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The Iron Man 2 Workout

How Robert Downey Jr. trained for Iron Man 2 and beat workout boredom
By Annabelle Robertson
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

In Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. impressed audiences with a lean, mean, fighting-machine physique. As Tony Stark, an engineering genius with a penchant for women and adventure, the 5 feet 8 inch Downey weighed in at more than 170 pounds, with sinewy arms and rock-hard muscles that came from months of grueling workouts.

After that film, however, Downey switched gears. He dropped 20 pounds to play Sherlock Holmes – a thin, reed-like character with smaller muscles. 

So when Downey learned that he would once again be playing Stark in Iron Man 2, the challenge was on. 

From Sherlock to Iron Man 2

"We had to do some pretty drastic stuff to get him up near the 170-plus pounds of Iron Man," says Brad Bose, PhD, the exercise physiologist and kinesiologist who sculpted Downey for all three films.

And they had to do it quickly. Downey had only three months to prepare for Iron Man 2 – and a full 20 pounds to regain. 

On top of that, Bose says Downey was exhausted from the diet and training he had done for Sherlock Holmes and was bored with traditional workouts.

"As mentally strong as he was, the body was tired," says Bose, who owns Bose Management in Santa Monica, Calif.

"Robert said, ‘If I have to get underneath a bench press or [do] a squat, I'm going to shoot myself. I just don't have the motivation.'  So his challenge to me was to make the workouts fun and challenging."

Unusual Approach

Bose hit the books, researching long-forgotten and exotic training techniques. His goal: Chisel Downey's body into one that fit Iron Man's character – not just get him back into shape.

"The role was a much different person than the typical Marvel superhero, who tends to be an overbuilt, buff kind of guy – the guy who's big and muscular and strapping, and who almost looks like a body builder," Bose says. "The character of Iron Man was a playboy millionaire, a misunderstood scientist, a techno-geek. It didn't fit him to be a big, overly muscular guy."

Downey's Iron Man 2 Diet and Workout

Bose designed a series of one-of-a-kind workouts that honor Bose's mantra of "functional performance" – training that accomplishes specific physical goals and keeps the body working at peak performance. 

Downey ate a high-protein diet of 2,500 to 3,200 calories a day. In addition to Yoga and Wing Chun Kung Fu, he worked with Bose three or four days a week for about 90 minutes each.  

Here are some of the exotic exercises Downey did, which Bose describes as "Rocky IV meets modern technology."

But first, a word of caution. You shouldn't try these exercises at home. They were developed specifically for Downey and performed under watchful supervision. That's a must, because without expert help, you could easily get hurt.

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