Superhuman abilities, a costume, a codename. Add in a dash of altruism and you don’t just have any old superhero. You’ve got the guy that started it all.
Since the 1930s Superman has captured our imagination; showing us what the perfect man might look like, plus a few extra powers. And as the prototypical superhero, Superman has turned into the baseline that we judge all other heroes by.
“Sure, he’s strong,” we say—"but is he as strong as Superman?”
And while we’ll probably never get to super-powered levels found on the planet Krypton, there are some guys here on Earth who’ve donned the mantle of Superman and held their own. Notably, and most recently, Henry Cavill.
Having now appeared in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League, it’s become undeniable that Cavill was made to play the role. While he already had the benefit of a strong jawline and a lofty height of 6’1’’, it’s his hard work and perseverance in the gym that has really elevated the role to something else entirely.
And if Cavill can do it, there’s no reason you can’t; which is why we’ve collected some Superman Cavill workouts for you below along with the diet that made it all happen.
While Cavill already had a solid foundation to build a Superman body on top of, he still had to work harder than he ever had in his life in order to get into proper “man of steel” shape.
He trained with the infamous Mark Twight in his invite-only gym called, “Gym Jones”. If it sounds familiar to you, it might be because the guys from the 300 movie also got their asses kicked into shape at this facility.
And it’s not just any kind of exclusive gym. It has the reputation of being one of the toughest facilities in the country, thanks to Twight himself. And while Twight already had a lot to work with, Cavill was pushed even further in order to pack on the muscle he needed to sell himself as Superman.
Working out upwards of 2 and a half hours each day, Cavill has said in the past that Twight pushed him further than he’s ever been pushed. The pair usually worked out together about 5 times a week, with lighter work on some of the rest days.
To turn himself into Clark Kent, the actor (and now seemingly bodybuilder) packed on over 20 pounds of lean muscle over a 10-month period. In terms of hard training, 2 of those months had Cavill training alone, followed by 4 months of being trained by Twight.
There were four main stages that Cavill went through in order to get his physique ready for the filming period.
The first was a stage of preparation for the grueling training ahead. Next came the bulk phase, where he most likely put on much more than 20 pounds. This phase was essential in order to get the jacked body that Superman is so well-known for. Furthermore, this was Cavill’s favorite stage—probably something most people have in common.
Next came the cutting phase where he had to lean out and get his body fat percentage down as low as he could. All the while he still needed to maintain as much of the muscle that he’d put on in the prior bulking stage. Once he got to where he needed to be, the rest of the work went into maintaining that level of fitness over the 120-day filming period—an impressive feat by itself.
The unfortunate aspect of Cavill having been trained at Gym Jones is that a lot of the exact training regimes haven’t been divulged. We do know some basics however and can gather the rest from other evidence.
For example, we know that the workouts tended to follow CrossFit principles, focusing mostly on core strength and conditioning. What did this look like in practice?
The actor has brought up the fact that at one point the team was doing reps of 100 with certain exercises. The example he used was bodyweight squats, but for some of these massive rep counts, they also used weights; utilizing kettlebells, barbells, and dumbbells.
If using weights and training with three people, for example, one of them would first do 10 reps, followed by the next guy. They would cycle through until everyone had finished 100 reps each of whatever exercise they chose to do. Twight himself has brought up something along these lines before, called the “tailpipe”.
You’d begin with a 250-meter row, followed by holding two kettlebells in the rack position while keeping your breathing in control. This would then be followed by a 45-second rest, and your partner would switch out with you. This workout would continue until both you and your partner had completed 3 rows and 3 racks.
But why’s it called the tailpipe? Because at the end you’ll feel as if you’ve sucked on one.
In order to maintain his muscle mass while shredding fat at such a constant rate, Cavill needed a method that would help him out and make this easier. And that method turned out to be fasted cardio.
Fasted cardio, as the name suggests, is when one does a cardio exercise after not having eaten for at least 6 hours so there’s no more food in the stomach. Unless you’re intermittent fasting, the best time to do fasted cardio for most people is in the morning, when they haven’t eaten anything all night.
The theory around fasted cardio is that fasting reduces not only your blood sugar levels but also your insulin level and glycogen stores. Without these sources of energy readily available, the body ends up turning to stored fat in order to power through the workout.
Essentially, working out while fasted burns the energy from fat rather than the energy from the food you just ate. Conclusive results in studies still remain to be shown, but we’re not going to argue with Superman here. Especially keeping in mind Cavill’s goals for the Superman role, it’s not a surprise he turned to fasted cardio in order to get shredded while keeping as much muscle from the bulk as possible.
It is safe as long as it’s not taken to the extreme, so feel free to try it. And as we mentioned above, the easiest time is usually in the morning when your body has naturally fasted throughout the night. This could be the thing that gives you that extra edge and burns through any stubborn fat.
