Build Your Very Own Avengers Physique in Six Weeks

Grow muscle, get stronger and lean-up with this complete six week exercise and diet plan from natural bodybuilder and kinesiologist Brad Borland.

By the time you read this, you may have seen the new Avengers movie once or even a few times. By the looks of things (namely the physiques of the heroes in the film) muscle is back on the big screen – real life superheroes replete with well-defined muscle and brutal strength (sans the CGI Hulk of course).

But wouldn’t it be nice to create your very own Avenger? Wouldn’t it be great to build a stronger, leaner and more muscled superhero body? Do you need a kick start training and eating plan to help get you there? Read on. Below are three distinct training programs along with diet plans to build strength and muscle and then progressively getting you leaner and more muscular by the end of six weeks.

The beauty of the program is that it shifts gears every two weeks to keep boredom at bay and to ramp up progress for continued results. Research suggests that periodically changing up a training program is actually a good thing. It keeps the body guessing and progressing!

Three Programs, Three Goals

The first two-week phase jacks up your strength. It uses heavy weight, low reps and long rest periods. It is designed for recovery, growth and strength gains. Mind you, it is not a powerlifting program, but one that will prime your muscles for the extra work ahead.

The second two-week period places greater volume on your body along with some heavy work. It is a transitional phase to prepare you for the next two weeks. Moderate weight along with a medium rep range with shortened rest periods will be on order. This phase combines strength with more volume for lean muscle gains.

The final two weeks are dedicated to a higher rep range with a few techniques thrown in to keep the intensity high. You will also be working faster with supersets as well for time efficiency to really push yourself toward the finish line. This phase is almost entirely hypertrophy-focused. You will build more lean muscle while strength takes a temporary backseat.

Three Phase Diet Plan

Attached to each phase is a diet plan to give you the best results for each goal. The first two weeks are not only all about recovery and growth, but also acts as a break-in period to get you in the habit of eating the right amounts of macronutrients at the correct times. Think of this time as building your discipline.

The second phase builds on that discipline and provides you with a shift to start the lean down process. It picks up where phase one left off by cutting down on carbohydrate and increasing healthy fats.  By the third phase you will be a fat-burning, muscle building machine able to utilize everything you eat for your specific goal.

Give the program below a try for the next six weeks. Feel free to modify it according to your experience level. You can try three different options:

  1. Perform the program as is – six weeks then take a few days off and perform the six weeks all over again.
  2. Perform the six week program twice back-to-back for a total of twelve weeks.
  3. Perform each phase for three weeks instead of two for a total of nine weeks.

The choice is yours depending on your goals, time availability, upcoming events or just want to continue the program.

Create Your Own Avenger Program

Hulk Smash! (Phase 1 Training)

As mentioned earlier phase one is dedicated to strength and discipline building. Muscle and strength is the name of the game for the first two weeks. Perform the workouts over a four day period per week. Take a day off after two days of training. For example: Train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday and the weekend off.

Day 1 & 3 Warm-ups Work sets Rest between sets
Incline bench barbell press
2 x 10-15
3 x 4-8
2 min
Flat bench barbell press
3 x 4-8
2 min
Bent-over barbell row
2 x 10-15
3 x 4-8
2 min
Medium grip pull-up
3 x 4-8
2 min
Seated Smith machine military press
1 x 10
3 x 4-8
2 min
Wide-grip upright row
3 x 4-8
2 min
Hanging leg raise
3 x 10-15
1 min
Floor crunch
3 x 10-15
1 min

 

Day 2 & 4 Warm-ups Work sets Rest between sets
Barbell curl 1 x 10-15 3 x 4-8 2 min
Close-grip bench press 1 x 10-15 3 x 4-8 2 min
Barbell squat 2 x 10-15 3 x 6-10 3 min
Leg press 3 x 6-10 2 min
Barbell Romanian deadlift 1 x 10-15 3 x 6-10 2 min
Seated calf raise 1 x 10-15 3 x 6-10 2 min
Incline sit-up 3 x 10-15 1 min

 

Eat like the Hulk (Phase 1 Diet)

Meal 1 ¾ cup oatmeal combined with 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter, cinnamon and sweeten with Splenda  3 whole eggs scrambled or 1 scoop of whey protein combined with 1 cup of skim milk
Meal 2 1 cup of Greek yogurt  2 oz. of mixed nuts
Meal 3 4-6 oz. of turkey or chicken, 2 slices of whole wheat bread or Ezekiel bread, 2 tbsp of low-fat mayo, lettuce and 2 slices of low fat cheese  1 banana
Meal 4 (Pre workout) 1 apple  1 scoop of whey protein combined with 1 cup of skim milk
Meal 5 (Post workout) 16 oz. of Gatorade or Powerade  1-2 scoops of whey protein combined with 1 cup of skim milk
Meal 6 6-8 oz. of lean beef, fish, chicken or turkey  1 cup of mixed vegetables or any vegetable of your choice 1 medium sweet potato or 1 cup of rice, cooked

Note: Be sure to drink at least one gallon of water throughout the day.

Approximate totals: Calories – 3000 calories, 190 grams of protein, 400 grams of carbs, 70 grams of fat

Build Muscle Like Captain America and Thor! (Phase 2 Training)


By now you have begun to build a pretty sturdy foundation of strength with a little muscle to boot. Now it’s time to switch gears and turn our attention to packing on some serious muscle by building on our previous two weeks. The next two weeks will be similar in regards to adhering to the four days per week protocol, but now we will add in some volume and higher reps to really get the muscle to react.

Day 1 & 3 Warm-ups Work sets Rest between sets
Incline bench dumbbell press 2 x 10-15 4 x 8-12 90 sec
Flat bench dumbbell press 3 x 8-12 90 sec
Wide-grip pull-up 1 x 10 4 x 8-12 90 sec
Dumbbell row 3 x 8-12 90 sec
Standing dumbbell side lateral 1 x 10-15 4 x 8-12 90 sec
Seated dumbbell shoulder press 3 x 8-12 90 sec
Incline crunch 3 x 15-20 45 sec
Hanging knee-ups 3 x 15-20 45 sec

 

Day 2 & 4 Warm-ups Work sets Rest between sets
Dumbbell curl 1 x 10-15 4 x 4-8 90 sec
Lying barbell ext. (nosebreaker) 1 x 10-15 4 x 4-8 90 sec
Single leg press 2 x 10-15 3 x 6-10 90 sec
Barbell squat 3 x 6-10 2 min
Lying leg curl 1 x 10-15 3 x 6-10 90 sec
Standing calf raise 1 x 10-15 3 x 6-10 90 sec
Hanging leg raise 3 x 15-20 45 sec

 

Rip it up like a superhero (Phase 2 Diet)

Meal 1 ½ cup oatmeal combined with 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter, cinnamon and sweeten with Splenda  3 whole eggs scrambled or 1 scoop of whey protein combined with water
Meal 2 1 cup of Greek yogurt  2 oz. of mixed nuts
Meal 3 4-6 oz. of turkey or chicken, 2 slices of whole wheat bread or Ezekiel bread, 2 tbsp of low-fat mayo, lettuce and 2 slices of low fat cheese  1 banana
Meal 4 (Pre workout) 1 apple  1 scoop of whey protein combined with 1 cup of skim milk
Meal 5 (Post workout) 1-2 scoops of whey protein combined with 1 cup of skim milk
Meal 6 6-8 oz. of lean beef, fish, chicken or turkey  1 cup of mixed vegetables or any vegetable of your choice ½ medium sweet potato or ½ cup of rice, cooked

Note: Be sure to drink at least one gallon of water throughout the day.

Approximate totals: Calories – 2650 calories, 180 grams of protein, 300 grams of carbs, 65 grams of fat

Time to polish it up! (Phase 3 Training)


Now it is time to put the finishing touches on your new suit of armor! Supersets, reduced rest periods and higher reps are on call for the next two weeks. Get ready to ramp up the intensity and really blow out the muscle – but don’t worry, after all is said and done it will be worth the time, effort and sacrifice for a leaner, more muscular physique.

Note: Movements are paired according to convenience in a busy gym. A superset is when two exercises are performed back to back without rest.

The rest period will be taken after each superset is performed.

Day 1 & 3 Warm-ups Work sets Rest between sets
Superset: Flat bench dumbbell press with two-arm dumbbell row 2 x 10-15 3 x 10-15 1 min between supersets
Superset: Incline bench dumbbell fly with close-grip pull-up 3 x 10-15 1 min between supersets
Superset: Incline machine chest press with machine row 3 x 10-15 1 min between supersets
Superset: Dumbbell front raise with dumbbell side lateral 1 x 10-15 3 x 10-15 1 min between supersets
Superset: Hanging leg raise with incline sit-up 4 x 15-20 30 sec  between supersets

 

Day 2 & 4 Warm-ups Work sets Rest between sets
Superset: Incline dumbbell curl with overhead dumbbell triceps extension 1 x 10-15 4 x 10-15 1 min between supersets
Superset: Smith machine squat with dumbbell Romanian deadlift 2 x 10-15 3 x 10-15 1 min between supersets
Superset: Leg extension with seated leg curl 3 x 10-15 1 min between supersets
One-leg calf raise 1 x 10-15 3 x 10-15 30 sec
Floor crunch 4 x 15-20 30 sec

 

Look like an Ironman (Phase 3 Diet)

Meal 1 ¼ cup oatmeal combined with 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter, cinnamon and sweeten with Splenda  3 whole eggs scrambled or 1 scoop of whey protein combined with water
Meal 2 1 cup of Greek yogurt  2 oz. of mixed nuts
Meal 3 4-6 oz. of turkey or chicken, 2 slices of whole wheat bread or Ezekiel bread, 2 tbsp of low-fat mayo, lettuce and 2 slices of low fat cheese  Small salad with oil-based dressing
Meal 4 (Pre workout) 1 apple  1 scoop of whey protein combined with water
Meal 5 (Post workout) 2 scoops of whey protein combined with 1 cup of skim milk
Meal 6 6-8 oz. of lean beef, fish, chicken or turkey  2 cups of mixed vegetables or any vegetable of your choice

Note: Be sure to drink at least one gallon of water throughout the day.

Approximate totals: Calories – 2200 calories, 180 grams of protein, 220 grams of carbs, 60 grams of fat

*A word about off days and supplements

On off days you will eliminate the post workout meal on all phases of this program. Also, you may want to add in one or two cheat meals (preferably on the same day) on the weekend. Don’t go overboard, just eat enough to be satisfied and stop there. Don’t get off track too much and pig out.

One more thing about off days – it’s not a green light to get lazy. Go out and enjoy other activities: basketball, swimming or anything you just plain enjoy doing actively. This will not only keep your interest up in being active it will also keep your metabolism humming along.

If you want to include other supplements to the program in addition to whey protein, 5 grams of creatine and 2-3 grams of beta-alanine can be added to both the pre and post workout meals.

Characters and images copyright Marvel and/or respective holders.

Brad is the founder of Workout Lab. He is a consultant, writer, fitness specialist, husband and father. He earned his Master's degree in Kinesiology, is a member of the Air National Guard and is a cancer survivor.

  • A.Stev

    Meh… needlessly elaborate.

    Just eat Paleo and do ‘Body By Science’ or some other simple, high-intensity weightlifting regimen of big compound lifts to failure and throw in some sprints here and there.

  • Joseph Kersting

    Great artical !
    Love the easy, straight forward, diet plan especially.

  • http://www.prosperityandprofits.com/ Alice Butler

    This actually looks kind of fun and I’m sure a lot of men would prefer having the Thor body. On another note, I am so desperate to see The Avengers and it’s eating me knowing that everybody in our house has already seen it except me.

  • David

    I’ m with A.Stev, paleoish diet and playing outdoors goes a long way.

  • seb

    Too much stuff to keep track of. Beginners are better served building a base of strength with simple programs that focus on compound lifts (squats, deadlift, bench, standing press, etc). Less is more.

    6 weeks is also unrealistic to see any significant change. Headline reminded me of those men’s fitness magazines.

  • Danno

    This whole article was pretty disappointing. Not that I was expecting much (you can’t just look like Chris Evans or Hemsworth in six weeks). STEV is right, your best bet is heavy weight compound lifts at low reps. Training with compounds like that is the most effective way to build muscle (and the most simple). But it was entertaining to read this and if anyone does this program let us know how it goes!

  • http://www.WorkoutLab.net Brad

    Yes, all good points but if you look closer to the program it does stress heavey, compound moves. It is a simple program that will elicit change in six weeks once one adheres to the diet plan as well.

    It is a significant change for anyone who is just starting out and needs structure.
    Thank you for all your comments.

  • Nick

    I love seeing all the haters cause they crack me up. Gents, tone it down and keep the arm chair commandoing to a minimum.

    Brad,

    I think that this is an awesome program and is perfect for a beginner because of the structure…especially the diet. Getting lean is really about your diet. Thanks for the post. Keep stuff like this coming.

  • William

    Thanks Brad, looks like an easy to follow program!

    To everyone else, I think I’ll trust the author who has a masters in Kinesiology, is in the National Guard, and looks ripped as hell in his profile picture over anonymous bro-science commenters.

  • http://rktjky@gmail.com michael

    want strength? POWERCLEANS BABY! when you can pc your body weight for 3 sets of ten, that is some serious strength. with sufficient fat and protein in your diet with a multi-vit/min your body can do anything. pec dec for chest and seated military for delts/tris and yer dun!

  • http://www.WorkoutLab.net Brad

    Nick,

    Thanks! I tried to make it simple and easy to understand. Programs like this has helped many of my clients build leaner, more muscular physiques. And yes, diet is so important for success.

    William,

    Thanks also! I just try to pass on what has worked for not only me but so many others as well. The program is really about being disciplined and structured to get people going.

  • A.Stev

    @ Nick & William — Why is disagreeing or offering criticism automatically “bro-science” or “hating”? Is this what the web has become: everyone who disagrees is seen as a troll or a hater?

    I don’t doubt this program will give results (any type of regimen will if you stick with it– and I realise it was meant to capitalise on “The Avengers” and be ‘fun’), but it’s needlessly complex, especially for beginners. That kind of information overload of planning out every little detail, including meals (and Ezekiel bread, low-fat mayo and Splenda aren’t anything even approaching healthy), is overwhelming for most people. I’ve seen countless people give up because they’re overwhelmed trying to keep track of too much stuff on their own.

    This type of program is better suited to people who can afford a personal trainer, and I think in that sense it makes it not well suited to Primer’s demographic of “the everyday 20-something man”.

    Efficiency is key, especially for people just starting out. The K.I.S.S. principle always applies. Certainly no ill-will was meant towards Mr. Borland, I was simply offering an alternative opinion. Notice how I didn’t just say “This sucks” and attack the author personally, I gave an explanation of why I wasn’t thrilled with it and offered an alternative? That’s the farthest thing from “hating”.

    And if credentials are that important to you, I was in the service (Navy specifically), have years of experience weightlifting, and recently completed my doctorate in bio-chemistry (the stuff that makes you and your body work)… so– and to risk sounding incredibly pompous– my opinion is a little more informed than an “anonymous bro-science commenter”.

  • William

    A.Stev,

    After reading a lengthy and thoughtful article starting a comment with “Meh…” is not generally seen as offering constructive criticism or providing a differing but respectful point of view.

    I also would disagree with what seems to be your primary problem that it’s overly complicated for beginners. This doesn’t appear to be a beginner’s guide. As someone with a good number of years lifting weights, I actually look forward to incorporating this into my own plan as a jumpstart to some plateaus.

    And for many beginners a simple program like Strong Lifts may be perfect but others may appreciate the detail and reasoning behind a more complex approach.

