Hiding superstrength in plain sight at the gym

One of my characters is extremely strong, due to their unusual physiology. They can bench press hundreds of kilograms, and so on. They had to hide their strength for a long time, but, as a result, they got immensely fat, so eventually, they give in and decide to start exercise again. Unfortunately, they still need to hide their strength.

One of the best place to exercise, since exercising at home is out of question, is a fairly large local gym. What would my character need to do to disguise their strength and stamina, while still doing useful enough exercises for their weight loss and muscle rebuilding?

Edit: the gym is in the script. It's scheduled and it's unavoidable.

• May want to ditch strength-based exercises if you want to lose weight Dec 18, 2021 at 8:58
• They won't need a gym or expose superpowers to loose weight. Just walk, then run and keep running... your belly fat will be gone soon. Dec 18, 2021 at 12:13
• Maybe skip the gym and hit the railroad yard? (Admittedly, that's more in the 'bench tens of thousands of kilograms' range) Dec 18, 2021 at 16:59
• Hiding your strength doesn't make you fat, unless you're also stuffing your face with food all the time. Live a normal life, have a healthy diet, and there's no need to use a gym to avoid obesity. Dec 19, 2021 at 13:56
• Why not take up a hobby that is physically demanding, take up woodworking or rock sculpting and do everything with hand tools, saw a hundred trees into planks with nothing but a handsaw and a hatchet, build precision and control at the same time you burn calories. No one will know how you made them. Burn a huge number of calories and get a new addition on your house at the same time.
– John
Dec 19, 2021 at 17:33

Swim or row, in water

doubling of speed of the Navy YP from 7 to 14 knots increases the power [requirements] by a factor of 10! - Study materials

The energy requirements to go fast in water are roughly cubic to speed, as a 3rd order. A little more speed takes a lot more energy. So your super person will only seem to go a bit faster than normal, not many times normal.

It would help if the gym has one of those "treadmill pools" that creates an artificial current to swim against, as the speed of the current would not be obvious.

• That's an awesome one. Dec 21, 2021 at 8:09
• Nitpick: third order is cubic (v^3), not exponential (3^v).
– Mark
Dec 21, 2021 at 10:34
• And of course, swim upstream (in a river) or against the current (in a sea/ocean), so that your speed relative to land observers is less. Dec 21, 2021 at 15:00
• Additional nitpick: would it be better to use a slower and less efficient swimming style, like breaststroke? Dec 21, 2021 at 18:34
• @mark okay. Done.... Dec 21, 2021 at 22:29

Swim to France. Run to Versailles.

There are better and more secretive ways besides the gym for a super-strong, super-enduring, super-fat person to lose weight.

Swimming is energy intensive since it uses many muscle groups at once, doubly so if the water is cold, since you burn calories fighting the cold.

Your character wakes up before dawn, runs to the coast and starts swimming. They swim into the deep ocean where no one else can see them. After a few days swimming around -- Here I assume super-endurance includes super-not-getting-sleepy -- they swim back to land in the middle of the night.

+10 bonus points for each shark they punch in the face on the way.

Problems:

(1) If the character wants a normal life, training for days-at-a-time regularly will not mesh with work.

They only need to give up a "normal life" temporarily. The character described in the question does not need to swim to France every day to remain fit. They only have to do it long enough to shed their excess weight. So they can simply only swim on weekends, or simply not have a job for long enough to complete the project. Then afterwards they can return to a normal life.

If necessary they can go full hunter-gatherer during this time to avoid paying rent etc. For example sleeping on a deserted Pacific island and gathering food by clapping their hands to stun schools of fish and knock birds and coconuts out of the sky. Of course if they already have a family at home to support they cannot afford to disappear like this.

(2) Speed, if the character compresses the time by just running/swimming fast, we're back to square one.

That's why you run at normal human speed, to appear as a normal jogger, and only swim full speed one you get out of sight of land.

(3) Position, being spotted swimming in the middle of the ocean will require some explanations.

I think you are overestimating the visibility of a single swimming human at 3 miles (distance to the horizon). They might be visible as a "swimming object" but they will see any ships long before the ship can recognize them as a human. Then they can just swim away.

