We all remember that New Year’s resolution we made to work out more. We have every intention of keeping that resolution, sure, but sometimes it’s hard to get excited about a workout. After doing the same work out for a long time and seeing the same results (or lack thereof), it becomes harder to get yourself to the gym.
So let’s spice up the routine with something a little super. We’ve seen the movies: actors will go from playing commonplace men you could easily pass on the street to playing men that can conquer the universe! How is it possible? How are these guys able to completely transform their bodies for the big screen?
Well, part of the answer is that they’re paid to do it. If we were all paid a ridiculous amount of money to get in shape, we’d work harder. But they also have professional trainers, dieticians, and a lot of free time; not exactly resources we’re all fortunate enough to have. However, these God-like men have been kind enough to leak their workouts and we should be taking full advantage of that.
This list is more than a compilation: it can be a comprehensive plan for the next decade. The list is arranged so that the least rigorous plans are oriented closer to #1, while the ridiculously intense plans are closer to #15. Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different. When working out, you should always be safe and know your limits. Acknowledge what your body is capable of and start slow.
With that in mind, it’s time to hit the gym. Here’s 15 of the best superhero workouts.
15. Hulk – Mark Ruffalo
Kind of ironic that we’d start out the list with one of the largest superheroes in existence, right? No worries, we’re not talking about the big green guy; we’re talking about Mark Ruffalo (“spoiler alert:” The big green guy is mostly CGI). Ruffalo had conversations early on with Avengers director Joss Whedon about what Bruce should look like on a calm day. Mark wanted to live the way Bruce would: living a peaceful life to keep his rage in check. That kind of rules out power lifting and heavy cardio.
Ruffalo based his plan on yoga and eating leaner. Anyone that says yoga isn’t a real workout obviously hasn’t been doing it right; a rigorous session of yoga can leave you feeling as sore as a boot-camp class. Coupled with a leaner diet, Ruffalo was able to get in shape. If you haven’t hit the gym in the past year (or ever, for that matter), Ruffalo’s workout is a great starting point.
14. Spiderman – Andrew Garfield
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Andrew Garfield? He wasn’t in that great shape, was he?” Think again. Garfield did a lot of his own stunts and he wore that suit like a glove; he was shockingly in shape.
Garfield changed his diet by eliminating junk food and excessive starches (say bye-bye to french fries!) and adding foods rich in omega-3’s and proteins (say hello to fish). His workout consisted of a healthy mix of cardio and body-weight strength exercises; Andrew wasn’t doing a lot of weightlifting or powerlifting, but he was doing a lot of pushups, crunches, and pullups. Andrew’s routine is probably most suited to your needs if you don’t have a gym membership and are looking to get into shape. Run two miles to a nearby park or playground. Use whatever you can: monkey bars are great for pull ups, a seesaw makes for a great balance squat, and park benches help in incline/decline pushups. Then run home. After a few weeks of this routine, you’ll be feeling pretty spry.
13. Quicksilver – Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Aaron had a unique situation in that he was filming Avengers 2 almost concurrently with Godzilla. He used TRX core training (developed by the Navy Seals and utilizing suspension and body weight) combined with movement-based exercises to give him a more athletic look. He was exercising in a way that paralleled his stunt work on set.
There were a few exercises in his regimen that are easily performed in or out of a gym. The weighted jump is exactly what it sounds like: hold weights at your side and don’t lock your knees when you jump. The TRX plank requires your feet to be suspended behind you (take it easy on your lower back). The three-chair press up is simply a push-up with chairs under your hands and feet. Finally, the farmers walk (one of Aaron’s favorites), is easily done: carry heavy weights at your sides and step to. These exercises sound simple, but you’ll definitely feel their effects.
12. Hawkeye- Jeremy Renner
Hawkeye is sometimes forgotten when he stands alongside his Avenger brethren: next to Captain America and Thor he can be a little dwarfed. But focus on Jeremy Renner and you will see that he is in remarkably good shape. What’s more his workout is achievable in any gym.
The key to success in Renner’s workout lies not in a unique regimen or weird workout fads. For this workout to get you in S.H.I.E.L.D. shape, you’ve got to focus on three things aside from the workout itself.