As we mentioned above, Cavill and trainer Mark Twight have never released an “official” workout routine for how the man of steel got so buff and cut. However, based on the results achieved and his trainer’s history, there are some solid speculative workouts.
We’ve included two of these below with each having their own unique flavor.
The first is probably something that you’re more used to. It’s a 4-day split that deals with the traditional lifts and movements that are found in most exercise routines. While potentially more removed from what Cavill really did to get the Superman bod, we’re sure that if you stick to your guns and train hard you can get the same results.
The second routine we’ve included is one that predominantly leans on the bulking stage of Cavill’s transformation. Furthermore, it deals more with Olympic lifts and CrossFit movements than the first workout. It’s slightly more technical and the exercises may be more challenging for a lot of beginners.
Ultimately, it’ll be up to you to gauge your comfort level. The most important aspect is to pick a routine, and if everything’s going well, stick with it.
Monday: Upper Body Exercises
Tuesday: Lower Body Exercises
While you always want to make sure you’re getting enough rest, it can be a good idea to incorporate an active recovery day into your routine. This can take the form of an activity that’s enjoyable for you as well. For example, playing a sport, going for a hike, or swimming.
Thursday: Chest and Back Exercises
Friday: Shoulder and Arm Exercises
Saturday & Sunday
A couple more rest days where you can once again utilize active recovery. Furthermore, if there’s any muscle groups you feel like you didn’t hit hard enough the week before, this is a good time to take care of that.
While you definitely do not want to over-train, the important aspect is to listen to your body and push it as far as it’ll go without breaking. Getting a personal trainer will give you a big edge, especially if you’re looking to train at the level of Cavill. Not only will your workouts be tailored to you specifically, but you’ll also be able to better avoid injury and over-training.
This is the slightly more advanced routine that (most likely) more closely resembles the one used by Cavill himself—if you’re up to the challenge.
With each of the exercises below, you’ll be working up to your 1 rep max weight. In order to do this, begin by warming up in order to prepare for the max weight. Your warm-ups should hover around 75% of your 1 rep max, and be contained within 10 reps max.
Make sure your form is also top-notch once you do the 1 rep max.
The first movement is the hang clean and jerk. You’ll warm-up and then work up to a single heavy rep with good form.
Following that, go through the following movements by doing 4 sets total. Remember to warm-up at around 75% max, and then do 1 of each at your max:
With the following squats, do 3 sets of each. Furthermore, you want to make sure you’re alternating between the back squat and front squat after each set.
On Tuesday’s you’ll be sprinting.
It will be a 50-yd sprint, and you’ll run that 8 times with a 1-minute rest between sprints.
While you’ll also be doing lifts today, the form will differ from Monday’s workout routine. In this case, you’ll be doing 7 sets of each movement. The sets will only be limited by how many you can finish in 10 minutes.
This day will be spent doing a variation of the tailpipe that we talked about before. This time however you’ll be working alone and doing 5 sets instead of 3.
You’re allowed a 2-minute rest in between each set.
Saturday you’ll once again be lifting.
This time you’ll be doing a superset of back squats, push-ups, and pull-ups. It’ll look like this:
You might’ve noticed we didn’t include the number of sets, but that’s only because you’ll be completing as many as possible within 9 minutes.
Even when it comes to the Superman diet, no one can out-train a bad diet.
That’s why Cavill took his eating just as seriously as his working out—if not more serious. Yet he didn’t do anything fancy or far-out either. As with most clean bulks, the key lies somewhere in between lots of chicken and lots of vegetables.
What is impressive, however, is the amount he ate.
Cavill estimated that at some points he was eating upwards of 5,000 calories in a single day, especially towards the end of his training. With such an insane amount of food, it’s really no surprise that Cavill turned out looking as well as he did. But it goes without saying that this was a very clean bulk for building muscle—meaning more limited carbs.
We’re looking at foods like:
His body fat percentage in the end? Between 5-7%, which is crazy when you consider all of the food he was eating. Not to mention that he dropped down to 3-4% body fat for his shirtless scenes. That says everything you need to know about not only his clean diet but also how hard he trained to burn off those calories.
In terms of a meal plan, it probably looked like something along these lines:
At this point, we’re kind of surprised that Cavill isn’t the real Superman.
His diet plan and workout regime make it obvious that his single-mindedness and commitment to the task at hand seriously elevated his fitness to truly super-human standards. Along with his diet and grueling workout sessions, Cavill also made sure to take in a ton of whey protein throughout the day.
He also took maltodextrin to replenish his glycogen levels, effectively preventing his muscles from breaking down in order to provide energy for the body. This was helped with a daily dose of vitamins and omegas in order to reduce inflammation and aid in the overall healthy functioning of the body.
While it might be possible to become Superman, the road towards that fitness goal is insanely intense. However, with the proper drive, mindset, diet, and workout plan, you too can be looked at with the awe that Superman is.