• @MatthieuM. The best way to make the gym a good option is to give your hero a family at home to support. That means they cannot quit their job or disappear for months at a time. It also means they cannot lose the weight TOO fast without their family noticing. Dec 19, 2021 at 19:39
• Hike in remote areas. People won't realize how far you're going and they're not going to notice the weights you're wearing/carrying. Dec 20, 2021 at 2:03
• Running fast is still a good option. Because everyone can run quite fast, it just becomes weird when he keeps the near sprint-pace for 20 instead of 1 kilometer. But who is gonna see that? Nobody. Everyone will assume that they're just seeing the sprint part of a slow-fast interval training. Dec 20, 2021 at 10:28
• @Hobbamok: Here in my city I would certainly notice a fat guy running at anything faster than a 4min/km pace for more than 400m or so. Dec 21, 2021 at 9:45
• @Michael careful use of turning corners and interval training with unusually short recovery intervals would help a bit with that. And as they're going a long way, they can vary the route and not be seen near home too much Dec 21, 2021 at 15:41

2 things:

1: Strength training != weight loss. If your aim is weight loss then strength isn’t really a factor. Anything repetitive that burns calories is good. Running burns many calories and is utterly innocuous. Eating better is good too. If your person burns fewer calories lifting/moving etc then they should similarly be eating less.

2: Strength training != toning. Holding light weight in a stress position for an elongated time (generally) improves tone better than holding a heavy weight for a short time. Many highly effective toning exercises use nothing but body weight, and can be done innocuously everywhere. For example leaning slightly backwards in a chair without resting your back on the backrest will tone abs and core incredibly well if you can hold it for a long period of time. Your super strong person might have issues with body weight being insufficient, but then they can do something similar with gym weights (lift and hold dumbbells without locking their elbows, do sets of weighted squats really slowly, etc) to achieve a similar effect. The key is not huge weight, it’s time and consistency. Weighted belts, bracelets or anklets may be helpful to provide day-to-day resistance. It’s also possible that secondary superpowers take care of the tone issue.

After all, superheroes do tend to be cut with little to no effort!

• I'd say that the energy to do the superhuman feats must come from somewhere, probably in the form of a significantly greater ability to burn calories and gain/use energy from that which they eat, which makes it nearly impossible for them to actually hold on to any fat if they frequently perform superhuman feats. Dec 18, 2021 at 11:00
• @Lemming: That’s how I’d usually think of it, but I can’t imagine how you’d get fat if that were the case! Even mildly above average performance (walking slightly faster, running up stairs two at a time) would keep the fat off. Dec 18, 2021 at 11:17
• Holding a weight in a fixed position will do nothing compared to flexing muscles either doing full or partial contractions. Dec 18, 2021 at 16:22
• @JimDaniels: that very much depends on how long you do it for. The key here is it’s innocuous. A man doing partial reps with his own body weight for a minute is a lot more obvious than a man sat scrolling through his phone with one hand while subtly lifting the same weight for fifteen. Dec 19, 2021 at 14:42
• @JoeBloggs Strength training does induce "after burn" which burns calories for hours after a workout, compared to cardio that only burns calories during the exercise. Strength training != weight loss, but strength training == fat loss Dec 20, 2021 at 16:52

You don't need a gym. build things.

Take up a calorie intensive hobby, like wood working or masonry and just do everything with hand tools. as a bonus you can build better control and precision at the same time you loose weight. Saw a down trees into planks with just a hand saw, and precision shave the wood with an hand ax. or make stone sculptures using nothing but files and hand chisels. The more you screw up the more calories you burn. If you are worried they are not burning enough add some jogging with hidden weights or swimming as others have suggested, probably a good idea to make sure every muscle gets used anyway.

build a hardwood deck, boat, swimming pool, or a new addition using nothing but hand tools, choose a setting that is rural enough no one will see them often enough to notice they are using no power tools. Maybe even scatter a few power tools around to hide suspicion of how fast the work is going.

