So, you want to become a pro hero, huh?
If you’re anything like the rest of us, then you’re not in the peak physical condition required to become a hero. Even Izuku Midoriya’s body wasn’t prepared when All-Might decided to pass down the power of One For All.
Luckily, All-Might developed a physical training program for our hero: The Aim to Pass the American Dream. The program was created to enhance Deku’s General Physical Preparedness so that his body could handle the power of One For All. ATPAD is designed to build a baseline of strength, endurance, and mobility to allow Deku to simply hold the power without bursting at the seams!
The program itself is well-rounded on a surface level, but when you take a look at the specifics, it’s deeply flawed. We’re here to break down the Aim to Pass the American Dream, examine its strengths, weaknesses, and ultimately create a more realistic and practical version of it.
Let’s begin by looking at the layout of the program itself.
The Aim to Pass the American Dream
All-Might’s training program is broken down into three major components:
- Aerobic Exercise: 5 AM-7:30 AM
Goal: Increase aerobic capacity, endurance, and stamina. This component is broken down into three parts:
- Running to increase aerobic endurance
- Jumping Rope to improve stamina, hand-eye coordination, and timing. Skipping rope is also a great exercise for combat, and is often utilized by professional fighters.
- Tai Chi. Though it falls into the aerobic exercise portion of the program, I wouldn’t really consider Tai Chi to be aerobic exercise. Rather than increasing endurance and stamina, Tai Chi will primarily aid in increasing Deku’s mobility and range of motion.
- Trash Cleaning: 4:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Goal: Improve conditioning and work capacity, with a little bit of strength training thrown in the mix. This portion of the program is very similar to strongman work and object carrying. These exercises get your body used to moving in non-linear patterns, a component severely lacking for many fitness programs.
The “Trash Cleaning” phase can be broken down into a few major movement patterns: weighted pushing, pulling, and carrying. The main benefit comes from the addition of weight to these basic movement patterns – weighted pushing, pulling, and carrying will yield incredible results in work capacity and overall strength.
- Basic Physical Fitness: 8:30 PM – 11:00 PM
Goal: Strengthen the actual physical structure of the body – muscles, connective tissue, and bones. All-Might’s version is broken up into seemingly just three exercises:
- Ab work
- Back Work
…That’s it! As you can see The “Basic Physical Fitness” portion is just that: basic.
Now that we have ATPAD laid out, let’s weigh the pros and cons of the programs. In true Shonen Spirit we’ll begin with relentless optimism and begin with the positive:
Variety: The program is comprehensive and covers several important factors of physical fitness – strength, endurance, balance/hand-eye coordination, even some “odd-object”/strongman/MovNat style training that’s often ignored. The sheer variety of movements and modalities covered will serve to build a well-rounded hero who’s physically well-balanced.
Simplicity: This might seem counter to the point about variety, but one of the other major pros of ATPAD is its pure simplicity. Too many programs are far too complex, especially for beginners. The Aim to Pass the American Dream is based around three modalities with three types of movement per session. That’s it! Though a beginner might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work called for in the program, each component of it is simple and straightforward.
All-Might, Symbol of Peace, you know I love you, but ATPAD is severely flawed. Let’s take a look at the many drawbacks of All-Might’s program.
Recovery: All-Might’s plan calls for 7 hours of training per day yet only 4 hours of sleep per night. You might think, “sleeping less = more waking time = more time to train = more gains,” but that’s not how the human body works. We don’t grow and adapt while we train, we grow and adapt when we recover. Gains = training x recovery.
Basically, if your recovery is shit, your gains will be shit!
Sleep is the ultimate recovery time, and it’s something that a large portion of the population likes to overlook. You’d get better results training intelligently for an hour per day and sleeping for 8 than you would training for six hours and sleeping for 4, counterintuitive as that may sound.
Volume: This is a high-volume program. Let’s be clear: there’s nothing inherently wrong with high-volume training. Many programs are centered around increasing volume steadily before even thinking about modifying intensity.
However, we have to remember that this is intended as a beginner program. Following ATPAD as All-Might has it laid out, we’re looking at 7 hours of training per day. That’s a literal full-time job, the same volume seen by elite athletes who spent years working up to it.
That’s fine for pro heroes, but Deku is not a professional! At least, not yet. Deku is a mere student, nowhere near pro status. Though he has the power of youth on his side, this program is still just far too much for a beginner.