First, you’ve got to eat a clean diet and eat more, smaller portions; Renner ate five smaller meals a day. Secondly, don’t go to the gym to socialize. These moves only work if they’re in fairly quick succession and if your heart rate is consistently elevated. Finally, focus on form. The second you cheat on your form (i.e., lifting your butt in a pushup, or jerking your back in a dumbbell curl) is the second this workout will fail you. You focus on those principles and you’ll be in Hawkeye shape in no time. Follow this link to get the workout plan.
11. Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds has been dreaming of playing Deadpool all his life and he wasn’t going to take any shortcuts when getting into shape for the role. Though Reynolds didn’t deny himself any particular foods (because Wade Wilson would never go on a diet), he did adhere to an intense workout plan.
True to Deadpool form, the premise behind Reynolds’ regimen was to keep his body guessing. He did a lot of circuit training in which he varied the moves day by day, always keeping himself on his toes. That way, his body never acclimated to any particular routine and could therefore never adjust; his muscles never adapted to a certain exercise. Through this methodology muscle growth rarely abated. It also afforded him the opportunity to have a day every week in which he trained however he wanted: he frequently selected kickboxing, TRX, plyometrics, and yoga. To see a closer look at his plan, click here.
10. Iron Man – Robert Downey Jr.
True, a lot of Robert Downey Jr.’s work as Iron Man is in front of a green screen, talking to his computer system (“spoiler alert:” that’s not really him flying around in a CGI suit). However, there are still occasions where we see Tony Stark having to be one tough cookie outside of the suit, and Robert did not slack off. Robert’s been sticking to the “Wing Chun” technique to stay in shape. Never heard of it? It was made famous by Bruce Lee; you’ve heard of him, assuredly.
The technique pushes you to cut back on cardio and lift heavier weights. For a while, Downey ate 5,000 calories a day to put on the muscle mass he wanted for the role. Eating a protein-rich diet is the best way to see results in this plan. Click here for the full, detailed workout plan.
9. Daredevil – Charlie Cox
The Netflix superhero might not have been the first to pop up into your thoughts, but Charlie Cox has been doing a lot of work to get in great shape for this blind hero. Cox placed most of his focus on lowering his body fat percentage and getting a lean, athletic look. It’s also good to note that Charlie’s designed his workout as any other normal guy would: it won’t take all day, it won’t cost a fortune, it won’t necessitate a trainer, and it won’t interfere with you having a productive day post-workout.
Perhaps most importantly for those of us working out and continuing our day to day lives, Charlie’s plan includes a rest day for every day spent working out. You’ll be working hard while you’re at the gym, but you’ll always be giving your muscles time to recover. Just like “Battling” Jack Murdock always said, “It’s not about how you hit the mat, it’s about how you get up.” Click here for the workout plan.
8. Falcon – Anthony Mackie
Sam Wilson, best friend of our favorite, Captain America, doesn’t really have super powers: he’s just got super technology, super training, and a super fit body to make it all work. Anthony Mackie always wanted to play a superhero, but he never realized until filming just how intense it would be.
Anthony has always been in shape. Looking through his other major films (We Are Marshall, The Night Before, The Hurt Locker) we see he has always been in amazing shape. However, the flying stunt work he did in the Falcon suit required more core strength than he’d ever utilized before. He altered his diet to include more fish, vegetables, and brown rice and he worked on what he calls “two-a-days,” meaning, you workout with full intensity twice a day. It’s definitely an exhaustive regimen, but it’s sure to get you in shape quickly.
7. Batman – Christian Bale
We all loved Christian Bale as The Dark Knight: he is arguably the best Batman we’ve ever seen. This is due in part to a great director (thanks, Mr. Nolan) and amazing casting (Tom Hardy as Bane, am I right?), but we’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Christian Bale took the role seriously and held himself to seriously high standards when getting into shape for the role.
To keep enough weight on for his muscle mass, Bale ate nutrient rich meals every 2-3 hours. For this workout, you’ll definitely need a good set of barbell weights. Keeping in true form with the superhero, the key to success in this workout is maintaining control over your body and your form. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself too far beyond your limits, or you will get hurt. Bale utilized a lot of explosive exercises, such as explosive bench presses, which helped prepare him for the agility needed in combat scenes. Check out the full workout here.
6. Green Arrow – Stephen Amell
Here’s another superhero you probably forgot about when you clicked on this list. Green Arrow is a snide, sarcastic bad-ass, but Stephen Amell wasn’t joking around when it came to his workout. He focused on building a good lean, fit frame: not too muscular, not too thin.
