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Train Like Your Favourite Avenger

Comic books and bodybuilding are two subjects that you would have thought had very little crossover appeal. But you’d be dead wrong. Ask almost any professional bodybuilder what it was that got them into bodybuilding and they’ll usually answer that they started training to look like the superheroes in their favourite comics. The stereotypical comic book reading nerd no longer exists, and the success of the Marvel comic book franchise is testament to that. Little boys now grow up dreaming of being as strong as the Hulk, as resilient as Captain America, or as powerful as Thor. But how can you train to be as big as your favourite superhero? And which superhero should you choose to be? In this article we will not only help you to train like your favourite Avenger, we’ll also help you to pick the perfect Avenger for your body type.

Picking your Avenger 

Over the last thirty years there have been so many different Avengers that this part of the discussion could go on for thousands of words. So, we are going to keep it really simple and give you just three options: the Hulk, Captain America and Black Panther. There are several other Avengers that could fit into each body type but you’re here to discuss building a Superhero body, right?

Captain America
Captain America

The Hulk: This type of body is large, bulky, and powerful. Huge muscles, a bit of body fat. Not enough that you’re overweight, but you won’t have an amazing six pack. This is the physique that would suit most powerlifters, wrestlers and any dude who likes lifting heavy weights and eating a load of meat.  

Captain America: This type of body still has muscle but has lower body fat percentage. Think crossfit body shapes. Big arms and chest, small waist. 

Black Panther: This type of body is as lean as possible, with visible six-pack and less muscle mass than the other two. This is a body designed for endurance, agility and looking awesome with your shirt off. 

Now these three physiques are all based on Superheroes, so they can come with some unrealistic expectations. Another way of looking at these body shapes would be endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph. Endomorphs are larger guys who can gain fat and muscle relatively easily, they are also built for strength. An Endomorph would be perfect for powerlifting, and provided they kept their diet in check could build a huge, powerful physique. Think Killmonger, think the Hulk, think Thanos. Ectomorphs are skinny and usually quite tall. They have trouble putting on weight and are often more suited to sports that involve agility, speed, endurance and technique. The Black Panther is a perfect example of what good training can do to an ectomorph’s physique.

Black Panther
Black Panther

Mesomorphs are in the middle of the two and are often seen as the ideal physique. Able to build muscle relatively fast, they also don’t accumulate fat in the same way that an endomorph does. They can be athletic, powerful and have a kick ass physique. Everyone hates them. They are the perfect Captain America. Think carefully about which physique suits you the best, and then you can train like them. Just because you are an ectomorph, it doesn’t mean that you can’t train to be Captain America or the Hulk. But it will be more difficult. 

Your Starting Point 

Where you are currently will affect how you follow any of these programs. If you are overweight, then you will need to lose weight. If you are underweight, then you will need to gain weight. To keep things simple, we are going to assume that you are average size for each of these programs. If you are not, then you will need to follow a calorie-controlled diet to gain or lose weight depending on your goals.

Train Like The Hulk

Because your main goal is to build muscle mass and strength rather than to get ripped, your exercise selection should reflect that. Big compound lifts such as deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, rows and bench presses should form the bulk of your program. Potentially a 5x5 program. But remember, all superheroes have huge arms. This means you have permission to dedicate one session per week to arms. Diet wise, you would need to eat to either maintain or gain weight. This means a calorie surplus (unless you are already overweight as mentioned in the section above). Carbs are your friend, as is protein and fat. Make sure that you are still disciplined, a small calorie surplus should be enough. No all-you-can-eat buffets! Once you have reached the required size, you can cut calories to lose some excess body fat.  

Day 1: Barbell Squats 5 x 5, Romanian Deadlifts 3 x 12, Bench Press 5 x 5, Bent Over Row 5 x 5. Day 2: Deadlifts 5 x 5, Lunges 3 x 20, Pull Ups 5 x 5 (weighted if required, or machine if too difficult), Overhead Press 5 x 5. Day 3: Leg Press 5 x 5, Leg Curl Machine 3 x 20, Incline Bench Press 5 x 5, Barbell Shrugs 5 x 5. Day 4: Barbell Bicep Curls 3 x 12, Close Grip Bench Press 3 x 12, Incline Seated Bicep Curls 3 x 10, Ez-Bar Skull Crushers 3 x 10, Abdominal Crunches 3 x 20.

Train Like Cap

Training like Captain America is probably the most difficult, you’ll almost certainly need to follow the standard bodybuilding program which involves bulking and cutting. Bulk to build the muscles, cut to lose the fat. Repeating this cycle again and again until you have built a lot of muscle and then maintaining it while keeping body fat low. The training program while on a bulk will be similar to the Hulk program. Compound lifts, low reps, heavy weights and a dedicated arm day. The training program while on a cut should involve cardio, lower weights (though still challenging), higher reps, shorter rest periods and some abdominal training too. 

Day 1: Leg Press 3 x 20, Deadlifts 3 x 10, Dumbbell Bench Press 3 x 12-15, Lat Pulldown 3 x 12-15, Plank, HIIT Bike 20 minutes. Day 2: 20-60 minutes cardio. Day 3: Barbell Squats 3 x 12-15, Romanian Deadlifts 3 x 10, Seated Cable Row 3 x 12-15, Seated Shoulder Press 3 x 20, Russian Twists 3 x 20, HIIT Rower 20 minutes. Day 4: 20-60 minutes cardio. Day 5: Barbell Bicep Curls 3 x 12, Close Grip Bench Press 3 x 12, Incline Seated Bicep Curls 3 x 10, Ez-Bar Skull Crushers 3 x 10, Abdominal Crunches 3 x 20.

Train Like the Black Panther

This goal is to maintain a lean physique year-round. This means following a calorie-controlled diet that prevents weight gain (unless you are underweight as mentioned above). Lots of protein is necessary to help maintain muscle. Training can involve anything you like really, as the calorie intake will have more of an effect then anything. You can add compound movements such as squats and deadlifts, you can follow a plyometrics program for increased power and agility. Core workouts will be good. Arm workouts (for that superhero look) are fine, but don’t expect bulging muscles as we’re going for a lean look. While not as sexy sounding as the other two workouts, this is probably the easiest to maintain, the easiest to achieve and will provide better longevity.  

Day 1: Goblet Squats 3 x 20, Box Jumps 5 x 5, Shuttle Runs 5 x 1, Clapping Push Ups 3 x 10, Pull Ups 3 x 10, Plank. Day 2: 20-60 minutes cardio. Day 3: Bodyweight Squat Jumps 3 x 20, Nordic Curls 3 x 10, Dumbbell Bench Press 3 x 20, Seated Cable Row 3 x 20, Feet Elevated Crunches 3 x 20, HIIT Bike 20 minutes. Day 4: 20-60 minutes cardio Day 5: Kettlebell Swings 3 x 10, Deadlifts 3 x 10, Walking Lunges 3 x 20, Clapping Push Ups 3 x 10, Chin Ups 3 x 12-15, Side Plank, HIIT Treadmill 20 minutes.

Final Thoughts 

Any of these programs will work or fail depending on your discipline, there is no point trying to be the Hulk and then after a few weeks switching to Cap or to Black Panther. You need to be consistent, you need to eat your protein, you need to enjoy what you’re doing. Nobody said being a superhero would be easy.


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