August 15, 2020 10 min read
Out of all the superheroes that have captured our imagination throughout the decades, Batman stands apart.
Never having been accidentally irradiated, bitten by a spider, crash-landed on Earth, or experimented on; what’s elevated him to superhero status has been his grit, drive, and wit. And let’s not forget the billions and billions of dollars at his disposal.
Nevertheless, while the caped crusader doesn’t have any supernatural powers at his fingertips, that hasn’t stopped him from sporting a ripped physique for (most of) his entire career since 1939. Which makes the job of finding a proper workout plan slightly more difficult.
Because who really is the penultimate Batman? Is it the often-cited favorite Adam West? Or what about the newest inclusion of Robert Pattinson into the Batman roster?
And we can’t forget about how the Batsuit cool factor adds even more definition to the muscles already underneath.
Depending on how well versed you are on Batman lore, you might already know that a “real” workout routine of the fictional character, Batman, already exists.
It comes from a scrapbook-type book called “The Batman Files” which hosts a collection of Batman-esque things. One of the entries in this book is the training schedule of Bruce Wayne. And if you do choose to check it out, one thing starts to make itself pretty clear: this is a tough schedule. Dare we say, impossible, workout schedule. Yes, even if you have the best workout products at your disposal.
Because after all, Batman is supposed to be a man. Yeah sure he’s a superhero, but part of his whole schtick and why people love him is a consequence of him just being a regular guy—not despite him being a regular guy. This is why a 20-mile run on his “off day” followed by over 3 hours of skill training (a lot of martial arts) isn’t something a regular person can support for very long. Not to mention the weights he uses or his competitive-level marathon pace for his runs.
While a suspension of disbelief is necessary for fiction to work (especially in the superhero genre), it doesn’t really help us when it comes to physically building a body like Batman. And so, we turn to the live-action renditions of him to see what we can learn.
While there have been several live-action renditions of Batman throughout the years, there’s one that really stands out whenever we think of “physique”. And that Batman is the one portrayed by Christian Bale.
While maybe not as jacked as Affleck’s Batman, the Batman portrayed in the Dark Knight Trilogy was an amazing physical specimen of athleticism and physical fitness. Rather than being “Batman the Bodybuilder,” he was “Batman the World’s Greatest Detective.” But what was really impressive about Bale’s transformation was how he looked like just a year prior to filming.
The change he underwent from the movie “The Machinist” to “Batman Begins” was one that really showcased the extreme measures that Bale goes through in order to elevate the characters he plays.
Weighing in at 121 lbs after finishing “The Machinist,” Bale then set out to gain over 100 lbs of mass in 6 months; losing 40 pounds for a cutting phase that took place directly before filming. So, when it comes down to it, Bale went from being severely underweight to a hulking mass of a man in just over 6 months—and he had the drive to lean out as well.
This is, obviously, dangerous without the proper medical supervision and a knowledgeable personal trainer, which is why it’s not advised. But this transformation really drives the point across that Bale must’ve worked like an absolute madman in order to reach his goal of becoming The Bat.
While the fictional workout routine of Batman is kind of over-the-top, we can definitely see that the hard work put into perfecting the Caped Crusader was not fictional at all.
So, how exactly did Bale go about accomplishing this?
Unsurprisingly, he trained—a lot. Going to the gym up to 6 times a week for 3 hours apiece while doing cardio every single day, he followed a routine that would build muscle while also remaining as lean as possible throughout the bulk.
According to Bale, Nolan wanted a lean but muscular Batman and that’s exactly what Bale gave him with his intense training routine. The exercises were mostly made up of compound movements that have a host of benefits. This includes:
What do compound movements involve? As the name suggests, a compound exercise is any movement that takes more than one muscle group or joint to accomplish. This includes things such as squats, deadlifts, and the bench press.
On the other hand, there are the isolation exercises which put a focus on a single muscle group. With such a short time period to transform his body, it’s no surprise that Bale opted for the exercises that killed two birds with one stone.
Beyond that, the only thing that really guided his Batman transformation was super intense workouts and a diet that had to pack the meat onto his bones.
While no official “Bale Batman” workout routine has been released, it’s possible to build one with the information provided and using some assumptions.
