Science Is Not Cinema

What is more impactful, his VO2 Max or the forearms?
Do you know how tall Tom Cruise is? No, but can you do this?
Steve Reeves in Hercules.
Actor William Smith and Vince Gironda.
Actor Mike Henry came from a football background.
Danny Trejo gets his daily dose of iron.
  1. The training should prevent injury, not cause it. Jason Statham was training with a former Navy SEAL and while getting competitive, hurt his back. Then he filmed for months with an injured back. Chris Hemsworth got huge for the first Thor. He found out he couldn’t move as well so he enlisted his boyhood friend Luke Zocchi and movement specialist, Da Rulk to add athleticism to his program. Daniel Craig’s trainer altered his program when the actor got minor injuries during shooting since he was biasing towards the beach scenes in Casino Royale. Years later he cracked his ankle doing a stunt during filming and had to film and train with injury.
Working injured is part of the game.
Chest and Gunz make The 300 look better.
I’m sure these results are because of Dwayne’s Teremana Tequila and donuts on “cheat day”.
The glamorous life of an actor.
  1. Sled Drags. Before the Knees Over Toes Guy plastered YouTube with this exercise, it was widely used by pushing sleds in football training and certainly by Louie Simmons at the Westside Barbell Club. Do 8 to 10 up and backs, alternating forward and backward dragging. This will help anaerobic ability and shore up lower body strength from toes to hips.
  2. Trap Bar Deadlift. The sled drags preexhausted the thighs, but the lower back should be fresh. This movement also taxes the forearms and traps, enhancing the “movie” look. Follow the specific, outlined rep protocol.
  3. Lunge with Dumbbells. These lunges can be forward, reverse or walking. The last type is preferred. They will maintain or increase the range of motion in the lower body, stimulate core stability and again, hit the grip.
  4. Weighted Carries. This is the last leg dominant exercise. Ultra heavy weights are not needed, but push the duration. You need to vary the style from Farmers Walk, Suitcase Walk, Rack Carry, Waiters Carry and Walking on your Tip Toes. Just note the weight times duration for this exercise when you record it.
  5. Cable Crunch. This is a favorite of the late Dave Draper. Kneel in front of the cable apparatus, hunch over with a good grip and crunch. DO NOT fold at the hip crease, but rather shorten the distance between the sternum and pubic bone. Contract left, then right in a slight twist. Abdominal work must be progressive and therefore do the outlined rep/set protocol.
  6. Aerobics. Stick to Zone 2, long duration, lower body aerobics. The bike or treadmill is idea. If it gets boring or you get tired of watching Court TV on the gym’s big screens, get a rack that fits on the training device and watch an iPad. Captain American actor Chris Evans did this on the exercise bike with his laptop to handle business emails and Face-time his friends and family.
  7. Stretching. Hit all the stretches you hate and hold them for 60 seconds while practicing relaxed breathing. It is that simple.
  1. Glute-Ham Raise. This exercise with the prescribed rep/set formula will pump up your posterior chain from mid back to butt. You too can own, “America’s Ass”. It will also get some blood in the complex spinal muscles.
  2. Row-Pulldown Superset. To stimulate some thickness and width, we can exploit the fact that the upper back can tolerate volume. Use a supported row machine and any overhead pulldown rig you prefer. Don’t race between machines. Pulling in front of, or behind the neck is up to you.
  3. Incline Dumbbell Press. You can go heavy with these, even when using the set/rep template. “High” pecs are preferred to give the appearance of width on camera.
  4. Weighted Dislocates with a Broomstick. This is a mobility drill with the ability to increase strength around the shoulder joint. Any increase in muscle size is modest, but the smaller, neglected muscles will get surprising stimulus. Slip a plate on a broomstick and move, “slowly”. Start with your hands wide and don’t be overly ambitious. Watch cracking your tailbone as the bar passes behind you. Use the same rep/set method.
  5. Hanging From a Bar. This is healthy for the shoulders and stimulates the forearms. Time yourself and record it.
  6. Aerobics. Upper body emphasis. Use the rower, ski erg or if available, an upper body ergometer. Even the upper body portion of an assault bike is good. Stay in Zone 2. Duration is the key.
  7. Stretching. Rather than pure static stretch, grab a stretch band. Do 50–100 pull aparts at various angles. Include some dislocates and those “shoulder rehab” external rotation moves too.
  1. Kettlebell Clean and Press. This is an effective exercise that has both a pull and push for your deltoids with benefits that include the traps and grip. Win/win. Do the rep/set formula, alternating arms. You can do it non stop or take breaks. That’s up to you.
  2. Face Pulls. Grab the ropes and pull to face level. This hits the whole trapezious complex. You may like adding a press overhead when the hands are near the face.
