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The Best Superhero Workouts of All Time

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Gone are the days when Michael Keaton could don an injection-moulded suit and remote-Batarang his way through a line of goons. Modern heroes need to be able to run, jump, fight – and look good doing it. We’ve assembled the workouts of the best, including the men set to smash into cinemas in 2016

25. Kick-Ass AKA Aaron Taylor-Johnson

He’s an ab-free everyman in the first film, but for the sequel – where Kick-Ass has embraced crimefighting – Taylor-Johnson kicked it up a notch alongside trainer Richard Smedley. Their money move? The three-chair press-up. Arrange your seats in a triangle, then do a press-up between them to get more range of motion and activate your outer pecs.

RECOMMENDED: Kick-Ass 2 bulk-up workout

RECOMMENDED: Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s workout

24. Deathstroke AKA Manu Bennett

To cope with shoulder issues from his sword-swinging stint on TV’s Spartacus, Bennett switched to swimming, rowing and hot yoga for his run as Arrow’s master assassin. And those abs? “They’re from a lot of packing my own food for planes.”

23. Arrow AKA Stephen Amell

As well as channelling his onscreen hero’s alter ego Oliver Queen with parkour-style circuits, Amell’s mastered the “salmon ladder”, the nemesis of Ninja Warrior challengers across the globe. Haven’t got one in your gym? Explosive pull-ups are the best prep you’ll get: pull hard enough that you’ve got the momentum to (briefly) take your hands off the bar at the top, and add a clap when you’re feeling super-confident.

RECOMMENDED: How to Blitz a Pull-Up Bar Like Arrow's Stephen Amell

22. Star-Lord AKA Chris Pratt

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“Six months, no beer” was the explanation Pratt gave for shedding his gut to play a Guardian of the Galaxy, but you don’t need to be so hardline: just keep two days a week clear (preferably consecutive) to let your liver recover and allow your body to focus on fat loss.

RECOMMENDED: Chris Pratt workout tips

21. The Falcon AKA Anthony Mackie

Mackie got lean as the Falcon, but it was Pain & Gain co-star Mark Wahlberg who introduced him to a new level of training. “We would start every morning at 5.30am and get in a few hours of serious workouts. Before anyone else was up, we were in the gym.”

RECOMMENDED: Mark Wahlberg's workout: Pain & Gain

20. Human Torch AKA Michael B Jordan

To go from the accidental superhero of 2012’s Chronicle to one of the Fantastic Four, Jordan spent months eating “every two hours”, but it wasn’t all drudgery – breakfast included four eggs, turkey sausage and grits, and dinner was typically steak. Also worth trying: the clockwise press-up. “Do 12 press-ups, then 11, then ten and so on, moving your body counter-clockwise,’ Jordan says. “Do 25-30 sit-ups, then do it all again, clockwise this time.”

19. Dredd AKA Karl Urban

To get into character, NZ actor Urban spent 14 weeks training and eating six to seven meals a day, learning tactical movement and shooting from a British military team, and “reading every Dredd comic [he] could find”. Oh, and practising the voice, obviously.

18. Ant-Man AKA Paul Rudd

Rudd trained for more than a year for his mostly besuited role as Marvel’s smallest hero. His money move for Ant-Abs in his single shirt-off scene? Holding a sandbag overhead while doing lying flutter-kicks.

17. Wolverine AKA Hugh Jackman

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He may not quite have Logan’s longevity, but he’s not doing too badly: at the age of 47, Jackman’s recently joined the 1,000lb (454kg) powerlifting club, posting a 410lb (186kg) deadlift, 345lb (156kg) squat and 235lb (107kg) bench press in a single day. Looking to nudge your own numbers over the top? Get mad, Wolverine-style: by gripping the bar as hard as you can before any big lift, you’ll achieve an effect called “irradiation” (no, nothing to do with the mutant kind), which tightens up all the surrounding muscles and adds stability, letting you shift more weight.

