This Superman-Inspired Workout Routine Will Help You Pack On Slabs of Muscle Mass

In many ways, Superman is the quintessential hero; inspiring, authentic, heroic, and super-jacked to boot. In 2013’s Man of Steel, a newborn Clark Kent is told he will give the people of Earth, “an ideal to strive towards.” 

Just before he was shot into space, of course. But the message rings true, and it’s something we believe in. Specifically, the ideal we’re striving towards is building a Superman-caliber physique from top to bottom. Here’s how we think you should go about it, plus a heroic workout to try on for size: 

Credit: Paul Aiken / Shutterstock

The Superman Workout Routine

The signature red cape may be Superman’s calling card, but his physique and power(s) are what make the Man of Steel who he is. If you want to follow in his footsteps, you’ll need to build superhuman levels of strength, plus training for power and speed since he’s faster than a speeding bullet. (You will not become that fast…but you will get quicker.)

When it comes to hypertrophy — that’s muscle growth — Superman sports one of the best upper bodies in the game. You’ll need a V-taper workout for that, too. Let’s dive in.

Day 1: Strength

Day 2: Speed

Day 3: Hypertrophy

Strength Workout

To increase strength, you’ll need to lift heavy and perform mainly free-weight compound movements. Superman is known for holding massive objects above his head, so expect plenty of shoulder exercises if you want to be equally heroic:

Push Press: 3 x 5 

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 x 8

Lat Pulldown: 3 x 12

Face Pull: 2 x 20

Cheat Curl: 4 x 8

Dip: 4 sets to failure 

Speed Workout

You may not be able to achieve faster-than-the-speed-of-light travel, but you can model your conditioning workouts around sprints and jumps and develop some super speed of your own.

Thruster: 3 x 3 

Box Jump: 10 x 3, as an EMOM 

Sled Push: 3 rounds 

Burpee: 50 reps in as few sets as possible

V-Taper Workout

A v-taper torso is a visual hallmark of the superhero genre. Broad shoulders and a narrow waist signal strength and authority. Clark Kent was born with these qualities, but you can build them with the right bodybuilding workout

Dumbbell Row: 4 x 8

Straight-Arm Pulldown: 3 x 15 

Lateral Raise: 3 x 15

Overhead Triceps Extension: 3 x 15 

Equipment, Progression, & Modifications

Think of this three-day Superman workout as a template; a framework to hit all the training beats. That said, it’s not a one-size-fits-all prescription, and there are a few other factors to keep in mind:

Equipment: You’ll need free weights, cables, and some specialty athletic tools like sleds to run this routine as-written. Most of these are available in commercial gyms. To follow this workout at home, you’ll probably need to employ some variations.

Progression: Follow the tenets of progressive overload. Add weight to the big compound exercises when possible, then try to ramp up your rep count on the isolation moves. If you’re pushing past 25 repetitions easily, add weight and start back at the prescribed notation.

Modifications: No movement in this routine is mandatory. You can perform barbell rows instead of using dumbbells, or do seated shoulder presses instead of push presses if you really prefer. That said, the workouts here are tailored to develop multiple dimensions of athleticism at the same time.

Leg Training

You’ll notice a certain lack of leg workout exercises like squats and deadlifts in this routine. The Man of Steel’s physique is somewhat reminiscent of a Men’s Physique bodybuilding athlete, who prioritizes shoulder-to-waist ratio and the “mirror muscles” more than developing an X-frame. If you’d like to get more legwork out of the Superman routine, consider changing the thrusters to front squats and swapping the sled pushes for Romanian deadlifts

[Related: How to Do the Front Squat for More Leg Muscle]


One final and essential note — this workout routine is inspired by the feats and physique of Superman, a fictitious character with a larger-than-life design. Even a well-crafted workout routine can’t change everything about your body, such as your shoulder-to-waist ratio or where and how your body carries fat.

There are certainly real people with bodies that rival Superman’s — Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson comes to mind — but getting there yourself will take much more time than a few weeks of pounding out three workouts.

All that to say, remember to have fun with the training you perform and don’t set your expectations sky-high off the bat.

Training Tips

Building a superhero’s physique of your own takes more than a simple workout plan. At the end of the day, you’ll be performing basic bodybuilding exercises along with plyometrics to improve your athleticism. Keep these tips in mind along the way. 

Prioritize Good Form

This goes true whether you’re borderline indestructible or not. You need to master good form when you lift weights, particularly if you’re doing heavy compound exercises. In fact, some studies show that “attentional focus” — paying attention to what you’re doing and keeping tabs on your techniquecan help you build more muscle mass. (1)

Be Consistent

When it comes to both saving the world and adding muscle mass, work ethic is everything. The Superman workout routine is only three days per week. You can organize the sessions however you like, just make sure to put a day’s rest between each individual session. 

[Related: Need Equipment to Train Like Superman? Check Out the Best Barbells]

Try to avoid skipping workouts if possible, and if you miss a day, simply move on to the next. Don’t try to double-up and do two sessions at the same time. 

