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Man of Steel – Superman Workout

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This past weekend I went to see the new Superman “Man of Steel” movie and it was hard not to notice the amazing shape that Henry Cavill is in! I remember when he was on the Tudors and he wasn’t nearly as buff. I did a little research to find out what he did to pack on extra lbs of muscle, lose body fat and get into Superman shape. Note: For women – you can also do this workout, but to avoid looking like Superman – do lighter weights and up your reps (on the strength training portion) to 15 (vs. 6-8). Also, only slightly increase your protein intake and don’t increase total calories you consume. 

According to Men’s Health, Cavill turned to trainer Mark Twight, owner of Gym Jones in Salt Lake City (he trained the cast of the 300). One of the training routines that he used with him was called the “tailpipe:” a 100-rep workout that focuses on high reps with structured breathing (for recovery) in between.

Twight’s tailpipe recovery method goes like this: the moment you finish an exercise, calmly take eight controlled breaths in and out of your nose. “Fight the urge to gasp, throw yourself around, or change songs on your iPod,” says John. Then immediately start the next exercise.

Tailpipe Circuit Workout

Use this routine at the end of your regular workout, or as an intense circuit you can do almost anywhere. Perform 25 reps of each exercise using either a heavy kettlebell or 2 heavy dumbbells (make sure it’s not too heavy or your form will suffer). After you complete 25 reps of each exercise, take 8 long breaths before you start the next exercise (should take at least 60 seconds). For this “tailpipe” workout – the moves should be more cardio-based and not super heavy strength training. Why? Well, to add muscle, you need to lift heavy weights with less reps (see below for recommendations).

Tailpipe Circuit (do 25 reps of each and take 8 long breaths after each):

  • Weighted Squats (with kettlebells or a heavy sandbag): Complete deep squats (but don’t let your hips/glutes go below your knees) while holding 1-2 weights. As it starts to get harder you can drop one of the weights.
  • Kettlebell Swings: Use both hands and do a traditional KB swing. If you aren’t sure how to do this properly, ask a trainer for help or you can swap out this exercise and do burpees (aka squat thrusts).
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Bench Step-Ups: Do 25 step-ups leading with the right foot, then repeat stepping up with the left foot. The higher the bench/step – the harder. You can use weights if you are more advanced.

Strength Training

In the video below, it shows Henry doing some of the following exercises. I would recommend that you do less reps with these exercises. Pick a heavy enough weight where it’s a challenge to complete 6-8 reps. Aim for 4 sets of the following:

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  • Seated Overhead Shoulder Press (shown above): Sit on a workout bench or stable surface and raise both weights overhead and return to start (elbows at shoulder height).
  • 1-Arm Chest Press with Kettlebell (below): Lie on your back on a weight bench with 1 heavy weight in your hands. Slowly lower down on your back and shift the weight into one hand. Once your back is flat (don’t arch) press the weight up to the ceiling and return back down where your elbow is at chest level. Be sure to keep your wrist straight. Exhale as you push the weight up.
  • 1-Arm Bicep/Shoulder Press: This type of shoulder press is similar to a regular overhead press, but turn your palm in to face your body (vs. turned out) and as you press up, also engage your biceps. Do this move standing so you can use your entire body to power up the weight.

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In addition to these exercises, I’m almost certain he’s doing some sort of the following moves as well in order to really get those chiseled arm and back muscles:

  • Bicep Curls: Do a combination of curls and ranges (ie lower range, upper range, hammer curls).
  • Lat Pulldowns: Use a lat pulldown machine at the gym or if you don’t have access to that – do bent over rows (single arm or both).
  • Pushups: To make them harder, do them on the decline or stack your feet.

Diet

Also, for men (and women) to really add this much muscle – you have to focus A LOT on your diet. When I’ve worked with guys in the past who wanted to really add muscle, this is what I recommend (please consult with your Dr. first):

  • Lose the Fat. Think you can eat fast food and pizza to “bulk” up? Not quite. The only bulk you’ll get is fat and that will cover your muscles. Stick to a lowfat diet with the exception of healthy fats from nuts, avocados and olive oil (all in moderation).
  • Add a lot more protein. Protein really is key. You may want to check with an R.D. to find out exactly how much more you need – but in general – aim for at least 0.5gram per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 200lbs -aim for at least 100g protein per day. That isn’t much. If you are already eating at least 100g, you can increase it to 1gram per lb of body weight. You don’t want to start out eating 500g+ protein like body builders do. Also, there is only so much protein your body can digest/absorb in one day. What kind of protein? Well, it doesn’t have to be all animal protein. Try beans, whey powder, tofu, etc. Be careful with pills and powders that promise to give you muscle. Many have a lot of extra sugar (you’ll end up crashing during your workouts) or herbal supplements that can be harmful. Stick to meats, whey and natural protein sources for best results.
  • Eat every 2-3 hours. This is important to keep your metabolism up.
  • You must consume more calories to add mass. This not only means you need to eat more protein – but you need to eat more in general. Just make sure you are doing the workouts, otherwise all the extra calories will turn to fat. Don’t start off eating a lot more food – just aim for about 200-400 calories more per day and see how your body reacts after a couple of weeks. This should primarily be coming from protein, but also veggies and complex carbs (whole wheat, quinoa, etc).
  • Don’t forget vegetables. Vegetables (and some fruit too) are important and will help you get the vitamins and antioxidants you need. Just eat them raw, steamed or grilled and avoid anything fried, sautéed or greasy.
  • Cut out the alcohol and sugar. I seriously doubt that Henry or any other celeb training for a buff role like this kept alcohol in their diet. Sure, every now and then a few drinks with friends is ok – but don’t make it a regular thing. Same thing with sugar – don’t eat sugary foods and don’t add it to anything you cook.

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