Get In Superhero Shape

man of steel
(Image credit: unknown)

Get Superman's heroic v-shaped body

If you only see one superhero film this year, let it be Man Of Steel, the reboot of the Superman series starring British actor Henry Cavill as the most recognisable comic character of all time. Cavill got in lean, stripped-down shape for his role in 2011’s Immortals, but for Man Of Steel he packed on the muscle befitting the most powerful hero on Earth.

Cavill’s secret? Training with Mark Twight, founder of Utah-based Gym Jones, the man behind the chiselled physiques of 300 and a longtime friend of Zack Snyder, the director of both films. ‘The task was simple: make an average man look like a superhero and then keep him that way for six months,’ says Twight. ‘Simple – not easy. Peaking for a few days is one thing. Sustaining the same capability and appearance for half a year is an entirely different problem.’

Early in the process, Cavill said he wanted to look the same in and out of the suit. ‘Obviously, appearance is foremost,’ says Twight. ‘There has never been a superhero who didn’t have broad shoulders and a narrow waist. But there’s also confidence. Fitness is strength and conditioning but also strength of character.

Self-discipline with training and diet and recovery, alongside the confrontation with physical and psychological challenges, produces self-confidence that cannot be achieved any other way. When you can do 100 front squats at bodyweight and deadlift more than two times bodyweight, you will walk and talk differently – tall and proud.’
And for the star, the programme paid off in spades. ‘It’s an incredible feeling – there’s nothing quite like it,’ says Cavill, who is also set to star in the upcoming The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ‘At some point it stops being just a training camp and a dream. You see yourself standing there in the suit, with the cape, with the S-glyph on your chest and people are looking at you going, “OK, this is Superman”. It’s a feeling I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.’

Check out Cavill's Man of Steel workout plan here.

Channel Thor, Kick-Ass And Captain America

Develop Thor's godly grip strength, drink supershakes for Kick-Ass's growth and get Captain America's explosive power.

Develop Thor's godly grip strength

It’s hammer time once again in October – and again in 2015 – as Chris Hemsworth swings his magic mallet through Thor: The Dark World and the star-stuffed sequel to Avengers Assemble. To play the Asgardian god, Hemsworth trained with strength coach Michael Knight, who split his regime into two phases. ‘The first was a bodybuilder-type protocol focused on high-weight, low-rep moves designed to pack on size,’ says Knight. ‘The second was total-body circuits designed to shift his excess fat while maintaining muscle.’

More importantly, Hemsworth also dined like he was in Valhalla. ‘He ate a lot of protein and vegetables, limited fruit and carbs, and drank between four and five litres of water a day,’ says Knight. Finally, the pair used thick-bar training to give Hemsworth forearms worthy of hefting Mjolnir, his mighty hammer. If you don’t have a drainpipe-width dumbbell lying around, invest in a pair of Fat Gripz to build a god-like grip.

Drink supershakes for Kick-Ass's growth

In the first Kick-Ass movie, David ‘Dave’ Lizewski was the typical everyman – a skinny teenager with no superpowers beyond being able to take a vicious kicking. In the upcoming sequel, he’s a genuine hero leading a super-team – and battling a new foe in the form of Mother Russia, played by imposing bodybuilder Olga Kurkulina. Actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson built a physique to match.

If you’re building your own heroic physique, nutrition is half the battle. ‘You should take on 2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight every day if you’re training hard,’ says trainer Dan Forbes. ‘Aim to get it from natural sources – eggs, meat or legumes – with every meal, and top up with supplements where necessary.’ If you’re having trouble hitting your muscle targets, try a super-shake: blend a spoonful of almond butter with a scoop of protein and a handful of berries for a delicious calorie-packed hit of goodness. And steer clear of green – it just isn’t a flattering colour.

You can also try this bulking workout plan.

Get Captain America's explosive power

Steve Rogers may have been injected with a serum that gave him incredible athleticism but Chis Evans, star of the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier, didn’t have that option. Instead, body-composition expert Simon Waterson sculpted him into heroic shape, using his body’s own chemicals.

‘Your legs and glutes are the biggest and strongest muscles in your body, so training them hard releases growth hormone that makes you bigger and leaner everywhere else,’ says Waterson. ‘We did a complex of squats and box jumps to get those muscles firing.’ And OK, there was a bit of chemical help. ‘Chris took BCAAs throughout the day to minimise muscle breakdown,’ says Waterson. ‘He also aimed for 2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day.’

On the next page: Get Batman's Endless Stamina And Spider-Man's Agility

Joel Snape

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.