There’s one thing nerds and meatheads will always have in common—they both want to be superheroes. Whether you’re a longtime gym rat or not, if you grew up reading comic books or watching action movies, you wished you could have had sleeve-ripping arms like Wolverine, the athleticism of Captain America, strength like Thor, etc.
Well, now you can. Or as close as you can get without undergoing genetic mutation, government experiments, or divine intervention. Introducing our Superhero Workout series—fitness tips, exercises, and routines designed to transform you from a mere civilian into the defender of the planet you knew you were always meant to be. Check back here all week for plans to acquire your favorite superhero’s particular skill or attribute, which we’ll bring you one at a time.
Today, we offer the blueprint for the Hulk’s monster chest.
The Hulk Workout
All Bruce Banner has to do to add a few (hundred) inches to his chest is get angry. Unfortunately for the rest of us, getting pissed doesn’t instantly translate to enormous muscle growth, but staying calm and following a plan will.
Adopt the following chest-building routine from Don Saladino, trainer to numerous superhero movie stars including Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), and owner of Drive 495 in New York City (donsaladino.com).
The biggest chest-training mistake guys make is overdoing it, says Saladino. “Less is more.” He suggests training the pecs two days per week, scheduling one heavy day and one light day done three days apart.
“Monday and Thursday would be good,” says Saladino. On Monday, go heavy on the first exercise—sets of around 5 reps—and then pump the muscles full of blood with lighter weights and higher reps. On Thursday, keep all the work light and experiment with intensity techniques that work the chest to exhaustion, like supersets, trisets, and rest-pause training.
See the sample workouts below for a guide.
“Don’t take any sets to failure,” says Saladino. “Do the flys smoothly. Just contract the muscle—don’t try to push the weight.”
1. Incline Bench Press – 5 sets of 5 reps
Set an adjustable bench to a 20- to 45-degree incline and lie back on it. Grasp the bar outside shoulder width, arch your back, and pull it off the rack. Lower the bar to the upper part of your chest and then drive your feet into the floor as you press it back up.
2. Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 sets of 6–8 reps
Lie back on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level. Press the weights over your chest to lockout.
3. Machine Chest Fly – 3 sets of 10–12 reps
Adjust the machine so that when you sit on it and place your forearms against the pads your elbows are bent 90 degrees and your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Spread your arms apart slowly, resisting, until you feel a stretch in your pecs. Squeeze your chest and draw your arms in front of you again.
Perform the exercises in sequence with no rest in between. Afterward, rest for up to two minutes and repeat for 3 total rounds. Take three seconds to lower the weight on each rep and lift it explosively.
1A. Machine Press, 8–10 reps
Adjust the height of the seat so that the handles are in line with the middle of your chest. When you grasp the handles your elbows should be bent nearly 90 degrees. Press the handles until your elbows are locked out. Keep the tension on your muscles at the bottom of each rep.
1B. Dumbbell Pullover, 8–10 reps
Lie on a bench holding a dumbbell by one end over your face. Lower the weight behind your head so you feel a stretch in your lats. Pull the weight over your face.
1C. Dumbbell Fly, 8–10 reps
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie back on a flat bench. Press the weights over your chest and then begin spreading your arms apart with elbows slightly bent as if you’re going for a big bear hug. Lower the weights until you feel a stretch in your pecs and then bring your arms together again over your chest, squeezing your pecs on the way up.
1D. Fly Stretch, hold 60 sec.
Hold the bottom position of the fly but keep tension in your chest. Don’t allow the weights to pull your arms below the level of your chest—protect your shoulders.