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Some Thoughts on That Time I Became Batman’s Trainer and How I’d Make the New Dark Knight Even More Fit

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The Workout Batman Deserves (and the one he needs right now)

One of the coolest moments of my life was when I was asked to be Batman’s trainer. Well, in a manner of speaking. More accurately, I was asked to give commentary and potentially make edits to Batman’s training program.

This was back in 2011, right about the time the original version of the SUPER HERO Workout was released. Because of it’s success, I became known as the super hero trainer; or, at least, the trainer who probably knows the most about super heroes and comic books.

Which is basically the same thing.

Anyway, Men’s Fitness asked me to look over Batman’s workout and critique it. Yes, the real Batman’s workout. Which makes me his trainer. More than anyone else, is, at any rate.

Here’s the deal: that year, a book called The Batman Files. The book is more or less a history of all things Batman, but is presented like Bruce Wayne’s scrapbook; it begins with drawings by young Bruce and continues through his war on crime. It’s filled with newspaper clippings, crime scene photos, schematics, and Batman’s notes—including those on his workouts.

That’s where I come in. I was asked to review the workouts on behalf of MF. I should note, this book is published by DC Comics, so everything in it is technically canon. Of course, things get muddy since it depends on which storyline you follow, but let’s just say for the sake of argument that regardless of which Batman you like best, this could have been the training program DC expected him to do.

That having been said, the workouts were written by someone who doesn’t really understand physiology as it applies to training, and thinks that having an iron will is enough to become super human.

Here’s a look at the workout:

program

click to embiggen

Thoughts on the Training Program

As you can imagine, I pretty much tore the program apart. Both Batman and good programming are too near and dear to my heart not to. The entire program s ridiculous: on his “off” days he’s running 20 miles at an elite level.

Certainly, I don’t think it’s possible for a mortal man—even one who has all the money and steroids in the world—to follow that program. Secondly, the entire thing is basically moot, because this type of training just doesn’t leave him any time for actual crime fighting.

Most importantly, presenting us with this workout cheapens Batman. It removes him from our reach. If you’ll forgive me for a mini-rant, I believe the draw of Batman is that he IS a normal guy, at least at his core. Batman makes us think that you don’t need to be born with super powers, or be a mutant, or even get bit by a spider to be a hero—he does all of the amazing things he does while limited by his humanity.

Those limitations are, in large part, what make Batman appealing; it’s sticking to the realism of those imposed limitations that makes Christopher Nolan’s recent interpretation so compelling. Part of that, by the way, is why Nolan made Batman’s ailing physicality such an important plot point in the Dark Knight Rises.

And if you saw that movie, you should be very well aware that there’s no way Bruce Wayne could follow this program.

You can read the review on MF, but here are the bullet points:

  • He’s deadlifting 620 for multiple sets of 5. I know high-level power lifters who don’t do that. His “light deadlift” is 30 reps at 310 pounds.
  • He’s squatting 525 for 10 sets of 5.
  • He’s running 20 miles in just over 90 minutes.

The main thrust is that he’s just too good at too many things. It’s too many elite levels of skill. If you happen to fall into the highest one percent of one percent of the population, you can be good at just about everything and great at a few things. But you can’t be world class at everything. It’s not possible.

Being exceptional at two fitness qualities is possible for most people with truly good genetics:

  • In a manner of speaking, it’s easy to be both big and strong.
  • It’s easy to be big and fast.
  • It’s easy to be fast and have good endurance. (I’m taking strong liberties with the word “easy”, but bear with me.)

Once you bring in a third quality, things don’t just get additively harder, they become exponentially so.

  • It’s difficult to be big and strong and fast, but possible—an NFL running back is a good example.
  • It’s also difficult to be to be strong and fast and have good endurance, but possible—like a soccer player.

But being great at everything? Not likely.

The only athletes I can think of who are relatively big, strong, fast, and have good endurance are rugby players. That’s it. And even those most elite rugby players—say someone from the New Zealand All Blacks squad—they’re not world class in any of those qualities, let alone all of them. For example, I don’t think they could sprint 20 miles, which is basically what Batman is doing.

You can’t be as big as a linebacker, as strong as a powerlifter, and as fast and durable as a marathoner. The human body simply won’t support that.

