Christian Bale’s Fitness Workouts for Batman, The Dark Knight

Batman - Christian Bale in The Dark Knight

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.

Stats and bio

  • Christian Bale is 1.83 m tall
  • Born: January 30, 1974
  • Married to Sandra Blažić
  • Mother: Jenny James, a circus performer
  • See also: Bale / The Fighter

How Did Christian Bale Bulk Up So Quick?

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
    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
    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.

187 Comments on “Christian Bale’s Fitness Workouts for Batman, The Dark Knight”

  1. Thank you for the input MotleyHealth. I have added these to my workout and changed things up a little bit and it seems to be going better. I did end up buying a thing of whey protein and later discovered it says “Not intended for use under the age of 18.” and I am 17, will that be an issue?

    Thank you again, this site is very appreciated.

  2. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Josiah, your call! I cannot advise.

  3. I weigh somewhere between 166-168, I am 14 and do martial arts. I’m somewhere from 5″9-5″11 and have a BMI of 24. How many calories should I consume and also if some of the exercises feel easy then do I increase the amount and by how much?

  4. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Rahul, focus on your martial arts. If you do decide to do this plan just stick to the workout as stated here, do not just do more. Increase the weights over time if too easy. See our calorie tables for guidance on how much you should be eating.

  5. Motleyhealth – I was surprised to see that no curls or bicep focussed workout was involved in the batman training considering how massive Bales arms are. Just wondering how he wouldve gotten his arms that big. Also was wondering if the 3 sets of 8-12 reps are all with the same weight or do you do you start off with a light weight to get the feel then the middle set would be your medium weight and then the final of course would be heaviest.

  6. Another question as well. Im just wondering if maybe im doing too many different workouts for each muscle. The above routine workout focussing on the pectorals suggests only flys and bench. However I do flys, flat bench, inclined bench and declined bench all in one workout. Do you think that is too much? I always feel guilty for not working every part of the muscle but im just wondering if maybe im overworking it and possibly hurting my muscle growth in the process.

  7. MotleyHealth says:

    Curls would be a sensible addition to the routine. This routine is partly designed to help bulk up, but obviously for a complete bodybuilding program all exercises / muscles need to be covered. As for your benching, do what works best for you. If your current system is resulting in good gains then carry on, if not, then consider an alternative approach. As for the weights and sets, use the same weight for the 3 sets. Log your workouts and increase (or decrease) in the next workout as needed.

  8. Morning!

    I started doing this routine this week and it’s a killer!

    I was hoping to mix this in with some more plyometric and kettlebell work. In total it’d be 5-6 days of working out to try and get myself bigger.

    What would be a good set up for the routines so that each workout would be of benefit without over working?

    Where would be the best place in this routine to add bicep and tricep workouts?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  9. MotleyHealth says:

    Probably best to do the kettlebells and plyometrics on separate days if you are going to train 6 days a week. Biceps at the end of the day 1 workout, can train a couple of times a week though. General rule is to work the larger muscle groups first and work down to the smaller ones.

  10. If I knock it down to 5 days, where would be best to put a kettlebell and plyometric day?
    Would you say Plyometric after “day 1” and kettlebell after “day 2”?

  11. MotleyHealth says:

    That could work. You may find the kettlebells a lot harder after doing the squat jumps and lunges, but then again, it could work out well. Some kettlebell classes start with lunges and squats to get warmed up for the swings. Plyometrics could be added to day 3 as you are already doing some then – clap push-ups and lateral jumps. Each day is a combination of exercise types. Really the best way is to try different methods and see what works for you, and log what you do so you know what to change and add and when to increase weights etc.

  12. When i do this 3 times a week should i do it Monday Wednesday Friday or Monday Tuesday Wednesday ? And what do i do when i’m resting do i just eat ?

  13. MotleyHealth says:

    It really depends Hicham. If you are doing other workouts then you fit it in amongst those. You could do it 3 days in a row if you wanted, then you may be able to do the whole lot twice a week. As for what to do on the other days – again, depends largely on what your goals are. Just eat if you want to get bigger, do cardio and eat a lean diet if you are losing fat.

  14. So are you saying I should be doing these 3 workouts twice a week and 1 day rest ?

  15. MotleyHealth says:

    Well, it depends. If you rest well and eat well then you can do so. These are by no means big workouts. They are also just a guide. You would do well to start with this and look to compliment and adjust your training to suit your own needs. Monitor and log your own progress.

  16. Ok thanks and do you think in 6months it will work im already a member in a good gym so i have the equipment ?

  17. alejandro says:

    I’m going to start this training programme, but i’m not skinny, you know, i have fat in the abs region and the hips. So my doubt is: this routine allow me to loss weight and build up? or for weight loss i should do extra work-out?

  18. MotleyHealth says:

    Cut total calories, get protein, do more cardio.

  19. MotleyHealth says:

    Hicham, if you work hard for 6 months you will see results no matter what type of exercise routine you do. As I said – monitor and log your progress. Always strive to get stronger, fitter, faster.

