Come on, be honest. When you first saw Chris Evans as Captain America, did you experience a little “pec and bicep envy”? I know I did. Well, read on true believer, let’s see what it takes to look like the real life Captain America.
So how did Evans go from normal GI Joe to Captain Stud Muffin? What did he do to look like a “Super Soldier” exactly? Spoiler ahead – it involves hard work at the gym and sacrifice in the kitchen, not a super serum with complementary Vita Rays and Vitamin D light treatment courtesy of Stark Senior.
First things first, Chris is 32 years old. Being this young when he took the role makes a difference in terms of metabolism and how a human body reacts to training. I’m looking forward to my “old man strength”, but in the interim I’m paranoid about my middle age spread establishing “lebensraum” all over my belt. I had a gym coach in high school who told me that men peak at age 36 years old. I have no idea if that’s actually true, but it’s become an accepted truth in my life. Chris Evans is at his physical peak – God bless him.
Evans is also naturally slim. Cap is not. He’s a walking study in Greek athleticism.
So, job one for Evans to look like Steve Rogers was to put on bulk, however, he didn’t want just mass. The current fitness convention, as it was with the Greeks, is a combination of muscle with agility. Think less musclebound Arnie Schwarz and more practical fitness guy. This suggests training that leans towards functional strength, something that’s become very popular with the Cross-Fit folks and the Tough Mudder / Spartan racer movement.
Evans explains: “The preparation for Captain America was really about me bulking up looks wise, so it was a lot of weight training so I could get big. The training regimen was based on heavyweight/low-rep sets of the classic compound lifts. I did stuff like squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, incline bench presses, weighted dips, and chin-ups.” (courtesy of BodyBuilding.com)
In addition to exercise, Evans has to consume a lot of protein to build muscle mass, giving him the biological clay to mould his super soldier physique. Again from BodyBuilding.com:
“I’d eat porridge, walnuts, raisins, low-fat Greek yogurt, a scoop of protein and maybe sliced banana for breakfast, which is generally an hour or two before I work out. Then through the day I’d eat a lot of things with a good protein source, lots of fish and meat.”
Walnuts, raisins, Greek yogurt and banana are all great sources of minerals and energy. The protein helps build muscle tissue, repairing fibers as your weight training breaks it down, making those fibers bigger and stronger. Protein functions as a natural appetite suppressant, so Evans actually found himself having to force feed his body protein, even while his brain was telling him he was satisfied.
Evans rounded out his high protein diet with fruits and vegetables and complex carbs like brown rice (not white which contains too much starch) and porridge. He also supplemented with glutamine, whey based shakes, branched-chain amino acids and various Omega fatty acids, most commonly found in fish, in order to help his joints which were being put under huge amounts of physical exertion.
Each training session would focus on two muscle groups with a cool down period. A training session might focus on chest and legs, for example, worked to the point of exhaustion – followed by a cool down workout concentrated on abs and core. The goal was to literally tear the targeted muscle fibers (micro tears, not muscle tears) for the two muscle groups in question. Over the next two days, those torn muscle fibers would repair and grow, aided by Evans’ diet, while he moved onto a different pair of muscle groups to work on the next day.
Chris Evans: “Monday to Friday we’d hit the different parts of the body. On Saturday, it would be my rest day and then on Sunday, if there was something that needed extra work or wasn’t feeling particularly fatigued, I’d hit that too. We’d also mix up the free weight stuff with bodyweight stuff. I’d do lots of different weighted pull-ups, weighted dips, press-ups with a plate on my back. Simple-but-effective exercises, basically the classic bodyweight and bodybuilding stuff.”
Chris added gymnastics classes to his workouts. This taught him body awareness and how to flip and move his body through controlled movements. Plyometric type exercises like standing jumps from squat to box jumps helped with his strength conditioning as well as keeping his heart rate at an optimal rate to burn off fat and improve his fitness. Days on the set involved a lot of running around in costume. Filming Captain America was a workout in itself.
Chris avoided too much cardio exercise because the net effect would be to burn the muscle mass he had built in order to convert it into energy, reducing all the gains he had made in muscle mass and returning him to that skinny runt from whence Captain America came.
Evans replaced standard cardio exercises such as running or cycling with circuit training, combining exercises which would add strength and mass but would also raise his heart rate to improve his metabolism, but would not burn excess muscle and tissue as a secondary result.
For a normal human being, not a super soldier, cardio is a good thing. In fact, cardio is really more important to your longevity because it’s keeping your heart healthy and functioning. This is more valuable than putting on pounds of muscle mass which serves no purpose other than to draw occasional wolf whistles and have people with insufficient personal boundaries come and feel up your biceps.
The fittest people on the planet do not look like Captain America, they look like marathon runners, endurance athletes and cyclists – all of whom are generally quite skinny, especially around their upper body. Fitness has no relationship to muscle mass. In fact, the opposite might be true.
The runner above is probably fitter than Chris Evans at the height of his training for Captain America. Sure, I bet this guy couldn’t lift heavier than Evans, but if they were both late for a bus, I’m thinking this guy might make it on board while Evans would be left puking in the street having missed the last bus home.
If you really want to look like Cap, read the full Bodybuilding.com article below.
Next week, exercises for Miss Captain Americas:
From the same author: