The Training Methodology Robert Pattinson Used to Become 'The Batman'

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Photo credit: Cindy Ord - Getty Images
Photo credit: Cindy Ord - Getty Images

Be honest, did you really expect Robert Pattinson to successfully embody the physicality of Batman? The same Batman who went up against Tom Hardy’s Bane and held his own? The Caped Crusader who also locked horns with Superman.

No, us neither. Because Batman isn’t just the cape and cowl. A certain degree of physicality comes with the role. And, while Robert Pattinson has gradually built a reputation as one of this generation’s most exciting and unpredictable actors, he’s never been known for his physique. Until now.

The Batman has been a resounding success, bringing in a new era of Dark Knight storytelling and cashing in megabucks at the box office. In it, Pattinson is intense, brooding and yes, hench. He’s already shared his thoughts with us about his Batman training, but what about the prep work? How does the guy from Good Time and Tenet get his body ready to transform into Batman? The Batman? Vengeance itself?

The answer is Rigan Machado. An L.A.-based Brazilian martial arts mastermind, Machado is an 8th-degree red and white belt in Jiu-Jitsu and a former Pan American Champion. He began his own training at the age of five-years-old. Half a century later, he has trained, by his count, over 400 different actors including Keanu Reeves and Chadwick Boseman. He even counts Chuck Norris as a good friend.

This is the story of how he helped Pattinson unlock his potential.

The Bat-Plan

Machado’s route to Batman came about circuitously through another DC cinematic universe alum, The Suicide Squad’s Joel Kinnaman, whom Machado had previously trained. “He called me one day and told me he had a friend who wants to train with me. It was Robert Pattinson. I set it up and Rob came to my studio in Beverley Hills.”

Kinnaman had told Pattinson how Jiu-Jitsu had helped him become limber and more focused. “I think this encouraged Rob to just try out Jiu-Jitsu,” says Machado. With The Batman on the horizon, Machado believes some martial arts training was the perfect way for Pattinson to get into a fighting headspace. “I think he wanted to get some insight into how martial arts athletes think, and how they do it,” he says.

Because the dark, crime-ridden nights of Gotham wait for no one, Machado and Pattinson got to work…

Bat Mobility

“I train exclusively in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” explains Machado. “I focus on teaching the knowledge first. It’s a lot of repetitions of movements, but Rob learned it very fast. He’s the most focused person. He’s very quiet and serious and it took some time for him to open up but pretty soon he did. I’ve never met a guy so nice, so humble and respectful.”

Machado purposefully started Pattinson’s training slow, sounding out the actor and gradually getting him used to potentially injury-prone activities such as grappling. Soon, though, they were flying, training three or four times per week.

“We trained for three months. After this he left to go and start on The Batman,” Machado explains. When filming started Machado’s role diminished. “For The Batman, he had to do a lot of fighting in a heavy costume, so he couldn’t do much Jiu-Jitsu on screen, which meant I wasn’t able to collaborate on the fighting as I had on films like Black Panther,” the trainer explains.

But by training in Jiu-Jitsu prior to filming, Machado believes Pattinson gained the knowledge to become a better fighter, and, maybe, a better actor due to the fact that he had gained that little bit of extra insight into combat. Plus, he was good at it too. “He’s very good. He’s very talented,” Machado says. “The type of person who if he keeps training Jiu-Jitsu he could enter competitions. He has these abilities which are very rare.”

The Workout

Machado’s training sessions were brutal; an hour to an hour-and-a-half three or four times a week. The pair would begin with warm-ups of running or jumping jacks, followed by intense repetitions of up to 12 different Jiu-Jitsu drills in order to learn the basics of the sport. Then, the workout properly began, before ending with a cooldown and a stretch.

To help you get in crime-fighting shape, here’s a short but brutal workout based on Pattinson’s Bat-work. Complete this once or twice a week for a workout that utilizes muscle-building classics but won't pack on too much mobility-hampering size.

Pull Ups

  • Sets: 3

  • Reps: 12,10, 8 seconds

  • Rest: 30 seconds

  1. Grab an overhead bar with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, palms forward.

  2. Engage your lats as you squeeze your chin up and over the bar.

  3. Hold if you can then slowly extend the arms to lower yourself back to the ground. Do not swing your legs – that’s cheating.

MH Tip: You might want to keep them crossed at the ankles to remove temptation… Aim for 12 reps to begin with and if you can’t manage that three times, drop it by two reps every set.

Push-Ups

  • Sets: 3

  • Reps: 60 seconds

  • Rest: 30 seconds

  1. Set up with your weight supported on your toes and hands beneath your shoulders, body straight.

  2. Take care to keep your core locked so a straight line forms between your head, glutes and heels.

  3. Lower your body until your chest is an inch from the ground then explosively drive up by fully extending your arms.

MH Tip: The push-up is a staple of any muscle-building program and the Dark Knight is no exception – remember Christian Bale busting out reps in Batman Begins? Focus on pacing – slow and steady builds better muscle and reduces your risk of injury

Copenhagen Plank

  • Rounds: 3

  • Reps: 30 seconds per side

  • Rest: 60 seconds

  1. Start in plank position but turned through 90 degrees one side, with your top leg resting on a bench.

  2. Lift your body off the ground using your top leg and extended bottom arm.

  3. The tricky (trickier) part is holding your bottom leg up, keeping it in line with your torso. Hold it. Hold it. Then switch sides.

MH Tip: Want heroic abs without having to work through endless crunches? This is a dynamic – and painful – alternative that ropes in your obliques and adductors as well as your abs.

Bear Crawls

  • Sets: 3

  • Reps: 60 seconds

  • Rest: 30 seconds

  1. Assume a press-up position with your knees bent at 90-degree angles and directly underneath your hips. Your knees should be elevated.

  2. Without allowing your lower back to rise or round, brace your abs as if you were about to punched in the gut. Hold this contraction the entire time. This is your starting position.

  3. 'Walk' your right hand and left foot forward a few inches. Pause, and then return to the starting position.

  4. Next, 'walk' your left hand and right foot forward. Return to the starting position.

MH Tip: If you still think functional mobility looks daft, it’s time to update your outlook. Not only do moves like this open the body up to new planes of movement – essential in martial arts – they also increase overall functionality and help prevent injury.

Sprints

  • Sets: 3

  • Reps: 60 seconds

  • Rest: 30 seconds

  1. If you’re working outside pick a tree or lamppost just slightly too far away.

  2. If you’re inside, set the treadmill to two or three notches above your jogging pace.

MH Tip: Not only do sprints scorch through fat, they also get the body used to moving quickly and dynamically for a sustained period of time – essential whether you’re fighting crime or fighting the gradual approach of age.

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