Amell focused on the typical workout format we’ve all trained with before: push yourself towards higher reps, more sets, and higher weights. He placed most of his focus on compound moves (ex. swimmer’s presses), though he also included some isolation exercises. He was in the gym the majority of the week, but he allowed himself at least two rest days throughout the week. Amell likes to balance his weight lifting with yoga which, when done right, can be quite the killer workout. Balance poses and poses that engage lesser used muscle groups will have you leaving the gym just as sore as on a weightlifting day. As with any workout, he shaped up his diet to get the results he wanted. Click here for the full workout.
5. Captain America – Chris Evans
Chris Evans pushed himself harder than ever before to get into shape for Captain America. In interviews, he even admitted to puking at the gym from pushing himself too hard. When you’re trying to reach that First Avenger status, be safe and healthy.
Chris was a thinner guy before Captain America (remember him in Fantastic Four? He almost had Charlie Cox’s frame), so his regimen was all about bulking up. The focus was placed on a lot of heavy weight lifting at lower reps. It’s important to note the grip and angle of each lift in the workout because, if you do every move as it is prescribed, you’ll hit every muscle group in your body. What Evans proclaimed to be his favorite part of his workout regimen was taking gymnastics classes. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re above exercise classes! Enroll in something that gets you excited and works up a sweat. Click here for the workout.
4. Wolverine – Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jacked-Man is more like it. The role of Wolverine transformed Hugh from an average guy into a muscled mutant. With each X-Men film, you can actually see Hugh’s muscles getting larger and larger. He’s never stopped training, and he doesn’t intend to.
It was Jackman’s goal to put on as much muscle as possible without adding any body fat. He used a system he calls ‘progressive overload.’ Through this method, there are continuous, noticeable gains in strength. The four-week workout cycle is guaranteed to throw you into exhaustion but also to give you visible results. Couple the regimen with a lean, clean, protein-rich and low-starch diet and good amounts of sleep for best results, and remember to listen to your body and what it can handle. In a program this intense, it’s easy to hurt yourself if you ignore your body’s pains. Click here for the detailed workout plan AND a calculator to personalize the plan to your physical build.
3. Superman – Henry Cavill
We all want an out-of-this-world body like Kal-El’s. It’ll take a lot of time, dedication, persistence, and perseverance, but it’s not out of reach. Most of what Henry Cavill did to prepare for the role you can do in your own gym.
Cavill did a lot of powerlifting, bench pressing, and kettlebell workouts. Most of his weight lifting was calculated based on body weight percentage, so you’ll want to do a little planning before heading to the gym for this workout. You’ll also need a good chunk of time at the gym to complete an entire workout- plan for 2-3 hours. Cavill filled his days with his workout, eating a clean diet, filming, and rest in order to keep his body in tip-top shape. Not all of us have the luxury of devoting a fourth of our day to exercise, so consider splitting the workout in half and spreading them across two days, or break it up across your day. Click here for the workout plan.
2. Batman – Ben Affleck
We haven’t seen how well he’ll play the role yet, but no one can say that he hasn’t been working tirelessly to look the part. Though Affleck used the same personal trainer as Henry Cavill, the routines and the products were clearly very different.
Affleck placed a lot of emphasis in his workouts on his shoulders, pectorals, and core. He did a lot of weighted stability and balance work that required a spot much of the time- so make sure you’ve got someone in the gym with you that you trust to catch some of the weight if you end up in a jam. Affleck also spent a lot of his time power lifting, bench pressing, squatting, and crunching. He used a lot of the old-fashioned techniques that have been tried and proven to work. Click here for the full, detailed workout plan.
1. Thor – Chris Hemsworth
If you’ve been able to get through all of the other workouts in this article, it might be time to give Chris Hemsworth’s a try. That said, this one’s a doozy.
One of the biggest struggles with this workout is going to be keeping your body fed well enough to keep the muscle on. Hemsworth was eating “buckets” of protein every day; he even had to wake up in the middle of the night to drink protein shakes! His workouts weren’t overwhelmingly long, but they were insanely rigorous; his heart rate was at elevated levels from the moment he started to the moment it ended. There is no room for rest in this regimen – you will be going strong and hard the whole time. However, by the time you finish it, you’ll be feeling pretty God-like. Click here for the full diet and workout routine.