Christian Bale has proven that he is more than just a pretty face in his roles at Batman. In Batman Begins we saw how his journey began, with his grueling martial arts tuition to improve his fighting skills. In The Dark Knight, his body is still in perfect condition.
Christian Bale transformed his body from a severely underweight 121 pounds to a bulky 220 pounds in around 5 months between filming the machinist, where he played an anorexic insomniac, to Batman Begins, where he played a super fit super hero.
How Did Christian Bale Bulk Up So Quick?
Be a Superhero Like ….
The short answer is intensive bodyweight workouts and long and hard weight training workouts. To bulk up as quickly as Bale managed takes an immense amount of work. Some fitness forums speculate that he may have used steroids, however, with excellent instruction, a lot of hard work, good nutrition and recovery periods for growth, it is possible for some people to pack on muscle quickly. Christian Bale is certainly not a hard gainer!
However, Bale had a harder task than many to get his body from a skinny frame to a muscular and athletic build. Due to his restrictive dieting for The Machinist, actually starvation at one point, his metabolism was very low, which makes it much harder to fuel the body to workout hard enough to start building muscle.
“Anyone could become like Batman if they spent the time and energy required to train their bodies and minds into an ultimate fighting machine.”
Martial Arts Circuit Training
Batman is famous for his martial arts, and martial arts training would have been required to help build his fitness and strength. Martial arts are one of the best forms of interval circuit training.
By its nature a martial arts class or training session involves period of intense activity followed by gentler exercises, and also interspersed with compound weight bearing exercise.
Squats and lunges are ideal exercises for building athletic thighs and legs, while boxing and grappling is an excellent way to strengthen and tone the upper body.
One of the things that makes Batman one of the most popular comic book heroes, is that he does not have any “super powers”. Bruce Wayne is just a man who is driven to fight for justice, and utilises a combination of martial arts and high-tech gadgetry to fight crime under the mask of the Batman. Anyone could become like Batman if they spent the time and energy required to train their bodies and minds into an ultimate fighting machine.
Fighting in reality is never as glamorous as it appears on screen. There have been some classic kung-fu moments on screen when the hero is forced to perform grueling and painful exercises to become masterful fighters – such as Jackie Chan in The Drunken Master and Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol.2 (the cruel tutelage of Pei Mei) – but generally fighting appears easy. This is not the reality though. Real fighters have to train extremely hard to reach the top of their game. Some of the fittest athletes are professional boxers. What does this mean for would be Batmen and Batwomen? To get a body like Christian Bale, you need to work hard.
Batman’s Fitness Workouts:
The best workouts to follow to get a body like Batman would probably be a combination of Bruce Lee’s strength training and Sly Stallone’s training. Plyometric workouts used by boxers would also be required to improve speed and agility. Bruce Lee had one of the most athletic bodies of any actor ever seen on screen, and Sly Stallone’s training was designed to bulk him up to look the part in Rocky 2. Christian Bale’s physique in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight is really a good combination of these two systems. The key areas are:
- Compound Weight Training
- Intensive Interval Training
- Explosive Plyometric Circuit Training
With this is mind, here is a workout routine that will get you strong, fast, agile and flexible like The Batman. The workout is split over three days, so can be repeated once a week with an extra day rest after Day 1, which involves the greatest load bearing exercise:
Christian Bales Batman Workout – 3 Day Split:
For each of these exercises aim to complete three sets of 8-12 repetitions. Ideally the final set should allow you to work to failure, or close to failure. Ensure plenty of rest between sets of exercises, unless they are supersetted.
Batman Workout Day 1:
- Chin-ups supersetted with bent over rows
This superset is used as a warm-up before the main compound exercises are done. Chin-ups and bent over rows are both compound movements, which work the upper body well and also provide large range of motion. Chin-ups / pull ups are a great power exercise. Unfortunately, being even just a little overweight can make the exercise extremely difficult. Modified pull ups are of course allowed, to ensure that the workout is completed. If you prefer, cable rows can be performed instead of bent over rows.
