Henry Cavill’s Workout Plan for Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice

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His compelling performance as Superman in Man Of Steel established Henry Cavill as an A-lister, cementing his spot in this year’s upcoming blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, in which he squares off against Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight. But Cavill’s heroic physique, which he had to work phenomenally hard to attain, played just as big a role.

It’s no secret that the physical demands on modern leading men in Hollywood go far beyond the experiences of actors from generations ago, or even from ten years ago. In fact, today’s A-list nutrition and exercise regimens have more in common with endurance athletes and professional bodybuilders than with classical thespians.

In terms of fitness, the process is simple. There’s a period of gaining mass, when you eat vast amounts of fats, carbs and protein, combined with a heavy lifting regime. That’s followed by a cutting phase, when your calorie intake is drastically lowered and the fat melts away to reveal solid muscle. For 2013’s Man Of Steel, Cavill worked with elite trainer Mark Twight – founder of Gym Jones – to maintain his condition for a shoot of more than 120 days. (On the next page, Twight reveals exactly how he helped Cavill build his physique for the movie.)

“The mass build is the fun part,” says Cavill. “You get to eat a lot, and you’re lifting heavy weights. You feel really good because you’ve got big numbers going on the plates. But you’re always aware that you’ll have to eat less and start breathing more in order to show the muscles and the striations. It creeps up on you. That’s the less fun part.”

Cavill’s programme for Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice comprised four phases: preparation, bulking, leaning out and maintenance. The bulking phase, demonstrated here, centres on Olympic weightlifting movements – complex but hugely effective lifts that build muscle, strength and power. When done in circuit fashion, they’re also very demanding on the heart, which in turn boosts endurance.

“There’s a misconception that cardio negatively impacts muscle,” says Cavill’s coach Michael Blevins (gritandteeth.com). “A larger work capacity can allow you to train harder and longer. Building muscle without conditioning is akin to having an impressive engine without a gas tank – it’s worthless. This conditioning helped later when trimming fat.”

Superman Workout: Bulking Phase

Perform the workout once per week. Exercises 2A-2E are done as a complex, with a heavy barbell. Do one set of 2A, then without releasing the bar go on to do one set of 2B, and so on for all the moves in the group. Rest, then repeat the sequence for a total of four sets.

1 Hang clean and jerk


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Sets As many as needed Reps Work up to one heavy rep

Stand with feet hip-width apart holding the bar in front of your thighs with hands at shoulder-width. Bend your hips and knees so the bar lowers to just above your knees. Now explosively extend your hips as if jumping while at the same time shrugging your shoulders and pulling the bar straight up in front of you. As the bar reaches chest level, bend your elbows so your palms face the ceiling and catch the bar at shoulder level with your upper arms parallel to the floor. That’s the hang clean. From there, dip your knees and extend them again to power the bar overhead. As it rises, jump one foot in front of you and one foot behind, as in a lunge, to finish the lift in a staggered stance with the bar locked out overhead. Perform as many warm-up sets as you need, gradually building to the heaviest load you can handle for one rep with good form.

2A Clean pull


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Sets 4 Reps 1

Stand with feet hip-width apart and bend down to grasp the bar with hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your lower back flat, chest up and eyes looking forward. Pull the bar off the floor, keeping your weight on your heels and your shoulders directly over the bar as it rises. When the bar reaches the top of your thighs, explosively extend your hips, shrug the bar and come up onto your toes. Control the bar back to the floor.

2B Power clean


Sets 4 Reps 1

Begin as you did with the clean pull, but when you come to the explosive shrug and hip extension, continue pulling the bar up to shoulder level as described in the hang clean and jerk. Catch the bar at your shoulders and immediately begin the front squat.

2C Front squat

Sets 4 Reps 1

From the top of the power clean, bend your hips back and lower your body into a squat, keeping your lower back in its natural arch and your elbows raised so your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Extend your hips to come out of the squat.

