How Ben Affleck Got Big for Batman

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Photographs Courtesy Warner Bros Pictures

The first thing you’ll notice about the Dark Knight in Batman v. Superman, the second installation of the newly re-launched DC Universe, is that he’s gotten bigger in stature, muscle, and armor. The next? He’s also badder—gruff, aggressive, and the kind of character willing to square up to the Man of Steel. Given this, you might miss the third fact, that Batman — or at least Ben Affleck, the actor playing him—is also, well, middle-aged. 

“I knew that a big part of the audience’s expectation around the role would be how I looked physically,” Affleck, 43, tells Men’s Journal over email. “And that was something I had some control over. If I was going to fail in this role, I wasn’t going to let it be in a way that could have been prevented if I had worked harder.” Director Zack Snyder believes that he got the job done, recently voicing his approval of Affleck’s portrayal as the iconic character, in both of his personas: “He’s an amazing Bruce Wayne, let’s just be frank about that. And then when he puts the cowl on, you know he’s got the chin for it.”

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Affleck accomplished the proper frame with help from longtime trainer Walter Norton Jr., of the Institute of Performance and Fitness, who he began training with through a mutual friend during his fitness preparation for 2010’s The Town. Based in Boston, Norton makes almost weekly flights between his hometown and wherever Affleck is, whether it’s in Los Angeles or on location. “Getting ready for this role meant working hard, day in and day out with Walter,” says Affleck. “But it was the kind of work where I felt gains in not only my size, but also my mental and physical health.”

There are benefits of having history with a trainer. “Seven years ago the body bounced back a little quicker,” says Norton. “Like any relationship, it’s all about communication and honesty. I can tell him a little something that he doesn’t want to hear and that’s fine. We’re not tiptoeing around issues. So we just addressed it right at the top. We did what we needed to do to take care of him and protect his joints.” 

But that does not mean that Affleck had it easy. Every week Norton created a new regime for him with specific goals, targeting each muscle group relentlessly, and with that mentality they found themselves even overachieving their target numbers. In context, Affleck weighed in at 198 pounds for The Town, and for Batman V. Superman, he went all the way to 231 at 7.7 percent body fat, which they ended up “dialing back” to 225. “This time around we did more bodybuilding. We wanted him to be strong but we wanted to add mass. The volume was higher. We lived on a lot of the basics, 80-pound dumbbell curls, heavy-loaded carries, and farmers walks with 60-pound weights.”

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Affleck needed that extra strength on set: The batsuit weighs some 75 pounds. There are also plenty of workout scenes making their way into the final cut, showing off his ripped physique, like one he shot in the Batcave doing pull-ups, while strapped to an additional 50 pounds in weight. “If I had to say there were any critical exercises that we always went back to, it was pull-ups and chin-ups.”

“We wanted him to look like a thick MMA heavyweight puncher,” explains Norton. “This is a Bruce Wayne who’s been lifting for 20 years, hitting that heavyweight bag, and working out every day in the manor. I’ll just say that if you lined up all the Batmans before Ben and stood them next to each other, they’re not 6’4”, and they don’t weigh 225 pounds. He’s in a whole other class.”


Here’s a two-day glimpse at the workouts Norton created for Affleck as part of their two-year training program. You might not want to try this one on your own, though. “I recommend that people find a trainer who they get along with, create their own program suiting their own goals, and if they approach it with the same enthusiasm that Ben did, they can also make gains like a hero.”

Day 1:

Block 1 (32 minutes): Warm-up & Movement

  • Elliptical (Strength Program): 15 minutes
  • Rumble Roller (Hip/TFL/VMO/2 Way Glute/Calf): 9 minutes
  • Plank with Arm Extension: 10 seconds (then 8 reps of 2-second extension for each side)
  • Spiderman: From a plank, bring you right foot next to your right hand. 3 reps for each side (hold for 2 breaths)
  • Inchworm: From touching your toes with straight legs, walk your hands out to a plank, then walk your feet back under you, 5 reps (hold for 1 breath)
  • Calf Stretch: 15 seconds (each leg)

Block 2 (40 minutes): Torso & Strength

  • Dumbbell Farmer’s Walk: 4 walks with appropriate weight for 1 minute
  • Alternating Hanging Knee-Up: 11 reps (for each leg)
  • ½ Kneeling Row: Kneel on your right knee in front of a cable machine, row with your right arm, 4 sets of 12 reps on each side
  • Back Bridge: 2 reps of 15 second hold (5-second pause between)
  • Alternating Dumbbell Reverse Lunge: 8 reps (for each leg)
  • Pull-Up: 6 sets of 4 reps (hold for 4 seconds up and 4 seconds down)
  • Shoulder Bridge: 10-second hold (then 8 reps of 2-second extension for each side)

Block 3 (22 minutes / Doing As Many Sets As Possible): Strength & Fitness

  • Airdyne Bike Sprint: 20 seconds
  • V-Grip Pulldown: 15 reps
  • Seated Row Handle Grip: 12 reps
  • Alternating Dumbbell Open Curl: 5 sets of 5 reps (each arm, then 5 reps together)
  • Goblet Squat: 8 reps
  • Lateral Squat: 6 reps (each side)

Day 2:

Block 1 (30 minutes): Warm-up & Movement

  • Airdyne Bike Sprint: 10 reps of 5 minutes at 75% (finish with 15-second sprint, then 45-second rest)
  • Soft Roller (Upper Back/Lat/Quad/Glute/Ham Junction): 8 minutes
  • Brettzel Stretch: 2 reps for each side (hold for 5 breaths)
  • Kneeling Lat: 1 rep each side (hold for 5 breaths)
  • ½ Kneeling Quad Stretch: 2 reps for each side (hold for 5 breaths)
  • Brettzel: 2 reps for each side (hold for 5 breaths)

Block 2 (32 minutes): Torso & Strength

  • Off-Bench Oblique Side Crunch: 8 reps dynamic (followed with hold for 8 seconds)
  • Valslide Body Slide: 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Back Bridge with March: Hold bridge for 8 seconds (then 4 knee raises on each leg)
  • Dumbbell Shrug: 5 sets of 6 reps
  • Rear Delt Machine: 4 sets of 15 reps
  • 1 Leg Hip Lift: 3 sets of 8 reps for each side (hold for 2 seconds)
  • Tricep Pushdown: 4 sets of 10 heavy reps, then 10 lighter reps

Block 3 (36 minutes): Strength

  • Dumbbell Deadlift: 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Dumbbell Bench Press: 4 sets of 10 reps (count 3 seconds from up to down position)
  • Pec Fly: 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Ball Leg Curl: 4 sets of 6 reps (hold for 2 seconds)

Batman v Superman is in theaters March 25, 2016.


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