• Proper strength training is much more effective (and less injury prone) for building muscle than swinging a hammer or axe all day long. Running, swimming or bicycling is much more effective for burning calories. Dec 21, 2021 at 8:53
• @Michael more effective but also more noticeable. If you use super strength to run or swim you need a lot of space, but you can saw a tree apart in your yard behind fences or even in a barn. the question is not how to burn the most calories but how to do it and stay hidden.
– John
Dec 21, 2021 at 21:25
• If you have your own hidden yard or barn and are building things you might as well build a private squat rack and some weights. Dec 22, 2021 at 6:21
• @which will let you solve the problem after you have solved the problem. a private gym is expensive, an axe and handsaw are not.
– John
Dec 22, 2021 at 21:09

If you must stick to strength training and not better alternatives like the other answers, do gymnastics. Lots of body weight stuff so the heavier you weight, the harder the workout is and an equilibrium will be found. Also, you can wear lead vests on rings while doing something like the iron cross. People will question that less than putting 1000kg worth of weights plates onto your barbell. Wear a jersey or something over top so it's not obviously a weight vest.

But really, the best solution is to just not focus on strength exercises or the gym. Wear that lead vest and weighted boots and run every day. Maybe run to work every day. Maybe just wear it all day if you can. I guarantee that dead-lifting 200lbs is easier than running for an hour carrying just 10lbs around. Go running with a 500lbs weight vest, and you might be doing more exercise than a workhorse.

• The lead vest seems a great idea. Dec 19, 2021 at 11:47
• @Magicsowon Or a tungsten vest. Weighs 70% more than lead. Pricey as all hell though. 4" x 4" x 4" cube of tungsten costs $3.5k but weighs 45lbs. I want one just to pick it up. amazon.com/Tungsten-Cube-Biggest-Size/dp/B07WK9WLZ8 Dec 19, 2021 at 15:32 • A fat guy doing iron cross while wearing a weight vest would totally be suspicious. Dec 19, 2021 at 16:53 • @Michael You'd have to make it not obviously a weight vest. Wear a jersey or something over top. And at least where I am, there's very few people at the gymnastics facility anyways. We're talking like one other person. Maybe two. The guy should just wear the weight vest all day to be honest. If I was him and just trying to lose weight I wouldn't do gymnastics. It's jsut the OP seems to be focused on strength exercises for some reason. He should just wear the weight vest and go running. Deadlifting 200lbs is one thing. But running with even just 10lbs for an hour is much, much more tiring. Dec 19, 2021 at 17:05 • @DKNguyen: How strong is OP’s hero? How much weight could you actually hide in inconspicuous items (below clothes, in a belt, in an armband, in a HR monitor)? If I’d see a fat guy running a 3:00min/km pace while wearing weights I’d be suspicious. Sweaty t-shirts cling to the body, it’s very hard to hide anything under them. Of course it could still be good enough for OP’s story. Dec 20, 2021 at 6:44 Home gym. Not very expensive (I have a small one, it cost me around$400-500) with squat rack, barbell, and weights.

For someone with super strength, it'd probably cost a bit more (as the weights are more expensive - about 50 cents per pound), but should be something budgetable for your normal adult, if they really want it - I'd guess somewhere between $1500-2000 to outfit a gym that would help this character. • The real killer is the squat rack. Not sure how you got a squat rack in that price. They are like$500 on their own where I am. Well, when I think squat rack I think power rack. Dec 19, 2021 at 18:49
• @DKNguyen It was some Walmart squat rack on special. It can only handle like 500 pounds of weight, which is why I figured a super strength person would need a stronger one. But you can get something like this for less than \$300 too: amazon.com/Fitness-Reality-Pull-down-Attachment-Adjustable/dp/… Dec 20, 2021 at 3:52
• Look at some of the stunt squat strongman using concrete cast around the bar, and go slightly bigger all round (@DKNguyen). DIY so easy to hide, and concrete is cheap Dec 20, 2021 at 16:04
• A home gym is doable, since my character can afford it. Unlike them, I can't and that's unfortunate. Dec 21, 2021 at 8:17

Lead has almost twice the density of iron. A lead weight plate with a fake "20kg" label will actually weigh close to 40kg. Of course you’d have to somehow bring the weights and ensure that nobody else lifts them or they’ll quickly realize something is off. Another caveat is that it will only double the weight. If your hero is more than twice as strong as a fit human it won’t challenge them enough.

