How Glen Powell Built Maverick Upper-Body Muscle for Top Gun 2 - Men's Health Magazine Australia

How Glen Powell Built Maverick Upper-Body Muscle for Top Gun 2

Top Gun: Maverick is one of 2022's most hotly-anticipated films. Rightly so — it's been 36 years since we've seen Cruise in the seat of an F-14 Tomcat going at Mach 2. Starring alongside Cruise is Glen Powell, who dons the flight suit in Maverick as Jake "Hangman" Seresin, in a role that demanded Powell be in peak physical condition for photography. Here's how he did it.

Close your eyes, reader, and spend a few seconds thinking about the glory of 1986 blockbuster Top Gun. What did you see? Fighter jets? Motorbikes? Sweaty locker rooms and greased-up volleyball matches? All of the above, we’ll wager. You’ll be glad to know, then, that Top Gun: Maverick is more of the very same, with another stellar line-up to boot.

One such actor starring opposite Tom Cruise’s brash Maverick is Glen Powell, playing shit-hot pilot Jake Seresin; codename ‘Hangman’.

For Powell, prepping for his outing in Maverick involved more than just spending hours (and hours) in the hot seat of a military-grade jet pulling Gs. Rather, the 33-year-old wanted to be in peak physical condition once photography had started. More specifically, it was a certain shirtless beach scene — sound familiar? — that had piqued Powell’s interest, and spurred him on to get shredded for the sequel. For this, he turned to Ultimate Performance (UP) Los Angeles, a personal training gym that specialises in overhauling physiques dramatically for both average Joes and Hollywood A-listers alike. Training with UP’s CEO Nick Mitchell, Powell briefed that he wanted to whittle down his body fat, improve his upper-body musculature and forge stronger, broader shoulders.

“You’ve got to have the raw material to start with,” explains Mitchell on how he began to recraft Powell’s physique, just seven weeks out from filming. “The raw material with Glen was very, very good as he already had a solid base. He is naturally athletic, he consistently exercised [and] was a fast responder to weight training.”

“It’s all-out war every single time.”

A valuable motivational tool to Powell, Mitchell explains, was reminding him of his primary co-star: a certain Tom Cruise.

“If he was backing up on something, or when the going was getting tough, [I would ask] ‘what would Tom Cruise do?’ Tom Cruise is all in. He wouldn’t stop.”

As with any mere mortal, Mitchell’s technique would keep Powell grafting long after the sweat started pouring. “It might look like it’s hammed up for the cameras, but it’s really not,” Mitchell admits. “It’s all-out war every single time and that’s what he enjoys. That works for me, especially because that’s the kind of training that I enjoy doing for myself.”

Mitchell, a former competitive physique athlete turned-CEO, is no stranger to hard work and fused his methodology and his experience in competitive bodybuilding into his work with Powell.

“What you’re looking for with someone like Glen and a movie like Top Gun, is what is going to pop the most on-screen,” he says. “What’s going to make him look good? What imagery do we want him to push out? What positions does he look his best in?” This macro-level detail saw Mitchell ensuring that no stone was left unturned — for which, we assume, Paramount was very grateful for — in Powell’s training. “The shot of him you see on the billboards, we practiced that. That’s what we practiced in the mirror. You practice the angles,” he explains. “What angle do you want to hold? What needs tensing and what muscles do we need to bring up? What do we want to focus on in order to enhance that look?”

The look the pair wanted to achieve, you’ll no doubt be wondering, was “the mirror muscles,” Mitchell admits, with an important caveat. “You can’t create massive muscles in that amount of time, but you can create detail by getting people leaner, sharper, certain muscles can be fuller in a relatively short space of time. So, it’s about detail.” More specifically, Powell needed to have a “[big] chest and rounded shoulders,” says Mitchell. “People forget to work their traps. So, the trapezius muscles are very easy to develop”.

As for the programme Mitchell created for Powell ahead of Maverick, it all came down to being realistic with the given time frame and Powell’s commitments to shooting around the world. In just seven weeks and with constant scenarios that could sabotage even the most diligent dieter, Mitchell opted for a bodybuilding-style programme that would accentuate Powell’s muscle groups within a short time frame. It’s a bodybuilding program, with normal hypertrophy and muscle-building principles where you do a few workouts that are heavy, low reps,” Mitchell explains. “Then you might cycle into higher reps and more volume, and then you might pull it back to something else.”

Powell grinds out tricep extensions under the watchful eye(s) of Mitchell.

“What we do is temporarily overreach,” he emphasises. “Some people call that overtraining. Overtraining is more a long-term thing. Overreaching is short-term, doing a little bit too much volume and then really backing off on the volume of work.” Interestingly, despite the volume at which Powell was training, his weight stayed largely the same, but “he got leaner and leaner and leaner and leaner as it went on,” says Mitchell. “You can do that for five, six or seven weeks. You can’t do that, week in week out, for 50 or 60 weeks, though.”

As Mitchell enthuses, you don’t need to be a Hollywood actor on the cusp of a massive break to be able to use the same principles in your training. “Everyone can significantly change their physiques in a month. You can’t create a world-class physique in a month, but every single person can make massive inroads into how their bodies look in a very, very short space of time,” he says. “If they are prepared to commit. How many boxes are you prepared to tick? There are a hundred things you need to do. If you’re prepared to do 30, you’re not going to progress as much as those who’re prepared to do 70.”

If you’re feeling inspired to add a little juice to your training, take one of Powell’s sessions for a test flight:

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