Want to get jacked like Chris Evans in Captain America?
Build an armor plated chest that stands out?
Grow bigger biceps enough to pull in a helicopter?
At 6’2”, Chris weighed 185 lbs and was at 8% body fat when filming began for Captain America. Of course, this is an estimation from pictures and film shots. Chris never reported any of this in his interviews.
Still, you can guess anyone’s body fat percentage by comparing how they look to a chart of body fat photos. If we’re honest, what matters is not the fat percentage but how you look shirtless.
To find out your body fat levels see this comparison chart.
How long did it take for Chris to get results?
Chris would bulk for 3 months before filming. This is a grueling schedule and he admits it in interviews but it’s efficient.
When you follow this plan or any other workout plan it’s important to set realistic goals. How long it takes for you depends on your starting point. For Chris, it took 3 months. For other actors, like Chris Pratt (Pratt), it took 8 months to get ready for Guardians of the Galaxy. The time it takes varies but you can get there.
How many days a week did he workout?
Chris Evans would spend six days a week in the gym. He would focus on a different pair of muscle groups each day (e.g. biceps and triceps, chest and back). He’d take Saturday to rest and recover then he’d use Sunday to focus on muscle groups that were lagging behind.
How long for each workout?
Each workout would last for 2 hours. His trainer, Simon Waterson, would have him focus on a few muscle groups each day. As Chris put it, they would destroy those muscles. You can do the same thing using low rep, heavy weight sets with long rests between sets.
What did Chris eat?
Chris did a lean bulk. He ate lean proteins, high fiber carbs, lots of salads and veggies, and avoid junk food. Lean bulking is a grueling way to go but it’s the best way to gain mass without a lot of extra fat.
If you eat like Chris you’ll always feel full and that’s something he hated. Regardless, you have to keep eating to meet you target daily protein and calorie goals.
Still full? Time for another protein shake with that chicken breast salad. Clean plate club only!
Who did Chris Train With?
Chris worked with English trainer, Simon Waterson, to get in shape for his role as Captain America. Simon specializes in super hero workouts. He trained Jake Gyllenhaal for Prince of Persia. Simon got Daniel Craig ready for Spectre. He even helped Chris Pratt get super-hero jacked for Guardians of the Galaxy. For a complete list of actors and films that Waterson has worked on and with check out his IMDB page.
Simon works with actors from different age groups and different starting weights. Whether you start overweight (e.g. Chris Pratt) or you’re older (e.g. Daniel Craig), Simon has a plan for you. By following the diet and workout given below, you’ll have a chance to learn from this famous trainer.
There’s a lot of interviews of Chris Evans on Youtube but there are two that stand out.
The first video shows Chris’ 11 year transformation from 1997 through 2018. It begins with Biodiversity Wild About Life and goes through Avengers: Infinity War.
The next video shows Chris discussing his workout strategy and diet.
How to get Captain America Lean
Chris used a clean bulking strategy. He ate healthy, bland foods. Brown rice, protein salads, porridge, lean meats, and grilled veggies filled his plate.
It wasn’t keto, it wasn’t vegetarian. It was your grandma’s advice. Pizza, hamburgers, and the rest were out.
Watch other interviews of famous actors bulking up for their roles and they say the same thing. You have to eat way more than you want to and again, it’s not pizza and candy. It’s a lean protein, veggies, and either high fiber starches (e.g. Chris Evans) or no carbs (e.g. Hugh Jackman).
Did Chris use Intermittent Fasting?
Chris wasn’t a fan of intermittent fasting. He had to focus on eating clean using low, fat protein sources, veggies, and whole grains. Other actors, like Hugh Jackman, follow the 16:8 fasting protocol. They eat during an 8 hour window then fast for 16 hours through the night and start again the next day.
Both eating strategies work, you have to find the one that works for you.
How did Chris Eat Enough?
Simon insisted Chris add protein shakes to increase his protein and calorie intake. Chris did this since protein shakes were easier than extra meals.
Protein shakes make bulking easier. It’s hard to get enough protein to bulk from meals alone. Well, it’s easy but you might not want to eat that much.