Squats are considered by many to be the pièce de résistance for any successful strength training program. They are the key exercise in the MotleyHealth Core Four workout, which is designed for quick strength gain and fat loss.
- High Pulls
With the “high pull” a barbell is lifted quickly from the floor by extending the hips and knees. As the bar reaches the knees, the shoulders are rapidly raised while keeping the barbell close to the thighs, and then the body is extended with a small jump movement. Elbows are flexed out to the sides, pulling bar up to neck height. This is an explosive movement, similar to a clean, but without the squatting movement. Start with a light bar to ensure that you are comfortable with the movement, before adding weight. A fuller description of the high pull is available on ExRx.
- Clean and Press
The clean and press is a good exercise for overall mass building as well as power, most of the major muscle groups are utilized during the execution of this movement. To perform, a barbell is lifted from the floor to the chest in one continuous motion. Once it reaches the chest, the bar is then pressed overhead.
Batman Workout Day 2:
- Sprints – Speed Training
Day 2 is dedicated to speed training and intensive cardio/interval training. Sprinting is an excellent form of field interval training. Utilize a football pitch to help pace out your sprints. Start out jogging around a field/pitch at a comfortable pace, and then when ready sprint flat out over a set distance. The length of a football pitch (or width) is ideal. After the spring, return to jogging, recover, and then repeat. Aim to build up the number of sprints completed in a session, and then aim to increase speed.
- Squat jumps
The squat jump is exactly as it sounds – a squat followed by an explosive jump. In a normal squat a weight is lowered on the shoulders until the back of the thighs are almost horizontal, and then the bar/weight is slowly raised. With a squat jump, the lift is explosive, with the aim to lift the body onto the toes and leave the ground momentarily. An excellent plyometric exercise. Ideally a heavy punch bag should be used instead of a bar to avoid shoulder/neck injury.
Lunges are another excellent leg strengthening exercise. Either performed with a barbell across the shoulders, or two dumbbells (this builds grip strength). You can also perform bodyweight lunges to build up muscular endurance.
Batman Workout Day 3:
- Dumbbell Flyes followed by Bench Press
Start the sessions with flyes as a pre-exhaust, followed quickly with bench press. The bench press is another of the Motley Health Core Four weight training exercises.
- Clap Push Ups
Clap Push-Ups are an explosive way to perform push ups. Like the squat jumps, they turn a slow steady exercise into a fast, plyometric one. Start as with a normal push up in the plank position, lower your body until the chest just touches the floor, then raise quickly with the arms, and rapidly push up so that your hands leave the floor, clap once, land your hands on the floor and repeat. If this is too much, then start with standard push ups, but perform them as quickly as possible.
- Lateral Jumps
Lateral jumps are a simple but intensive cardio workout. Like skipping, they build muscular endurance in the legs, allowing you to keep moving for longer – essential for martial artists and boxers. A great power exercise. To work up from this, box jumps can be added – a simple sideways (lateral) jump up onto a box (e.g. Reebok stepper)
Batman’s Bodybuilding Diet:
Diet would have played an important role in such an intensive training regime. Meals need to have a good balance of quality protein sources, and carbs in the form of salads, vegetables and fruits, while maintaining low blood sugar levels to ensure that fat is burnt and not stored.
A starvation diet is no good for building muscle and getting fit, in fact when working out intensively, calorific consumption generally needs to be higher than average.
Christian Bale is a vegetarian, so whereas most people can take their protein from lean meats, Bale would have been concentrating on high quality protein from eggs, cottage cheese, fat free cheese, milk and protein shakes. Supplementing the diet with nutritional snacks and drinks is often essential during intensive regimes, especially for vegetarians.
When working so intensively, meals need to be eaten more often, to ensure a constant supply of energy and proteins to the muscles. Bale would have had to eat every 3 hours to ensure that he was building and repairing muscle tissue, rather than wearing it down.
To conclude, with determination and a bit of knowledge, anyone can shape up like our favorite superhero Batman. Superior fitness is attainable for most people if they can maintain the grueling fitness regimes required. You too can be Batman.