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Batman V Superman: Battle for Best Body

The superheroes square off in the action-packed blockbuster, but behind the scenes, Affleck and Cavill compete for the most shredded physique.

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World's Finest

Ben Affleck didn’t know it at the time, but he started preparing for the role of Batman in 2009. That’s when he decided to get ripped for the movie The Town. Partly because he would be playing an ex-hockey player who was fond of doing chinups with his shirt off, and partly because he was directing, he figured that being fitter would give him more energy on set. So he connected with Walter Norton Jr., a trainer who had worked with the Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins, and New England Revolution (and who also owned a gym in the Boston suburbs, the Institute of Performance & Fitness). Affleck and Norton were nearly the same age and had attended rival high schools in Beantown.

SEE ALSO: The Super-Jacked Batman Workout

The two hit it off, and Norton was impressed with Affleck’s work ethic and coachability. By the first day of shooting on The Town, the 6'4" Affleck was a svelte 198 pounds, with 6.8% body fat. “He probably lost 12 pounds for The Town,” says Norton. “But he was stronger in every lift and physically bigger everywhere except his waist. He put on a ton of muscle and lost a lot of fat.” Affleck and Norton continued to train together for the next few years, through movies like Argo, which captured the Academy Award for Best Picture. Then in the summer of 2013, Warner Bros. announced that Affleck would be playing Batman in a Man of Steel sequel. The Internet had a conniption—one fanboy’s nine-minute temper tantrum earned about a million views on YouTube—and the dynamic duo of Affleck and Norton knew they needed to take their training up a notch—or six.

After consulting with Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder, they decided they didn’t want Affleck to look at all like he did in The Town. And they definitely didn’t want him to look like Christian Bale or Michael Keaton. They were thinking bigger. Much bigger. After all, if Batman (a human being with no actual superpowers) was going to stand a chance against an alien who can fly, freeze stuff, and turn back time, he was going to need major muscle. Like, comic-book muscle.

Batman

In fact, initially some within the studio even had the idea that Ben could transform himself into a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. “We got a good chuckle out of that,” says Norton. “You’re talking about maybe the best body of all time.” Eventually, more logical heads prevailed, and the target look for Affleck became an MMA heavyweight fighter.

“With Batman, we had to get a physically imposing, powerful look,” says Norton. “And that takes a lot of reps. You have to be in the weight room day after day after day, so it certainly was a process.”

For 15 months, Norton and Affleck trained anywhere from 90 minutes to 2½ hours a day, typically six days on and two days off. They trained through the filming of Gone Girl, when Affleck was often getting up at 4 a.m. to work out before a 14-hour day of shooting. (Gone Girl’s director, David Fincher, is known for being particularly demanding with actors, requiring long hours and dozens and dozens of takes.) But according to Norton, Affleck understood this was all part of the job. Rather than shying away from the process, he embraced and enjoyed it. “You’re not going to have a ton of success if you’re scared by the number on the clock, and he certainly is not,” says Norton. “He gets it done, and it doesn’t matter what time it is. We often worked out at 5 in the morning, or late at night.”

THE IDEA WAS TO AVOID SCULPTING A PHYSIQUE SIMILAR TO FORMER BATMANS CHRISTIAN BALE’S OR MICHAEL KEATON’S AND INSTEAD HAVE THE DARK KNIGHT POSSESS THE IMPOSING, POWERFUL LOOK OF AN MMA HEAVYWEIGHT.

Another challenge during Gone Girl: They couldn’t get Affleck too lean, as his character was supposed to look puffy and hungover. So they focused on establishing a good base of muscle, and when that movie wrapped, Norton had Affleck training twice a day to slowly peel off the fat. (“I would be curious to know,” says Affleck, “the sheer amount of mass I had to move over the course of training.”) When filming for Batman v Superman finally began in Detroit in 2014, Affleck worked out daily in a three-car garage converted into a gym, using a hybrid program that was equal parts bodybuilding exercises and functional movements.

“Because we knew we had to train for such a long period of time, you’ve got to be a little more joint-friendly,” says Norton. “But you’ve got to add muscle, so there was certainly an aesthetic muscle-building element to it. He got very good at chinups and pullups. He’s very good at inverted rows. He added a lot of weight to his glutes and his legs that he hadn’t had before. His calves got a lot bigger. Certainly he’s got a great frame.”

SEE ALSO: First Look: Ben Affleck Becomes Batman

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