Before "Daredevil," actor Charlie Cox didn't fit the traditional superhero mold. He had the acting skills to star in the critically acclaimed "Boardwalk Empire," but Cox didn't have the chiseled body he'd need to successfully take on the lead role of Matt Murdock in Marvel's hit Netflix series.
That is, until he went on a tough muscle-building regimen, a long schedule of fight training, and a burly muscle-building diet. Now, the 33-year-old has a sculpted and ripped physique that would make any ass-kicking superhero proud.
After a thrilling response to the first season, Cox and the gang have taken the new series to another level, both visually and physically. We caught up with Cox to unearth the details of his Daredevil training and discuss Season 2, which will be available on Netflix on March 18, 2016.
When cast as Daredevil, the London native's first course of action was to hit the gym to improve his athleticism and build lean mass. Becoming the Hell's Kitchen vigilante wasn't enough; Cox wanted to be involved in every aspect of filming, including the stunts.
"It's funny," explains Cox, "but when I first got the Matt Murdock/Daredevil role, I wasn't built like your textbook superhero. For the first season, I was trying to put on weight instead of losing it, so that was pretty interesting.
"When it came to the fighting scenes, I worked very closely with the stunt coordinator and my stunt double," says Cox. "I learned everything and tried to do as much of it as I could. My trainer, Naqam Washington, is awesome. When I first started with him, I just did what I was told, but then I gradually developed an interest in it. Now I really enjoy it, and I get a lot out of it. I kept up with training after Season 1, and I got better and better throughout the shoot."
One More Round
Picture this: As blackness washes over a once bright blue sky, a canopy of stars assembles overhead. All the lights in the little matchbox trailers dotted around the "Daredevil" set flick off—except for one.
Get a little closer and peek through the window, and you'll see Charlie Cox pummeling a punching bag. Very much like his character, Cox loves training in the dead of night, running through fight sequences for filming the next day. Fight scenes are the part of training he enjoys most.
"I love that stuff! We do a lot of Thai boxing and jiujitsu, hand work, and bag work. There's a lot of shadow boxing and hitting the bag," he says with a grin.
Daredevil in Detail
Just who is Daredevil, you ask? Abandoned by his mother, Matt Murdock/Daredevil was raised by his bullish boxer father, "Battling Jack" Murdock, in Hell's Kitchen. When Matt tried to save a man from an oncoming truck, its radioactive cargo was splashed all over his face, robbing him of his vision.
Under the tutelage of a martial-arts master named Stick, he learned to channel his heightened senses into becoming a slick fighter, mastering ninjutsu, American boxing, judo, and jiujitsu to create his own hybrid martial art. Matt now uses his alter ego as well as his law degree to protect the people of Hell's Kitchen.
"I love the training, especially the fight training. I got to do as much as I was able when it came to the actual fights, and because of that generosity, I made sure I could do the moves. I do as much training as I can to get comfortable with the sequences.
"The great thing about this second season is that my character has now really honed his skills, and my stunt double, Chris, pulls off some moves that will blow your mind. I tried to do as much as possible, but Chris is insane," Cox says.
"I'm not a trained fighter, so my technique isn't brilliant, but we really tried to use as much of me as possible," he adds. "[For the] second season, I've definitely stepped it up."
Even if you aren't training for a role on the big screen, it's not a bad idea to follow in Cox's footsteps. Research in the Muscle, Ligaments and Tendons Journal found that people who trained in kickboxing one hour a day for five weeks showed significant improvement in upper-body muscle power, anaerobic fitness, flexibility, speed, and agility.1
The writing is on the wall: If you want to improve your all-around physical prowess, take up a martial art to get in ass-kicking shape.
Daredevil is more acrobatic, agile, and athletic than your usual muscle-bound comic-book character. To hone his physique to perfection, Cox trained using a lot of multidimensional movements and didn't stick to a traditionally rigid training structure.
"[To train for] 'Daredevil,' it's not really your one day, one body-part thing," Cox says of his training split. "It's not the Monday is chest day, Tuesday is shoulder day type of thing. My trainer wanted me to train like an athlete because the character needs the movement—movement is a big thing, considering the physical aspects.
"There are a lot of multidimensional movements, jumps, and compound movement, so if I do something like a lunge, that will be mixed with an overhead press, and then there might be a rotation with that," says Cox. "It's sort of a full-body workout, and it's very flexible, to fit the role. There are weights, but then they're mixed in with plyometrics and fight training, so all of this is very adaptable. We spend about two hours [per workout] in the gym, jumping into different things, and I love it."
Some guys are naturally drawn to lifting and being in the gym, but that hasn't always been the case for Cox. "It was interesting because I've never really been a gym head before. I'd never even had a gym membership!" he laughs.
"With the first season, I had about a month to get into shape, so that was manic. With this second season, it's a lot easier to maintain [that muscle], but the aim is to be more a lean athlete than a bulked-up superhero."
And Cox's undoubtedly successful transformation is evidence that, with a little hard work and the right training, anyone can build slabs of muscle and get ripped without having to rely exclusively on moving around huge mounds of iron.
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When it comes to eating like a superhero, Thor may crush Creamsicles and Deadpool seems to enjoy chimichangas, but Daredevil likes to eat clean. And that was good news for Cox, who needed to pack on lean muscle to complement his training and develop punch-proof abs.
"For the first season, I was quite skinny," he says, "but I ate a ton of chicken, broccoli, sweet potato, rice, and pasta. I put carbs in all my protein shakes, so I'd have a protein shake with sweet potato in it.
"But for Season 2, it's been all about maintaining a certain level [of fitness], so it's been very much about eating balanced. Of course, I ate a good amount of protein, but it was really all about training and eating like an athlete."
Listen to Cox's wise words, because consistency and dedication to nutrition and are essential to unlocking your own superhero body.
- Ouergui, I., Hssin, N., Haddad, M., Padulo, J., Franchini, E., Gmada, N., & Bouhlel, E. (2014). The effects of five weeks of kickboxing training on physical fitness. Muscles, Ligaments and Tendons Journal, 4(2), 106.