It takes the form of a 5-day split, placing heavy emphasis on compound movements. Along with the movements listed below, remember to always warm-up before setting out to do an intense workout session. Bodyweight exercises are often terrific ways to get the blood pumping.
Furthermore, cardio every day will be necessary if you’re looking to be sprinting across rooftops after bad guys all night, every night. Of course, how much cardio you program in is entirely up to you. If you’re looking to pack on more muscle rather than lean out, then sticking to some minimal cardio will probably be for the best. However, if you’re going for the whole Bale transformation, you’ll probably need to hit up the old “dread-mill” fairly frequently.
And as always, pay attention to your form. It’s better to get started with a lighter weight (especially when attempting an intense workout routine) than a heavier weight. You can always move up in terms of load. But if you get injured by lifting too heavy, you might have to go lighter than you otherwise would’ve gone.
Wide Grip Lateral Pull Downs (Cable): 3 sets of 10 reps
As the name suggests, this exercise will be engaging your lats above all else. Widening the grip will compound this activation, and the cable machine will make sure that you’re experiencing tension throughout the whole movement—a great way to get extra gains.
Bent Over Rows (Barbell): 3 sets of 10 reps
A terrific lat and rhomboid exercise, bent-over rows can target different muscle groups depending on how you do them. Want to engage the upper back? Pull the weight towards your chest. How about the mid-back? Pull the barbell closer to your waist.
Russian Swings (Kettlebells): 5 sets of 10 reps
I guess we know where Batman stands in the kettlebell swing cold war debate. Unlike its American counterpart, the Russian swing is primarily a hip hinge movement, effectively strengthening your lower back and posterior chain.
Pull-Ups: 3 sets of 10 reps
One of the best bodyweight exercises period, the pull-up will leave more than just your back looking like a chiseled Greek statue.
Deadlifts (Barbell): 1 set of each: 10-8-5-5-3-1RM reps
Want to have Batman’s posture? This is the way to do it. Deadlifts will engage your core, lower back, and posterior chain. Want to also have the explosive power needed to jump across rooftops? Look no further. Unfortunately, the deadlift can’t help you with inheriting a conglomerate.
Bicep Curls (Dumbbells): 3 sets of 10 reps
While these are isolation exercises, you’ll definitely need to train with bicep curls if you’re planning on picking up and saving any civilians in distress.
Skull Crushers (EZ-bar): 3 sets of 10 reps
Sounding more like a Gotham villain than an exercise, skull crushers are the way to go if you want to beef up your triceps. Furthermore, they’ll decrease your chances of elbow injuries when you’re bashing in bad guy skulls.
Hammer Curls (Dumbbells): 3 sets of 10 reps
This might be a better exercise for Thor, but that doesn’t mean Batman can’t indulge in the benefits of greater bicep, forearm, front delt, and trap strength that this movement imparts.
Tricep Extensions (Dumbbells): 3 sets of 10 reps
The tricep extension, while obviously being all about the triceps, takes a special spot in tricep-centered movements since it’s one of the few that actually activate all three heads of the muscle.
Chin-ups: 3 sets of 10 reps
A close cousin of the pull-up, chin-ups differ with their underhand grip (palms facing towards you). While muscle activation doesn’t differ significantly, there is some added chest and bicep engagement.
Tricep Extensions (Cable): 3 sets of 10 reps
If you really want to drill into your triceps, use a cable as well. The cable will have the benefit of providing constant tension throughout the movement, turbocharging your gains.
Front Raises (Dumbbells): 3 sets of 10 reps
Along with activating the front delts, front raises also engage the upper pecs for you to get those classic Batman shoulders.
Pull-Ups: 3 sets of 10 reps
An exercise so good, one session a week isn’t good enough.
Lateral Raises: 3 sets of 10 reps
A great way to really hit the shoulders from every angle, lateral raises will also help increase shoulder mobility. This movement also engages the core, especially if you do one side at a time.
Shrugs (Dumbbells): 3 sets of 25 reps
Another good way to improve your Batman-posture as you stare out over a grim cityscape; shrugs will garner gains in the shoulder, neck, and upper back department.
Overhead Press (Barbell): 4 sets of 8 reps
This is a great way to strengthen a whole host of muscle groups. This includes the shoulders, traps, triceps, abdominals, and other stabilizers.