How did Chris Stick to the Diet?
It’s no secret Chris wasn’t happy about the diet. He felt full all the time and eating became a job.
How do you make it easier? Do what Chris did. Give yourself a Deadline.
Chris set 3 month deadline to bulk. Seeing the end in sight went a long way to keeping him on task. He also planned to stop bulking when filming started.
Why not do the same? Start your lean bulk in March and work hard till June to get your biggest. Then enjoy the summer season and don’t stress so much.
Put the 2 hour a day workouts and non-stop eating on the back burner for awhile. Then bulk up again later when you feel like it.
How many calories did Chris eat?
Chris never stated his calorie intake in interviews. At 6’2” we could estimate his daily calorie intake including 2 hour workouts would be around 3100 calories a day.
How to use calculators to estimate how much you should eat to bulk (fast and less accurate)
You can use this calculator to figure out your own calorie requirements. Enter your height, target body fat percentage, and exercise amount. Then set the preset drop-down to bulk.
The calculator adds 10% to your daily base calorie needs. You need to go over your daily limit which is why it adds 10%. It only adds 10% though since adding too much leads to excess fat gain.
10% over your normal calories is a great starting point. Using a calculator is a great way to estimate how much you should eat but it’s only an estimate.
After you get the suggested calorie intake from the calculator you are going to have to fine tune it. Watch your weight for 2 weeks while following the workout (described far below). If your weight doesn’t go up, increase the average calorie intake another 10%. Watch again for 2 weeks and reassess.
How to use food journaling to estimate how you should eat to bulk (slow and more accurate)
You can use food journaling to calculate your daily calorie needs as well. Food journaling takes longer to estimate but it’s more accurate than calculators.
To do it, write down everything you eat for one to two weeks. Every day weigh yourself and add that to the journal as well. Next, calculate the calories for what you ate.
Calculate your average weight and your average calorie count. That’s the amount of calories it takes to keep you at that weight.
Was you calorie estimate accurate? It doesn’t matter. Even if you guessed too low it will be consistent with how you guess.
Again, this method takes longer but it’s more accurate since it’s calibrated to how you look at what you eat.
With both methods you still have to watch what you eat and compare it to your weight and adjust as you go. You want your calorie count to be 10% above your daily needs. That way you grow muscle rather than fat.
Example meal plans
In the interviews Chris gave the following example meals:
- porridge for breakfast (he used the word porridge instead of oatmeal)
- salad for lunch
- meat/veggie/rice for dinner.
Let’s call it the Captain America basic bulking plan.
Next we’ll give several recipes for each meal type in the next section. We will show you how you can alter the recipes for your specific height, calorie, and protein needs.
How to make a high protein porridge
For high protein porridge the key is to add protein powder. We recommend vegan protein. Studies have shown you can overeat plant-based proteins with less ill effects.
Here’s a quick recipe for protein porridge that you can make cold or hot.
Take a mason jar. Add ½ cup of oats. Instant or normal, doesn’t matter. Add berries. I use frozen since they’re cheaper and keep longer. Add cinnamon, protein powder, PB2 (dried peanut butter with less oil), and soymilk. Use one serving size of each. PB2 will add 5 grams of protein and soymilk will add an extra 8 grams of protein and again, no ill effects. Shake well and leave in the refrigerator till morning. Overnight oats will be ready to eat in about 8 hours of soaking. Heat them to make a hot porridge.
The above recipe is roughly 493 calories and 37 grams of protein. To hit a 3100 calorie day you would want to have 2 servings of this for breakfast. You will find them beyond filling. Again, no one said it would be easy! Adjust serving sizes according to your daily calorie goals.
How to make a high protein salad
The key to making a high protein salad is adding beans and/or lean protein. Lean protein means different things to different people. You could use fish, lean chicken, or a veggie meat alternative. Whatever it is keep it lean.
Here’s how to make a super fast, simple protein salad. Buy mixed washed greens from the grocery, the kind that are in that huge hard plastic container. The 16 ounce size is the best bang for the buck. Plus they taste better than the cheaper bag mixes using iceberg or romaine.