Add Weight To Progress

The principle of progressive overload is core to any strength training plan and every goal. To build strength and muscle mass, you’ll have to make your workouts harder over time. Increasing “mechanical tension” by lifting heavier is a sure-fire way to ensure you’re building new muscle and bolstering your strength. (2)

If you find it difficult to increase the weight on a given exercise, try squeezing out another rep on at least one of your sets. The week after, try to add that extra rep to all your sets. Eventually you may be able to slap on another five pounds to your barbell and continue progressing. 

Diet Tips

No matter your goals in the weight room, you’ll need to develop solid dietary habits to get there. Eating appropriately for your workouts is just as important as the workouts themselves. In some cases, even more so.

Prioritize Protein

Dietary protein is the building block of muscle mass. You might find it difficult to bulk up if you aren’t hitting your protein targets along the way — studies consistently show that eating more dietary protein creates more muscle growth, but only up to a point. (3

Protein Intake Calculator






Activity Level

Do you know your body fat percentage?


Total Calories: 1699 Per Day

Daily protein intake recommendation:



Generally recommended


Exercise: 15-30 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
Intense exercise: 45-120 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
Very intense exercise: 2+ hours of elevated heart rate activity.

[Related: 18 Ways to Eat More Protein to Pack on Muscle Mass]

Luckily, BarBend has you covered here. Use our protein intake calculator to find out just how much you should be eating. If you aren’t sure, a reliable benchmark for most folks is to eat around one gram of dietary protein per pound of your body weight. 

Eat in a Calorie Surplus

Even Superman can’t conjure matter out of thin air. To build muscle and bulk up, you need to increase your body weight along the way. This will entail entering an “energy surplus” — consuming more calories from food than you burn from exercise and daily living. 

Research indicates that eating maintenance calories may build some muscle, while being in a “calorie deficit” is bad news for hypertrophy altogether. (4) However, this doesn’t mean you need to force-feed yourself. 

[Read More: The Best Protein Powders, We Tested them All So You Don’t Have To]

Even a small calorie surplus of 200 or so extra calories per day will do the trick. (5) If you’ve never lifted weights before, you may not need to eat extra food immediately, but it’s a good idea to fuel your body appropriately either way. 

Eat Before (and After) Your Workouts

You can certainly lift weights in a fasted state and make gains, but a growling stomach might distract you from the work you’re supposed to be doing. As such, it’s a wise use of your time to eat before any weight-lifting session. A small meal one to three hours before your workout starts is a good bet, but don’t fret if you can’t make it happen. Your stomach might complain, but you’ll be okay.

After your workouts, your body is highly primed to utilize nutrients, especially protein. Research is conflicting, but science generally supports getting some protein, carbohydrates, and calories in the hour or two following a workout. (6

Try a Pre-Workout Supplement 

The more effort you put into your workouts, the faster you morph into the Man of Steel himself. To that end, a pre-workout supplement might help you charge up for your training sessions. 

Pre-workouts often contain caffeine and other stimulants meant to improve your performance and help you focus. They aren’t required, but if you lack that pep in your step before your training sessions, they’re definitely worth a shot.

Supercharge Your Workouts

Superman is an ideal to strive towards. Frankly, he’s also body goals for a lot of folks. If you’re trying to make a positive health change, following in the footsteps of the Man of Steel is a great place to start. This workout routine will set you on the path, but how far you take it is up to you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Superman workout effective?

To be clear, there’s a bodyweight exercise called the Superman, which trains your lower back and shoulders. A Superman-inspired workout plan is a different, and will involve plenty of heavy weight lifting as well as some plyometric power training as well.

How to get a physique like Superman?

Superman’s defining feature, besides the iconic red cape, are his broad shoulders and narrow waist. You’ll need to perform strength training exercises to build muscle in your upper body to achieve a similar look. 


(2013). Attentional focus and motor learning: A review of 15 years. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 6. 77-104. 10.1080/1750984X.2012.723728. 

Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3. PMID: 20847704.

Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, Aragon AA, Devries MC, Banfield L, Krieger JW, Phillips SM. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376-384. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608. Epub 2017 Jul 11. Erratum in: Br J Sports Med. 2020 Oct;54(19):e7. PMID: 28698222; PMCID: PMC5867436.

Murphy C, Koehler K. Energy deficiency impairs resistance training gains in lean mass but not strength: A meta-analysis and meta-regression. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2022 Jan;32(1):125-137. doi: 10.1111/sms.14075. Epub 2021 Oct 13. PMID: 34623696.

Slater GJ, Dieter BP, Marsh DJ, Helms ER, Shaw G, Iraki J. Is an Energy Surplus Required to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy Associated With Resistance Training. Front Nutr. 2019 Aug 20;6:131. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00131. PMID: 31482093; PMCID: PMC6710320.

Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Jan 29;10(1):5. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-5. PMID: 23360586; PMCID: PMC3577439.

Featured Image: Paul Aiken / Shutterstock

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