What Does it Take To Look Like a Superhero?

What Does it Take To Look Like a Superhero?

There’s never been a better time to be a superhero film fan. Between the rising excitement about Black Panther 2 and the news that Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman will be joining forces for Deadpool 3, there has been a lot of news in this space, and it’s pretty epic.

We’re drowning in superheroes at the moment, and while we’re seeing some things change – more diverse casting, more women-led productions and a wider range of storylines to dive into – one thing is consistent: the superhero rig is as impressive as ever.

The likes of Chris Hemsworth, Kumail Nanjiani, Jason Momoa and Brie Larson grace our screens like gods carved from stone, and while it’s a treat for the eyes – no doubt – there is more that goes into the superhero physique than a couple of deadlifts and raw eggs.

It’s easy to look at these chiselled bodies and think, “I’ve got to get to the gym”. And cool, if it works as positive inspiration for you, that’s all well and good, but it’s also important to take a realistic view of these kinds of physical results.

The act of becoming a superhero

In a recent interview for Deadpool 3, Hugh Jackman spoke briefly about the process of getting back into shape to play Wolverine again. Speaking with the Associated Press, he shared:

“I can tell you I’ve started back at the gym, and I’m eating a lot, and I feel bad for the cast of The Music Man with the amount of protein shakes I’m having.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” he continued.

“It’s been five years, and I really never thought I’d come back. And I’m really, really excited about it.”

Earlier in his Wolverine career, Jackman spoke about the degree of effort that saw him play the superhero for so many years. Between restrictive diets and extreme dehydration before shirtless shots, Jackman has blatantly said he does not recommend following in his footsteps. It’s all a little too much. … Even if he is having fun this time around.

Back in 2020, Kumail Nanjiani sent jaws to the floor when he first emerged with his shredded superhero bod, one that he spent an incredible amount of time and effort developing in preparation for Eternals. In the film, he played a god-like being and wanted to get in the best shape of his life for the role.

Speaking with Men’s Health, he shared:

“I’m playing the first South Asian superhero in a Marvel movie. I don’t want to be the schlubby brown guy—I want to look like someone who can hang with Thor and Captain America.”

But once he achieved his superhero fitness goal, Nanjiani made a concerted effort to be clear about how he got there. In an Instagram post from back in 2019, he told fans, “I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world”.

“I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time.”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Nanjiani’s trainer for the project, Grant Roberts, shared that he trained about four to five times per week and, on occasion, twice a day.

He also shifted his diet considerably, opting for intermittent fasting on his days off from shooting. It was a complete lifestyle overhaul.

Brie Larson was also praised for her fitness feats leading up to the release of Captain Marvel. The actress trained for nine months for the project and, during that time, challenged her body with rock climbing, tire tosses and, at one point, even pushed an entire Jeep (yes, a car – you probably saw the video) during a training session.

Trainer Jason Walsh explained to Men’s Journal that in preparation for Larson’s titular film, “it was game on”.

“We got deep into heavy progression, doing two-a-days, four days a week, sometimes five days a week unless Brie was feeling destroyed. She did the work—nutrition, recovery, sleep—everything required of her. The whole process took nine months of training…”

He went on to share that there were times that he “made her [Larson] cry in the gym, but she was able to push through that because of how dedicated she was to this”.

So, yeah. Achieving a superhero body is certainly impressive, but it requires a near-impossible level of dedication, time, access (in terms of professional support) and sacrifice. I’ll stick to workouts suited to mere mortals, I think.

This article on superhero fitness programs has been updated since its original publish date. 

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