The Batman Program – Batman Training for the Rest of Us

By on October 3, 2018

Batman is perhaps the most well-known fictional portrait of a ‘peak human’. He is the ideal physical and mental specimen: he’s a master of martial arts who can chop down trees with his bare hands, he’s strong enough to bench 1000-405lbs depending on the writer, he has a genius-level intellect that he regularly uses to outsmart his foes, and he can run 20 miles averaging 4:50 per mile. He somehow manages to train vigorously to maintain this performance, patrol the streets for crime, and still keep Wayne Industries running.

I analysed Batman’s training in depth in a previous post and suffice to say it is… ambitious. Most of us don’t have the time to attempt it, and would probably die trying even if we did.

So, the purpose of this post is to try and scale it back. What would a Batman-style training program look like if it was designed to be accomplishable for people who hold down 9-5 jobs. If you have just 4-6 hours per week to train, how can you best utilize that time to get closer to Batman?

Batman training program batman files

The Batman training program seen in the Batman Files

How do we make a Batman-style program for the average Joe?

That’s pretty much the whole objective of The Bioneer – to train in such a way as to be ‘ready for anything’. And through all my reading, training, and research, it’s the training program I’ve been working towards. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got at the moment.

The Challenge

So where do we start? We start by looking at the challenges of training like Batman.

Training like Batman

Basically, we’re trying to create a program that will build strength, endurance, aesthetics (because we want to lookalike Batman too), and mobility/agility. That means we will run into the issue of interference – where training in one modality can actually make it harder to succeed in another. In other words, running long distances will catabolize muscle tissue and reduce fast twitch muscle fiber, training for big muscles will potentially reduce mobility. Etc.

At the same time, training like Batman means incorporating lots more skills and abilities into our regime, and lots more facets. We need to somehow find time and energy for martial arts training, grip strength training, flexibility, parkour, you name it. And on top of that, we’ll be developing new skills like ambidexterity, lock picking, forensics, and engineering.

Yep, this is totally do-able…

Remember: this is a program that should be sustainable on top of a normal lifestyle – including 9-5 job and family commitments. At this rate, we are severely risking burnout, especially given how intensive things like grip training are known to be for the central nervous system.

And if we just scale everything back, then we’ll stop seeing progress in any area.

So, what’s the answer?

Exercise Selection

The first answer is smart exercise selection. There are moves out there that offer multiple benefits all at once.

Batman pull ups

For instance, why perform squats and build a strong posterior chain, when you could perform one legged goblet squats barefoot and thereby simultaneously develop foot strength, core stability, and balance? Plus, you can use half the amount of weight (well not quite due to the bilateral deficit but that’s another conversation for another time).

Here then are some examples of exercises, moves, and training methods that give maximum ‘bang for your buck’:

  • One legged squats – Balance, core, mobility, leg strength
  • Weighted monkey bars/pull ups – Lats, grip, endurance
  • Heavy bag work – Cardio, triceps/pecs/shoulders/core, speed, leg flexibility

Batman martial arts training

  • Good mornings – Strength + flexibility
  • Hangs – Mobility, grip, injury prevention
  • Planche – Core strength, straight arm strength,
  • Loaded carries – Core strength, grip, balance
  • Kettlebell swings – Posterior chain, cardio, shoulders

  • Battle ropes – Shoulders, cardio
  • Muscle ups – Weight-strength ratio, technique, pull and push muscles
  • Rope climb – Grip, elbow/tendon strength, biceps, endurance
  • Old time squat press – Control, core stability, shoulder strength
  • High resistance stationary bike – Cardio, leg strength
  • Mindful jogging with ab tensing – Core strength, mindfulness, cardio
  • Skipping – Cardio, dexterity/footwork
  • Straight Legged Deadlift – Posterior chain, mobility
  • Cable punches – Shoulder/triceps/pecs, core, punching technique
  • HIIT – Cardio endurance, fast twitch muscle fiber/explosiveness

  • Depth jumps – Explosiveness, strength
  • Handstand push ups – Balance, shoulder/pecs, strength-weight ratio
  • Rock climbing – Grip, endurance, focus, balance, strength-weight ratio

Powerbuilding

The problem is that those movements are all predominantly compound movements with a high risk of injury. And they’re all very taxing on the immune system. If you were to perform a bunch of these things together, you’d be burned out fast and problem spend a fair amount of time injured.