But What About Steroids?

I mentioned steroids above, so I’ll touch on this here. Even with chemical assistance, this isn’t possible. Most professional athletes are on reasonable doses of steroids, and they still can’t do anything close to this. Steroids can help you get bigger and stronger, and even help you recover from injuries, but they’re not adding more hours to the day so you can train this much. While Bruce Wayne is probably on a fair bit of chemical assistance, it can only help him so much.

Oh, and by the way, before some anti-steroid fuckface jumps all over me, let’s clear one thing up. If you think it’s insulting or outlandish to suggest that Batman is on steroids, you’re either delusional, or you simply don’t know anything about the goddamn Batman.

Exactly.

He’s out there Batmanning seven days a week, and as a vigilante he’s literally breaking the law every time he dons the cowl.

Do you honestly believe that the goddamn Batman is going to let either legality or the moral vagaries of steroid use impede his quest for justice? Of course not, because, as mentioned, he is the goddamn Batman, and his entire life is about sacrificing for the greater good.

So, yes, it’s very likely the case that Batman is juiced up, and no, understanding that shouldn’t make you like him less, because it sits in complete harmony with the rest of his character.

Don’t believe me? Well, sucks for you, dummy, because as it happens there is an entire goddamn storyline where Batman skips normal steroids, and jumps right into taking Venom. No, not the villain from Spider-Man, dullard—I’m talking about Venom: the drug that Bane has mainlined into his veins, which gives enhanced strength, speed, agility, endurance and dulls his ability to perceive pain.

Well, Bruce gets his hands on some and doesn’t even hesitate to use it. He’s all like, “Oh, an illegal substance that will enhance my crime-fighting abilities? Fuck yeah, I’m in.” More or less. Since you don’t know anything about the goddamn Batman, educate yourself and read the entire book, or just check out this article on Kotaku, which is a pretty decent summary.

Ultimately Venom is a bad experience for Batman, but my point is that Batman is almost definitely on a weekly injection of testosterone, with some deca in there to help his joins out.

The larger point I’m making, of course, is that even with the assistance of a good steroid cycle, that training program is just not gonna work. 

So It’s COMPLETELY Impossible?

If you need a concession, fine, I’ll make one.

Let’s assume that maybe, just maybe this is possible for a particularly rare specimen of humanity. A specimen who ha all of the advantage you could possibly have, including chemical assistance.

Even if all of that was possible, it’s still not possible for Batman to adhere to this training program. There simply isn’t enough time. Just look at this and then try to fit it into whatever schedule you assume he keeps to fulfill his responsibilities at Batman:  how many hours a night is he patrolling? When does he sleep?

The program just takes too much time—even on his off day he’s running 20 miles with an additional three-and-a-half hours of skill work. How is that an off day?

So, as Batman, he doesn’t have enough time for this. But, again, suspending disbelief and assuming it was possible to do all of this if you didn’t have crime-fighting responsibilities…I dunno.

The way I see it, this only way this makes even the most remote kind of sense is if we look at it as being the pre-Batman workout. This could be Bruce Wayne’s training for six months to a year, max, before he puts on the cape. It allows him to get his body in the best shape possible, and then he can just try to maintain.

On the day he becomes Batman, training volume needs to reduced by half. At least. Again, this is not only because of recovery, but also because of time. If he’s smart (and he is), the newly minted Batman switches to a three- to four-day training split, focusing on aerobic and muscular endurance, and then maintaining a high level of strength. But fighting criminals is probably going to keep his strength up, too.

He can also save a lot of time by restructuring things. Rather than running 20 miles (which, by the way, qualifies as marathon training), it should be two 30 minute runs, or one 30 minute and one 60 minute run per week, performed at good clip. I’m not trying to hate on running; some no frills roadwork is good training—I don’t see the point of a 20-mile run. Between all his nifty vehicles, grappling hooks, and the gliding capabilities of his suit, Batman doesn’t need to run 20 miles. Ever.

Then there’s the Kata. I’d qualify it, physiologically, as cardio work. Anyone who has trained in has learned kata, and knows it can be exhausting. Kata is one of those things I see Batman doing on a near daily basis, but not so regimented like in that program.

