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Getting into Superhero Shape

Comic book and superhero fans will dress as their favorite characters when Wizard World Chicago Comic Con begins Thursday in Rosemont. But it takes more than a costume to build the powerful muscles of Wolverine, or Lara Croft’s lean, curvy look, or the stamina of, say, a ghostbuster.

So who you gonna call?

RedEye rang up Total Nonstop Action Wrestling star Lisa Marie “Tara” Varon, as well as trainers Joey Thurman and Marcus Warren of Morph Personal Training, to get some tips for getting into superhero shape:


“Wolverine is a strong, stocky, powerful character meant to be intimidating at first sight,” Thurman says.

Nutrition: Diet comprised of high amounts of quality calories consisting of protein from lean meats and equal to higher amounts of quality carbohydrates, such as quinoa, oats (preferably steel cut oats), whole grains and spelt bread. You will need to eat your greens to get and maintain that six-pack, so eat a lot of veggies.

Training: To get the amount of muscle that Wolverine has you must train the way he looks—heavy and hard. Lift weights 4 to 5 days a week focusing on compound heavy movements such as squats and presses. Do 6 to 12 reps per exercise. Your cardio should consist of running sprints, jumping rope or boxing a couple days a week for 20 to 30 minutes. Intensity is the key.


The tall dark and handsome superhero demands respect at first sight” Warren says, “from his lean muscular build to his good looks and charm.” Or in the case of Batman, broodiness.

Nutrition: Diet is very clean and healthy, consisting of high quantities of quality protein (lean meats and fish), limited amounts of carbs, and lots and lots of vegetables (with some fruit added in for a treat).

Training: Workouts will consist of 2-4 days a week of resistance training focusing on your superhero “beach” muscles of the chest, abs, and arms, but don’t forget the rest of your body to complete your hero physique!  Some great bodyweight exercises would be pushups, pull-ups, squats, and crunches for reps of 8-12 focusing on 2-3 body parts per workout. Cardio would be done 3-4 days a week consisting of running, biking, stair climbing, or anything to get your heart rate elevated for about 30-45 minutes consistently.


Climbing buildings isn’t an easy task, which is why Spider-Man, aka Peter Parker, is a small and agile individual. He can climb from building to building without problems.

Nutrition: Watch the amount of calories you take in, as Spidey doesn’t need as many calories to maintain his smaller physique as, say, Wolverine does for his massive muscles. Your calories will come from high amounts of carbs by eating whole grains, moderate amounts of protein and high quantities of vegetables.

Training: Resistance training twice a week consisting of a full-body workout doing 10-20 reps per exercise to achieve muscular endurance and lean muscle tissue. Great resistance exercises would include push-ups, planks, rows and lunges. Cardio will be done 3 to 4 days a week, including long-distance runs, bike rides or walks of 45 to 60 minutes.


Fighting the marshmallow man doesn’t require you take your shirt off, but it does require strength to carry a proton pack while chasing ghosts.

Nutrition: “To have an above-average build, your nutrition requirements aren’t going to be as strict,” Warren says. “The main thing will be to eat a balanced, clean diet of good protein, carbs, vegetables and healthy fat. If it comes pre-packaged try to stay away from it.”

Training: Weight train 2 to 3 times a week focusing on your biceps, back, legs and core muscles. Do 10 to 15 reps an exercise, and do exercises like rows, pull-ups, bicep curls and lunges. Cardio should be added a couple days a week for a consistent 30 to 60 minutes in the form of walking, riding a bike, swimming or rock climbing.


“The most important thing is to be physically active,” Varon says. “Taking the stairs rather than the elevator certainly has some value. But if you want a real transformation, you need a structured fitness regimen.”

“Soda pop is a huge no- no” Varon insists, “I've seen people who consume large amounts of soda make dramatic transformations from only eliminating soda. Even diet soda negatively impacts one's fitness goals. The artificial sweeteners in diet soda increase the body's insulin levels. And sugared sodas make it nearly impossible to become fit. It takes 45 minutes of cardio to reverse the damage on your metabolism that one 12 ounce sugared soda does to you. When I sweeten beverages like coffee, I use Stevia.”

Wonder Woman

"Wonder Woman demands respect," Thurman says. “Not because she can squeeze into that tight costume,” he says, “but because she has an intimidating, powerful, womanly build.”

Nutrition: Good amounts of high quality calories, including healthy carbs and a lot of protein to build and maintain muscle; take in healthy fats and don’t skimp on the veggies.

Training: Weight lifting 3-4 times a week focusing on compound movements such as squats, presses, and weighted lunges with reps of 8-15. Light cardio 2-3 times a week for about 30 minutes including light cardio after weight training to keep fat percentage down.

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider

"Lara Croft is known for her strong arms and legs" Thurman says, "so she can raid tombs and kick some major butt."

Nutrition: Clean andwell-balanced diet of “foods from nature,” Thurman says, which means unprocessed foods with no preservatives such as fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. “Eat like a caveman,” he says. You’ll need a lot of proteins, too, along with healthy carbs and fats.

Training: Hit the gym 2 to 4 days a week, focusing on a split routine of upper body and lower body with focus on “show” parts, including arms and legs. Squat with weights; do dead lifts, hamstring curls and bicep curls. Do an overall body resistance training program that includes push-ups, planks, rows and lunges. Just make sure to work all the major muscle groups: arms, legs, chest and back. And throw in one intense ab workout a week. Get short intense cardio by playing sports.

“I'm not somebody who only eats alfalfa sprouts and carrots.” Varon admits, “I like a good hamburger. I feel like if I workout hard, I should be able to eat foods I like IN MODERATION. I do try to steer toward hormone free meats. My view is that hormones are introduced into cattle to make them bigger. When I ingest the cattle - and the hormones in the cattle - I think it will have the same effect on me. Aside from the health implications, I think it's easier to stay lean on hormone free meats.”


Supergirl has a body type that would be similar to a female fitness model,” Warren says, “she is thin, strong, but not bony.”

Nutrition:  Watch your calories and don’t take in any processed food. And definitely limit your carbs. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables for energy, and proteins like fish and chicken to keep a lean physique.

Training: Hit the weights with the best of them, lifting 2-3 times a week focusing on a full body resistance training with lots of bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, pullups, pushups, planks, and dips for reps of 12-20.  Be active with cardio 2-4 times a week, with longer sessions of 30-45 minutes and some short intense exercises like sprints outdoors, jumping rope, or even doing laps in the pool.

“The hardest part of a workout is getting to the gym.” Varon says. “90% of the battle is walking through the doors. I don't mean the first time. I mean every time. If you can get to the gym for your workout, 90% of the battle is over.”




Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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