Batman hammer strength

Not only that, but this doesn’t tell us anything about how we’re going to perform the exercises. Do we do them all to failure? How often?

Because anyone who watches this channel regularly will know that the way you break down your weights, reps, and rest will all impact on the results in massive ways. Training with the very highest weight possible – thereby necessitating far lower reps – is excellent for increasing the mind-muscle connection, creating microtears, and teaching the body to use as a single unity. This is how powerlifters and other strength athletes train.

The ultimate expression of this idea is ‘overcoming isometrics’, which involves pushing or pulling against an immovable force to increase neural drive and muscle fiber recruitment – a powerful tool used by martial artists and strongmen. I’ve covered this plenty of times so take a look through the back-catalogue for more.

But this type of training alone won’t get you ripped and it doesn’t do anything for muscle endurance and work capacity (the ability to exert strength over an extended period).

Mechanical tension

Unbelievably incredible bodyweight skills – not lots of hypertrophy

Likewise, I’ve seen all too many people focus on developing excellent technique and achieving bodyweight skills like the planche. They are clearly very fit individuals, but they don’t look big and powerful and they can’t always shift heavy weights.

Training for high reps with a relatively lighter weight on the other hand is bodybuilding-style training. This is superior for aesthetics because it encourages what is known among lifters as ‘sarcoplasmic hypertrophy’. It’s unclear whether this term is a little bro-sciencey, but it certainly seems to be true that it results in swollen muscles that aren’t as hard or as strong. They’re still plenty strong, and as I implied, they’re superior for muscle endurance too.

Not only that, but high rep is also very good for ‘feeding’ the muscle tendon unit, for encouraging vascularity, tendon strength, etc. It will increase work capacity and it will improve the mind-to-muscle connection through the sensation of the ‘pump’.

Both have their merits in other words, and different people respond to each type of training differently – meaning that doing both simultaneously would theoretically give you a better chance of seeing some progress in the gym.

Fortunately, others have already experimenting with combining both types of training. Enter: powerbuilding. Or ‘athletic aesthetics’.

The idea here is to combine heavy weight/low rep moves in the same workout. How? By using the strength training during the first half of the training, and then by using the high-rep isolation exercise at the end.

So, you might start a workout with some bench press, and landmine press, but then move on to something a little less compound and more isolated – like the pec deck, followed by some tricep push downs, or front raises, for the triceps and shoulders.

A similar idea is concurrent training which combines cardio with resistance training – either as part of a single workout, or by using ‘resistance cardio’ which is basically any form of cardio where there is also resistance.

Compound movements batman workout

So, what I want to do is to take this philosophy to its natural conclusion: putting the heaviest and most technical moves right at the start of the workout that focus on multiple different muscles and train things like balance and grip; and then we’re gradually moving more towards isolated exercises with lighter weights and high rep ranges – where a little fatigue is less likely to cause any harm. We’re going to end each workout with cardio finishers that focus on the muscle groups that we’ve been specifically targeting in that workout.

So then, I’m going to break down our regular training into some loose categories. These are:

  • Overcoming (including grip)
  • Compound (pure power output)
  • Compound control (bodyweight and old-time strength that relies on technique)
  • Work capacity (high rep, full body)
  • Isolation endurance (high rep, isolation)
  • Cardio finishers (HIIT, punch bag, battle ropes)
  • LISS (Low Intensity Steady state)
  • Stretching

This introduces a kind of sliding scale, with pure force output at one end, and cardio at the other. And for each workout, we’ll start at the power end and move toward the cardio.

This means that you might start a workout with a super-heavy bench press for three reps, move on to middle dumbbell presses and push ups, and end with a heavy bag workout. You have challenged your pecs’ ability to generate power and to maintain that power output over a long duration. The result? Pecs that feel like they’re going to explode.

