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How to get a body like Henry Cavill: Chest and back workout

Henry Cavill

Few people would argue that the epitome of an excellent male physique would be described as ‘built like Superman.’

While Henry Cavill had the chiselled looks to play Clark Kent, his body transformation for his first outing as Superman was nothing short of astounding. What’s even more impressive is his ability to maintain his muscular physique. The Jersey actor has slowly put together a stunning Superman body in preparation for a handful of different roles. His appearances in The Tudors, Justice League, Man of Steel and The Man From U.N.C.L.E are clear evidence of his healthy lifestyle and well-crafted strength training plan.

Cavill also stars in popular Netflix fantasy series The Witcher, playing Geralt of Rivia. In 2021, the streaming service announced a second season would be coming to our screens, which since its release has received rave reviews from adoring fans. The Justice League actor was also in the headlines in late 2021, when he announced via Instagram that he was dating Hollywood Executive Natalie Viscuso.

Whatever Cavill is busy with, he’s always in incredible shape – that’s for sure. It’s no secret that Henry Cavill is likely heavier than most, reportedly weighing in at over 200lbs at a formidable 6ft 1in. His on-screen personas appear much larger, mostly due to his impressive v-taper, created by a broad upper body and small waist. So we have designed a chest and back workout to help you build muscle like Henry Cavill.

The Henry Cavill workout

How to perform the exercises

This guide is aimed at trainees with a good knowledge of the exercises and how to train safely and effectively.

To start your life-changing body transformation today, visit any one of our gyms around the world or begin your online training program.

Barbell rack pull

The set-up

  • 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.

The movement

  • 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.

Trainer tips

  • Ensure you come to a dead stop 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.

Flat barbell bench press

The set-up

  • Position your feet shoulder-width apart, under or behind your knees and flat on the floor. Lie back on the bench with your eyes directly under the barbell.
  • Place your hands on the barbell with an overhand grip, roughly 1.5 times shoulder-width apart.
  • Point your chest up towards the ceiling and pinch your shoulder blades back together.
  • Your head, shoulders and glutes should be touching the bench, and there will be a small gap between your lower back and the bench.
  • Pull the barbell forwards off the hooks and into the start position directly above your shoulders.
  • Pause to let the barbell settle then fine tune your set up before starting the set.

The movement

  • From the start position, control the barbell down towards the lower half of your chest.
  • Throughout the downward movement, your upper arms should be at an angle of 45-60o to your torso.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of- motion when you cannot lower your elbows any further below shoulder height without your chest collapsing and shoulders rotating inwards.
  • Pause for a moment before pressing the barbell upwards to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  • On the last rep, fully extend your arms before moving the barbell back towards the hooks.

Trainer tips

  • The barbell may or may not touch your chest depending on technique and body proportions.
  • A common mistake is for your shoulders to become loose and shrug upwards at the top of the movement. This reduces stability and shifts tension away from your chest and onto your shoulders and triceps. Focus on pushing yourself away from the barbell, instead of pressing it away from you.
  • Be careful not to push your head back into the bench, as this can strain your neck.

Neutral-grip lat pulldown

The set-up

  • Grip the cable attachment with a neutral shoulder-width grip and sit down on the bench with your upper thighs securely positioned under the padding.
  • Sit up as tall as possible with your arms fully extended above your head, but avoid shrugging your shoulders up by your ears.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Keeping your torso still, pull your elbows down towards your waist while squeezing your shoulder blades back together.
  • 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 (squeezing) your upper back muscles.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Watch how high the weight stack travels
    on each rep as a reference point for your range-of-motion. If this shortens significantly between your first and last rep, then the weight is too heavy.
  • Although your arm muscles contribute to the movement, this exercise is primarily an exercise for your upper back muscles. Think of your arms as hooks that connect to the weight and are pulled down by your back muscles.