Apart from that I really can’t think of a way to make free weight lifting exercises such as the Benchpress, Squat or Deadlift harder without it being obvious to an observer.

Using a different stance or lifting with one arm or leg only would be obvious. Doing more repetitions would be obvious and less effective.

As others have said, if your only goal is to lose weight, burning calories through cardio (running, swimming, cycling etc.) will be more effective.

Hit multiple gyms in the same day

If your character only spends 60-90 minutes in each gym, they will avoid drawing attention from the staff and regulars.

Focus on repetitions and endurance with smaller weights

Doing anything with 500 lbs would draw attention. So instead of one repetition with 500 lb, do five repetitions with 100 lb.

Mix it up

Most staff and gym goers have specific days and times that they cover consistently. You can further avoid attention by following an irregular schedule, mixing up times of day and days of week, and skipping some gyms for days or weeks at a time. So even if someone suspects that something is off, they may not see your character again for a few weeks or months and will have a harder time inferring a pattern.

• Your plan is good and your maths is correct, but it doesn't quite work like that. Have a look at a 1-rep max calculator or table (treat it as a rule of thumb rather than accurate maths). Essentially you can do a lot more reps for not much less weight. If you could do 20 reps at 500 (lb/kg, whatever), you could do 1 rep at over 800, and 50 at over 300. People will notice you banging out multiple big sets of weights close to a normal strong person's 1-rep max. Dec 20, 2021 at 16:12
• I don't recommend doing 1-rep or something that other people normally do as 1-rep. If you go for something everybody is doing 20-rep and you do 50-rep, fewer people will notice, especially if you stay alert and stop or move around, or stare back if you think you're being watched. Dec 20, 2021 at 17:09
• I read the sort of strength in the question as leading to 20-50 reps at a normal person's 1-rep max. Doing 50 reps of what a normal strong person can do for 20 is only marginally stronger than that normal person. Dec 20, 2021 at 17:41
• You can fine-tune this ad-infinitum. Do 50 reps at the back of the gym, then move to the other corner and do another 50. Situational awareness is key. Dec 23, 2021 at 17:34

To build strength, work one arm at a time. The other people probably won't notice that you're not pushing with one of your arms as you lift weights made for both arms.

(To lose weight, you'd probably just have to jog for a long time.)

• You can’t really do one arm bench press or one leg deadlift or squat without it being obvious. Dec 19, 2021 at 16:49

They should eat lots of beans and laxatives a few minutes prior to hitting the gym.

Then, while weight lifting, they should hold it all in.

This will cause them to sweat and moan like someone straining to lift at lot of weight even though they are not actually at their top capacity.

Other people will look at the character and think, "wow, they are putting a lot of effort to lift those weights". The effort is going somewhere else, but the illusion is maintained.

• Just for the sake of comment, won't that laxative thing backfire badly? Dec 21, 2021 at 8:13
• When this fails, does it fail at super-velocity? Dec 21, 2021 at 15:39
• @Magicsowon not if you have super sphincter strength. Dec 21, 2021 at 15:57

What do you want to train?

A heavylifter is mostly a mass of bulky muscle of the explosive (mostly) anearobic muscle type. They can carry the heaviest weights... for short periods of time. Heavylifting also does not really engage your fat burning cycles, which take a short while to start up and start burning to feed your muscles. Which brings us to endurance.

An endurance athlete will be much leaner and less bulky, using aerobic duration muscle types more. This takes far longer and will mostly burn fat instead of the ready energy storage in the muscles.

It would be hard to hide a heavylifter training easily. You would have to use Joe's stances to make a lighter weight take more effort to lift. An endurance athlete would be easier, you can make sure your endurance doesnt take a day or more to tire yourself out by simply increasing the speed with which you move.

The best solution: triathlon like training. Triathletes do not outperform anybody since they are master of none, but they can do more things well than the hyper specialized athletes which only engage in a single sport or training. You will train strength with a combination of weight and stances while training various endurance sports, from cycling to jogging/running to whatever else you can think off. Add modern dance routines and free running while you are at it. Some breakdancing or whatever combined with all the weird movements and jumps of free running would train your body well. Unlike free runners though you would focus more on movements that arent efficient so it tires you out more, and the drop&rolls designed to slow down your body would also help strengthen your bones and ability to take a fall.

