This summer has seen some of the greatest Marvel superheroes come to life on the big screen. Iron Man was making some serious headlines with a super-buff Robert Downey Jr. as the World authority on the manufacture of military weapons.
Then we saw the much improved physique of The Incredible Hulk which amazed audiences around the globe. Now DC comics has fought back hard and brought us The Dark Knight, starring the late Heath Ledger as the notorious Joker, and probably the best Batman character ever in Christian Bale.
What makes this movie interesting is that from a story point of view, Batman is merely an ordinary Joe Soap; yes I know he is clean cut but that is not what I mean when I say "soap."
Batman has no superpowers, he was never bitten by a radioactive bug nor was he exposed to gamma rays in a laboratory experiment gone wrong. He is like everyone else, apart from the fact that he likes to wear tights and a mask and enjoys beating the crap out of gangsters.
In this, the latest sequel in the Batman franchise, Christian Bale comes to the screen as a super-buff-looking billionaire Bruce Wayne, as usual, giving his role as much credibility as he possibly can.
A few years back when he first played the role of Batman, Bale had only finished shooting for the movie The Machinist for which he had dropped 33 percent (61 lbs) of his normal body weight, down to 185 lbs.
At this weight, standing at 6-foot-2 he would not look much like anyone that could beat snow off of a wet rope let alone be a crime fighting superhero. So Bale went on a bulking up cycle where he had to pack on his weight but do so in a hurry and add as much muscle as possible in the process.
He admits to gorging himself on a daily basis. The timeframe between finishing The Machinist and the first screen test was only 6 weeks!
Granted, when we all saw the movie Batman Begins, saying we were impressed with Christian Bale's physique was an understatement to say the least and that's without seeing the transformation from his previous emaciated role.
Christian Bale looked awesome and was quiet convincing in his roles as both Bruce Wayne and Bruce's alter ego, Batman. This movie has far more action scenes and required Bale to be not only buff and look lean for the casual topless scenes but also be a better athlete to make the actions sequences more credible. He had to maximize the use of his speed and agility, components of fitness usually only associated with elite athletes.
An avid runner, Bale openly admits to his running being the best cure for a hangover, and if he is anything like his fellow Welshmen, who shall remain nameless, (but for the purposes of this article lets call them Mr. Gethin & Mr. Lewis - actually that's a little too obvious, lets call them Kris G and Flex L), Bale is well able to throw back a pint or two! Another trait he shares with these two fellow countrymen is his lack of fear for a hard, grueling workout.
I have trained with both Kris and Flex; they are hardcore to say the least. That being said, let's get on with the show and take a look at how Christian Bale made Batman faster, leaner and more agile than ever.
First and foremost, the diet has to be on the ball. Getting in the meals every 2-3 hours is a must for any superhero in the making, and as we have seen in the past, Bale is not shy when it comes to the physical demands of preparing for a role.
Each meal should consist of a balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The ideal ratio is 1:2:3—that is 1 part fats, 2 parts protein and 3 parts carbohydrates. Knowing that we need approx 1-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight we can calculate the fats and carbohydrates to be consumed using our ratio above.
The Training Program
The training program used for this role would consist of explosive power movements, compound exercises, agility and speed training all centering on the goal of making Bale a more realistic Superhero.
This is where you Bench Press on a Smith Machine. Start in the locked-out position, lower the weight to the chest, then explode out leaving the bar out of your hands, as the bar falls catch the bar and allow the momentum to return the bar to the on chest position. This is done under complete control—you control the weight always. Once the bar has reached the chest again immediately press the bar explosively again.
This is an awesome exercise for developing those explosive white muscle fibers. Because the training program is so complex, compound exercises are utilized to maximize the effectiveness of each workout in minimal time.
A compound movement is any exercise which requires more than a single joint movement; the most common "compound" movements are the squat, bench, deadlift, and military press. Exercises to enhance agility and reaction times are also used, after all, if our superhero cannot catch the villains then what use is he?
So now that we have taken a look at some of the exercises used to create a more finely tuned Batman, let us look at what a typical weeks training might look like.
Note: This superset is used as a warm-up and to prepare the body for what is to come for the heavier power exercises.
Note: It is important to note that when performing this exercise you explode from the starting position (bar on floor) to the finish (bar as high as possible—usually chin level) and that you explode up with maximum force onto the toes!
Note: Power cleans are a great exercise for overall mass building as well as power, most of the major muscle groups are utilized during the execution of this movement.
Note: Although these sets are primarily to warm up the muscles of the upper body maximum weight should be used for each set of 12 reps
Note: This exercise because of its explosive nature is a great tool for increasing the functional capabilities of the white muscle fibers. Once the bar has been taken off the rack, lower it to the chest and explode from there releasing the bar from your grip.
The height the bar achieves should be noted by your spotter, as the bar begin to return, it should be caught in the hands and returned to the start position under control but also keeping the momentum going.
Note: This is done in intervals: 2 minutes on, 30 seconds off, Mark a 2-foot wide square on the ground with tape or chalk. Jump from corner to corner as fast as you can, jumping to different corners every time. This exercise is performed for a total of 30 minutes.
Note: Active rest, this a day where you do not train so hard, but are still active, a pool session is good here or a combination of swimming and aqua jogging. This will aid the recovery process.
Repeat days 1, 2 and 3
So now you are armed with the tools to transform your body into a lean mean crime fighting machine. Not only will you be able to run faster, jump higher and react as fast as lightning, but you will also look good doing it. But don't use this program to get in shape and go and kick some criminal arse, leave that to the Dark Knight, only use it to pull chicks, that's what I do.