Man of Steel Tyler Hoechlin on Building a Superman-Worthy Physique

Tyler Hoechlin had a very justifiable thought when he learned he snagged the role of Superman in The CW’s Superman & Lois (which was just renewed for a second season).

 

 

“I remember thinking I should probably get to the gym,” says Hoechlin, who was originally slated to do just a two-episode stint on Supergirl. That was four years ago, and the actor has been putting himself through a personal bootcamp for every appearance since, drawing upon past training experiences and his days as a baseball player. “I’ve learned a lot over the years, and am always looking to get better.”

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Now stepping into the spotlight with his own series, Superman & Lois, Hoechlin had plenty of reasons to ramp up his regimen. And coming off his portrayal of bodybuilder Joe Weider in Bigger, there was plenty of groundwork laid out. We chatted with the real life Clark Kent from his set in Vancouver about first getting the role, his keto diet, and the workouts that get him into Man of Steel shape.

Men’s Journal: How did you first find out you might play Superman?

Tyler Hoechlin: This goes back to 2016. They’d just announced Superman was going to make an appearance on Supergirl. But the meeting was in fact for Superman. They asked if I’d be interested, and I was. It was probably about a week later—I was on my way back from a road trip with my brother to Zion National Park in Utah—when I got the call saying I got it. I turned to my brother and said, ‘I think we have to stop in Vegas.’ We celebrated by sitting in a sportsbook catching the Warriors against the Cavaliers. My brother turned to me at one point and said, ‘So, are you Superman now?’ And I said, ‘I guess?’ It was a very surreal moment. It still feels surreal. But it’s been a joy and a privilege.

How familiar were you with the character, and the past portrayals of him, at that time?

I was aware of Superman in the broader pop culture sense before the show. You’d see people wearing Superman T-shirts and a lot of athletes I looked up to had the tattoo. My focus during my early years was primarily on baseball, which I played competitively all through school. I was acting at that same time, so those two things took up a lot of my time. I didn’t do a deep dive or anything when I got the role either. Instead I made a conscious decision not to watch any of the other movies or shows. I’m glad that from day one we had a very unique feel on the program. I feel like I really know who this Superman is, and I wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of me seeing him as clearly as I do now.

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The strength is elemental, but what kind of physique did you want on-screen?

There are images that come to mind when you think of Superman, especially from the comics. This projection of strength. I wanted to look strong, but I also had to keep in mind he’s the Man of Steel. He isn’t the largest man in the world, or the bulkiest man in the world. There’s an energy there, and a power that comes from the sun. It’s not only the size of the man, the strength comes from within. I don’t have to actually look like I can throw a locomotive—and thank God, because I’m not sure what that would take.

Tyler Hoechlin in
Tyler Hoechlin Courtesy Image

Did you work with any trainers in particular to get ready?

I’ve worked with a lot of great trainers over the years, and I’ve learned a lot from them. I’ve held on to a lot of that knowledge. I’d personally love to be working out with a trainer right now, but it just isn’t possible. I’m lucky I have enough programming and concepts to lean on during this time, and I don’t feel like I’m shortchanging myself. My buddy David Buer has helped me immensely over the years. Greg Miele is another great trainer I worked with back in the day. The lessons they taught me have served me well during this time.

What’s your mentality when you’re going into the gym to train for Superman?

Being a former athlete, I enjoy a good challenge, and that’s how I saw training for this role. I like having that extra incentive to get in the gym, even after working insane hours. I make it in, no matter how early in the morning or how late at night. I enjoy that part of this process. I really credit my baseball coaches with pushing me to the next level. They taught me to find that extra effort when you’re completely wiped and feel like you have nothing left. That’s what I bring into my work now. If we’re having an epic day on set and I feel wiped, I’ll still find that little bit in the tank that’ll take me through a workout. I remember my coaches telling me, ‘This is when everyone else gives up.’ And that’s all I need to hear to push past the point of exhaustion. You also learn that’s when you see results—when you see that return.

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How far out did you start training for the role? And how do you lay out your training plan?

I’m always training, but for this I had about a year to prepare. I decided to spend that time really leaning out as much as I could. Once I got there, I worked hard to put on as much muscle as possible. I know some people do it the other way, bulking then cutting down, but this is what works for me. I’ve realized what really translates best on-screen is those lines and being shredded. Back when I was doing Teen Wolf, I had a friend who I probably outweighed by 40 pounds, but on-screen we looked the same size. So my focus has shifted since learning that.

What kinds of workouts do you utilize the most during this training?

I usually do HIIT workouts, and I really enjoy supersetting. I find myself going back to the programs I did with David Buer. I’ll break up the body segments, doing chest and triceps or back and biceps. I’ll do legs on another day. I have some injuries from my days playing baseball, so I can’t really do traditional cardio like running on the treadmill, so I try to get my heart up by really keeping that HIIT workout max effort.

I feel like Superman always has a massive chest. How did you address that in the workouts?

I can’t overstate how important the incline chest press is to the regime. A flat bench is fine, but if you really want that full chest, you need to get that incline in. I probably do that more than any other chest exercise. That comes from years of not knowing how impactful it could be, then someone opening my eyes to it. I also really wanted width in my shoulders, which meant getting into some delt raises. The back is very important too. If you want to look like you have a broad chest, then you need a big back. I ended up doing a lot of rows, lat pulldowns, and you can’t go wrong with deadlifts. The deadlift brings me back to my days of playing ball. It’s not all about just looking good. I actually want to feel strong. The deadlift does that for me.

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What’s your diet like now?

Diet is such a huge part of it, and there are some people who still neglect that element. I’ve been on a ketogenic for almost three years at this point. I’ve also cut back on drinking immensely, though not altogether. Between those two steps, I really set myself in the right direction. Being conscious of the calories you’re taking in and making sure it aligns with your goals. During the leaning out process, I’ll intermittent fast, not having my first real meal until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. When I’m bulking I’ll start eating immediately, usually having a keto bar shortly after waking.

Tyler Hoechlin in 'Superman & Lois'
Courtesy Image

Do you drink coffee or consume any protein shakes?

I actually like to start my day with a cold brew coffee protein shake with Califia Farms coconut milk, Dymatize ISO protein powder, MCT oil powder, and Lily’s dark cocoa chips. Blend it up and I’m good to go. It’s my way to hack the blended coffee drinks I used to love but have 80 grams of sugar. This way I can enjoy myself and also feel good about it.

What do your meals look like?

Everything is pretty normal—good-quality protein with vegetables that aren’t super starchy. The mornings can be pretty substantial with eggs, cheese, and bacon. Over the past three years the way I eat has gotten me pretty far, and I don’t feel like I need to change anything too drastically. I did recently send my diet to a nutritionist who works with the Vancouver Canucks to see what his general thoughts are. Maybe there are things I should tweak for the long-term. I’m looking forward to that feedback—but so far, so good. A snack I enjoy that’s pretty strange is peanut butter and avocado. It’s my go-to staple. I love avocado on its own, but mixing it with peanut butter is what really takes it to the next level for me. I know it’s weird, but I love it.

Are there any scenes in Superman & Lois you felt like you needed to train specially for?

Not really. I want to make sure I look like I’m the guy throughout. I haven’t gotten any shirtless scenes just yet, but I can guarantee you, if and when that moment comes, I’ll be dialing it up. I’ll be ready.

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What do you enjoy most about playing Superman?

It’s weird. Playing the character on the other shows in the universe, making appearances, it always felt like playing Superman. But now with this show, it feels like being Superman. I love that this show is about family. I’m not married and I don’t have kids, but it’s something I definitely want in my future. I think it’s a message that’s especially powerful at this time. This is Clark Kent as a dad, who just happens to be Superman.

Superman & Lois airs on The CW and on The CW App 

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