Why so much focus on high quality greens? Like water in coffee it’s the majority of what you eat. Purified water in coffee makes it taste better. High quality greens makes the salad better. Plus the mixed greens have more nutrients than iceberg lettuce or romaine.
After you’ve got good greens use them to fill up a huge bowl, like a mixing bowl or large tupperware container. Salads should be huge to keep you full until the next meal. Use 6 to 8 cups of greens as the base. Next add ¼ cup of mixed nuts, ½ cup of black beans, and a lean meat (chicken, fish, or turkey) or chopped up veggie burgers.
Boca burgers can add up to 16 grams of protein in each patty. The nuts add another 8 grams or and the beans will add another 8 grams on top of that. Adding in the protein from 6-8 cups of mixed greens should put you at 30 grams of protein for the meal.
Shooting for 30 grams of protein per meal is a great goal. More than that and it tastes artificial. If you feel like you need more protein get it from protein shakes or more 30 gram protein meals.
Oh, let’s not forget the dressing. Lean towards no or low oil dressings. Oil makes it harder to stick to calorie limits. It’s all too easy to underestimate how much olive oil you’re adding. Plus, you’ll get lots of healthy oil in the nuts already.
I’ve searched far and wide for low oil salad dressings. The ones you can buy usually have fake sugar and the ones you can make go bad fast. Plus you have to make them. Who has time for that?
What worked for me was finding existing condiments that I liked in my salads. My favorite – dijon mustard. Sometimes I’ll use teriyaki sauce. Sometimes hot sauce will do the trick.
Go through all the condiments, find your favorites and try it. Avoid any high in sugar and if all else fails olive oil and vinegar makes a great standby. Don’t forget to measure the oil you use. Oil calories add up fast.
The salad above, using a boca burger, comes in at 520 calories and 40 grams of protein. That’s a good lunch if your daily calorie goals are 1500 a day. If you’re in Chris’ territory (3100 calories) you’ll need to eat 2 servings of this.
Note on snacks – Don’t. You’ll lean bulk with less fat gain if you wait longer between meals. Snacking gets out of hand fast. You’re aiming to go over daily calories by 10%, not 25%. The easiest way to avoid that is no snacks.
How to make a high protein brown rice bowl
Let’s keep things simple. For the rice bowl you’re going to add to the protein salad recipe above.
Please note – Chris never gave out recipes in the interviews. He said he ate porridge, lots of salads, and rice bowls. We built these recipes based off of his comments. The ingredients will help you reach your calorie and protein goals.
Now, back to cooking and eating…
For a filling, high protein rice bowl start with one cup of brown rice in a huge bowl. Add 4 cups of mixed salad greens to fill it up. Then add a chopped up boca burger, ½ cup of beans, and skip the nuts this time. Let’s add ½ an avocado as our natural oil source. Serve with teriyaki sauce or a no-oil topping of your choice.
I’m not a fan of brown rice and I included this to keep with Chris’ comment that he ate rice. I’m sure he ate a bit of quinoa every now and then. Ever look up how much protein quinoa has? It’s more than rice and it tastes better. Let’s dive in.
Using quinoa, the meal above clocks in at 649 calories with 39 grams of protein. Switch to brown rice and you get 675 calories at 36 grams of protein. Not much of a protein drop using brown rice but I’m still a quinoa fan.
For the cheapos – Buy your quinoa from Trader Joes or Walmart and aim for a $3 per pound price point. For some reason it’s all too easy to buy quinoa at $8 per pound at normal grocery stores which is ridiculous.
The Meal Plan calorie tally
Alright, let’s add up our daily tally. There are 2,675 calories and 193 grams of protein for the sample day given above. That was 2 servings of overnight oats, 2 servings of salad, and one serving of quinoa bowl.
Let’s assume we use the classic ratio of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you weight 193 pounds you’ve reached your protein for the day. More than your share.
You’ve had enough protein but you still need a bit more to get to 3100 calories. Instead of adding protein shakes add another salad or overnight oats meal and you’ve made it.