Batman fight training

The isolation work and cardio goes at the end because you don’t want to perform squats and deadlifts while exhausted for fear of injury, and because you wouldn’t be able to recruit maximum strength at that point. Doing huge reps of deadlifts after a mile run is where CrossFit sometimes comes unstuck. I hope that by doing smaller sets of those compound lifts and then high rep ranges of related, but simpler moves, we can get all of the work capacity and hypertrophy benefits without the risks.

The Dynamic Drop Set

And as we’ve seen, there are other options too – like overcoming isometrics which build even more power. And there are plenty of intensity techniques from bodybuilding that play around with the reps and the pause. There’s rest-pause where you take just a few seconds of rest in the middle of the set in order to pump out a few more, there are supersets where you perform exercises back-to-back. There are flush sets where you perform huge numbers of reps (50-75) on a very light weight, and there are drop sets, where you continuously lower the weight each time you reach failure.

These massively challenge the muscles in ways that have been working for bodybuilders for decades.

Batman workout

Then there is my favourite intensity technique of all: the mechanical drop set. This works just like a drop set in that you go past failure by lightening the load, but the difference is that you do this by changing the exercise. So, you might do as many weighted pull ups as possible, then when you reach failure, switch immediately to a lighter lat pull down. Or you might do as many clapping press ups as you can, then switch immediately to regular press ups. Then press-ups on your knees because why not.

So, in these workouts, we’re going to take all these different types of move and then combine them into one long sequence. I call this the ‘dynamic drop set’.

In short: I no longer want you to think of these as separate exercises at all. I want you to completely throw the notion of 3 x 10 out the window. Sometimes we might just do one set of an exercise, but maybe with a rest-pause. Sometimes we might superset an exercise with something else. Sometimes we might do a massive drop set, or a mechanical drop set of three different exercises. We might end an exercise with an isometric hold, or we might start it with an overcoming isometric. Many exercises will be performed to failure, but some might be timed.

It’s all one intensive slog.

Programming -PPLFB

Okay, so hopefully you’ve got an idea of what a Batman-style training session can look like for the average Joe. Now the next question is how you’re going to design this to fit around your week.

Well first things first, I’m going to recommend what I call PPLFB. That stands for ‘Push, Pull, Legs, Full-Body’. The idea here is to train all the pushing moves on one day, all the pulling moves on another, leg moves on another, and then full body on a fourth day.

Push workout

PPL is a great routine for beginners and pros alike. Compared with a full-body only program, it allows us to train with a lot of intensity and heavy weights because we have enough time to really focus on specific movements – pressing, pull, or using legs – and enough time to recover subsequently. This is what we want to see actual strength gains and hypertrophy. At the same time, PPL works better than a split because it lends itself to those compound movements, and it burns more calories.

But nothing is perfect. The problem with PPL is that it actually minimizes volume and frequency for each muscle group. The research seems to suggest that training each muscle group only once per day is not optimum. Recovery takes about 48 hours and hitting the same muscle group more than once per week might improve protein synthesis. PPL actually minimizes this effect even more than a split routine, because after the first workout, you won’t be using your pushing muscles for anything else!

So, we could do two lots of PPL each week, but at this intensity I would not recommend that. Instead then, I suggest adding a fourth ‘full body’ day, which is also the perfect opportunity to do some more bodyweight skills training, and also some more cardio. That fourth day will act like a ‘top up’ for every muscle group, and it will be designed like a metcon circuit. PPLFB stands for ‘Push, Pull, Legs, Full-Body’. This is also when we’ll focus a little more on the core.

Finally, you can either end your full body metcon session with a mid-distance run (four to six miles), or you can do this on a separate day. I’m including that because every description of Batman’s routine places emphasis longer runs, and because it has a host of unique benefits outside of HIIT such as increasing the size of the left ventricle to lower resting heart rate etc.

Alternatively, and better yet, you’ll do the LISS on day four, and day five will be spent at a martial arts class.

So, this is either a four or five day per week routine. Bearing in mind everything we’re accomplishing in that time, I’d say it’s not bad!

Rest, Recovery, and Skills Training

But what about recovery you say!

