Captain Marvel star Brie Larson’s feats of strength are seriously impressive — and not just in the film itself. The actress took to Instagram recently to show off her superhero ability, pushing a Jeep weighing almost 5,000 pounds (with a full tank of gas and a driver behind the wheel) for a whopping 60 seconds.
“Actors might spend more time training than most of us can allow in our busy schedules, but that doesn’t mean a superhero body is beyond your reach — and it won’t take superhero efforts to get you there either,” says Roger Adams, Ph.D., personal trainer, doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness. So, while, of course, actors and actresses spend considerable amounts of time (often many hours per day for several months at a time) training day in and day out to get in shape for their films, a superhero body is not impossible. Adams has even used the pushing-a-car exercise to motivate many of his clients, and to achieve this, Adams says planning and consistency are key components. “Without the right kind of plan, you won’t achieve the physique you desire,” he says.
With planning and positivity in mind, here is what the fitness pros say it takes to score the body of a superhero.
Clean Up Your Diet
Building your body starts in the kitchen, even for superheroes. “Without the right kind of dietary strategy, even lifting like the Hulk won’t give you the body you desire,” says Adams. “It takes a sound nutrition strategy based, not only on athletic performance to power those workouts, but also to ensure adequate and speedy recovery so you can train again.” In order to build strength, you have to fuel your body with the right kinds of foods, mostly protein, carbs and healthy fats. Adams typically recommends that his clients aim to consume about 35-40 percent of their diet as protein (lean cuts of beef, pork, non-fat and low-fat dairy and seafood). He also encourages them to them to use whey-based protein supplements during the day and after workouts to add a bit more protein into their diet during these phases. “While this is a lot of protein, the research shows it is completely safe and will lead to a leaner body without the loss of muscle protein, which can often happen during dieting to lose fat,” he says. “[Consume] carbs sparingly, about 30 minutes before long workouts — choosing whole-grain breads and pastas, quinoa, barley, bulgar wheat, oats and carbs that have both fiber and protein like legumes, beans and whole-kernel corn — and be sure to refuel with quality proteins and veggies the rest of the day,” he says. He tells his clients to eat fruits with the skin for energy boosts as these enter the system a bit slower and add healthy amounts of fiber. For healthy fats, he recommends that they come from olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and even great higher-protein snacks like hummus, which is usually made with olive or canola oils. A balanced diet is the foundation you need to kickstart your superhero workout plan.
Place Emphasis on Power
There is no denying that “powerful” is one adjective we use to describe superheroes, so it should absolutely be an important characteristic in your superhero workout routine. “There is nothing like jumping and short sprints to produce maximum power (think of how the NFL considers a broad jump to determine a player’s ‘power’), so add in some basic plyometrics, broad jumps, vertical jumps and bounds into your workouts,” says Chris Ryan, C.S.C.S and founder of Chris Ryan Fitness. “Power is basically how quickly you can move something over a specified distance or height. Jumping (either vertically, horizontally or diagonally) is one of the best things you can do to produce power with just your body weight.” To get your body to possess this level of power he also suggests short-range, change-of-direction sprints as well as 3-cone drills and lateral sprints.
Incorporate Strength Training
Not only are superheros lean, but they are also insanely strong. To harness this kind of strength, Adams recommends strength training as a superhero exercise. “To score overall muscular development, make sure your lifting plan uses large muscle groups like your legs, chest, back and shoulders,” he says. One of the easiest rep schemes to produce a great amount of strength, according to Ryan, is 5×5 reps at 80-90 percent of your 1-rep max for major lifts like squats, presses, pulls and deadlifts. “You want to be strong and functional as possible and hitting 5 rounds of 5 reps with 1-2 minutes rest between sets will ensure you are maximizing strength gains in an easy-to-understand fashion,” he adds.
Increase Your Endurance
In addition to building strength, it is important to focus on enhancing your endurance, or your ability to maintain an increased heart rate over a long period of time. “We have all seen the super-strong person get winded walking up a flight of stairs, right? Don’t be that person,” says Ryan. “Superheroes can stay the course, so practice building endurance to sustain workouts for an hour or longer once per week.” He suggests picking a long aerobic activity, like running or swimming, and safely build up your endurance adding five additional minutes per week until you can do them for an hour or longer.
Focus on Coordination and Mobility
Even though you might not be training to be a star athlete, coordination is key when attempting to enhance your physicality to the level of superherodom. In other words, you are attempting to learn how to control your body instead of your body controlling you. “Having muscle and mind balance is key to avoiding injury and getting proportionate on both your dominant and non-dominant sides,” says Ryan. Superheroes have strong muscles, but they can also move with ease. “Having muscles does not necessarily mean they have to be hard; muscles are meant to work and respond to your needs. Superheroes need to move fast and fluid so the last thing they want is to have hard, stiff muscles,” he says. “Work basic mobility drills to open up your hips and shoulders and get after some foam rolling to break up your muscle fascia too.” After an intense workout like this, don’t forget to recover and set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. This means avoiding caffeine from lunch onward and maintaining regular sleep patterns (yes, even on weekends!).
Don’t Forget to Rest
“Without adequate rest, you won’t recover and be able to build the body of a superhero,” warns Adams. When planning your workouts, he recommends making it a point to schedule a day off from the gym. “You can have an active rest day of doing some light calorie-burning cardio, such as a slow jog, leisurely swim or even just low-intensity cardio on an elliptical or stair master, but do allow your body to rest and recover,” he adds. In other words, skip the HIIT or spin classes and go ahead and sign up for that evening restorative yoga. Remember, even superheroes need a rest day to recover.
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