That’s 2 servings of porridge, 2 servings of salad, one quinoa bowl, then a serving of salad for dessert. Yes, you can eat your protein goal with whole foods.
Full yet reading this? Now you know how Chris felt eating to become Captain America.
How to Build a Captain America Workout Routine
The theory Chris mentioned for his workout routine is simple. Workout 6 days a week and take one day off. Monday through Friday focus on a different pair of muscle groups (e.g. back and chest, biceps and triceps, etc.). Take off Saturday to recoup. Then use Sunday to focus on lagging muscles.
For each workout you’ll spend 2 hours exhausting those muscle groups. Take your time. Add long 3 minute rests between sets. Chris used low reps per set with heavy weights.
Chris never mentioned the number of sets or reps and it’s not important. You will add or reduce sets till you exhaust your muscles. You’ll do it slow so you don’t get injured.
Heavy Weights or High Reps?
Chris focused on heavy weights and low rep routines to put on as much mass as fast as possible. If you watch old Arnold Schwarzenegger interviews you’ll see him give the same advice. Heavy weights, low reps.
For each exercise below you will want to use a weight that you can’t lift beyond 5 repetitions (reps). Experiment to find that weight.
A safe way to do it is to choose a light weight that to do 10 reps. Rest one minute. Add 10 pounds or 10%, whichever is lower. Do another 10 reps. Repeat sets and rests until you can’t hit 10 reps.
That will be close to your target weight for that exercise. Write it down. That will be your starting weight for that exercise next week.
Be patient. If you go too heavy too fast you’ll get injured and have to pause the whole process.
Monday – Captain America Chest Day
Reps, Sets, and Rests – For each exercise use your 5 rep max weight (i.e. a weight heavy enough you can’t lift it beyond 5 reps). Wait 3 minutes between each set then drop the weight 5 lbs or enough so that you can’t lift beyond 5 reps for the next set.
Rinse and repeat for 3 sets of each exercise. Don’t forget the 3 minute rests. You want to exhaust the muscles, not injure them.
If you can still lift after the last exercise start over from the beginning. Keep going till you hit two hours or you reach failure.
Failure is the inability to do a full rep with good form going slow. If you get to exhaustion before 1.5 hours then you’re starting weights are too heavy. Use less starting weight next time.
You will need to play with this the first few weeks to find the right weights for each exercise. Remember to take notes and be patient. Even in this calibration phase you will be gaining mass.
Chest Exercises (alternate between fly and push)
- Incline chest press
- Machine chest fly
- Decline chest press
- Weighted dips
- Bodyweight dips
Tuesday – Captain America Back Day
Reps, Sets, and Rests – Use your 5 rep max, do 3 sets of each exercise, rest for 3 minutes between sets.
- Overhead pull down machine
- Pullups, wide grip
- Rowing machine
- Chinups, close grip
- Cable pull downs
- One arm, bent over row
- For barbell lovers, Yates row
- Deltoid machine
- Wide grip pullups to failure
Wednesday – Captain America Leg Day!
Reps, Sets, and Rests – Use your 5 rep max, do 3 sets of each exercise, rest for 3 minutes between sets.
- Leg press machine
- Calf press machine
- Air squats
- Barbell or dumbbell squats
- Repeat leg press machine
- Repeat dumbbell squats
Thursday – Captain America Shoulder Day
Reps, Sets, and Rests – Use your 5 rep max, do 3 sets of each exercise, rest for 3 minutes between sets.
- Overhead shoulder press machine
- Dumbbell lateral raise – repeat above, rest 3 minutes
- Military standing overhead press, dumbbells or barbell – repeat above, rest 3 minutes
- Bent over lateral raise
Friday – Captain America Arm Day (Biceps and Triceps)
Alternate between bicep exercises and tricep exercises to increase muscle rest time.
- Barbell curl
- Triceps cable extension
- Dumbbell curl
- Reverse barbell or dumbbell curl
- Triceps dumbbell overhead extension
- Hammer curl
Saturday – Rest Day
Time to rest but keep eating
Sunday – Stubborn Muscle Day
Use Sunday to focus on any muscle groups that are lagging behind.
