Man of Metal Tyler Hoechlin on constructing a Superman-worthy physique

Tyler Hoechlin had a very legitimate thought when he found out he was snatching the role of Superman in The CW's Superman & Lois (which has just been renewed for a second season).

"I remember thinking I should probably go to the gym," says Hoechlin, who was originally only slated for two episodes on Supergirl. That was four years ago, and the actor has undergone a personal bootcamp for every appearance since, drawing on previous training experience and his days as a baseball player. "I've learned a lot over the years and I always strive to get better."

Hoechlin now stepped into the limelight with his own series Superman & Lois and had many reasons to improve his regime. And after portraying bodybuilder Joe Weider in Bigger, there were a lot of basics. We chatted with the real-life Clark Kent on his set in Vancouver about the first role, his keto diet, and the workouts that put him in Man of Steel shape.

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

Tyler Hoechlin: This goes back to 2016. They had just announced that Superman would be performing on Supergirl. But the meeting was actually for Superman. They asked me if I was interested, and so was I. It was probably 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 that 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 once and said, "So, are you Superman now?" And I said, "I think?" It was a very surreal moment. It still feels surreal. But it was a pleasure and a privilege.

How familiar were you with the figure and the earlier depictions of him at the time?

I was aware of Superman in the broader sense of pop culture before the show. You will see people wearing Superman t-shirts and a lot of the athletes I looked up to had the tattoo. In my early years, I mainly focused on baseball, which I played competitively throughout school. I was playing at the same time so these two things took up a lot of my time. I didn't do a deep dive or anything when I got the part. Instead, I made a conscious decision not to watch any of the other films or shows. I am glad that we had a unique feeling on the program from day one. I feel like I really know who this Superman is, and I don't want anything to get in the way of seeing him as clearly as I do now.

Strength is basic, but what type 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 remember that he is the man of steel. He's not the tallest man in the world or the bulkiest man in the world. There is an energy and a force there that comes from the sun. It's not just the size of the man, the strength comes from within. I don't really have to look like I can throw a locomotive – and thank god I'm not sure what that would do.

Tyler Hoechlin Courtesy Image

Did you work with coaches specifically to get ready?

I've worked with a lot of great coaches over the years and learned a lot from them. I held onto a lot of knowledge. Personally, I'd like to train with a coach right now, but that's just not possible. I'm lucky enough to have enough programming skills and concepts to rely on during this time, and I don't feel like I'm changing myself. My buddy David Buer has helped me a lot over the years. Greg Miele is another great coach I worked with back then. The lessons they taught me have served me well during this time.

What is your mentality when you hit the gym to work out for Superman?

As a former athlete, I enjoy a good challenge, and that's how I saw training for that role. I like this added incentive to hit the gym, even after insane hours of work. I can do it no matter how early in the morning or how late at night. I enjoy this part of this process. I really owe my baseball coaches for taking me to the next level. You taught me to find that extra effort when you are completely wiped off and feeling like nothing left. I now bring that into my work. When we have an epic day on set and I feel wiped out, I still find that little piece in the tank that takes 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 get past the point of exhaustion. You will also learn that you will see results – when you see that return.

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

I always train, but I've had about a year to prepare for that. I decided to spend this time as much as possible. When I got there, I was working hard to build as much muscle as possible. I know some people do it differently, build up and then reduce, but that's what works for me. I realized that what translates best on screen is those lines and the chopping up. When I was doing Teen Wolf I had a boyfriend I probably outnumbered by 40 pounds, but we looked the same size on screen. Since learning this, my focus has shifted.

What types of workouts do you use most often during this workout?

I usually do HIIT workouts and I really enjoy doing supersetting. I am returning to the programs I did with David Buer. I'll split up the body segments and do the chest and triceps or the back and biceps. I'll be walking another day. I have some injuries from playing baseball, so I can't do traditional cardio workouts like running on the treadmill. That's why I try to get my heart racing by really keeping HIIT training with maximum effort.

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

I can't exaggerate the importance of inclined chest squeezing to the regime. A flat bench is fine, but if you really want that full chest, you need to build that slope. I probably do this more than any other chest exercise. This comes from years when I didn't know how effective it could be and then someone opened my eyes to it. I also really wanted some size in my shoulders which meant I got into a couple of delt raises. The back is also very important. If you want to look like you have a wide chest, then you need a big back. I ended up doing a lot of rows and lat pulldowns, and you can't go wrong with deadlifts. The deadlift brings me back to my days as a ball player. It's not just about looking good. I actually want to feel strong. The deadlift does that for me.

How is your diet now?

Diet is such a big part of it and there are some people who still neglect this element. At this point, I've been on a keto for almost three years. I've also cut down on drinking immensely, if not altogether. Between those two steps, I've really set myself in the right direction. Be aware of the calories you are consuming and make sure they are in line with your goals. While leaning out, I will fast intermittently and will not eat my first real meal until 1 or 2 p.m. I start eating right away when I grow up and usually have a keto bar shortly after I wake up.

Tyler Hoechlin in Courtesy Image

Do you drink coffee or do you consume protein shakes?

I actually like to start my day with a cold brewed coffee protein shake with Califia Farms coconut milk, Dymatize ISO protein powder, MCT oil powder and Lily's dark cocoa chips. Mix it up and I'll be good to go. This way I can chop the coffee mix drinks that I used to love but which have 80 grams of sugar in them. That way I can have fun and feel good about myself.

What are your meals like?

Everything is pretty normal – high quality protein with vegetables that aren't particularly starchy. Mornings can be quite extensive with eggs, cheese, and bacon. The way I eat has got me pretty far in the past three years, and I don't feel like I need to change anything too drastically. I recently sent my diet to a nutritionist working with the Vancouver Canucks to see what his general thoughts are. Maybe there are things that I should optimize in the long term. I'm looking forward to this feedback – but so far, so good. One snack I enjoy that is pretty weird is peanut butter and avocado. It is my first choice. I love avocado on its own, but mixing it with peanut butter really takes me to the next level. I know it's weird, but I love it.

Are there any scenes in Superman & Lois that you had to train specifically for?

t really. I want to make sure I look like I'm that guy. I haven't gotten shirtless scenes yet, but I can guarantee you I'll call her when that moment comes. I will be ready.

What do you like most about playing Superman?

It is strange. When I played the character in the other shows in the universe and made appearances, it always felt like playing Superman. But now with this show it feels like you're Superman. I love that this show is about family. I'm not married and I have no children, but I definitely want that in my future. I think it's a message that is particularly powerful right now. This is Clark Kent as a father who happens to be Superman.

Superman & Lois will air on The CW and the CW App

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