  20. Hey.
    I have a BMI of about 17, and I’m about 6 ft 1 in. I really want to build up, but it’s going to take a while before I get any proper equipment. Do you have any suggestions, like, for some quick build up, before I get equipment?

  21. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Sol, work on squats and push ups. See if there is something that you can do pull ups and dips on too. These work the larger muscle groups. Eat more protein and fresh vegetables and fruits too.

  22. Hey
    When doing weights how heavy do you want to go should they be somewhere around 60-80% or more 60-40% also could you recommend a page for mass gaining diets and any other mass gaining workouts

  23. MotleyHealth says:

    The weight should be so that you can do three sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. Not too light that it is easy, not too heavy that you cannot complete the sets without cheating (or collapsing). These pages may help:
    How To Use Protein Timing for Maximum Muscle Growth
    Recommended Protein Sources for Fitness and Bodybuilding

    We have not written an article specifically about bulking up, but this one gives some advice on the different types of training: How To Train for Muscular Strength, Size and Power.

    We probably need to do more on this.

  24. If I’m doing this three days a week with two days after day 1 (like Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday), should I be concerned that too much time passes before revisiting the same muscle groups? Like you seem to have chest/tricep exercises only on day 3, legs and back mostly day 1, etc.. so with seven days before coming back to that exercise (bench, squat, etc.) does that undo progress I made last time, or is a week actually a good amount for the body to rest and rebuild? Thanks.

  25. MotleyHealth says:

    If you are working your body hard, lifting to near exhaustion etc. then one week is a good rest. You will be working other muscles during the week won’t you? However, saying that, you could also do this Mon, Tue, Wed, have an active rest day on Thurs (some cardio maybe?) then repeat Fri, Sat, Sun. If you can handle that much training, manage to get enough rest and try to optimise nutrition then you may be able to double the weekly workout.

  26. Yes I am planning on doing the exercises to exhaustion, so I’m glad to hear that once a week is a good way to progress. I won’t have the time to commit to more than 3 days a week. As for working other muscles during the week, I plan on building something around the compound/plyometric exercises in this article- I want to focus on full-body/compound rather than isolation, so maybe round out the routine to make sure I hit hamstrings (deadlift, etc.) and abs (pretty hard). Which day do you think would be best to add a couple things for hamstrings (day 1, with the other legs lifts?), and which of the 3 days would be best to add an ab routine? Thanks for your help so far!

  27. MotleyHealth says:

    You could really add abs to any day really. Maybe training abs twice in the week. Depends if you will be adding weight of just doing core exercises like crunches.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Hi there. I’m an aspiring filmaker/actor who is inspired by the Batman films, and wants to make a spin-off to the Dark Knight Rises. I’m gonna be Batman. I’m also overweight and in high school. I want to look the part, and be able to do stunts. How many hours a day would it take to do this workout? I’d like to go after school. I aslo have a paper route, twice a week. So I can only do the three days once a week. I’d like to do this on Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays. So how many hours does it take?

  29. MotleyHealth says:

    How long is a piece of string? Build up to around 3 hours a day and you will get in shape. Not all at once though, do a cardio workout then rest / eat, then some weight training, then later in the day (evening) some callisthenics. The biggest challenge would probably be making a film and being the actor! In fact, an even bigger challenge would be getting permission from DC Comics / Time Warner to allow you to use the Batman brand, which is trademarked.

  30. How many eggs and cottage cheese should I eat a day

  31. MotleyHealth says:

    Depends entirely on your goals and what else you are eating really. The short answer is, as much as you need!

  32. how to lose fat??
    I’m 5.9″ n weigh 63 kgs…
    I’m lean otherwise but am having trouble losing the fat on my lower abs …
    suggest required diet n exercises…thank u.

  33. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Shreyas, take a look at our weight loss section, there is an article on this topic that should provide all the information you require.

  34. Hey i just began doing this workout and I was wondering, if on day 2, are you suppose to do squats jumps and lunges right after you finish sprinting?

  35. MotleyHealth says:

    Yes, that’s right. You can take a breather for a few minutes.

  36. Hi, the Batman type body is my ultimate goal, but this routine sounds like it’s a lot of bulking. While bulking is one of my goals, I’m kind of disproportionate in that I’ve got a bit of a flabby belly, a strong upper body without much tone, and then arms and legs that are both toned and steadily bulking well. Will this routine help even me out? Or will it make me gain mass without tone and make me look less in shape?
    If so, is there another routine on the site you’d suggest?

    Thanks a lot!

  37. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Patrick, tone comes with cutting fat. Increase cardio, keep at the weights, reduce total calories to promote fat loss, increase protein to ensure muscle wastage does not occur. If you have a flabby belly then you probably also have too much fat under the skin which will destroy any chance of muscle tone. Take a look at our strength section for more ideas. It is good to mix things up a little. Metcon / HIIT is a great way to burn the fat.

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