Following the worldwide success of "The Avengers," in 2012, Chris Evans took his physique to whole new heights for his third outing as Marvel's comic book hero Captain America in the highly-anticipated blockbuster "The Winter Soldier."
In this exclusive interview Evans reveals how you too can transform your body into that of a super warrior—without the use of a top-secret serum.
In a universe where Norse Gods can summon thunder from the clouds and men can turn into gamma-ray fed hulking monsters with the ability to decimate entire buildings with one punch, how does a normal human being like Steve Rogers manage to stand out? That was the million-dollar question plaguing 32-year-old actor Chris Evans as he began preparing for his latest role as one of the most iconic superheroes of all, Captain America.
For Evans, the answer was simple: months of hard graft in the gym and a strict high-protein diet were the key to piling on the 30 pounds of size needed to realistically play a character who could stand tall among his fellow Avengers: Thor, Hulk, and Iron Man. "For this film it was about three months of training, and I wasn't looking forward to it," says Evans. "I've always liked going to the gym, but these weren't normal gym sessions. I was puking at the gym. They were brutal, absolutely brutal."
Supersizing A Superhero
Bulking up to play Steve Rogers, wasn't something new for Evans. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," marked the third time he'd donned the famous red, white, and blue suit.
To get the look he desired for the role, the naturally slim Evans spent many arduous months adding size to his frame using a variety of different exercises to ensure he wasn't just muscular, but also agile and fast. Evans explains: "The preparation for Captain America was really about me bulking up looks wise, so it was a lot of weight training so I could get big. The training regimen was based on heavyweight/low-rep sets of the classic compound lifts. I did stuff like squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, incline bench presses, weighted dips, and chin-ups."
According to Evans, to get the physique of Captain America, a scrawny World War II recruit whose body was transformed by using a government-produced 'super soldier serum,' Evans would work on two muscle groups throughout each vigorous session.
"It's a very balanced workout, hitting every single muscle—I think even my toes got bigger, Evans says with a laugh. "We would take two muscle groups, whether it was chest and back or biceps and triceps and we would just destroy those muscles, literally, destroy them for just over two hours. Then we'd cool down with core and abs.
"I'd also work with a lot of different angles and grips. For example, for chest I'd do close-grip incline press, incline bench flyes, and incline press-ups. And then I'd do kneeling shoulder-press sometimes, to incorporate more abs."
He adds: "Monday to Friday we'd hit the different parts of the body. On Saturday, it would be my rest day and then on Sunday, if there was something that needed extra work or wasn't feeling particularly fatigued, I'd hit that too.
"We'd also mix up the free weight stuff with bodyweight stuff. I'd do lots of different weighted pull-ups, weighted dips, press-ups with a plate on my back. Simple-but-effective exercises, basically the classic bodyweight and bodybuilding stuff."
However, Evans wasn't willing to keep his training all that simple. He added gymnastics to his workouts. Add a bunch of plyometric exercises into the mix too and you've got one very explosive superhero on your hands.
"I did some gymnastic classes, which were a lot of fun. I got to use acrobatics more, so he's flipping off things and spinning and jumping and using his environment. I also did some plyometrics, stuff like squat-to-box-jumps. The aim was to keep my heart rate high throughout the workouts, and that helped with my general fitness and especially during filming when had long days and was running around or doing fight scenes."
Captain No Cardio
When you think of action movies, most people would presume there's a lot of fighting, a lot of explosions, and a lot of running away from things. It's simply part of the parcel.
So it was a shock to find out Evans stayed away from too much cardio-specific workouts; it would take away from all the hard work he'd done in terms of building his body up.
Instead, he replaced the cardio exercises with circuits. He explains: "Honestly, for Captain America I don't do a lot of cardio because I'm not trying to lose weight, it's all about putting on the muscle. It's big weights and training to put on the muscle. I mean, we might do a few sprints just to make sure I'm loose and conditioned, but that's about it, to be honest. We'd warm up and do some intervals for 10-15 minutes.
"Really though, the cardio training comes from doing the circuits, which are much more effective because you're working at a much higher heart rate. But you just leave the gym unable to move; it's really intense.
"Ultimately it is about the performance rather than just looking good, having big muscles. In the film I have to sprint a lot, throw the shield, jump over things. But the circuits cover a lot of that. There was no jogging, no rowing, no stationary bike—nothing. If I do cardio I'll disappear (laughs)."
