If you’re after that superhero physique you see in big-budget Hollywood productions such as “Man of Steel”, “Batman” or “Captain America”, you have landed on the right page. This article will go right down your alley.
I’m going to tell you how you can achieve the same type of look without struggling in the gym 5 or 6 days a week. Now, I’m not saying that you can get there overnight, or without putting in any work. I would be either an ignorant or a scammer if I did.
What I can tell you though, is that you can optimize your diet and workouts so that you can achieve your fitness goals as easy and as fast as you can. So, without further due, let’s get to it.
What Makes a Superhero Physique After All?
When you look at guys such as Chris Evans in Captain America or even Ben Affleck in Batman vs. Superman, you will see these guys looking absolutely jacked – big arms, nice pectorals, a wide back and a slim waist.
You would also need to have relatively nice developed legs so that your upper body doesn’t overpower the lower body and you get that chicken legs look. Nevertheless, the main focus is on upper body development.
In other words, you need to have big-ass muscles and a relatively low body fat percentage. That last part – the low body fat levels – is very important really. That’s what makes your muscles pop, adds that separation between muscle groups and makes your waist look smaller – which will also make your back and shoulders look wider.
When you’re really lean you also get more vascularity which looks kind of cool as well. Not to mention the six-pack, this is a must for any superhero.
So if you put it all together, a superhero physique is a combination of well-developed muscles and a low body fat percentage. That’s a difficult thing to achieve, because, as you may know already, you build muscles mass when you eat more food, and you drop fat when you diet down. So getting big and staying lean at the same time sound like nonsense.
You really need to know your way around calories, macros training, and supplementation in order to get everything in sync. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about down below.
Eat like a superhero
Regardless of you much time and effort you put into your workouts, if your diet is not in check you will not see progress. As a personal trainer, I know that first hand and I always tell my client that. You’re in the gym only for a few works each week, but you need to stay on top of your diet 24/7.
So dieting is the hard part for most people, not working out.
Depending on where you’re at in terms of body fat you will either need to cut or to bulk up. There are no strict rules, but generally speaking, if you’re over 15-18% body fat you need to cut back on calories – this is called a caloric deficit.
If you’re under 15% you can either stay at your maintenance level or up your calories a little bit – this is called a caloric surplus. The tricky part is to get the right amount of calories. If you’re cutting to aggressively you, not only that you will not be building any muscles, but you may even end up losing it.
If you’re bulking up too much, you will put on too much fat and you will just end up looking… well, fat. I have never seen a fat superhero before, so you don’t want that.
Here’s how to set your calories the right way.
When you’re dieting down you want to cut with 20-25% below your maintenance level. So if you are maintaining your existing weight when you eat 2,500 kcal, for example, that’s your maintenance level and you should cut back to 1,875 – 2,000 kcal per day.
That’s enough to help you maximize fat loss while minimizing any muscle mass loss. Yes, you will lose a little bit of muscle tissue as well, there’s no way around that unless you are a complete untrained beginner and you haven’t actually developed your muscles yet.
You know you got your numbers right when you are losing 1-2 pounds of bodyweight per week. That’s a healthy weight loss rate right there. Another trick that will tell you if you’re cutting too aggressively (besides the scale), is your performance in the gym. If you are losing strength it means you are also losing muscle mass. So keep an eye out on your strength.
There’s this saying that you need to “eat big to get big”, which is true to some extent. Yeah, you will get big when you eat a lot, but you will also get fat. And like I was saying before I have never seen a fat superhero.
If you are after that nice aesthetic look, you want to look big and muscular, but you also want to be lean. As opposed to what many people think, you only need to eat a small surplus of just 5-10% more calories in order to build new muscle at the maximum rate naturally. That’s it.
Going back to our previous example, if you are maintaining your weight at 2,500 kcal, you will only need to eat 125-250 kcal on top of that. You can get those calories from a tall glass of milk or from a small sandwich.
By staying in a mild surplus of 10% maximum you will minimize the amount of fat you gain. It’s impossible to bulk up without gaining some fat as well. But if you minimize it you can bulk for a longer period of time without getting to the point where your body fat percentage is so high that you need to start cutting back on calories.
When your bulking phase lasts longer you will build more muscle – there’s no question about that.
Sure, your caloric surplus should go hand in hand with hard, resistance training workouts. Your energy levels will be through the roof anyway, thanks to the extra calories, so you can train harder for a longer period of time.
On average, you should be gaining 0.5 – 1 pound per week, and you would be lucky if half of it is muscle. A fat to muscle ratio of 1:1 is great.