Most Important Lifts for the Superhero V-shape
As a lazy lifter this is something I’ve focused a lot on. What’s the smallest number of muscle groups to focus on to look your best in the least amount of gym time.
Chris’s physique includes a huge chest, large back, and big rounded shoulders. The large chest made him look huge when he emerged from the machine after taking the soldier serum.
A wide back and rounded shoulders will make you look jacked even in a t-shirt.
Big, rounded shoulders will make you look fit even if you don’t have a six-pack.
Big triceps will make your arms look larger than big biceps. Triceps make the biceps pop, even if they are small.
These are the muscle groups to focus on if you don’t have a lot of time.
Chris went above and beyond because he was trying to get huge in 3 months. He didn’t plan to keep that size afterwards.
If you’re want to get bigger for the long run you can boil the workout down to 3 crucial days. Focus on a back day, chest day, and shoulders day to get head turning results in less gym time.
Back day will make you look good in a suit. Chest day will make your arms look bigger (bigger triceps) and your chest look great shirtless. Then shoulder day will make you look jacked even while your chest and back are catching up.
What about Leg Day, is it needed?
No. I have huge calves already so I skip it.
Simon had a theory on leg day though. For Simon, leg size wasn’t important. He knew to focus on the shoulders, chest, and back to get that classic superhero shape.
Simon used leg day to increase results in other areas like chest, back, and shoulders. Leg day was Simon’s way of making his own soldier serum. He found that leg day sped up results through the rest of the body.
Leg day comes with another gift. It gives your other muscle groups another day of rest. Workout days provide the stimulus. Muscles then use rest days to repair and grow.
Did Chris use Cardio?
Yes. Chris used certain types of cardio to achieve his goals. He used circuit training, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and plyometrics.
Chris rarely did standard cardio like jogging or running for fear of losing the muscle he gained. Jogging has its place but some lifters fear it during bulking phases. Whether that is true or not doesn’t matter. It’s what Chris did and his results speak for themselves.
Plyometrics is a form of jump training that uses body weight instead of external weights. Like circuit training you go from one exercise to the next with little rest between sets.
Circuit training uses low weight exercises with little rest between sets. It combines benefits of strength training and cardio without the muscle breakdown.
For Chris, these forms of cardio acted as the warm-up or the cool-down around the main workout.
What about recovery times?
Chris didn’t talk about sleep much when it comes to recovery but sleep is key. Muscle grows during sleep.
Aim to get a 8 hours sleep a night during your bulking phase.
A Note on Drinking Alcohol
If you drink before bed it will disrupt your sleep and your growth will suffer. If you do drink, drink no more than 2 a night for men (1 per night for women).
Stop drinking at least 2 hours before you would go to sleep. That gives your liver enough time to remove the alcohol before you sleep.
Better yet, don’t drink at all. It’s only for 3 months. Consider it a job. You’ll get paid in muscles.
What supplements did Chris use?
Chris wasn’t a fan of all the eating. He used protein shakes to get the extra protein and calories needed to meet his daily goals.
He used other supplements as well.
In interviews he spoke about using glutamine to prevent catabolism (muscle breakdown). He took omega 3 with every meal to help with joint recovery. He’d finish the night with a casein shake to help with sleep and for more protein. He also used branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).
Although Chris didn’t mention it, look into creatine. There’s a world of research showing creatine helps you bulk faster.
Chris used a 3 month bulking deadline to succeed. It was the reason the endless porridge breakfasts and daily 2 hour workouts were doable.
You can’t grow forever without getting injured or getting so bulky your clothes won’t fit.
You can’t cut forever without losing your muscle mass.
Plan to get bored or either cutting or bulking. Give yourself a deadline. Cut for 2 months then switch. Bulk for 2-4 months then take a break. Chris did and so should you.
Working out should be fun. Get big for the summer then have a fun summer. Cut through the winter. That’s what the bears do. Then rinse and repeat.