One Punch Man revels in its absurdity and surreal use of humor. This is no more apparent then in its titular hero the One Punch Man himself - Saitama. Saitama’s entire power set boggles the mind as it breaks every single genre convention that has been built up over the years. This extends to his super hero training - which is anything but. Even in his world the training is so obviously inadequate to explain Saitama’s strength, as Genos states it is just basic conditioning training.
Likely the reason why it so fascinates its viewers. Unlike all the other anime training regimes anime has given us, it seems doable for a real person. As such with Season Two releasing shortly, I wanted to take a look at the “One Punch Man Workout” and try to determine if this would actually help people reach their physical health and fitness goals. As I have a feeling we are going to see a resurgence in the “One Punch Man Challenge” videos on Youtube soon.
The first is what exactly is the workout and its active parts? As you can see above the workout is entirely cardio and body weight resistance training. The appeal of this workout is pretty easy to see. It is simple, anyone can do it, and it can be done anywhere. Not having to go to a gym is a huge boon for people new to physical fitness after all.
Of course paradoxically the endurance one would need to actually complete the workout is also high. As such it is designed for beginners while only being able to be completed by somebody already rather physically fit. That being said, if you do indeed have the physical ability to do the routine it is very easy to complete.
Another drawback of this type of routine is time. No matter how fit you are, all this takes some significant time investment. The push ups alone can be time consuming, adding on top the other two movements AND a quarter marathon along for the ride the routine is quite the time sink. In fact, I would say the hardest part is finding the time to do it all, especially if you work and have a life.
Now that we have determined the basics, looking at how its constructed is in order. In fitness there are two key concepts in resistance training. Intensity and volume; intensity being the difficulty of the movement normally increased by adding weight and volume being simply put how much of the movement you do at a set weight. Most normal routines balance the two out with which gets more focus depending on the goal of the practitioner.
As a general rule of thumb there are three types of adaptations your muscles undergo from resistance training. The first is when you subject yourself to high volume/low weight an increase in endurance and stamina is the primary result, low volume/high weight results in increased strength, while medium volume/medium weight results in size gains. This is called the hypertrophic effect and its what most body builders strive for.
It is also the reason why many body builders are looked down upon in fitness circles as weak pretty boys. As their muscles while impressive are often just for show. More specially trained athletes are almost always more physically capable, even if they don’t look it.
Saitama’s workout is decidedly built around the first adaptation of high volume. In fact the routine is so high volume its kind of dumb to be honest. This is because if you are fit enough to do the routine to completion every day, you’ve likely already passed the point where low intensity high volume training will be of any effect.
A fun joke directed at lifters is “they train to get better at training” as there is no real point, it just continues. It is a lifestyle. The same is true of the One Punch Man Workout, where its only real result will be to make itself easier.
As continued training of the same movements trains your muscles to move efficiently in those single movements, Bruce Lees famed line, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” is illustrative of this. So if you want to become REALLY good at push ups doing a ton of push ups is a good way to go about doing that. However, I do not think that is a great idea for everyone (anyone?).
Another aspect that deserves looking into is the unbalanced nature of the workout itself. As it is only three movements (plus running) there is the potential for a lot of missed muscle activation. Luckily, the three movements selected are in fact great movements. As they’re all compound movements, as such they all work multiple muscles and even muscle groups.
The push up is a useful beginner chest builder focusing a lot of tension on the pectoralis major, along with dispersed tension on the deltoid (shoulder) and triceps (back of the arms). The squat is a good lower body workout that works the majority of the upper leg and glutes, while the sit ups are a classic core builder. Unfortunately, this routine barely touches what I would consider the most important part of your body: your back.
I will be blunt not training your back directly is a mistake. For living a long and fulfilling life having a strong back is almost a requirement. Lower back pain is no joke and in our sedentary society keeping your back strong is a good idea in preventing issues down the line. Adding in pull ups would largely alleviate this issue however it would just be adding yet more body weight volume. That being said due to pull ups difficulty, they are actually some of the back builders around.
Another issue is that one of the movements is not the best for doing what it does. While push ups and squats undeniably have a place in almost any workout, especially squats “The King of Exercises”, the sit up is actually not optimal. As it has a tendency to stress the users lower back quite a bit, leading to issues. There is also the fact the simple crunch and the plank is an even more effective and safe core builder.
Taken together the One Punch Man Workouts greatest strength, its simplicity, is also its greatest weakness. Its TOO basic, its simple nature, will not stress ones muscles enough to produce any beneficial adaptation, with the majority of its gains being limited to increased proficiency with the movements.
Beyond that, the workout is unbalanced away from the back, and includes exercises that have a tendency to injure the very part of your body it fails to work. This raises its potential for injury.
What also raises the potential for injury is the sheer volume of it. As over time that much physical activity, even at low intensity, has a way of wearing down the body. This risk is exacerbated by the fact the routine is daily, foregoing rest periods. In reality, no workout routine worth its salt foregoes rest days and low intensity days. As rest is the key to growth.
At its core working out is sustained damage to your muscles, through the process of progressive overload. Only when they repair themselves do they become bigger and stronger. By repeatedly this process (and increasing intensity as you grow used to the old stimulus) that you become noticeably larger. However, this repair only happens at rest. A workout with rest periods is like a construction crew without builders, great at tearing you down, not so good at building you back up.
That brings of its final weakness, it fails at providing progressive overload. Which means as your muscles adapt to the new stimulus they require more to continue to grow and adapt. By doing the same routine over and over you fail to do this. Body weight exercise as the One Punch Man Workout is based on is even more difficult to adapt, as adding new stimulus is often done with weight. Goku’s and Vegeta’s gravity training is a perfect anime example of this. Body weight exercises get around this by upping the difficulty of the movement such as: push ups, to one handed push ups, to pike push ups, to handstand push ups being a standard difficulty progression (taken to the extreme).
After all that I believe there is one inescapable conclusion the One Punch Man Workout kind of sucks. It is too simple, unbalanced, leaves you open to injury, has no real opportunity for rest, is too time consuming, and fails to provide progressive overload once you adapt to the exercise and volume. That being said we have yet to speak to where the One Punch Man Workout can shine. Endurance training and weight control.
Running 10 kilometers a day is tough but if you can do it, your cardiovascular system will be stronger for it. This will provide you with many benefits in daily life such as more energy, better sleep, sweating less, and boosts to other certain activities as well.
Of course the sheer volume of running will likely start to wear down your joints. If you have knee problems as I do or you are large and heavy (also me), the 10 kilometers can also be damaging to your joints. That doesn’t mean don’t do cardio exercises, do them (!), just a more low impact cardio routine might do you good.
One thing I will say though is a routine based around volume will help you lose weight almost assuredly. As unless you are eating a terrible, terrible, high caloric diet that amount of volume will put you into a significant caloric deficit. Which is the only way to lose those pesky pounds. Just do not expect to get jacked like Saitama is as that still requires significant muscular development once the fat is off your body. Which as I went into in detail above this workout is not really good for.
After all this and you still want to do the One Punch Man Workout, I say best of luck. However, for everyone else there is much more effective ways of getting in shape then putting yourself through training hell for weeks, months, and years on end. In the end Genos was right, there is no way this would result in incredible strength. Hell this wouldn’t even result in decent strength. At least you’ll lose some pounds though.