Written by Jon Clarke
The average guy’s motivation to get buff is usually either a holiday or to get the girls - often coming hand in hand. But Henry Cavill’s motivation was actually a call from Director Zack Snyder saying “congratulations, you’ve got the role of Superman”. No pressure there then.
You know you can’t slack when your goal is to literally become the Man of Steel. And while CGI can be used for all kinds of shortcuts, such as removing his beard, Henry knew it just wouldn’t be the same if the muscles underneath the famous blue suit weren’t his own.
He’s been stoking the fire recently to a potential Man Of Steel sequel - which would see him reprise the role of the world’s most powerful superhero. We managed to catch up with him in London last month, and he shared three secrets with us when it comes to building the perfect Superman physique…
Cavill taking a breather in between sets as he builds a chest worthy of the Superman emblem.
1. Do not underestimate bodyweight routines
He said an often overlooked workout essential is simple bodyweight exercises. People tend to prefer machine workouts (which are fine, he added) but they tend to isolate a muscle. While this can be good for building said muscle, it does take away the ‘full body workout’ element of exercises like pull-ups, press-ups and dips.
“People shy away from pull-ups because high reps can be difficult to achieve.” he said. Form is definitely the most important feature of a pull-up. Doing five perfect, full-range-of-movement pull ups is better than 10 half-assed efforts. The same goes for press ups and dips.
Build on the number of reps over time. Set small goals that are achievable but accumulative. Aim for two more pull ups in your next workout. Then two more. “Increase in baby steps but witness the big gains” he explained.
Henry finished by highlighting the fact that bodyweight exercises are often a different kind of strength. They are more primal and basic, but as a result can build more solid and thick muscles.
2. Explosive, big movement exercises
The next thing he swore by was the inclusion of big movement exercises. By this he meant things like deadlift, clean and jerks and bench press. All of these exercises engage multiple muscle groups (legs, back, chest, shoulders) simultaneously. Because these muscle groups are all rather large, the calorie burn is unreal. In fact, hours after the workout, your body will continue to incinerate fat.
Henry on set with Amy Adams (Lois Lane) - cutting a lean physique, which she seems to be enjoying.
He advises lifting heavy for lower reps - between five and eight on your final set is ideal. Push until failure (of course only if you are being spotted - stay safe!). This is the only way to eek every bit of effort out of your body. It’s this 110 percent effort that really boots your metabolism into action.
3. Diet (err not really a secret Superman...)
We told him dieting wasn’t exactly a ‘secret’ but he said it may as well be with the amount of people that seem to get it wrong. He said this with a disappointed tone so, at the risk of disappointing Superman, apparently here’s what you need to do…
Alcohol is most people’s biggest downfall. A single glass of red wine contains around 80 calories. The average pint of lager contains around 180 calories - that’s about the same as a slice of pizza. “It’s odd to think that people would hesitate to devour an entire pizza on their own, at the risk of consuming so many calories, yet the same people will go to the pub and drink four or five pints no trouble.”
“It’s an awareness thing” he says, “it’s just about having the awareness of the food and/or drink you’re putting in your body.” Henry went on to say that having treats every now and again is actually a good thing (phew) - as he confessed to consuming an entire tub of ice cream and a giant pizza, immediately after he finished filming his topless scene in Man Of Steel.
He advised preparing food for the healthy days, to make it less of a baine (DC supervillain pun intended), drinking plenty of water, and limiting your treat to a weekly meal (probably Saturday night).
He finished by saying “but moderation with everything is key - even training. Burning yourself out isn’t a good thing, just like eating fast food seven days a week isn’t either”.
With that, he took off, his red cape billowing in the wind.