    You’re free to disagree, but in my mind there’s no question this is a sound regiment. I found your original comment dismissive and unrealistic – telling beginner’s to just do compound movements and eat “paleo” seems simpler but I think beginners will also find a hard time making the transition to an all paleo diet.

  • Chuck

    Yes, I too agree with the K.I.S.S. comments above. This program is decent but too intimidating and complex for most beginners, and too militaristic. If you really want an Avengers bod in 6 weeks, become a well-paid actor forced into a high-intensity daily training regimen that leaves you little time for anything else. The author may be a pro fitness “expert” with a great bod (partly due to genetics); but as soon as he mentioned whey and creatine, he lost some credibility. Chocolate milk has been determined as being the perfect post-workout food, contains all the whey and carbs you need, and is much, much cheaper than an expensive supplement. Creatine, if it does anything at all (which is still not proved) just adds water weight to your muscles, and can damage kidneys. Water – not your corporate Gatorade sponsor – is the perfect hydrator (unless maybe you’re doing something grueling like a marathon). Articles like this are a dime a dozen, have been in all the fitness mags for decades. If they worked so well, everyone would be an Avenger by now instead of contributing to the obesity epidemic. Getting in great shape is more about mind over matter – you need determination and persistence, two “muscles” too weak in most people.
    If you want to get in shape:
    - do what physical activity you enjoy, but do something everyday, even if it’s only walking (too many drivers out there)
    - rest as much as you need ( 1 or 2 minute rest, or two days off, are only guidelines not rules)
    - eat healthy real food (stressing about a donut will shorten your life more than eating it)
    - do mostly compound exercises (e.g. squat, deadlift, bench press) at the gym to gain muscle and to make the best use of your time there
    - train intensely
    - push your limits but don’t lift let your ego determine how heavy you lift (many reps at low weight causes muscle growth almost equal to few reps at heavy weight – variety is the key to keep your muscles adapting and growing)

  • http://www.WorkoutLab.net Brad

    Chuck,
    Just a note about creatine: There has been counless studies done regarding the efficacy of creatine monohydrate supplementation. It does saturate the muscle with water which in turn leads to a more favorable environment for protein synthesis. Also, it has been well documented, especially in recent research, that creatine can assist with muscle endurance as well as residual effects on cardiovascular performance.

    Please read the credible research.

    Also, there has been no known study citing the kidney damage comment you made. If so, where is the study you are referring to? I have yet to find it. Can it cause damage to someone who is severely dehydrated or has kidney issues to begin with – maybe. But steak and fish contain up to five grams of creatine naturally – so why isn’t everyone keeling over?

    I welcome your comments, but I must stress that the research is there.

  • Michael

    I’m surprised that some people are saying this is “too complicated” for beginners.

    The diet:
    I can go to the store at the beginning of each phase with shopping list in hand and by exactly what I need for the next 2 weeks. Its actually much easier to follow a very specific diet then just the general “eat meat, protein and avoid carbs”.

    The Workout:
    I can lookup each of those workouts on Youtube either before I go to the gym, or at the gym with my phone (because I have no idea what many of those workouts are).
    The other great thing is I can tailor the amount of weight I put on to the training. Maybe I will do the plan 2 times in a row and see how much stronger I am the second time around.

    I just finished a very specific diet (The slow carb diet – from The 4-Hour Body) and have lost about 15 pounds in a few weeks. I think I’m going to take this one up starting next week to gain some muscle now (and continue losing fat). Anyways thanks for a great article. There can always be a “better plan”, but I’ll be trusting that this plan is a good plan.

    - A beginner

  • Greg_s

    Also, for those of us not-a-little-bit lactose intolerant folks, whey protein isolate (99% lactose free) is a much better option than chocolate milk.

  • Kevin

    Why does he espouse a frequent meal plan? 6 meals is no more advantageous than 3 meals or 9 meals. He doesn’t provide any evidence why you will build “lean muscle” during the 3rd phase. I think that’s just a recomping phase, and should be labeled as such so as not to mislead people.