Arnold Press (Dumbbell): 3 sets of 10 reps
The Arnold press is a great exercise for hitting all three heads of the deltoid at once—the front, side, and rear. Furthermore, it gives a greater range of motion than most other shoulder workouts.
Calf Raises (Machine): 3 sets of 25 reps
As the name suggests, this exercise helps to strengthen the calves while also improving ankle stability, preventing injury, and improving athletic performance.
Seated Leg Curls (Machine): 3 sets of 10 reps
The target muscles for this exercise are the hamstrings. If you want to be able to run, jump, and walk like Batman, you’re going to need a whole lot of leg curls under your belt. You’ll have to get a Batplane if you want to fly, however.
Weighted Lunges (Barbell/Dumbbell/Kettlebell): 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg
This movement has far-reaching benefits for your entire posterior chain, especially when it comes to engaging your core muscles. This is because your abdominals need to keep you stabilized throughout. A necessary ingredient for Batman-level parkouring.
Weighted Step Ups (Barbell/Kettlebell): 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg
A great way to activate your quads, you’ll be able to start jumping across those rooftops that you always thought were out of reach.
Front Squats (Barbell): 3 sets of 10 reps
With the weight positioned in front of your body rather than the back, you won’t be able to lift as much as with a traditional squat but at least your back will thank you. And you’ll definitely want to think of your spine’s longevity if you’re getting into fights every night.
Squats (Barbell): 1 set of each: 10-8-5-5-3-1RM reps
It wouldn’t be leg day without the squat. Much like the front squat (but with heavier loads), you’ll be focusing on the quads, glutes, and hamstrings primarily.
Chest Press (Dumbbell): 3 sets of 10 reps
A functional exercise, the chest press will target your pecs, delts, and triceps—giving you that Batman upper body that you’ve always wanted.
Pec Flyes (Cable): 3 sets of 10 reps
A terrific muscle-building exercise, it primarily engages the sternal heads of your pecs. However, it also activates the triceps, biceps, and wrist flexors.
Incline Bench Press (Barbell): 3 sets of 10 reps
Do you want that jutting chest that Batman has? This is the movement for you. By setting the bench on an incline, your upper pecs become the star of the show.
Push-Ups: 3 sets of 25 reps
A classic exercise that everyone knows, the humble push-up is an effective and fast way to build upper body strength. Particularly in the triceps, pecs, and shoulders.
Bench Press (Barbell): 1 set of each, 10-8-5-5-3-1RM reps
And of course, the bench press. The pecs feature prominently on the Batsuit and there’s no chance that doesn’t have something to do with the bench press. This is a juggernaut of an upper-body exercise and we can’t imagine a Batman that doesn’t have an impressive 1 rep max on the bench.
Along with the above routine, follow up with an ab and cardio workout anywhere from 3 to 5 days a week. In order to best simulate the explosiveness needed by the Caped Crusader, a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine would be optimal.
This can include things such as using the jump rope, bodyweight squats, leg raises, push-ups, pull-ups, and high knees. Turn these into a superset and you’ve got a recipe for a superhero physique.
We don’t know about you, but we definitely did a double-take when we saw that Bale jumped 100 pounds in 6 months. You don’t get those numbers by working out and burning calories. That kind of bulk comes down to what you’re putting inside of your body—not what you’re taking out of it.
So, while the old adage states that a good physique is 30% working out and 70% diet, we’re going to go out on a limb here and say that Bale’s Batman transformation was skewed more heavily towards the diet end of things, which makes the diet that much more important.
And it really just comes down to eating clean, healthy, whole foods. Bale loaded up on carbs and protein after workouts, and that’s really the best way to go. Eat your protein, eat your veggies, and eat your carbs— especially after 3-hour workouts like Bale.
And the diet is what really brings it all together. You want your body to react perfectly when you’re trying to fend off a group of baddies? Then you better take care of it.
But it doesn’t just come down to diet either; any intense training schedule like the Bat’s is going to necessitate the proper amount of sleep. It’ll be tempting to use your newfound strength for becoming a vigilante—but make sure you’re sleeping at least 6-8 hours a night.