Well, this being a very intensive program, and rest and recovery being highly important as I’ve discussed in previous videos, I actually recommend that you aim to spend an entire week recovering. Every fourth week will be your de-load week, and you’re going to spend that focussing on skills training. Instead of going to the gym, this is when you’ll spend 30-40 minutes on hand-eye coordination, ambidexterity, learning a skill or gaining knowledge, improving your flexibility, or learning martial arts.

Batman recovery

A Couple More Points

Finally, a couple more points:

  • Before training, 5 minutes of foam rolling is recommended to improve mobility and/or dynamic stretching
  • If you want to go full-Batman, then I also recommend a 5 minute body scan meditation to increase your mind muscle connection and focus prior to training
  • Finishing with heavy bag workouts regularly provides an opportunity for some martial arts training

Many of the exercises I’m about to recommend involve training with complicated and unique moves that may require specialist equipment. If you don’t have that available, look for similar alternatives.

This is not a training program for beginners in case you hadn’t already guessed. If you don’t have a decent level of strength, mobility, and fitness already… then don’t attempt it!

The Mecon circuit where possible should alternate between different parts of the body to try to increase the heart rate as it sends blood to the upper body, then lower body, then back! The Mecon should also be performed at your maximum intensity.

Sample Routines

TF means performing until failure. So, if it says ‘2 x 4’ that means ‘2 x 4’ of whatever weight you reach failure on after four reps. This of course should go up over time as you improve. Be sensible: where it says TF on a heavy compound move like the squat, make sure you either have a spotter, or stop when you notice your form starting to fail.

A ‘smaller than’ sign (>) denotes a drop set or dynamic drop set.

An -> shows that you are changing to another move with no rest in between

A forward slash shows you have options. Where possible, try to mix this up from week-to-week.

Burns are reps you perform when you have no more strength to perform a single complete rep. You complete as much of the rep as you can, which often looks like tiny repetitive ‘bouncing’.

These workouts performed correctly should take between 60-90 minutes. They are just suggestions however, and you can adapt them by adding or removing exercises to fit your schedule.

Finally, you can also choose to leave out the run and or the martial arts day if you don’t have the time or the energy. This program is scalable to match your time and your interests.

 

The Program

Week 1: Conditioning

Week 2: Conditioning

Week 3: Conditioning

Week 4: Recovery + Skills Training

 

Conditioning

Monday: Push

Tuesday: Pull

Wednesday: Legs

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Metcon

Saturday: Run / Martial Arts Class / Rock Climbing

Sunday: Rest

 

PUSH DAY

! 5 Minutes Foam Rolling / Dynamic Stretching – > 5 Minutes Bodyscan Meditation !

2 x 5 x Bench Press TF / 2 x 6 x Dumbbell Press TF

1 Minute Break

1 Minute Chest Press Overcoming Isometric TF -> 3 x Chest Press TF -> 10 x Chest Press TF -> Press Ups TF

2 Minute Break

2 Minutes Planche Training (Attempts + Maltese Push Ups Etc.) / 2 Minutes Handstand Push Ups Training

1 Minute Break

2 x 10 x Weighted Dips TF – > Dips TF -> Burns

1 Minute break

2 x (One Armed Tricep Dips TF > Tricep Dips TF)

1 Minute Break

2 x (10 x Tricep Push Down TF > 7 x Overhead Tricep Cable Extension TF > Tricep Push Down Isometric Hold TF)

1 Minute Break

10 x Landmine Press TF – Rest Pause – Landmine Press TF

1 Minute Break

10 x Arnold Presses TF – Rest Pause – Arnold Presses TF

10 Minutes: HIIT Heavy Bag / HIIT Battle Ropes

! 5 Minutes Stretching Cooldown !

 

PULL DAY

! 5 Minutes Foam Rolling / Dynamic Stretching – > 5 Minutes Bodyscan Meditation !

