OF COURSE it's not easy being a superhero. Rescuing babes, sidestepping bullets, you know . . . and then there's the mercilessly tight costume. No point flying onto the big screen with flabby abs. Enter L.A.'s high-profile personal trainers Brad Bose and Sebastien Lagree. Bose, with a background in physiology and a private gym in Santa Monica, helped Robert Downey Jr. put on 20 pounds of muscle in five months for the just released "Iron Man." Frenchman Lagree -- whose Pilates Plus franchise has a cult-like following among the tanned and toned -- worked with Ben Stiller for his role as an action hero in the upcoming summer spoof "Tropic Thunder." For mere mortals, both trainers agree that if you want to get buff for summer, better get on it ASAP. First, read on:
What was your client's goal for getting in shape to play a superhero?
Lagree: For this role, Ben wanted to get sculpted and toned. He wanted ripped abs too. We did a lot of interval training with cardio and Pilates. He did the recumbent bike for 10 or 15 minutes and then the machines for 10 or 15. He also runs on his own.
Bose: The people at Marvel didn't want Downey to look too bulky. He's a scientist, and so he's more brain than brawn. He came in 20 pounds underweight and trained five times a week for five months. He did yoga, kung fu and hour- or 90-minute sets with only 40 seconds' rest in between each exercise.
What is the biggest mistake men make when they train?
Lagree: They work the same muscles -- biceps, shoulders and chest -- and then they reach a plateau and get frustrated. Or even injured. Guys want to increase their upper body size but don't work out their lower body muscles. They forget their core, inner thighs, obliques and abductors.
Bose: The macho effect. Men walk into a gym, see other guys and pick up the heaviest weight they can manage. They also get confused about reps. You should lift a weight that you can only manage for exactly eight reps. Not nine.
Which area are men most concerned about improving?
Lagree: It's all about abs. My clients don't want to bulk up because they wear designer dress shirts. They need to fit into a slim-cut Dolce & Gabbana suit. The guys I work with know that smaller doesn't mean weaker.
Bose: Guys I see want really well-rounded shoulders, nice pecs and a strong chest. They want a flat stomach instead of six-pack abs.
How long will it take for a guy to get killer pecs?
Lagree: You can get a defined chest in four to six weeks if you're converting fat to muscle. Building Arnold Schwarzenegger's pecs takes three years.
Bose: A guy with a normal metabolism rate and a high pain threshold can put on a pound of muscle per month. It would take the average guy looking for definition 12 to 16 weeks.
Do men see results more quickly than women when they work out?
Lagree: Yes. Men have more muscle-to-fat ratio so their bodies react quicker. They already have the muscle to sculpt. Women need to do weight training to build muscle.
Bose: Absolutely. Women's lungs and hearts are a third smaller. Men can breathe in more oxygen. And men have more testosterone in their body, which allows them to recover quicker, train harder and get in shape faster.
Whose physique do most men want right now?
Lagree: David Beckham, Brad Pitt and Mario Lopez. If a guy doesn't have a long torso like Beckham, he can't get that through working out. I always explain first because it's not worth the disappointment.
Bose: Everybody wants Hugh Jackman's body from "X-Men" or James Franco from "Spider-Man." I have a photo image measurement machine, and I can take a client's picture and superimpose it on a picture of Hugh Jackman. Many times, I have to tell guys that they may not even be able to get a certain body because they're not built that way.
Do men secretly care as much about their butts as women do?
Lagree: No. Guys care about their stomachs. Women want to work on their butts and then, stomachs and arms.
Bose: For some reason, society hasn't focused on men's butts. Mostly, I get guys who say: "I gotta get rid of this gut, and I want big guns and big pecs."
Describe your signature workout move and its benefits.
Lagree: The "French twist" is the move on the SPX ProFormer that I created, and it works the obliques and the waist. I just designed bigger machines that are good for men. We do a minute on each side, and the results are fast because you isolate the muscles.
Bose: My "Sisyphus exercise" is done on a Vortex machine. A guy has to go up and down on these handles with weighted pulleys for three to four minutes with no rest. Sisyphus was a sub-god who was cursed to roll a stone up a hill and then have it roll back down again.
If a guy goes on a binge, which is worse: beer and pizza or martinis and steaks?
Lagree: Beer and pizza is all carbs. It spikes up your insulin level, and you store it as fat. The protein and fat in steak will offset the sugar content of the martini.
Bose: Beer and pizza are so grossly loaded with fat and no redeeming qualities. Beer has low alcohol content but high calories. Guys have to drink more beer than martinis to get happy. Steak has a balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates.
Is there such a thing as too many crunches?
Lagree: Never. You can do 500 a day, and it will help your endurance. Be sure to put your feet under a weight first and keep your chest up. Bring your opposite elbows to opposite knees and twist. Oh, and suck in your stomach as you do it.
Bose: Yes. Part of exercise includes rest. If you're doing 500 crunches, you could get a repetitive motion injury. Your abdominal muscles need rest to get stronger. I recommend 48 hours in between. Plus, you'll get a flat stomach, but no six-pack, by doing crunches.