How to get a body like Glen Powell: Chest and back workout
Build a Top Gun body
Top Gun Maverick star Glen Powell undoubtedly has one of Hollywood’s hottest bodies.
The American actor has starred in films Everybody Wants Some, Hidden Figures and The Expendables 3, with arguably his biggest project to date, Top Gun Maverick, released in May 2022.
It goes without saying, you don’t land a leading role in the biggest action film of the decade alongside Tom Cruise without a serious physique to match.
Heads around the world were turned when Top Gun fans got a glimpse of Powell’s physical prowess when the epic movie trailer dropped.
It showcased just what Powell was packing under his flying suit in a topless beach montage in homage to Tom Cruise’s iconic volleyball scene in the original Top Gun film.
The Hidden Figures star has the chest, the shoulders, the arms and the abs that men everywhere aspire to have.
But it’s clearly his upper body that will light up the big screen when Top Gun 2 hits cinemas around the world. Seven weeks is all it took for Glen to build a body that would make Maverick proud.
Although it might seem out of reach for many men, achieving a physique like Glen Powell is attainable by following a structured diet plan and training just three times per week with Ultimate Performance.
Press your heels through the floor and squeeze your glutes.
Bring your shoulder blades back and down for a stable base.
Grip the bar at approximately 1.5 times shoulder-width.
Unrack the bar in a pullover motion keeping the arms straight.
With the bar over the nipple line, lower the bar to your chest.
Whilst lowering the bar, keep your elbows underneath it.
Descend until you touch your chest with the bar or your form compromises.
Press through your palms whilst breathing out.
Press the bar back to the start position until your arms are straight.
Use a spotter when training close to failure.
Leg drive is important – pressing your feet through the floor allows you to put your power through the bar.
Keep looking at your start/finish position and not at the bar.
Find a rack that allows you to set your pin height.
Set the height of the pin to a height where you can maintain a neutral spine. Generally a good starting point can be setting the pin just below the knee.
Stand with your feet underneath the bar at approximately hip-width apart.
Grab the bar just outside your hip width.
Sit your hips back, lift your chest and brace.
Maintaining a neutral spine, perform a hip thrust action to stand up with the bar.
Once standing, sit your hips back and lower the bar until the bar meets the rack.
Keep the arms straight throughout the movement.
Keep the bar close to you throughout to help keep the back engaged.
Ensure you come to a deadstop at the bottom of each rep to maximise the movement.
You should feel like you are pushing through your heels and this may be difficult to feel in standard running shoes with a cushioned heel. Consider replacing these.
Use straps to prevent grip becoming a limiting factor when performing this exercise.
Progression through lowering the pins to increase the range can be a great alternative to loading the exercise further.
Incline dumbbell press
Pick up the dumbbell using a neutral grip and sit on the bench with them resting on your thighs, close to your hip crease.
Position your feet shoulder-width apart, under or behind your knees and flat on the floor.
Lean back against the bench, using your thighs to help get the dumbbells into position, level with your chest and then up to a stacked position, with the wrist, elbow and shoulder all aligned.
Point your chest upwards (but keep the ribcage tucked down) towards the ceiling and tuck your shoulder blades down into your back pockets.
Your shoulders and glutes should be touching the bench, and there will be a small gap between your lower can and the bench.
This is the start and end position for each rep.
From the stacked position at the top, “pull” the dumbbells down towards your chest with the arms at an angle of 45-60 degrees to your torso.
You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you can no longer lower the dumbbells without the shoulder rounding forwards.
Pause before reversing the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
Pause again before repeating for the desired number of reps.
On the last rep, lower the dumbbells to your chest, tuck your elbows in and sit forwards using your legs to generate momentum. You can also ask a training partner to take one dumbbell from you at a time.
Make sure that the dumbbells do not clang together at the top of the movement.
Ensure that you do not ‘shrug’ the weight up at the top. This reduces shoulder stability and increases the risk of injury. Focus on keeping the shoulder blades tucked down throughout.
Shoulder-width lat pulldown
Grip the cable attachment with a neutral grip and sit down on the bench with your upper thighs securely positioned under the padding.
Sit up as tall as possible (keeping the ribcage tucked), with your arms fully extended above your head but avoid shrugging your shoulders up to your ears.
This is the start and end position for each rep.
Keeping your torso still, initiate the movement by dropping your shoulder blades down into your back pockets (closing the gap between your armpit and your hips). Think ‘taking the elevator down’ not ‘pinching’ when it comes to the shoulder blades.
Draw the elbow downwards vertically (not backwards), maintaining the same torso position and high chest throughout.
You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when your elbows cannot travel any further without your shoulders rotating inwards and upper back rounding.
Pause for a moment and focus on contracting the lats by squeezing your elbows into your sides.
Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Imagine you are taking your shoulder blades up and down like an elevator; allow them to move through their full range of motion rather than yanking the bar with your arms.
Avoid using cable attachments that are narrower than your shoulders as this can restrict your range-of-motion.
Use lifting straps to avoid grip becoming a limiting factor in the movement.
Watch how far the weight stack travels on each rep as a reference point for your range-of-motion. If this shortens significantly between the first and last rep, the weight is too heavy.
The arm muscles will contribute to this movement, but they should not be doing all the work. Focus on drawing the weight down using the back only; the arms should simply assist in the movement.
Pec deck (fly machine)
Select a seat height that allows your hands to be just lower than shoulder height when you set up.
Set the handles in line with your shoulders or where you can maintain shoulder position.
Sit in an upright position with your chest up.
Grab the handles and extend your arms straight.
Maintaining the same posture, keep your arms wide and move the handles in a curved motion.
Keep moving the cables until your hands are in line with your shoulders.
Slowly reverse the motion to the start position and repeat.
Think about engaging the chest to start the motion to avoid the use of the shoulders.
Keep your arms wide to maintain tension.
Not going further than in line with the shoulders keeps tension on the chest throughout the set.
Using an adjustable cable machine, set the cable just above head height and attach the EZ bar.
Grab the bar with straight arms, and facing towards the cable machine, step back.
Lean your body inwards and sit your hips back so your torso is around 45 degrees to match the line of travel of the cable pull.
Have a slight bend in the knees to allow you to distribute your weight and maintain balance.
Keeping the arms straight, pull the cable in an arc.
This arc should start with the bar above your head and finish with your hands and bar in contact with your thighs.
Reverse the movement under control to the start position.
Sit your weight on your heels to maintain balance.
Set the farmer’s handles just outside shoulder-width and load the weight.
Starting from a deadlift position, pick up the handles.
Pinch the shoulder blades back and keep the hands slightly away from your sides.
Maintaining posture, walk with the handles for your set distance, aiming to keep the handles still.
Continue to walk until you hit your correct distance keeping the same contraction between your shoulders.
Looking slightly up, like you are trying to look beyond the horizon, can help maintain your upright posture.
Using straps can be a great way to overload the lats once the movement becomes too challenging for the forearms.
Performing this as an alternative to a ‘metcon’ can be a great way to include conditioning into workouts.
If you don’t have access to farmer’s handles, heavy dumbbells are a good alternative.
Why this workout works
With your arm training you may think you have made it to the gun show, but a strong chest and back routine will really show what you are packing. Not only is this workout effective, but it is efficient.
Using both paired sets and compound movements, this workout will maximally recruit the major muscles for increases in strength and size. Slotting this workout into your weekly routine is easy and allows you to train with enough training volume and frequency. Bring in the heavy artillery to drive muscle growth.
Two killer compounds:
The flat bench: Brings us back to basics, a heavy compound using both the clavicular and sternal head of the chest.
The rack pull: Consider this a reduced-range deadlift which can be great for both beginner and advanced trainees. With this reduced range we are able to load the bar to fire up the posterior chain and stimulate the major muscles in our back. With the improvements in muscle mass and posture this exercise will surely help you show who is Top Gun.
Take 45-60 seconds rest after each set to allow you to reload, refuel and refocus on the next set. Strength is a key driver for hypertrophy and starting with these two exercises allows us to maximise our strength potential.
Our second paired sets:
The incline dumbbell press: The key to full chest development is providing the necessary angles to hit all the chest fibers. Using the incline dumbbell press we can maximise our range, ensure balance and ensure we provide enough focus on the upper fibers of the chest.
The lat pulldown: A great exercise for back width to allow your silhouette to even be seen from the sky. Focus on keeping your chest high.
By now you have completed most of the battle but it is time to win the war. Isolation exercises using machines at this point in the workout can be a great way to maintain intensity whilst reducing the technical demands. This series will focus on maximising range. The bigger range you can move a muscle through safely, the more fibers we can recruit.
Prepare for the pump:
The pec flye: Pairing this series will isolate the chest and keep you stable through a big range of motion allowing you to push the chest to failure. Maintain a ‘chest up’ position.
The cable pullover: To finish the series the pullover will really help emphasise the rhomboids, a key muscle to a good looking and wide upper back. By now you really will be flying.
The farmer’s walk: Use this strongman movement for mass and conditioning. Modified strongman movements can be a great way to include strength and conditioning into your programme. Ensure you maintain good posture and pinch the shoulders back and down with your hands slightly away from your side.
This workout will really develop the chest and back and make you a true maverick. Form is still a focus but push the intensity.
A co-pilot can be key, it can be useful to have a training partner or spotter on these exercises or even better you own U.P. trainer.