All told, he’s doing too much.

But…I Wanna Go Batmanning

Of course you do. I do, too. Hell, I should be out there Batmanning right now, not writing this article. But I’m trying to help you, okay?

Here’s the thing: Batman embodies possibility. We’re all drawn to him, in a certain morbid way. To use one of my favorites quotes from author Neal Stephenson, Batman makes us feel, “that under the right set of circumstances, [we] could be the baddest motherfucker alive.”

We’d all like to think that if we had billions of dollars and our parents were gunned down, we’d train our whole lives and be like Batman. However, part of  us knows we’d still have limits, and want them. Even suggesting that this is the workout he uses cheapens that.

Okay Hotshot: How Would YOU Train Batman?

It’s funny you should ask. I actually had a conversation about this the other day, in an email chain with some other fitness professionals. Sort of.

We weren’t talking about he comic book Batman, but rather the actors that play him. Personally, if I were training the actual goddamn Batman, I’d do some variation of the program above, with a lot less volume, a lot of soft tissue work, and more of a density based system. Or, more specifically, I’d just put him on a more intense version of the SUPER HERO Workout 2.0.

But, that’s not what I want to focus on. We need to look at something else: real life.

As sad as this is to admit, the truth is neither your nor I are likely to don the Cowl and run across rooftops fighting crime as the goddamn Batman. But that doesn’t mean you can’t train in a way that will allow you to perform that way, or look like you could.

In the conversations I had with my fitness buddies, this led to a conversation about the SUPER HERO Workout, and the specific needs of people who play super heroes in movies, and of celebrities in general.

While there are a few big differences in each client, I can tell you from having trained quite a few of these guys, there’s an overarching theme to how I approach programming for them, because there’s something that they all need.

The main thing is that actors focus on recomposition. This is what makes them different from the “average” client, and it’s also what ensures that get more visible results than most people.

People miss that point, and it’s an important one, so I’ll state it more clearly: it’s not the personal chefs or the live in trainers, or the fact that (compared to most people) they have a lot of time. Those things help, of course; they make it easier to achieve the goal. The real difference maker is the goal itself: it’s recomp. All the time. That is the biggest factor.

Here’s the difference: most “regular” clients have number-based goals; they want to lose 10 pounds, get down to a size 6, have a 32 inch waist…whatever. Celebrities just want to look awesome for the movie they’re in. They don’t care about numbers. They want to look as awesome as possible as quickly as possible.

And that means that they have to focus on recomp…they need to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. And then they just focus on that. Which is why they work with me.

Most trainers look at fat loss and muscle gain as two separate goals. They don’t have to be. It’s hard, but as long as you’re structuring training the right way and making sure to eat the right amounts on the right days, it’s actually a much smoother process.

Of course, it’s easy to ask, why recomposition? Wouldn’t it be easier to just focus on fat loss as most people who are doing shirtless scenes just wanna be ripped?

Yes and no. Sure, people want to be ripped, but a better way to say it is that they need to look ripped. Which means they have to lose fat, sure. But people are going to look much, much better if they recomp.

To use numbers, if you lose 10 pounds of fat, you won’t look as good as you would if you lose only 5 pounds of fat, but also gain 5 pounds of muscle.

Lemme just give you an example.

Since we’re talking about Batman here, let’s take Ben Affleck, who is now going to be playing Batman.

Affleck before being cast as Batman.

(Note: I don’t train Affleck, but he’s a good example, because people know him. Also, if Ben reached out, I would make time to fit him into my schedule, because obviously I am the only person who should be training the goddamn Batman.)

By all reports, Affleck is in pretty decent shape, but he’s not just walking around in Batman shape all the time. Looking like a super hero is hard, and for him, there’s no reason to maintain that all the time.

But then he gets cast as the Dark Knight, and he’s gotta step his game up, especially because he has less than four months to get ready for the movie.

If I was his trainer, this is how I’m gonna look at it: Affleck is about 6’4” and 200 pounds. That’s pretty thin for a guy as muscular as Batman is supposed to look. Now, most trainers would look at that and say, “Okay, so we need to pack some mass on him.”