RECOMMENDED: Get Ripped Like Hugh Jackman

16. Batman AKA Ben Affleck

With Christian Bale’s terrifyingly ripped take on the Caped Crusader to live up to, Ben Affleck went back to Rehan Jalali – the coach who got him into shirtless-pull-up shape for bullet-riddled heist drama The Town – to get Bat-jacked. The pair’s secret weapon? Wave-loading, or doing multiple sets where the weights and reps vary up and down, to challenge different muscle fibres and force growth. For a chest worthy of wearing the Bat-symbol, try this alternating dumbbell bench press routine. Lie on a bench holding a pair of dumbbells, and press one overhead at a time, keeping the other chambered at your chest during the rep. Change up your weights and reps as follows:

SetRepsWeight
1816kg
2524kg
31022kg
41520kg

RECOMMENDED: Get a body like Christian Bale in Batman

15. Hawkeye AKA Jeremy Renner

Renner’s archery technique isn’t that textbook during the Avengers films – he bends his wrist too much, experts say – but the hours of bow-work he put in haven’t done his forearms any harm. For similar time-under-tension benefits, use the archer’s draw in the gym. Hold a resistance band like a bow, and pull your rear hand back like you’re about to fire an arrow.

14. The Vision AKA Paul Bettany

“There’s nothing to the costume – it’s like a pair of women’s tights,” says Bettany of his turn as (spoilers!) the infinity-stone-powered synthetic body of the newest Avenger. “There are huge gaps, so you have to stay in shape... I’m too old to have cheat days now, there’s no cheese and beer for Bettany when I’m filming.”

RECOMMENDED: Get Paul Bettany's body

13. Black Panther AKA Chadwick Boseman

T’Challa, Prince of Wakanda – also known as the Black Panther – is set for his first Marvel appearance in Captain America: Civil War before getting his own film in November 2017. Boseman’s been in physical prep for the role since 2014, but he’s no stranger to transformations, having been through a gruelling regime to play groundbreaking baseball star Jackie Robinson. Use deficit press-ups, with your hands on weight plates, to mimic his chest-building routine.

12. Daredevil AKA Charlie Cox

British actor Cox went on a bulking diet to play Marvel’s blind crimefighter. “I started eating tons of chicken, broccoli, sweet potato, rice and pasta,” he says. “I put carbohydrates in all my protein shakes, so I’d have a shake with sweet potato in it. It’s actually surprisingly nice.”

11. The Punisher AKA Jon Bernthal

Bernthal, set to play the antihero in the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, has previous form as a physical actor: you might remember him slugging it out with zombies in The Walking Dead, playing a prize-fighter in Grudge Match or punching Shia LaBeouf in Fury. As a regular at the boxing gym – he often trains six times a week – leaning out or bulking up while staying in shape is just a matter of adding or subtracting food.

10. Kato AKA Jay Chou

The Green Hornet’s sidekick was originally played by Bruce Lee, so Taiwanese singer-songwriter Chou had some fast-kicking shoes to fill. Fortunately, he shared a secret weapon with the one-time Hong Kong cha-cha champion – his dance training, stunt co-ordinator Jeff Imada says, helped him pick up the fight choreography “without any prompting. He just flowed from one move to the next.” The moral? Go to that swing dance class with your significant other – then when it’s time for krav maga, you’ll both be set.

9. Deadpool AKA Ryan Reynolds

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In his first outing as Marvel’s wise-cracking, fourth-wall-busting antihero in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Reynolds had his mouth sewed shut. Mercifully, that’s rectified as Deadpool got his own film. Reynolds has done a lot of bodybuilding in the past, but now his training’s more about function than aesthetics. “As you get older, falling on concrete gets less and less hilarious,” says the 39-year-old. “I do a lot of plyometrics, kickboxing… and yoga.”

RECOMMENDED: Ryan Reynolds workout

8. Luke Cage AKA Mike Colter

He’s had a few shirtless scenes in Jessica Jones, but Colter is set to be a bigger name in 2016 as the focus of Netflix’s Luke Cage. Colter’s used to playing imposing men, after a stint as super-soldier Spartan Locke in Halo: Nightfall, but to sell Cage’s super strength he knew he had to up his game. Mixing his protein sources was key. “I try to get a gram of protein for every pound [half-kilo] of bodyweight, but it gets boring if I just eat chicken,” Colter says. His secret to a powerful chest? Use dumbbells for your bench press. “My arms are long so it’s easier to lock out when holding dumbbells.”