Anybody who knows anything about putting on size knows that lifting heavy objects and spending hour after hour in the gym is only half battle. There's a lot more to it than just beating your personal best on the bench press. The truth is, you need to put food inside your body to help build lean muscle; and it can't be any type of food, it has to be the right type for you to reap the rewards you work for. So to add to his back-breaking workouts, Evans also increased the amount of protein he consumed substantially to aid him in his bulking mission.
"I had lost weight in between filming "The Avengers" and this, so it was really about bulking up as clean as possible, so I had a high protein diet nutrition to play Captain America.
"The equation is around 2 grams protein per kilogram of bodyweight and that's achieved with a bunch of chicken," he laughs. "But then I'd also consume other sources of lean protein and some protein shakes through the day. But the eating is the thing I like the least (laughs), because I'd feel full all the time.
"I'd eat porridge, walnuts, raisins, low-fat Greek yogurt, a scoop of protein and maybe sliced banana for breakfast, which is generally an hour or two before I work out. Then through the day I'd eat a lot of things with a good protein source, lots of fish and meat.
He adds: "Then I'd eat salad with the protein source, lots and lots of salad, lots of dark green, leafy vegetables, and then also a handful of almonds here and there. It was basically a high-protein diet, but then balanced with vegetables and fruits and some complex carbs, things like brown rice and porridge."
In terms of supplements to complement his workout, Evans used a diverse range to make sure that he was not only building muscle, but also so his body was able to fully recover from the intense gym sessions he would put himself through.
"Supplement-wise I used a bit of glutamine, whey protein shakes, branched-chain amino acids, then 500mg supplements of Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids every single meal to make sure that my joints were functioning well—I needed it because the working out was so intensive, especially with things like the gymnastics.
"The branched-chain amino acids were basically there to fill the chain of repair of protein. The glutamine was used to stop me going catabolic or burning muscle tissue as energy, and was also good for my immune system.
"I think the protein shakes during the day would be normal whey-based shakes containing around 30g protein. But then before going to bed I would gulp down a protein shake that was primarily casein, for slow-release protein overnight."
Months and months of hard work in the gym and sticking to a strict, clean diet all culminated in Evans eventually becoming a lean, mean fighting machine, able to do the type of things his character pulled off on screen without too much help from the CGI department, and Evans believes that without his intense training he went through he simply wouldn't have been able to do the things he does on camera in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
"As Captain America, I've stepped it up a notch. He moves so fast and he kicks ass in this film and it makes sense because this isn't just the guy who's been given the ability of speed and power, he's been training, he's been training hard," says Evans. "Captain America's got the frame of mind to absorb this information, so you can only assume with training and his ability, the guy should really be dangerous—and he puts that to use in this movie."
He adds: "We really wanted to show his ability in this one, it wasn't just, 'Make him like Jason Bourne,' you know? If Jason Bourne can do it, Cap should just be eating up these things. So we had a bit of fun turning up his power, turning up his speed, cranking those things up a notch. So in this movie the fights are a lot more grisly and impactful, and in my opinion, way cooler."
The Captain America Workout
Fancy having a physique like Captain America himself? Here's a workout schedule that can help you get the superhero physique you so badly want. These sessions are all about packing muscle on to your frame, so you'll be using heavy weights and low reps on two different muscle areas. Start off with something comfortable, yet challenging.
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Eat Like Chris Evans
Make sure you give your body the proper fuel it needs to aid you in your quest to look as buff as Chris Evans does in "Captain America: The Winter Diet." This is a high protein diet so you can keep your muscles fed after an intense workout.
Chicken Sausage Frittata
- 1 chicken sausage
- 1/2 cup zucchini
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 dry basil leaves
- 5 egg whites
- 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Captain America Porridge Combo
- 1 sachet oatmeal
- Almond milk
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 low fat yogurt
- 1/2 banana
Chicken Caeser Pita
- 2 x 6oz chicken breast
- 1 hand full Romaine lettuce
- 4 medium sized pitas
- 2 whole wheat pitas
- 1/2 cucumber
- 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp dry mustard
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp anchovy paste
Tuna Burger And Salad
- 1 can of light chunk tuna
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 cup dry oats
- Garlic powder
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups Romaine lettuce
- 1 cup chopped vegetables
Chicken And Peppers With Brown Rice
- 2 x 6oz chicken breast
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1 cup uncooked brown rice
- 1 large sliced red pepper
- 1 medium sliced yellow pepper
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp salt and pepper
The Make-It Bacon Paleo Chicken Classic
Note: this is for a crock pot
- 1 lb cubed chicken breasts
- 1/4 lb chopped bacon
- 1/2 white onion
- 1/2 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp garlic
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp pepper
- 2 tbsp chipotle sauce