Focusing on muscle gain seems like a good idea until you realize that while Ben isn’t fat, he’s also not shredded. If I had to estimate just be looking at him, let’s say 16% body fat. At that level of body fat, and at his age, his insulin sensitivity isn’t awesome…that means he’s more likely to gain fat.

Now let’s do some math, because everyone loves math. At 200 pounds and 16% body fat, Big Ben is walking around with 168 pounds of lean body mass, but has 32 pounds of fat on his body. And 32 pounds of fat is a lot when you’re going to be stuffed into a rubber suit and filming a movie with your shirt off.

But according to average Joe McTrainerface, he needs to gain size for the role. Let’s say they do that and he manages to put on 15 pounds. If he’s lucky, only 5 of those pounds will be fat. Now, he’s 215, with 178 pounds of LBM and 37 pounds of fat.

That would mean he’s actually gone UP to ~17.2 body fat. So he looks ‘bigger’ but does he look BETTER?

On the other hand, let’s focus on fat loss, because  as suggested, guys just wanna be ripped, right?

Abs are awesome,” says Trainy McTrainerson as he puts Affleck on a fat loss program. Shred CITY baby, here we come. Or not. Let’s do some more math, because YOU LOVE MATH, BRO.

With luck, the soon-to-be Bruce Wayne loses those 15 pounds. He’s down to 185 pounds. Even if, by some miracle, he manages not to lose ANY muscle, we’ve got a problem. Sure, he’s walking around at around 9% body fat. But he’s 185 pounds. AT SIX FOUR.

You can’t have Batman standing 6’4” and weighing 185. That’s just too damn skinny. That’s skinny even for Robin. This is the goddamn Batman we’re talking about, and the goddamn Batman doesn’t weigh 185 pounds. .

It doesn’t work. None of it works. Because you can’t focus on one or the other. You have to focus on BOTH. You need to recomp.

Here are two facts you NEED to remember: 

  1. The less fat you have on your body, the more muscular you’re gonna look. (Because there is less fat to cover the muscle, obv)
  2. The more muscle you have on your body, the more ripped you’re gonna look. (Because the fat has to cover a larger surface area)

If you remember nothing else, remember those two things.

Now, still using Batffleck as an example here, we’re going to go down the road to Gotham. He’s a smart guy, and he actually has a good trainer. So he’s going to focus on recomp.

Obviously this is speculation, but I’ve worked with enough clients to be able to estimate with a reliable degree of accuracy. From my experience, over the course of the four months leading up to filming on a recomp program with a slight muscle building edge, Affleck can make very visible progress. Maybe he manages to lose 8 pounds fat and gains 13 pounds of muscle. Pretty damn awesome.

Now, he’s got 24 pounds of fat covering 181 pounds of lean body mass. All told, the new Batman is weighing in at 205 pounds and 12% body fat. He’s bigger. He’s leaner. But he’s going to look both bigger and leaner than he actually is, because of the two facts I mentioned above.

As a huge comic book nerd, I’d prefer Batman to be like 210 and 9%, but with a 41 year old actor and 3-4 months of prep time, 205 and 12% is incredible. Very respectable for an older Batman. I just hope he’s better than he was in Daredevil.

Anyway, I’m rambling.

My point is: recomp recomp recomp. All day. It’s the ONE thing that actors focus on, because their trainers know it’s the ONLY way to get them looking as awesome as possible as quickly as possible.

Not surprisingly, I also believe that it’s what you should focus on, particularly if your goal is to look good. If you aren’t competing in bodybuilding, if you aren’t trying to hit a 600-pound deadlift—it you just want to look muscular, lean, and athletic, you should focus on recomposition. Because that’s what’s going to get you there the fastest.

Sure, most of us won’t ever have to get ready for a movie or squeeze into a rubber suit…but we do have to get ready for beach season, weddings, reunions, vacations…all the things we want to look amazing for.

Which is why, if you really want to get the body you’ve been working for, you need to do what movie stars do; you need to focus on recomposition.

Honestly, isn’t it time we ALL stopped focusing on numbers as much? Do we really care what the scale says, as long as we like what we see in the mirror? I don’t. I just want to look good, feel great, and perform well.

