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 Wolverine’s biceps and forearms.
The Wolverine Workout
Wolverine has the best biceps and forearms in the Marvel world—if you don’t count those that are artificially enhanced by Gamma radiation.
The trick to building a set like the X-Man is to challenge your grip on every biceps exercise you do, so you’ll build thickness in your forearms at the same time with no extra work.
C.J. “Murph” Murphy, MFS, a coach to competitive strongmen and powerlifters in Malden, Massachusetts (totalperformancesports.com), offers the following moves to integrate into your training.
1. Neutral-Grip Thick-Bar Pullup
Murph would prefer you use Grip4orce grips on all these exercises—rubber sleeves that slide over a bar to add thickness. Unlike similar grip-training products, the Grip4orce sleeves have a wide slit that wants to stay open when it’s on the bar. “That forces you to squeeze to hold on,” says Murph. “If you relax your grip, the Grip4orce will slip off. So using them really makes training life or death—if you don’t grip the bar hard on a pullup, you’ll fall. I wish I invented them.”
Performing any exercise on a thicker bar (as a result of the Grip4orce) activates the forearm muscles to an even greater degree, as your fingers will struggle to accommodate the diameter. However, if you don’t have Grip4orce, you can get a similar effect by wrapping a thick towel around the bar.
Hang from a bar that has parallel hand grips so your palms can face each other. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Squeeze the grips (or the towel) as if your life depended on it (and it kinda does), and pull your body up until your chin is over the bar. Perform 8–10 sets of 5 reps, preferably with added weight by way of either a weighted belt or a dumbbell between your feet. “You can do pullups between sets of other big exercises, like bench press or squats, and add and reduce the weight as you go,” says Murph, to make the reps as hard as possible but still doable. Just get the total number of sets done over the course of the workout—they don’t have to be completed back to back.
“Using a neutral grip is going to hit the biceps and a lot more forearm than using a palms-facing or palms-away grip,” says Murph.
2. Banded Preacher Curl
Set up an EZ-curl bar on a preacher bench. Attach a light loop exercise band (Murph recommends the mini bands available at elitefts.com) to the bar and anchor it to something sturdy. Use the following setup.
Place a heavy dumbbell on the floor (around 50 pounds) a few feet in front of the preacher bench—a power rack or other heavy object will work too. Choke the band onto the anchor point by looping one end through the other and tightening the noose you’ve created around the anchor. Now loop the free end of the band onto the center of the EZ-curl bar. The band should place tension on the bar while it sits on the rack of the preacher, and that tension will increase as you begin curling.
Load the bar (you won’t need much weight) and sit behind the bench. Adjust the height so that the top of the bench comes up to your armpits. Attach Grip4orces to the bar or wrap it in a towel, and rest your triceps flat against the bench. Grasp the bar with hands shoulder-width apart and curl. You should feel maximum tension at the top of the movement.
“Hold it at the top for a second and squeeze your biceps,” says Murph. Take two or three seconds to lower the weight and extend your elbows completely at the bottom. Do sets of 12–15 reps, resting as needed, until you reach 50–60 total reps. Don’t do fewer than 12 reps on any set.
As with the pullup above, the movement works the forearms as well as the biceps, and overcoming the tension of the band provides a new and extremely challenging stimulus to the muscle fibers.
3. Reverse Curl
Attach Grip4orces or a towel to an EZ-curl bar and grasp it with hands shoulder-width apart, palms down. Stand with your arms extended and curl the bar. Complete 60 total reps, performing 15 to 20 per set, and resting as needed.
Build Arms Like Wolverine