Taking things one step further, if you really want to dial into your diet, you will need to look at your macros too. Your calories are coming from macros, so these two are tightly related. One gram of protein contains 4 calories, and so does one gram of carbs. One gram of fat contains 9 calories.
Each macronutrient has its own role & purpose and there’s no such thing as a good or bad macro. In the fitness and bodybuilding industry, there’s a big hype around protein because it is known to support muscle growth and repair.
Carbs are important because they will supply the energy your body needs to go through the workouts or any other physical activity for that matter. And lastly but not least, fats will keep you healthy at hormonal level, take care of our hair and skin, and play an important role in testosterone production.
When you’re maintaining a macro split of 30% protein, 40-50% carbs and 20-30% fats is great, but when you’re cutting or bulking things change a little bit. Here’s how.
Macros For Cutting
When you will restrict calories, like I was telling you above, you are very likely to lose muscle mass. That’s why it is a good idea to increase your protein intake to 40% or so. This helps muscle mass preservation. On top of that, foods that are rich in protein tend to be more satiating, which will make your diet more manageable.
Both your carbs and fats will be lower since you will increase the protein intake. You can experiment with low carb diets if you feel like it or do some carb cycling. Low carb diets will deplete your body from water weight, but they will also lower your energy levels.
Carbs are broken down into glycogen, which is the main source of energy used by the muscles. So when you carb is low you will have less energy to workout and you will probably notice a small decrease in performance.
Macros For Bulking
When you are bulking up you have more freedom than ever. You can play around with the macros since you have more calories to spread them over and you don’t need to be that strict with your protein intake either.
If you’re getting a minimum of 25-30% of your calories from proteins you’re good. This means you can eat more carbs and more fats. I wouldn’t recommend eating more than 30% fats because that will mean you limit the number of carbs in your diet. Fats don’t directly improve your workouts, but carbs do. That’s why it is a good idea to eat a high carb (and high protein) diet.
That’s pretty much how you should tackle nutrition if you want to look big and lean. It’s a slow process of alternating between bulking up and cutting until you reach that superhero physique or whatever type of look you are after.
Now let’s see what you can do in the gym to support your goals.
Train Like a Superhero
When it comes to training, there are two terms you need to keep in mind – compound movements and progressive overload. That’s all there is to it.
Let’s talk a bit about each of these two.
This fancy term refers to a particular type of exercises that you can do in the gym. Namely, to exercises that will activate more muscle groups at once and use more than one joint. Common examples are exercises such as bench press, pull-ups and chin-ups, squats, deadlifts, shoulder press and so on.
All these exercises, focus on one specific muscle, but will also activate other muscle groups as well. For example, when you bench press, you work out your chest the most, but you also get some triceps and shoulders activation.
When you deadlift, you are targeting your lower back mainly, but there’s some glutes activation and some hamstring activation as well.
On the opposite side, you have isolation movements – exercises such as bicep curls, triceps push-downs, leg extensions, lateral raises and so on. Even though isolation exercises have their place and role in any training routine, your main focus should be on compound movements.
Compound exercises will allow you to use heavier weights and will recruit more muscle fibers, which means more growth potential. So if you can spend 80% of your time and effort doing compound exercises and 20% on isolation exercises you will get the best from both worlds.
Progressive overloading is a commonly used technique to help athletes increase their muscle mass. Your muscles will continue to develop as long as there’s a stimulus triggering that. There needs to be an external factor they need to adapt to.
Think about it. If you are bench pressing 135 pounds forever, there’s no wonder you’re not seeing any improvement in the way you’re looking. Your muscles adapt to that weight (or to that stimulus), get used to it and stop growing.
So progressive overloading is all about constantly making our workouts more challenging. It can be by adding more weight, by doing more reps, more sets or by decreasing your rest time between the sets.
There’s a reason why the biggest guys in the gym are also the strongest.
So each time you get to the gym focus on challenging yourself. Try to get stronger over time and you will eventually get bigger as well. It’s a slow process, especially if you have been training for more than 1 year already. And it gets slower and slower as you continue to train.
So that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. That’s how you get from looking average to a superhero. Stay on top of your diet, eat smart, and train like a true bodybuilder. You’ll see a rapid growth in the first 6-12 months, but as time goes by it will become increasingly more difficult to make progress.
But that’s why you don’t see amazing physiques all the time on the streets – because it takes a lot of work and a lot of time.
Tyler has been working as a certified personal trainer for over 10 years specializing in weight loss and functional training with women between the ages of 30 – 65. He also enjoys helping others become industry leading personal trainers through his website PTPioneer.com and YouTube Channel.