Getting shredded for his role as the archangel Michael in Legion was just part of Paul Bettany's total body transformation. Shortly after he finished filming the apocalyptic thriller in April 2008, he packed on 40 pounds of flab to portray Charles Darwin in last year's indie bio Darwin. He just wrapped shooting on Priest, due in August 2010, in which he plays a bulked up clergyman on a vampire hunt. Bettany talked to Men's Fitness about how he trained for the process.
What was your fitness routine like before you started this regimen for Legion?
There was a lot of adjustment. I was a beer and bread man, so it was a big adjustment. Motivation wasn't a concern. I have a extreme work ethic. If someone is trying to pay me a lot of money to look like a superhero, I'll do everything in my power to do the best job I can.
Did the physical transformation help you get in the right mentality to play such a dominant character?
Absolutely. Everyone that does weight training knows that you stand differently after you do back and shoulder work and your spine is lined up I feel much stronger and more aligned when I am working out. I'm very lucky to have a trainer (NYC-based personal trainer Mike Hood) who has never injured me. He's really a great motivator because he's fucking funny.There is really no other trainer that can keep you laughing through your workout.
You had to gain 40 pounds for Darwin really quickly. In some ways it must have been enjoyable because you could eat like a real person, but how hard was it to see all the work you had just done vaporize in a small amount of time?
It was shocking. I just finished one job and I knew that I had to start getting out of shape for the next job, but for two weeks I would be sneaking in ab workouts (laughs). For two, three weeks, just eating whatever I wanted all day long was just fantastic. For like three weeks it was fun, then it became a fucking slog to just stuff yourself all the time, because I figured I can just stop working out, because I didn't want to look fat, I just didn't want to be as fit with abs, with all these sex scenes. I didn't want to look like Darwin hit the fucking gym. I knew I had Priest coming up afterwards, so I had to I knew I would have to get back into shape.
With that extra weight, did you try to make it into a more bulky or powerful muscle than in Legion?
Yea I think so, and we had a much longer time, so we could take things slowly. In Legion I had to affect a lot of change really quickly, and of course you know you look bigger the leaner you get. We had a longer time to achieve some more size in this one.
THE LEGION WORKOUT
20 Hanging Leg Lifts
To begin, hang from a pull-up bar with a shoulder-width grip. Allow your legs to hang down with slightly bent knees. Lift your legs upward until in a fully contracted position then lower it back to starting position. That's one rep.
30 Rope Crunches
Attach a rope handle to the pulley of a cable station and get down on your knees a few feet in front of the station. Keeping your weight on your knees and shins, let the cable pull on your arms and torso so that you feel a light stretch in your abdominal muscles . From there, crunch your body, bringing your forearms down to your knees and your head to the floor . Slowly return to the starting position. That's one rep.
30 Ab Wheel Rollouts
Hold an ab wheel with both hands and kneel on the floor with the wheel in front of your shoulders . Keeping your abs and hamstrings braced, roll forward as far as you can until you feel your lower back is about to sag . Roll back up. That's one rep. Do 3 sets of 20 reps with 60 seconds rest between them.
20 Back Extensions
Use a back extension apparatus while holding a weight plate to your chest; do not use a machine. This exercise works the hamstrings, spinal erectors, and glutes together. While you'll probably never find yourself in a leg-curl position outside the gym, you'll always be bending forward to pick things up off the floor, and the back extension trains all the muscles that make that possible.
Smith Machine Bench Press
Make sure the bar is at the middle of your chest, just above your nipples. Lie on the bench face up, with your feet firmly placed on the floor. Grip the bar just outside shoulder width. You will need to take the weight up slightly, and twist the bar to unlock the weight. Slowly lower the weight down to the middle of your chest, pause, and push up to the starting position. Don't lock your elbows. Once you have finished your set, twist the bar to lock back the weight.
Set an adjustable bench to a 30- to 45-degree incline and lie down on it. Grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip and lift it off the rack, arching your back. Lower the bar to the upper part of your chest, tucking your elbows near your sides as it comes down. Once the bar touches your chest, push your feet hard into the floor and press the weight up.
Sit at a lat-pulldown station and grab the handle outside shoulder width. Pull the bar down to your collarbone, and then reverse the motion to return to the starting position (but don't allow the weight you're using to rest on the stack). That's one rep.
Hold a dumbbell at shoulder level and dip your knees as if you were about to jump. Explosively straighten your legs and drive the weight straight overhead, keeping the non-lifting arm at your side. Lower arm back to shoulder level. Repeat with other arm.
Hold a straight bar with hands shoulder width apart . Keeping your elbows braced against your sides, curl the bar as high as you can . Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. That's one rep.
Tricep Overhead Extension
Sit up straight on a weight bench with feet firmly on the floor. Hold a dumbbell (vertical to floor) with both hands overhead. Keeping your upper arms in place, slowly lower the dumbbell straight down behind your head, keeping elbows steady. Raise the dumbbell upward over your head until arms are extended, rotating your hands up and over until the top plates are resting in palms of hands, thumbs around handle. Lower the dumbbell behind your head in a slow, controlled manner, keeping elbows at same point.
Do 15 reps of each exercise in order. Use light weights initially to make sure you make it through entire workout. Jump rope for two minutes between rounds and then start the circuit again. Repeat three times.