2D Push press


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Sets 4 Reps 1

Standing tall, dip your knees and quickly extend them, using the momentum to press the bar straight overhead. Then return the bar to your shoulders.

2E Split jerk


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Sets 4 Reps 1

Holding the bar at your shoulders, dip your knees and press the bar up again while splitting your stance, as in the hang clean and jerk. Lock the weight out as your feet land.

3 Front squat

Sets As many as needed Reps Work up to one heavy rep

Perform the front squat as described in 2C, taking as many warm-up sets as needed to reach a load that allows you only one rep with good form. Do no more than ten total reps to reach your max to conserve energy. For example, do two reps each at about 50% and 70% of your max, and then several single-rep sets as you close in on the right load.

4 Front/back squat combo


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Sets 3 Reps 7 front, 13 back

Now that you know your max front squat, use 70–75% of it and alternate sets of front and back squats. So if your max front squat was 100kg, use 75kg. Do seven reps of the front squat, then rack the bar. As soon as possible, do 13 reps of back squats. That’s one set.

To perform a back squat (pictured), squeeze your shoulder blades together and nudge the bar out of the rack. Step back and stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Take a deep breath, bend your hips back, then bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.

The Superhero Training Plan: Henry Cavill's Six-Month Man Of Steel Training Programme

Trainer Mark Twight reveals how he helped Henry Cavill build his physique for the movie Man Of Steel, building muscle and conditioning before stripping away fat for a leaner, muscular body.

Mark Twight got the cast of 300 into such impressive Spartan shape that Zak Snyder turned to him again when he needed Henry Cavill ready to play the man who's faster than a speeding bullet and lifts trains like they're feathers. Here, Twight explains exactly how he built Cavill a physique that got tabloid papers into a frenzy and shares the full workout plan. 

The task for that project was simple: “make an average man look like a superhero and then keep him that way for six months”. Simple, not easy. Peaking for a few days is easy. Sustaining the same capability and appearance for half a year is an entirely different problem. If we know anything from our experience as professional athletes and from training others it is that fitness acquired quickly is unstable. Stability requires a broad, solid foundation and that takes many months to build.

There were several training objectives for this plan. Obviously, appearance is foremost. There has never been a superhero who didn’t have broad shoulders and a narrow waist. The second part has to do with confidence. Fitness is strength and conditioning but also strength of character. Self-discipline in training and diet and recovery, added to consistent confrontation with physical and psychological challenges, produces self-confidence and overall hardness that cannot be achieved any other way. The way you carry yourself changes as physical capability and mental resilience increase. When you can do 100 front squats at bodyweight and deadlift more than two times your bodyweight you will walk and talk differently – tall and proud.

One final beneficial effect of doing these compound, three-dimensional movements is injury-proofing: using the muscles together instead of isolating them in specific exercises improves core-to-limb integrity and overall joint and connective tissue health. Staying free of injury allows you to train more frequently and increases your athletic longevity. If you’re smart, training isn’t a short-term thing – you want to do it for the rest of your life. If you train intelligently you should be able to do just that.

Planning ahead

Because one cannot simply jump into unfamiliar, high-intensity training and do it five days a week without adequate preparation, the first phase of the Superhero Training Plan focuses on general conditioning. You will spend the first two months getting in shape to train in a meaningful way and tweaking your diet to match.   

Once you are fit enough to train – and recover properly – you can start the lifting. The three-month hypertrophy phase requires you to train five days a week. Achieving the objective isn’t possible on three days of training a week. These workouts feature a lot of volume with moderate loads, punctuated by one or two weekly sessions of higher intensity (heavier weight). During this period, if you want to recover quickly and add some muscle you will have to eat a lot – so much, in fact, that you have less-than-ideal body fat levels. This is because to do the work and recover from it, and to build on top of it, the body needs huge reserves of energy.

The final four-week leaning phase will strip away the fat to expose a lean, strong-looking body. This is a cardio-respiratory power-endurance programme using light weights and/or standard cardio machines that, when combined with calorie restriction, literally melts the fat away. But you can only hit the proper intensity if you are already fit.