RECOMMENDED: Interview with Mike Colter from Halo: Nightfall

7. Owlman AKA Patrick Wilson

Watchmen’s most relatable hero didn’t actually need a six-pack – since being forced into “retirement”, he’s actually supposed to have a touch of the dadbod – but Wilson still had to be able to fight in what he says “felt like a scuba suit”. The actor’s workout included renegade rows for a fat-burning, muscle-building double-whammy: get into a press-up position on a set of dumbbells and “row” one up to chest height after every rep.

6. Captain America AKA Chris Evans

For Steve Rogers, becoming America’s first Avenger took a syringe of super-soldier serum. For Chris Evans, it meant chicken. Industrial quantities of chicken. “The aim was 2g of protein per pound [half-kilo] of bodyweight,” he says. “I’d eat constantly, including dark, leafy greens with every protein source, and a casein shake before bed.”

RECOMMENDED: Captain America’s Heroic Legs Workout

5. The Flash AKA Grant Gustin

As you’d expect of a long-distance runner, Barry Allen, aka The Flash, is not the most hulking of heroes. Although he packed in press-ups and pull-ups, Gustin spent most of his workout time with Olympic coaches to make his running more efficient. Try these tips from Hybrid Running creator Alex Viada to get the same benefits:

Lean forward: “When you run, imagine you’re breasting the finish tape,” says Viada. “This keeps the head up, spine erect and shoulders back, and stops the feet striking far out in front of the body. A sagging head and shoulders result in a floppy, inefficient gait.”

Transformer arms: “Keep your arms like Optimus Prime,” says Viada. “They should be nearly fixed against the body, elbows at around 80-90°. Don’t ‘punch’ the air as you run – the rotation should be slight and begin at the shoulders, with the arms moving relatively little against the sides.”

Run on ice: No, not literally. “Pounding the ground as you run imparts tremendous strain on the body,” says Viada. “Over-exaggerate your joints’ absorption of the impact and try to land as silently as possible – this encourages a midfoot impact and prevents overstriding.”

4. Iron Man AKA Robert Downey Jr

Downey’s spent more than a decade training in the martial art wing chun, but for his appearances as Tony Stark he had a big (iron) suit to fill. To do it, he and trainer Brad Bose used old-school strongman moves, including sledgehammer swings and weighted wheelbarrow pushes, but also modern training methods such as the earthquake bench press: by hanging two kettlebells off the bar from stretch bands, this move challenges and builds the stabiliser muscles in the pecs.

RECOMMENDED: Robert Downey Jr Iron Man 2 workout

3. Captain Boomerang AKA Jai Courtney

OK, so technically he’s a villain, but the Antipodean arch-criminal goes sort-of-good alongside Jared Leto’s Joker and Will Smith’s Deadshot in the upcoming Suicide Squad. The team have been training with Gym Jones trainer Pieter Vodden to get in shape. Courtney’s favourite workout? The squat breathing ladder. “Pick a decent weight and squat it once,” he says. “Put it back, take one breath. Repeat with two squats and two breaths, and repeat all the way up to 20.” Vodden, incidentally, does this with 80kg: you should aim lower.

2. Thor AKA Chris Hemsworth

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“He is Thor,” says Chris Evans of his Avengers co-star, who stays in godly shape with a combination of old-fashioned volume training and heavy kettlebell workouts. For a five-minute fat blast, try double-kettlebell squats, Tabata-style: rest the bells on your forearms and do as many reps as possible in 20 seconds, rest for ten seconds, and repeat for eight rounds.

RECOMMENDED: Chris Hemsworth’s Thor Workout Plan

1. Superman AKA Henry Cavill

The current owner of the Man of Steel’s noble cape is our number one superhero. Cavill went from English boarding school to last son of Krypton, complete with powerful shoulders and rippling abs. “Man Of Steel was the first time I had to bulk up in the full-on action-movie style,” Cavill told Men’s Fitness, “and I’ve got to say, I enjoyed it enormously. Well, it’s torture, but you enjoy it the way you enjoy hard work and the results that work brings. It’s rewarding.” Read on to discover how Cavill transformed his body.

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.