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Man of Steel: How Henry Cavill Got Superhero-Shredded

To bring the title role of Man of Steel to life, filmakers turned to the superstar trainer behind the jacked physiques in 300.

Man of Steel

And perhaps most surprisingly for a superhero movie, life imitated art: Cavill’s fitness journey was one that mirrored his character’s. Just as the young Clark Kent gradually discovers his special abilities, Cavill needed to shatter his own mental barriers of what he thought he could do. His starting deadlift was less than 300 pounds, but under Twight’s coaching, he hit a personal record of 435. Other PRs of note included a 245-pound push press, a 365-pound back squat, and completion of 10 sets of 10 in the front squat with 225 pounds. 
“I learned my limits go far beyond what my head thinks they are,” Cavill says. “Superman isn’t just about his strength or his abilities. It’s more about determination in the face of a seemingly insurmountable problem, which is exactly how 305 pounds felt when I was stuck at the bottom of that front squat.”

No part of the journey happened by accident. The filmmakers knew Cavill’s confidence was central to the suspension of disbelief, then went about making him earn every bit of it. As much as we expect Superman to look a certain way, he needed to walk and talk a certain way, with charisma and confidence to match the massiveness of the icon he represents. For a film with such a huge budget, it’s ironic then that the most important expenditure wasn’t what was spent on CGI battles. It was the sweat that poured out of Cavill with a barbell in hand.

“Fitness is strength and conditioning, but also strength of character,” Twight says. “Cheating and shortcuts produce visible insecurity. Genuine accomplishment looks and feels different. It cannot be faked. By doing physically difficult things, by changing his body of his own will, Henry changed his attitude and his bearing. He looked huge. He walked huge. His attitude broadcast his physical capability.”

And he looked as if he were capable of absolutely anything.

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