Usually when I write articles it’s to help out as many people as I can by answering a question that applies to a lot of people. Today, though, I’m going to answer a question that applies to zero real people and one fictional superhero. If I had a boss that I had to explain stuff to maybe I’d say that it was useful to write out this training program as a thought experiment to prepare myself for a similar situation in the future, but it seems very unlikely that I would ever have a client in this situation.
In The Dark Knight Rises, starring Christian Bale, the exercise program he adopts is poor for his goals. I’m going to rectify that.
In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman has his back broken (looks like somewhere between T8 and L1, but it’s not very clear) by the bad guy Bane. Bane then stashes Batman in a weird prison where escape is possible, but only for those willing to risk a dangerous climb and jump. Batman makes this climb and jump because he is Batman and that’s how movies work, but he has no reason to thank his training.
Training He Did
Batman receives some very painful looking chiropractic treatment, does pushups, pullups, and crunches. He also does some pretty solid self motivation and sports psychology work that I have no issue with.
Why He’s Wrong
First, let’s evaluate exactly what Batman needs to do. His escape from the pit has three parts. First, he has to climb up a rock wall to a ledge. After he gets to that ledge he has to make a long jump to a second ledge. From that ledge he then has to climb again (the jump is clearly important, but I’m not sure why he couldn’t just continue climbing). Here’s the scene from the movie:
He clearly needs to work on explosive jumping strength and his grip strength, while also strengthening up his back. I fully support him working on pushups, pullups, and crunches but feel like the two primary things he needs, explosive jumping and grip work, are being neglected.
He has unlimited time to train throughout the day, so the length of the workout isn’t that relevant. It’s also imperative that I get him results quickly, but I usually try to get people results quickly, so that doesn’t really change anything. He doesn’t have access to any strength training equipment.
Dynamic Warmup– he’s going to be working pretty vigorously, and has some issues with his joints. Obviously he’s had his back broken recently, but he also has knee issues. Getting very loose prior to the workout is key.
Explosive Leg Work– he doesn’t have any weights, but he has two old guys helping him out. He could throw one of them over his shoulders and add a little resistance to his squat work. The two of them together would probably provide a significant enough load to challenge him enough to elicit a training effect. He also has access to stairs. Jumping onto the stairs and landing softly will decrease the amount of force going into the knees (this is why boxes exist for box jumps). Taking a page out of Verkoshansky’s book, I would have Batman superset squatting the old men for sets of 3 with jumps onto the stairs. I would also have him do some depth jumps off of the stairs depending on how his knees were holding up.
Grip Work– I like the pull ups Bruce was doing, but I would have him do more for his grip. Weighted hangs, fingertip pushups, pullups with limited fingers on the bar. He has clothes he could wrap around the bar to do some fat grip training on the bars as well.
Core Work– He’s recently had some severe issues with his back; crunches are not the first place I would start. Like with many of my clients, I would have him work on planks and plank variations hard. Additionally, after he makes that jump he’s going to need to pull himself up onto the ledge. The simplest way to do that would be to swing his legs up to it, so a variety of hanging abdominal exercises would also be prescribed. This would also help out my goal of increasing Batman’s grip strength.
So there you have it. That’s what I would have had Batman do had he asked me.