2 x 4 x Deadlifts TF

1 Minute Break

1 x Laps weighted monkey bars TF/1 x Muscles ups TF/1 x Rope Climbing TF

1 Minute Break

2 x (Weighted Pull Ups TF > Pull Ups TF > Inverted Push Ups TF) / 10 Minutes Bouldering/Traversing

1 Minute Break

One Armed Chin Ups TF

2 x Chin Ups TF – Rest Pause – Chin Ups TF

30 Second Break

Hang TF

1 Minute Break

2 x 8 x Curls -> 2 x 8 x Cross Body Hammer Curls

1 Minute Break

Cable Curls Drop Set:  10 x Cable Curls > 10 x Cable Curls > 10 x Cable Curls

30 Second Break

10 x Wide Bar Overhand Bicep Curls > Burns

1 Minute Break

20 x Light Upward Rows -> 10 x Light Face Pulls

15 Minutes High Resistance Rowing Machine / 15 Minutes Rope Climber Machine

! 5 Minutes Stretching Cooldown !

 

LEGS DAY

! Training Barefoot for Extra Points !

! 5 Minutes Foam Rolling / Dynamic Stretching – > 5 Minutes Bodyscan Meditation !

8 x Box Jumps

1 Minute Rest

2 x 5 x Squat TF

2 Minute Rest

2 x 30 Seconds Overcoming Isometrics Leg Press

1 x 8 x One Legged Press / 2 x Farmers Walk TF / 2 x 8 x Side Lunge TF

1 Minute Rest

2 x 5 x Weighed Pistol Squats TF / Pistol Squats TF / One Legged Squats TF

1 Minute Rest

2 x (10 x Barbell Lunges TF – Rest Pause – Barbell Lunges TF)

1 Minute Rest

2 x (10 x ATG Squat Jumps > 20 Calf Jumps)

1 Minute Rest

10 x Light Straight Legged Deadlift / Light Good Mornings

1 Minute Rest

10 Minutes: HIIT Running / HIIT Heavy Bag (Legs Focus) / HIIT Kettlebell Swings / HIIT High Resistance Cycling / HIIT Skipping

1 Minute Rest

2 x Gentle Jefferson Curls NOT to failure

1 Minute Rest

! 5 Minutes Stretching Cooldown !

 

FULL BODY

! Training Barefoot for Extra Points !

! 5 Minutes Foam Rolling / Dynamic Stretching – > 5 Minutes Bodyscan Meditation !

10 Minutes Bodyweight Skills Training (Planche, Handstand Push Ups, front lever)

1 Minute Rest

2 x Weighted Hanging Leg Raises TF

1 Minute Rest

 

Metcon Circuit x 2

1 Minute Press Ups

1 Minute Rest

30 Seconds Kettlebell Swing

1 Minute Rest

30 Seconds Pull Ups

30 Seconds Rest

30 Seconds Tuck Jumps / High Knees

30 Second Rest

1 Minute Sit Ups

30 Second Rest

30 Seconds Sprint

2 Minute Rest and Repeat

 

300 Press Ups (For Time)

Optional: 4 Miles Jog

! 5 Minutes Stretching Cooldown !

 

Diet and Mental Training

Of course, there is more to Batman’s training than this. I haven’t yet delved into what you would actually do on the skills training day, and nor have I looked at diet, or the mental training that Batman might utilize.

Batman mental training

I’m going to get into all that stuff in more detail soon, but if you’d like the cliff notes version:

  • Diet is my ‘strategic intuitive eating’ for 4 days of the week
    • And a 18:6 fast on the two cardio-focussed days
    • Making sure to always get 1gram of protein per 1lb of bodyweight
    • Also highly nutrient dens with some supplements to aid with that
  • Mental training will be achieved through a 20 minute ‘morning routine’ consisting of
    • Meditation / Image Streaming
    • Dual N-Back Training
    • Writing a journal with non-dominant hand
  • Mental training will also become more of a focus during the skills training week

I’ll be coming back to all of this in future, so stay tuned. But in the meantime, let me know what you think of the Batman routine. Will you give it a go? Do you like the principles? Do you agree that this is a good way to attempt his style of training in a shorter space of time? Let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

One Comment

  1. Mikael says:

    Hi. I want to try this workout but I am not sure to understand what this symbole mean “/” is it to give us a choice? example: “2 x 5 x Bench Press TF / 2 x 6 x Dumbbell Press TF” stand for 2 x 5 x Bench Press TF or 2 x 6 x Dumbell Press TF? Thanks.

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