One of my absolute favorite parts of Zack Snyder’s detail-oriented approached to directing is how he’s even concerned with making sure his performers’ bodies fit the overall look of his movie. As he puts it, “I have this sort of Ayn Rand aesthetic.” As a random commenter on I09 puts it, “Ugly good guys don’t exist in these films. If they do, they are the bad guy. Fat, skinny, ugly, deformed. All bad guy traits.” If you read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, that description holds true (as it does for Snyder’s movies). Most notably, the heroes in Rand’s novels are tall, so it’s no coincidence that Snyder wanted his Batman to be tall too.
Thus, it’s even less surprising that Snyder wants even his Commissioner James Gordon to be ripped. Recently, photos of JK Simmons, the actor slated to play Gordon in Justice League, have been circulating on the internet after they were posted by his trainer.
A photo posted by Aaron Williamson (@aaronvwilliamson) on
Not only does Simmons look like he could kick Miles Teller’s ass in Whiplash, he looks like he could kick it in Fantastic Four.
What’s important to pay attention to here is not his pure riptitude. It’s the number on the dumbbell in the second picture. Yes, you’re seeing that correctly. He achieved his (and Snyder’s desired aesthetic) while using 20 lb dumbbells. How? Because contrary to popular opinion, it’s not about how much weight you lift. It’s about how you lift the weight.
Your goal is to challenge your muscles through tension and resistance by a combination of weight, form, set/rep amount, and set/rep speed. Just by looking at these two pictures, we have no idea what set or rep Simmons is on or how quickly he is completing either. (Truthfully, the photos even could have even been staged.) All we know is that he’s seeing the results he wants and that outcome is the only metric that matters when at the gym–not your gender, not your age, not your size, and, as you can see, most definitely not how much you lift. As it says in a Vanity Fair article on Snyder and his trainer Mark Twight’s work with Snyder’s performers, “When [Twight] trains male actors, the job consists largely of liberating them from ‘greed for the power of the number on the end of the weight.'”
As a smaller guy, I can definitely understand the pressure that can be created by perception to lift (and look) as big as possible. Sometimes when I’m sweating with 35 lb dumbbells next to a guy using 90 lb dumbbells, I imagine how comically the image might play on a screen. Then I look in the gigantic gym mirror-wall directly in front of me and realize how proud I am for pushing myself so hard. That behemoth next to me could be training for completely different reasons (and his form is kind of sloppy), and I certainly don’t need to look screen-ready for 30-60 days (or less like Simmons). No, I don’t want or need that Ayn Rand aesthetic.
For me, it’s all about that Midside manifestation.