    Also, why on earth would you perform the highest amount of volume for this program in conjunction with the largest deficit in caloric intake? Less energy = less energy for lifting. This is old thinking that doesn’t make any sense.

  • http://www.WorkoutLab.net Brad

    Kevin,
    All good questions. With six meals you are able to get in and digest more protein than with three. The higher volume of training will build more muscle mass and keep body fat down.

    Old thinking? Is performing compound moves for mass old thinking? Sometimes we try to compplicate things while forgetting the simple approach.

    Try it out. If not, thanks for reading and creating discussion.

  • http://www.WorkoutLab.net Brad

    Michael,
    Thanks! I hope you have great success and let me know how you do. Jump over to my site and email me any questions. I’ll be more than happy to help.

    -Brad

  • Kevin

    Brad,
    I’ve looked at the macro content of the sample diet plan and there isn’t much protein in each – I’d say less than 50 grams. It seems to be operating under the assumption the body can only absorb a certain number of grams(a very low amount) each meal.

    General consensus in fitness literature agrees that fewer reps are more effective for mass gains due to the fact that heavier weight increases recruitment of muscle fiber.

    I completely agree that compound movements are the best. I still follow some HST principles and don’t use any accessory movements for simplicity and efficiency. Plus, I know they’re better for mass gains.

  • Devin

    Brad,

    I work out rather casually, but would like to try this system. I do, however, need you to specify the difference between “warm ups” and “work sets.” Is it half the normal weight for warm ups or what’s the deal? My bad if this is a totally “noobish” question.

  • Nick

    Haha like I said before “haters gonna hate”. It’s hilarious that people care this much to sit here and try and disprove a program that I know would work because you just get out there and exercise. All of this exact science crap = Trolololol

  • http://www.WorkoutLab.net Brad

    Devin,
    Roughly, yes. Choose a weight around half or so of your working sets to increase blood flow in the muscle – it “primes” the muscle for the work ahead.

    Nick,
    Yes, haters will hate. I try to produce programs that do have a bit of science to back them but also have practical, real world application as well. If we followed science to a “T” then, I believe, we would not reach our goals as fast as we could – we are not all lab rats running on a wheel. We all have jobs, family obligations, stressors and a myriad of other things thrown in the mix.

    But I do appreciate all of the comments.

  • Abe

    Brad,

    I have a couple questions. First, how should I adjust the diet if I work out first thing in the morning? Should I just do the pre-and post meals in the morning and push everything back a bit? Will that matter?

    Also, how’s this program for skinny guys? I want to get bigger and more defined but I can’t afford to lose much weight. Is this going to make me burn too much?

    Thanks for the great tips. I hope to get started right away.

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  • McD

    I’m doubtful that eating 400g carbs as a beginner is great for you physique, hell, at 200g a day I start getting bloated and looking fat (ew!). Diet should be adjusted as per your LBM.

  • Zac

    I’m sixteen, have been working out for about two years, and plan to begin this plan this coming Monday with a couple of small changes to the dieting. This seems like a great plan for me because I have a busy school schedule where planning my fitness can be tricky and i easily get bored with the same plan for more than 4 or so weeks on end. 

  • B_Gumm

    I work an off-shift. 3pm-12am. How can I rotate the meal plan to work with my work schedule?

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  • Erick Mercadante

    I have a dead serious question…With all the vitamins and supplements out there, is it safe to just take the vitamins and supplement instead of food? I AM NOT EVER GOING TO DO THAT, but I am curious as to wether or not that is actually safe to do.

    • Brendon

      No. Calories in should equal calories expended. Also, many fruits have fiber which you need to do simple things like use the restroom and phytochemicals which are additionally helpful.

      For example, both vitamin C supplements and oranges will give you the same amount of vitamin C. However and orange has about 2.5 grams of fiber and has flavonone, anthoctanin, hydroxycinnamic acid, polyphenol and hesperidin: all of which help lower blood pressure and perform various other functions.

      p.s. Brad could probably give you a better answer, I’m still in college but I thought I’d share what I could.