Within the past ten years the Marvel Universe has taken over Hollywood with mega hit franchises like Iron Man, Captain America, and The Avengers. Actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans took everyday lean frames and stepped into their respective roles with physiques that could challenge any form of evil.
Of course, billions of dollars and Mt. Olympus God like physiques were too much for Hollywood to hold and thus spilled into another entertainment powerhouse, Netflix. While the streaming service is being taken over by hero epics possibly the biggest and baddest is reluctant Harlem hero Luke Cage.
For those of you who don’t know the story, Luke Cage is a man wrongly convicted of a crime and sent to prison. When a brutal attack leaves him on death’s door he becomes the subject of an experiment that leaves him with super human strength and bullet proof skin. After escaping prison and taking the alias Luke Cage, our hero lands in a crime ridden Harlem New York. When his friend and mentor is murdered, Cage decides to use his powers to take on the crime syndicate plaguing the city.
Cage has no super suit, no shield, no green monster lurking within, he is simply a mass monster with a never-ending supply of hooded sweatshirts and a gaze that could send chills through the devil himself. To embody this super powerhouse the producers cast a relatively unknown actor by the name of Mike Colter. Until putting on Cage’s trademark hoodie, Colter’s biggest role to date was in the Clint Eastwood film Million Dollar Baby.
For the role of Cage, Colter put on thirty pounds of muscle bringing his 6’3” frame to 235 pounds. Colter contends that it was important to put on enough mass to make a man punching through walls and having buildings collapse on him believable. Not to mention breaking guns with his bare hands. This was a new approach to the actor who has had a long interest in theater and the essence of acting versus characters that rely on their physicality.
At age 40 Colter made an educated and scientific approach to his transformation. His diet consisted largely of nutrient dense whole foods like chicken breast, sweet potato, avocado, oats, fruit, and steamed vegetables. He supplemented his protein intake using plant based vegan protein shakes.
Colter who is an admitted student of many arenas from film, to TV, and even to professional bodybuilding read all he could about nutrition and fitness, including books by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane. His intention was to build Luke’s physique the right way and the honest way (free of shortcuts). Even for shirtless scenes where his physique is in full view he stays tight through diet control.
Colter supplemented with mainstays like glutamine, BCAAs, and a pre-workout supplement. His workouts consisted of two a day splits with heavy lifting in the morning then lighter workouts in the afternoon. His routine changed on average every month or two in an effort to gain as much muscle as he could in a healthy and safe manner and to avoid getting bored and stagnated. Not being content with just moving iron in the gym Colter supplements his weight training with swimming, cardio, and basketball. These are important additions that make his overall physique more functional as opposed to just imposing. Athletic function is a vital asset for Colter who performs many of the stunts in the show. Not only does this prevent injury but also makes fight scenes and the physical action more believable. After all, what good is a neighborhood hero if he can’t run, jump, and fight as well as be big?
The first 13 episodes of Luke Cage are now available on Netflix. The show is a game changer in that instead of large scale epics like The Avengers, Luke Cage has a very gritty and real elemental environment based on the age old ideal of a good man doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do.
While we can’t all have super strength, have bullets bounce off of us, and take on Harlem crime lords, we can get close. If your goal is to build a Luke Cage physique use the following tips.
- Follow a bodybuilding program that uses a heavy weight to achieve muscle failure around 8-10 reps for an average 3-4 sets per muscle group Include classic mass builders like deadlifts and squats.
- Add in some functional activity like swimming, biking, or even boxing. This will help keep you physically functional as well as physically big and maintain cardiovascular endurance
- Eat 1-1.5 grams protein per pound bodyweight from sources like poultry, lean beef, fish, and protein complex shakes that offer whey, egg, and casein protein.
- Stay lean by avoiding processed carbs like sugar and white flour
- Supplement with protein shakes pre and post workout. Post workout supplements should include creatine(5 grams monohydrate or 2 grams Creatine HCL), BCAAs (3:1:1 ratio leucine to isoleucine and valine) and 3 grams glutamine.
- A never ending supply of hoodies.