Of the many collective gasps that the audience at my theatre uttered during a packed screening of Man Of Steel on Friday, the loudest was when we see Clark Kent running with no shirt on after the oil rig explosion. It was gasp-inducing for the audience for two reasons, first it is the sight of how insane the physique of an actual super human can look like, and second is the realization of the blood and sweat that Henry Cavill must have shed to achieve it. In that one gasp-inducing shot, Cavill and Snyder are able to show the indestructible, invulenerable and superhuman qualities of Clark Kent.
Cavill and his trainer Mark Twight, the founder of Gym Jones, talk to Muscle & Fitness about the grueling 11 months that went into the creation of that one shot. Below is an excerpt and some quotes and trivia gleaned from the feature.
Henry Cavill was screwed. It was another cold winter’s day on the Vancouver set of Man of Steel – the kind that makes it hard to get out of bed, hardest still to get motivated to train, and for Cavill, nearly impossible to move that damn barbell. He was on his final rep of his final set of front squats when his leg muscles froze under the stress of the 305 pounds sitting across his shoulders. He had dutifully pounded out three sets of four with the weight already, but at the bottom of the fourth rep of his fourth set, Cavill’s muscles flat out quit on him. His ass was pinned to the ground and his knees started to buckle inward. His trainer, Gym Jones founder Mark Twight, who closely monitored Cavill throughout his Man of Steel training, waited for his client to lean forward and dump the bar to the ground. Instead, Cavill did something that Twight — a man not easily impressed — would remember forever. He drove his heels into the ground and pushed, his face twisting into an expression that can only come from an outlay of supreme effort, his body working harder than at any time during his entire year of training for the role. And slowly he began to rise out of the hole, grinding his way back up, until he completed the rep. He racked the bar, lifted his head, and opened his eyes... and everything seemed different. Suddenly there was confidence, and elation. But beyond that, there was puzzlement — the eyes of man trying to process a whole new world of possibility.
---The name of Mark Twight's fitness establishment, Gym Jones, is a play on the words of the name of cult leader Jim Jones
---Snyder warned Mark Twight that Cavill had a shirtless scene in early October, then another three weeks later, so he would have to stay in peak human shape for the entire period, a big challenge that Cavill and Twight undertook
---Cavill had leaned down to 170 pounds for his hyper-cut look in Tarsem's Singh hit film, Immortals. So Twight wanted him to gain much more muscle for Man Of Steel
---At the end of a two month ramp up training period, Cavill was training twice a day and eating 5000-6000 calories a day to gain 20 pounds of muscle
---The pre-filming training schedule of 10 hours sleep and training twice a day was impossible once filming began with 14 hour days, and time to train only 2-3 days in a week or not at all. So Twight built a solid physical foundation in Cavill during 5 months of pre-traiing so that his Superman physique could be maintained even during the taxing filming schedule
---Cavill weighed around 190 for the filming of Man Of Steel. His body fat percentage was maintained at 5-7% except for the shirtless scenes for which he dropped to only 3% fat on his body
---Cavill's shirtless scenes were purposefully included to show that the physique in the Superman suit was actually his
---Cavill achieved the following personal bests
435 pounds for deadlift
245 pounds for push press
365 pounds for backsquat
10 sets of 10 reps of front squat with 225 pounds
Mark Twight and Henry Cavill on the above defining moment in Cavill's training
Mark Twight: Somehow he got his sh-t together, To see him do that, then walk around like he’s on air, to believe in himself enough to try that hard, that was one of the more impressive things that happened during the whole course of this process.
Henry cavill: It was a fantastic moment, and certainly made me feel pretty darn good. It wasn’t because of the number that I felt good. It’s because I pushed past what I thought was possible. I felt like I earned the right to try and represent Superman. I learned my limits go far beyond what my head thinks they are. 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.
Henry Cavill on the pressure of getting the right physique for the role
I felt enormous pressure. Mostly from myself to get it right. This isn’t something that you get wrong. The pressure mostly manifested when I started negotiating with myself during a workout. My head would be telling me to quit or to not push so hard and save energy for later sets by doing fewer reps, but then I’d remind myself that I had to get this right and I’d start blasting.
Mark Twight on the challenge of making Cavill peak for 3 weeks
Peaking a guy for a few days is one thing. What Snyder was asking for was an entirely different problem.
Mark Twight on his unbreakable 10 hours sleep a night rule that he set for Cavill
It’s like, ‘Hey, guy, you want to be f-king Superman? Then do this one other thing, which might be the most important piece of it,’If you don’t get the sleep, if you can’t recover, then we can’t continue with this training and we won’t achieve the objective. The predatory effect that a lack of sleep has on the rest of the work you do is shockingly powerful. The HGH and testosterone secretion that happens during these deep-sleep cycles is super-important.
Mark Twight on how the training affected Cavvill's performance
Fitness is strength and conditioning, but also strength of character. 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.
Mark Twight on the look they were going for with Cavill
There has never been a superhero that didn't have broad shoulders and a small waist - Henry's frame is ideal. But we had to add some meat to it. Our model for the new Superman was Steve Reeves in Hercules. I think that's a reasonable and aesthetic look.
Read more in the July 2013 issue of Muscle & Fitness.