Superman star Henry Cavill on building bigger arms with limited gym time
It turns out that Superman didn't need to lift superhuman weights in order to build muscle and strength
You might have expected Herculean efforts in the gym from Henry Cavill, but his training plan is testament to one thing: keeping tension on the muscle.
For this, you don't necessarily need to put up your heaviest possible bench press or barbell squat. Maintaining maximum tension on a muscle often involves lighter weights, targeting time under tension rather than simply shifting something heavy from A to B.
Writing on Instagram, Cavill sang the praises of lifting with lighter weights:
"It shows that it doesn't take huge weights everyday to achieve results. I was doing everything I could in a busy busy schedule to try and get something in, whenever I could.
"During this period I learned that it's not the weight that matters, it's the workout. So if you're shy about going to the gym because there is always someone next to you using mahoosive weights, don't be. You do your weights, just make every workout count. You might end up looking better than the fella or lady next to you that's using those heavy weights."
Which exercises are best for time under tension?
Any lift can be optimised for muscular tension, whether it's a compound exercise such as the barbell squat, or an isolation exercise such as the bicep curl.
What really matters is technique and the load you lift. You aren't going to maximise muscle tension if you're lifting your one rep max (1RM) on a compound lift, but you can if you drop the weight a couple of kilograms and shoot for higher reps.
Henry Cavill was seen performing alternating dumbbell curls, an excellent example of a bicep isolation exercise. Here are some more you might like to try:
- Seated incline curl
- Preacher curl
- Concentration curl
- Hammer curls
- Bodyweight chin-ups (underhand/supinated grip)
- High cable curl
Why time under tension?
As Dr. Brad Schoenfeld points out in the MAX Muscle Plan, muscle is built in three main ways: muscular tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress.
Lifting lighter weights is a good plan if you're looking to maximise muscle tension, as Cavill is here.
Schoenfeld writes that, "Tension exerted on muscles during resistance exercise is generally considered the most important factor in muscle development.
"Up to a certain point, greater muscle tension leads to a greater anabolic stimulus - a classic case of adaptation (growth resulting from training)."
Schoenfeld says you only need to look at athletes who base their training around muscular tension to see how it works.
"This is why bodybuilders generally display superior muscle growth compared with powerlifters even though bodybuilders routinely train with lighter weights."