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Flip open a comic book, and it’s rife with bodybuilding motivation. After all, when we look in the mirror, the body of a superhero is what we hope to see: a giant torso that tapers down to a narrow waist; abs so deep and defined that you can see them popping through your spandex; a thick chest that can stop bullets; lats wide enough to block out the sun. And if you think that looking like Superman is a stretch, don’t tell that to fitness inspiration Simeon Panda, who is a living embodiment of the classic superhero physique. The British national, who now calls Los Angeles home, is no stranger to taking inspiration from the two-dimensional.
“You probably hear it a lot from people of my generation, but we grew up watching DragonBall-Z,” says the 33-year old. “Goku is a character we all loved. The crazy physique, the shoulders, the waist on some of these superheroes. You think of Goku. You think of Kenshiro from First of the Northstar. I think of Guile from Street Fighter, with those delts and shoulders.”
Panda has always trained as if he lived on Krypton or in Gotham. When teenage Panda first picked up a weight, his only thought was about getting stronger. And just as with Batman, the giant traps, the barn door shoulders, and the shredded abs have all been a product of his quest for strength. Don’t believe it? Check out Simeon Panda’s Instagram (@simeonpanda) and watch him perform ass-to-grass squats with 525 pounds on his back.
“It sounds silly, but it was never about the physique,” he says. “The physique was not part of the plan. I started at 14 or 15, and I loved how it felt. To this day the strength training is what I love the most. Building a certain physique comes with it, and I love that, but it’s the training that actually gets me to go to the gym.”
Whether it’s gamma radiation or the bite of a radioactive spider, all superheroes have that special X-factor that instigated the birth of their powers. Panda’s origin story centers on training volume. If you look at any of his online workouts, they’re filled with exercises done for eight sets, sometimes more. He’ll often slide in a one-rep max or three-rep strength set, but then he’s back to racking up insane rep counts.
“I love volume. If someone hasn’t used high-volume training, I can guarantee they’ll increase their muscle mass from doing it,” he says. “For me, it’s something I’ve always done. It’s contributed to my strength and my size. I get the best of both worlds.”
Panda typically begins a workout with several high-rep sets of a compound exercise. Since he trains a single muscle group every day, he knows he has several days to recover before those same fibers go through his brand of high-rep hell. Even as he transitions into isolation exercises, he still saturates the muscles with set after set. If Panda had a costume, he’d most likely have a pyramid icon on his chest (probably in gold, over black Kevlar). He likes to take three sets to slowly build up to his heaviest weight. He’ll spend three to four sets pushing very heavy loads and then finish with a warm-down set or two. These submaximal sets help him add the thick cross-section of muscle fibers that are a requisite for developing super strength.
The superhero body is all about creating that dramatic X-frame: a strong torso that contracts to a narrow waist, then flares out into powerful legs. When it comes to building that body type, everyone knows which muscle group should be your top priority.
“The first thing is the shoulders,” he says. “You have to have big delts. You need arms, too, but it really is the shoulders.”
Panda’s shoulder workout begins with a huge dose of stimuli in the form of German Volume Training (GVT). From there, it systematically hits each head of the deltoids. On the following pages, Panda breaks down his five-move shoulder workout for delts that are just super.
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