If you follow the six-month programme, you will certainly see physical changes. But also, by doing physically difficult things, by changing your body through your own will, and by living a physical lifestyle 24/7 you will change your attitude and your bearing. Next time you take your shirt off there won't be any need to suck in your gut. Your muscles and posture will do it for you.

This six month-long training plan is just the beginning. Achieving these gains isn’t easy, and neither is maintaining them. But if you’re dedicated, the programme should help you develop the good habits and mindset you need to stay in shape long into the future.

The Workouts

Henry Cavill

(Image credit: Unknown)

Although we recorded every single workout Henry Cavill did, this plan is not exactly that. His individual programme was adapted to his starting condition and specific needs, and you should do the same.

Conditioning phase – sample workout

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Squat320Row 1 - Cell 3
Jump squat310Row 2 - Cell 3
Overhead squat with 20kg barbell 310Row 3 - Cell 3
Deadlift with 60kg5102 min
Front squat with 50-60kg5102 min
Pull-up ladder (do one, two, then three up to 6)363Row 6 - Cell 3

Rest between each rung of the ladder for as long as it would take someone else to do the same number of reps

Static hold in forward leaning rest position (plank on hands): Time 5min - split the work as needed – 10x30sec, 5x60sec etc.

Press-ups: Any rep structure you want as long as you do 100

Treadmill drill 

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Run for 8min at 12km/h0.02 min
Sprint for 45 sec at 10 km/h 15.030 sec (hop off treadmill using railing) 

Do 6x 45-second intervals.

Warm down by walking it off, rowing or spinning on the AirDyne.

Hypertrophy phase – sample workout

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Ride AirDyne10 minsEast  
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Medicine ball clean to squat to throw with 10kg ball230 m

Clean ball into goblet position, squat with it, and throw. Continue moving forward until you have thrown the ball a total of 30m.

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Narrow-stance back squat, working up to heavy 10 with 60kg60-90sec
Row 2 - Cell 0 15 with 75kg60-90sec
Row 3 - Cell 0 15 with 80kg60-90sec
Row 4 - Cell 0 Four sets of 15 reps with 85kg 10 minutes
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Hack squat with 60kg+10 kg of chain312 x 15
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Seated calf raise with 100 kg3 in 1 minute 4 minute
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ExerciseSets Reps
Backward step-up onto 25cm box with 2x20kg kettlebells or dumbbells310
Step-up onto 25cm box with 2x20kg kettlebells or dumbbells (no assistance from trailing leg) 310
Standing calf raise with 60kg (in Back Squat position) with toes on a 5cm ledge 312
Sit up (do not use momentum)Row 4 - Cell 1 80

Leaning phase – sample workout

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Jump squat310
Press up ladderDo one, then two, then three, up to 10 Row 3 - Cell 2

Dumbbell complex

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Deadlift62-3 minutes
Bent-over row62-3 minutes
Curl62-3 minutes
Upright row62-3 minutes
Front squat62-3 minutes
Push press62-3 minutes

Press-up with one-arm row: 6 reps

Move continuously through each complex without setting the dumbbells down

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Once with 2x5kg dumbbellsRest 2-3 min
Once with 2x7kg dumbbellsRest 2-3 min
Once with 2x10kg dumbbellsRest 2-3 min
Once with 2x12kg dumbbells Rest 2-3 min

Man-maker with 2x12kg dumbbells.

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Sets 5Reps 5Rest 1-2 min between sets

Go as fast as possible through the reps

Cardio pyramid: Set the treadmill at its steepest incline or the spin bike on high resistance
Go as fast as possible through the reps

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60 secHardRest 1-2 min 
30 secEasyRest 1-2 min
2 minHardRest 1-2 min
1 minEasyRest 1-2 min
3 minHardRest 1-2 min
90 secEasyRest 1-2 min
4 minHardRest 1-2 min
2 minEasyRest 1-2 min
5 minHardRest 1-2 min
5 minEasyRest 1-2 min

Warm down