Incomplete: I complimented the program for being simple, but there’s such a thing as too simple! The overall program lacks balance: balancing pushing with pulling, upper body with lower body work, etc. Following ATPAD could lead to severe imbalance, meaning an increased potential for injury in the long run.
Of course, young Midoriya is pretty injury-prone anyway, but that’s a different story.
The “Basic Physical Fitness” portion is particularly suspect. The section only covers one movement type (pushing) – it’s missing out on the other fundamental human movement patterns: pulling, squatting, lunging, and hinging. This portion of the program also completely neglects leg strength.
Though the Trash Cleanup portion of the program does emphasize some of those missing motor patterns, the additional work prescribed in the Basic Physical Fitness still over-emphasizes pushing and could lead to muscular imbalance.
No Mobility: The Aim to Pass the American Dream has a distinct lack of dedicated stretching and mobility work. It’s great to get strong, but if you get too strong you’ll become tight and immobile. Lack of mobility can lead to an injury in the same way that a lack of strength can. You need both to be a well-rounded athlete.
Consolidation and Improvement: Aim to Pass the American Dream 2.0
With all of the pros and cons in mind, let’s do the Shonen Spirit thing and make this monster into something practical.
We’re going to use the skeleton of the original program and mix in some intelligent changes to make ATPAD a realistic program. The goal of the program will be the same: to build a well-rounded physical specimen, a jack of all trades and master of none, who can throw themselves into any sport or activity and do just fine. I’m also going to recommend proven programs that you can use to begin working on any one of these components. Because remember, mentorship matters!
Goal: Develop aerobic capacity, endurance, and stamina
- Jump Rope
Goal: Build capacity to jump rope for 5 minutes straight, then 10 minutes. Make this skipping your warm-up.
Progression: Start skipping with legs together, work up to the “running man,” then work to double-unders for added conditioning work.
Goal: Build capacity to run for 30 minutes straight. The ability to run for 5-10k will give you a great base of aerobic endurance. You’ll see diminishing returns beyond that point unless running is your sport of choice.
Variety: After you’ve mastered moderately paced aerobic level running, start adding in sprint training 1-2x/week for explosive power.
We’re eliminating Tai Chi from this portion because it simply doesn’t fit. You could replace Tai Chi with skill work like handstand training, or dedicated mental work like meditation.
Real Life Resources
- Jump Rope: Buddy Lee, The Phoenix Movement
- Running: Couch to 5k, Phil Maffetone, 8 Weeks Out
- Handstand Training: GymnasticBodies Handstand 1
- Meditation: ZenHabits’ Guide to Meditation for Beginners
Trash Cleaning, AKA Conditioning
Goal: Develop basic strength, conditioning, and work capacity.
This is the best part of the original Aim to Pass the American Dream, and this portion will be largely the same as the Symbol of Peace originally planned! Your exercise selection will be as follows:
- Prowler Work for pushing/pulling
- Farmer/Waiter Carries for weighted carrying
If you don’t have access to weights, you do have a few other options:
- Animal Movements. These will also build total-body conditioning with the added benefit of improving hand-eye coordination and general mobility
- Sandbags/Kettlebells/Bulgarian Bags/Indian Clubs: These are relatively inexpensive and will give you a ton of bang for your buck. The odd weight distribution of these tools will force your body to work hard!
Real Life Resources
- Kettlebells: Pavel’s Kettlebell Program
- Loaded Carries: Dan John: The Secret of Loaded Carries
- Animal Movements: Gymnastic Bodies Movement/Tumbling 1
Basic Physical Fitness
Goal: Strengthen overall physical structure (muscles, connective tissue, bones)
The basic physical fitness portion of the program basically boils down to resistance training. As mentioned before, All-Might’s version of this portion benefited from its simplicity, but it was incomplete overall due to its neglect of several types of movement. Our version will tackle these problems by strengthening the other movement planes and including leg training.
Of course, not everybody out there has access to a gym and weights, so we’ll break this down into two parts: weighted movements for those with access to weights and calisthenics for those without. We’ll break this down into the five fundamental movement patterns in order to create a balanced structure.
- Weighted: Bench Press, Overhead Press, Weighted Dip
- Calisthenic: Push-Up progression, Dip progression, Handstand Push-Up Progression
- Weighted: Row, Clean, Weighted Pull-Up
- Calisthenic: Row Progression, Pull-Up Progression
- Weighted: Back Squat, Front Squat, Overhead Squat
- Calisthenic: Single-Leg squat progression
- Weighted: DEADLIFT. Olympic Lifts.
