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 to get mobility and agility like Spider-Man.
THE SPIDERMAN WORKOUT
Before you start loading up a barbell in pursuit of your fitness goals, you have to ask yourself one question, says Erik “Esik” Melland, Master Trainer at the Onnit Academy.
“Can you function with the load of your own body weight? Or do you have to take a break after a few reps of a body-weight movement because your joints can’t stabilize you? Building Spider-Man-like agility is about having stability during motion.” Develop that first, and you’ll have laid the foundation for the strength and power you need to achieve all your other training goals. Plus, you’ll be able to move fluidly in and out of positions you currently find awkward or maybe even painful.
Esik recommends the following circuit workout. Complete 10 reps on each leg for the explosive lunge, 5 reps each side for the sit-through to mountain climber, and 5 reps each side on the Spiderman pushup. Rest 20 seconds, and then repeat the sequence for 6 total rounds.
Bodyweight Explosive Lunge
Get into a lunge position—step forward and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your rear knee nearly touches it. Jump up and raise your back knee straight up toward your chest as the front leg drives back. Land in a lunge with the opposite leg forward. Stick the landing and repeat for reps. “Keep your torso tall and vertical,” says Esik.
Explosive lunges train the body to generate power quickly, so you can leap, sprint, or change direction on a dime, whether you’re playing sports, or countering attacks from green goblins and mutant lizards.
Bodyweight Leg Sit-Through to Mountain Climber
Kneel down on the floor and place your hands down in front of you beneath your shoulders Perform a sit-through: Raise your right knee off the floor and turn your hips to the left, kicking your right leg straight out. Allow your shoulders to turn as needed and balance on your right arm. Lower your hips until the side of your butt touches the floor.
Rotate your hips back to center and simultaneously raise your left knee up to your chest, as in a mountain climber exercise, planting the ball of your foot on the floor. Raise your right knee to your chest, plant the right foot, and turn to the right to perform the sit-through on the opposite side.
Keep your hips low throughout the exercise. Don’t let them pop up as you turn.
Rotational power is often trained with medicine balls or unconventional tools such as the mace or steel club, “but this movement develops it with just your body weight alone,” says Esik. The ability to rotate at the hips while staying stable improves grappling ability, as well as throwing and punching power, “and it strengthens your core big time.”
Get into pushup position with your abs tight and shoulders drawn back and down (think “proud chest”). Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
Raise your left leg off the floor behind you. Lower your body until your chest is about an inch above the floor. As you lower down, raise your left knee outward to the side and up past your elbow. As you press back up, extend your leg behind you again. You can turn your head to look at the working side. Complete your reps and then repeat on the opposite side.
The Spiderman pushup is a classic example of what trainers call “training economy.” The pushup part obviously works your upper body and core. “The hip rotation trains you to be able to change direction quickly on the field,” says Esik. “It also increases range of motion in the hips.” And you can’t be Spider-Man with tight hips from sitting at a desk all day.