Incline dumbbell press

The set-up

  • Pick up the dumbbells 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.
  • Lie back, using your thighs to help get the dumbbells into position level with your chest.
  • Hold the dumbbells directly above your elbows, with your upper arms at an angle of 45-60o to your torso.
  • Point your chest up towards the ceiling and pinch your shoulder blades back together.
  • Your head, shoulders and glutes should be touching the bench, and there will be a small gap between your lower back and the bench.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Press both dumbbells directly upwards until you have fully extended your arms overhead.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of- motion when you cannot lower your elbows any further below shoulder height without your chest collapsing and shoulders rotating inwards.
  • Pause for a moment before repeating for the desired number of reps.
  • On the last rep, lower the dumbbells to the start position, tuck your elbows in and sit forwards using your legs to help generate momentum. Alternatively, your training partner can help by taking one dumbbell from you at a time.

Trainer tips

  • The set-up and movement are the same as other versions of the dumbbell bench press but this angle places more emphasis on your upper chest.
  • The dumbbells should not clang together at the top position.
  • A common mistake is for your shoulders to become loose and shrug upwards at the top of the movement. This reduces stability and shifts tension away from your chest and onto your shoulders and triceps. Focus on pushing yourself away from the dumbbells, instead of pressing them away from you.
  • Be careful not to push your head back into the bench, as this can strain your neck.

Seated cable fly

The set-up

  • Adjust the cables to shoulder height when standing or seated.
  • For the seated version, position the bench in the middle of the cables and pulled forwards so that the back legs are one to two feet in front of the cables.
  • Pick up the handles and sit on the bench. Point your chest up towards the ceiling and pinch your shoulder blades back together.
  • For the standing version, pick up the handles, stand in the middle of the cables and take a long stride forward. Adopt a split-stance position with one foot in front of the other and bend forward slightly from the waist.
  • Bring your arms forwards so that they are at shoulder height and roughly in line with your armpits.
  • Hold the handles with a neutral grip and keep your elbows slightly bent.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Pull your arms forwards in a semi-circular motion, driving your upper arms into the sides of your chest.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your chest muscles.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • The goal of the exercise is not to touch your hands together. They may or may not touch depending on the length of your forearm and the degree of elbow bend.
  • Do not allow your elbows to travel behind your armpits, as this places an unwanted strain on your shoulders.

Cable row with elbows abducted

The set-up

  • Sit in a cable row with a long pulldown bar.
  • Your arms should be just outside shoulder width.
  • Keep your chest upright.

The movement

  • Initiate the movement by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Drive your elbows out wide. Imagine you’re pulling the bar apart.
  • Stop the movement when you can no longer pull the shoulder blades together.
  • Slowly return to the start.

Trainer tips

  • Forget about your hands – they are hooks. Think shoulder blades first and then elbows with little pull from the hands.

Farmer’s carries

The set-up

  • 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.

The movement

  • 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.

Trainer tips

  • 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 incorporate conditioning into workouts.
  • If you don’t have access to farmer’s handles, heavy dumbbells are a good alternative.

Why this workout works

If you’re chasing a physique worthy of the Man of Steel himself, the fastest road to success is by building a solid posterior chain and thick chest. The chest and back are two large muscle groups that help to give the impression of width and depth. Plus, you need some well-developed pecs to support the famous ‘s’ across your chest!

The muscles of the chest and back are antagonists (opposites), so they make optimal pairings without interfering with recovery. This makes them an ideal choice for supersets, a highly time efficient training methodology, which is a big bonus a busy actor on set all day.

This workout also features a metabolic conditioning finisher, which challenges the whole body and helps to maintain the lean and muscular physique for which Henry Cavill is so famous.

 

TO START YOUR LIFE-CHANGING BODY TRANSFORMATION TODAY, VISIT ANY ONE OF OUR GYMS AROUND THE WORLD OR BEGIN YOUR ONLINE TRAINING PROGRAM.

DISCLAIMER | Results may vary | Results are based on individual circumstances | Timeframes for results are not guaranteed | Willpower is always required!

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