- Calisthenic: L-Sit, Single Leg Deadlift, Back Bridge Progression
- Weighted: Lunge (duh), Bulgarian Split Squat
- Calisthenic: Lunge, Step Up
All of these movements are compound movements, meaning they utilize several muscle groups as well as your smaller stabilizer muscles. These are different than isolation exercises which focus on a single muscle or muscle group – think of something like a bicep curl.
More muscles utilized = more heroic GAINS!
One component I really like about All-Might’s original ATPAD is that he has a portion specifically dedicated to core work. All the compound movements listed above will strengthen the core indirectly, but adding extra dedicated core work is only going to benefit you in the long run. Even Olympic Weightlifters, some of the strongest pound-for-pound athletes in the world, use dedicated core work to strengthen their trunks and improve their lifts.
6. Dedicated Core Work
- Anterior Chain: V-Up Progression -> Hanging Leg Raises
- Posterior Chain: Start work Oblique work, move up to back raises and Superman holds
Real Life Resources
- Barbell Work: Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5×5
- Bodyweight Training: Gymnastic Bodies Foundation 1 and /r/bodyweightfitness’ Recommended Routine
Goal: Increase range of motion
One of the most glaring errors in All-Might’s original program was its complete lack of training for flexibility and mobility. The Aim to Pass the American Dream would certainly serve to make the body stronger, but too much strength without mobility leads to tightness and an increased potential for injury. The goal of this section is to develop strength through an increased range of motion.
Take the squat as an example. Let’s say you can only get your hips to a parallel position with both feet flat on the ground. Beyond that, your heels might start to lift off the ground. That means you lack mobility in the hips. A good mobility goal from there would be to get your hips past parallel, with flat feet, ideally sitting your butt all the way to your heels.
As far as goal-setting, that will vary from person to person. Your needs will depend on where your mobility deficits lie. I have a lot of tension in my hamstrings and thoracic spine. Others will lack flexibility in the shoulders or hip flexors, some have tight wrists…the list goes on and on.
The important thing is to assess where your deficits lie and address them on an individual basis. Here are some programs to get you started on the right foot.
Real Life Resources
- Phraktured’s Starting Stretching
- Gymnastic Bodies Stretch Series
- GMB Fitness’ Focused Flexibility
- Kit Laughlin’s Stretch Therapy
You now have the hows, whats, and whys of the program – now let’s discuss how to put it all together! This is a lot of fucking work. This program is totally acceptable in Anime World where characters have all the time in the world to train and recovery, but it’s way too much for a real-world beginner!
The solution: start small! And start small in more ways than one. Start with what feels like too little rather than jumping into too much too soon. Here are a few ways to go about this:
Cycle through exercises. Pick just 2-3 exercises on which to focus for each modality and rotate your selection every session. For example, if you do a Basic Physical Fitness workout consisting of squatting, pushing, and hinging one day, consider focusing your next workout around lunging, pulling, and a different pushing exercise than last time.
Cycle through workouts. Let’s face it: none of us have all the time in the world. We have jobs, families, social lives, and other obligations to which we must attend. With that in mind, focus on doing just one or two modalities each day. Focus on hitting each modality just twice per week and you’ll be making All-Mighty gains!
Here’s an example schedule: Monday/Thursday = Basic Physical Fitness, Tuesday/Friday = Aerobic Exercise, Wednesday/Saturday = Conditioning
Keep your sessions to an hour or less including warm up, in the interest of keeping time investment low and intensity HIGH!
Prioritize Recovery. Don’t think you can get away with 4 hours of sleep each night. Only villains do that. Make sure you’re getting a solid 7-9 hours every single night in order to maximize recovery. Remember, you make gains when you recover, and sleep is the ultimate recovery time.
One last note: remember that any good program is centered around linear progression. Don’t be like Saitama and do the same shit over and over again – make sure your goal is to actually progress in these exercises whether it’s through adding weight, increasing repetitions, or putting up better times on the track!
So, do you feel inspired to condition yourself to pro hero status? Do you Aim to Pass the American Dream? Let me know in the comments if you plan to utilize this template to GO BEYOND! And let me know if you’d like me to turn this into a more comprehensive program with specific prescriptions for sets, reps, and programming!