You don’t have to be a superhero like Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill—or even a super spy, like the dashing agent he plays in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.—to look like you could save the world.
In fact, about all you need in the way of workouts is this ultra-tough Olympic weightlifting-based routine, which Cavill used to create his own out-of-this-world physique for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Of course, a smart diet is also key. Now go save the day.)
For most actors who take on a superhero role, just looking the part is enough. Henry Cavill—who adds a secret agent to his repertoire in his new film The Man from U.N.C.L.E.—set out to embody it. His regimen, created by strength coach Michael Blevins (gritandteeth.com), focused on performance to make Cavill faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive—you get the gist. As a result, Cavill attained a chiseled superheroic physique almost as a by-product. What appears here: a sample routine illustrating the kind of work Cavill put in. Give it a try and forge your own body into something out of this world.
How it works:
Cavill’s program for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice comprised four phases: preparation, bulking, leaning out, and maintenance. The bulking phase, demonstrated here, centers on Olympic weightlifting movements—complex but hugely effective lifts that build muscle, strength, and speed simultaneously. When done in circuit fashion, they’re also very demanding on the heart, which then boosts endurance.
“There’s a misconception that cardio will negatively impact muscle,” says Blevins. “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,” and made Cavill look as heroic as the part (and the citizens of Metropolis) required.
Perform the workout once per week.
Exercises marked with a letter (“A,” “B,” and so on) are done in sequence and flow into each other. You’ll use the same weight and do one set of A, then immediately go on to one set of B, and so on for all the moves in the group. Rest, then repeat the sequence.
When doing the standalone hang clean and jerk (exercise 1) and the standalone front squat (exercise 3), do as many warmup sets as needed to reach a load that allows you only one rep with good form. Make sure you take only 10 total reps or fewer to reach your max. This will conserve energy. So you might 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.
Once you determine your front squat, reduce the weight on the barbell to about 70–75% of your one-rep maximum front squat. You'll do alternate sets of front and back squats (4A and 4B) next. (So if you worked up to a front squat of 225 pounds, you could use 160 pounds.) Perform 7 reps of the front squat and then rack the bar. As soon as possible, set up for a back squat, and do 13 reps with the same load. That’s one set.