield.”

Adding serious muscle while cutting fat is one thing, but doing so while managing not to injure a Hollywood leading man put additional pressure on Waterson to deliver the ideal leading-man physique.

“Chris had done some weight training before, but as with a lot of guys it had been focused on the vanity muscles – chest, arms and abs,” says Waterson. “These guys are always amazed when I point out that they have muscles on the backs of their bodies too. But Chris was great to train. He understood the importance of a balanced physique. I had to work him hard but at a sensible pace – I couldn’t afford to have him sidelined for four weeks with an injury.’

The transformation didn’t come easy – Evans especially hated leg training. “But then who loves training legs?” says Waterson. “Because if you are doing it properly it is the most painful session there is. Legs never hurt just for a day afterwards – it always lasts into the week. But your legs and glutes are the biggest and strongest muscles in your body so you must train them hard to get bigger and leaner everywhere else. So many men ignore legs because they want big arms, but pushing your lower body to the limit will transform your upper body faster than anything else thanks to a big growth-hormone response.

“The biggest challenge for Chris was eating enough to put on muscle but avoid storing any excess energy as fat,” says Waterson. “We relied on low-carb protein shakes in between meals and snacks such as fruit and nuts. I also had him take BCAAs [branched-chain amino acids] throughout the day to reduce muscle tissue breakdown and encourage growth. The aim each day was about 2g protein per kilo of bodyweight.”

Captain America’s Workout For Heroic Legs

Build a mighty lower body with the leg routine Evans used to get in shape for Captain America: The First Avenger.


Sets 3 Reps 6-8

Rest the bar against the back of your shoulders - not on your neck - and hold the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than your shoulders. Keep your elbows pointing down. Your feet should be just wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing outwards slightly. Squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Drive back up through your heels.

Sets 3 Reps 6-8

Stand tall with a barbell resting on the back of your shoulders. Point your elbows behind you to retract your shoulder blades and keep your back upright and core braced throughout. Take a big step forward but keep your knee over your front foot and not beyond it. Lower down until both knees are bent at 90° before pushing back off your front foot to return to the start position.

Sets 3 Reps 6-8

Sit on the machine, following its instructions to position yourself correctly and safely. Release the lock then slowly lower the platform towards you by bending your knees. Pause briefly at the bottom then push through your heels to straighten your legs and return to the start.

Sets 3 Reps 6-8

Sit on the machine having adjusted the weight plates or stack, depending on the equipment, with your toes on the platform. Release the safety catch and go up on to your tiptoes, keeping your body stable. Pause briefly before returning back to the start, ensuring your heel goes below the platform for a full range of motion.

Sets 3 Reps 6-8

Kneel over the machine, following its instructions to position yourself correctly and safely. With the pad against the back of your lower calves, raise it up by contracting your hamstrings. Return slowly to the start.

Captain America’s Marvellous Meal Plan

Eating right is just as important as gym work if you want to build the body of a super-soldier. To add lean muscle without storing excess body fat, follow Waterson’s suggested nutrition plan:

Breakfast Porridge with dark berries and walnuts

Morning snack Protein shake and 5g BCAA

Pre-workout snack Apple with almonds

Post-workout snack Protein shake and 5g BCAA

20min later Chicken salad with brown basmati rice

Afternoon snack Protein shake

Dinner Lean protein, such as fish, chicken or beef, with vegetables but no starchy carbs

Ben Ince

Between 2010 and 2016, Ben was the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Ben also contributed exclusive features to Coach on topics such as football drills, triathlon training plans and healthy eating.