If is for those exact goals that I created the SUPER HERO Workout. After all, it is the only training program that will help you build a body that can fight crime, thwart evil, and save the world.

The entire SUPER HERO Workout 2.0 system

Somewhat more practically, it’s a program that will simultaneously help you burn fat, build muscle, increase strength and enhance athletic performance. A complete 4 phase, 12-week program designed to take every aspect of your fitness to the next level.

Truth be told, that’s what makes SWH so special: it’s a recomposition program designed for consistent forward progress, in every area of your fitness. When each part of your training will benefit from everything else you’ve done prior, it happens week after week.

That’s what I want for you. I want you to stop feeling frustrated. I want you to stop feeling like you’ll never make progress or have the body you want.

And that’s why I’m doing something awesome. THIS WEEK, to celebrate the release of Batman v Superman, I’m offering the program for the lowest price ever.

 ==> Grab SHW2.0 for just $32 (65% off retail)  <==

It’s the best price I’ve ever offered for a program like this, let alone during the release.

The sale is in effect until midnight TONIGHT, and it’s something I really want you to take advantage of. Because I don’t want you to be spinning your wheels anymore. I don’t want you to feel frustrated.

Instead, I want you to look, feel, and perform better than you ever have in your entire life. I want you to feel like a Super Hero, perform like an athlete, and sport a body that looks like it could have jumped off a movie screen of from the pages of a comic book.

So when you grab it anytime before midnight tonight, you’re going to get it for 65% off the full retail price. And you’re going to make progress like you wouldn’t believe.

And, should you decide that you want to be the goddamn Batman, SHW is probably the only program that can get you ready for that. If you happen to send in your before/after pictures wearing a cape, I’ll understand.

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

  • Deepak Lohani

    what should i do for good looking and stay fit!

  • Kevin Tate

    I’m heading into Phase Two of SHW 2.0. Just have a question: Where does the actual “density” come into play?

    You instruct: “If you can get through 4 or more complete circuits in 25
    minutes, increase the weight the next time you perform that workout.” With
    there being a rotation of five workouts over six total sessions, only Workout
    One will be repeated (there is no other “next time”). So, when should
    weight increases take place for the other four workouts? Or should I do the
    prescribed number of reps for the first set only, aiming to do as many as
    possible on each subsequent set with the same weight?

  • JR

    For some reason I cant comment on Facebook so I’m on this disqus thing.

    Hey man. Just completed P1W1 from SHW 2.0. Thought to myself about 3 sets in.. ‘This ain’t too bad’ now at the completion of the workout, I am lying on my bed wondering if my legs will work tomorrow. Thanks!

  • Anthony

    I received the workout via email based on my ETA pre -order, but how do I get the nutrition protocol that goes with it. I can’t see embarking ton this program without being certain of the nutrition it needs.

  • Ron Lalik

    Hi John :-) I’ve just started SHW 2.0. I’m at ~25% BF, losing 140lbs in the last 2 years. At that bf%, do you still recommend that the focus be on recomp? Or do you think fat loss focus until a lower bf%.

  • Seth

    How much different is this from the original version?

  • Very fun post – to be honest I never considered batman on steriods, but totally makes sense.

  • RIGHT?

    “Oh, I’m gonna run at a world record pace EVERY TIME I TRAIN, and then reproach myself by not being faster.”

  • Alex

    Come on, Affleck, just bang out a few sets up chin-ups like you did as a Charlestown bank robber and you’ll be fit for the cape & cowl in no time!

  • Mike Gaglione

    Is there a Goddamn Batman symbol, if so, are there shirts?? Roman, you need a super hero shirt with the R in the middle, I’d buy it. Just not the tight spandex material please.

  • Josh

    20 miles at 4:50? Needed to better that by 30 seconds a mile? We’re talking competing with the Keyans at the Olympics if your casual, getting a run in is at 4:20/mile pace for 20 miles – I’m too lazy to check, but that might even be sub WR pace for 20 miles.

  • Sam Bischof

    How compatible would this program be with someone with a screaming fast metabolism and a hard time keeping on weight? I’m 29, 6’1″ and 178 lbs. Loved the article, great read.

    • You’d want to increase calories by about 10% but other than that great