  3. Scott Curls. A barbell or machine are sufficient. Move slowly and go through the full range of motion. Literally flex the triceps at the bottom of the repetition to stretch the biceps a bit.
  4. Maltese Raise. This exploits the function of the bicep which moves the humerus forward. Use a light weight due to the unusual nature of this drill and just do one high repetition set to failure. You may add an occlusion band around your upper arms. This *may* add to a “veiny” appearance. Here is a video for those unfamiliar. https://youtu.be/lmlVTOUDXpU
  5. Gironda Triceps. This exercise trumps most for developing the triceps development. Here is a photo. Same reps/sets.
Gironda Triceps Exercise.
  1. Clavicle Superset. This can be done on an incline press and supported row machines, or with a cable and bodyweight drill. Using the same formula of reps and sets, you will be doing protraction and retraction. If it is a cable and bodyweight, start in the push up position with locked arms. Allow the shoulders to sink until the shoulder blades touch. Then protract the clavicle region to spread the shoulder blades. Finish your reps and move to a low cable and handle. Keep the body tense, grab the cable in both hands with a pronated grip. Step back to keep the tension even. Now shrug or retract the upper back, pinching the shoulder blades together. When you are finished, move back to the first exercise. If machines are your choice, simply mimic the movements while seated in a press machine and supported row machine. Easy peasy.
  2. Dumbbell Shrugs. Forget about jerking up the weight or moving quickly. Focus on an extended range of motion during the shrug. Dumbbells may make for a better experience. This is another exercise that can have a cadence of 3–3–3. The standard repetition template applies.
  3. Anterior Neck Flexion. This is old school. Wrap a plate in a towel and place it on your forehead as your head hangs over a bench. Move slowly. Allow development. Don’t force it.
  4. Posterior Neck Flexion. Flip over and load the weight on the back of the head. Some may choose a neck harness instead. That’s perfectly acceptable.
  5. Anderson Neck Rolls. Named after strongman, Paul Anderson, you will need a towel on the floor for this exercise. Lay prone with your forehead on the folded towel. Keep the hands behind your back, handcuff style. Create tension in your neck and core as you roll your head side to side, SLOWLY. This exercise is as therapeutic as it is developmental. Use one set of higher reps like 20/20. Then roll over press the back of your head against the towel and repeat.
  6. Anaerobics. Kettlebell Pass Around The Body. Do a minute in each direction. Eight minutes total. Pass the ‘bell carefully and don’t drop it. Use some body english, but keep your arms straight to prevent elbow strain. This varies the stimulus to the trapezious and upper back.
  7. Adonis Belt Drills. The V shaped muscles that include the obliques, inguinal ligament and transversus can appear prominent by way of genetics or training. Either get in to the Captains Chair or hang from a bar. Pull the knees to the stomach and twist left, slowly. Lower your legs to the starting position, pull your knees to your stomach and twist right. That constitutes one repetition. Now use the same formula that you used for all the other exercises.
  1. Go Outdoors. Either bike, ruck, run or walk to the park or gym depending on the weather and where you live. This should be 30 plus minute getting there and home.
  2. Use the FREE or paid material from MovNat. This source of training starts you off on insanely basic movement in a safe, instructional environment and allows for progression. It’s fun and can enhance your life, your sport or your martial arts. It can remove fear since you get gradual exposure to what seemed to be impossible situation. It’s a nice workout too.
  3. PNF Stretching. After your trek home, take time for the final effort of the week. Do some stretching that stimulates a bit of strength in the end range. This can conceivably prevent injury and maintain joint integrity. A good source is Tom Merrick. He’s very organized and clear.
Contemplating billion dollar film grosses.
  • Weekends off for family, social life and TWO days to recover.
  • Shorter workouts since time, energy and recovery suffer.
  • The flexibility to emphasize a body part for an on screen shot.
  • Low risk exercise. Filming for 3 months on locations throughout the world might effect a deadlift workout at 90% of your 1 rep max.
  • Adjustments due to injury or strain are easy.
  • Truncating the workout is simple if that is needed.
  • It’s varied and you won’t bore a client who feels entitled.
  • There is ample stretching, aerobics and prehab built in.
  • While the intended results are cosmetic, overall fitness is addressed.

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Tom Furman

Tom Furman

Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and fitness most of his life. He’s currently a fitness coach and been blogging since 2005. www.tomfurman.com