• Heavy lifting does burn a lot of calories, and large muscles consume more calories. people who lift heavy weights will only be bulky if they consume high amounts of calories each day. Dec 18, 2021 at 16:20
• @JimDaniels the thing is that it wont be burning fat efficiently since all alternative sources of energy will be used first. What is worse for the hero's trying to slim down: fat cells are not consumed until every single fat cell is empty. That is why you dont see any imrpovement for losing weight at first. Worse is your body going into survival mode (my fat is depleting I'm not getting enough food!) So it becomes harder to deplete the resources and easier to gain more nutrients out of what you eat. Eat too much once and you fill up the empty fat cells again. Dec 18, 2021 at 17:45

Super-strong character wouldn't get super-fat through absence of super-excercise.

You get fat when you ingest more calories than you spend. The calorie expenditure comes from the work (in a physics sense of the word) done and is same no matter how strong you are. That means than 1) both a wimp like me and your super-character burn roughly the same amount of calories when walking the same distance and 2) both of us ingest roughly same amount of calories when eating same cheeseburgers. Which means: superheroes have the same problems and solutions as regular people when it comes to obesity.

From your description it would require your character to have some perpetuum mobile / magic biochemistry, that is being able to extract 3000kcal from a 300kcal burger and/or spend 10kcal on doing a 100kcal job. Even if that was the case, the solution is always to 1) eat less 2) train longer. Never harder.

Your setting of "fat superman at a gym" sounds like a big potential, but hiding super-strength at gym because of fat is not a viable background.

Weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise

https://www.simplemost.com/weight-loss-80-percent-diet-20-percent-exercise/

They don't need a gym nor do they need to work out, period.

One of my characters is extremely strong, due to their unusual physiology.

The human body has a minimum daily calorie requirement and this requirement would be higher for someone with intrinsic strength physiology. They would have to be eating an immense amount of food to outpace their daily calorie needs.

This character needs to simply stop eating so much.

One of the best place to exercise, since exercising at home is out of question, is a fairly large local gym.

Why? How did you land on this requirement?

This person needs to go run around a remote mountain range every weekend, throw fallen trees and boulders, and the pounds will melt away.

Hiding superstrength in plain sight at the gym

For the sake of answering the question at face value and ignoring the non-sensical details of your question:

They have to observe others in a similar physique and limit their exercise to that of others. They cannot grossly outpace others at the gym because that will quickly garner attention.

Repetion burn calories while weight strengths the muscle just have you character focus on doing more sets rather than lifting his max weight.

• Yep. Pathetic weakling exercises all day long. It will make a good story because the gym rats will notice this fat guy is there all the time too and might get curious and chat him up. Dec 18, 2021 at 21:17
• It would still very obvious when you see this guy doing 30 reps of 300kg deadlifts. Dec 19, 2021 at 16:46

Low weight, high reps and a lean diet may be the way to go.

Ask any serious body builder and they will tell you that the key to a lean body is not cardio but it is having a good diet. As long as you take enough protein each day, which is 1-1.5 grams of protein for every kg of body weight, spread this throughout the day split within 5 meals, every 2 hours or more, less meals does work also as fasting routines can show great results, have a small amount of starchy carbohydrates with each meal so your body produces insulin to carry the protein to your cells and some green veg or other nutritional veg for the vitamins and antioxidants with one meal at least will keep your body healthy.

Carbs are the main enemy when trying to loose weight but we still need small amounts to carry the proteins to the cells and provide energy for the day and training. Many people use cardio to keep lean but this can be dangerous when taken to extremes, so moderate cardio is fine and a good idea but mostly for stamina and lung capacity but the problem with doing cardio and trying to build mass with weight lifting is the cardio interferes with the amount of muscle your body is able to build. Most body builders recommend 25 minutes of light cardio, 3 times a week, preferably on off days, doing it before or after a weights session will impact the energy you will have left to train and the recovery of your muscles.

There is a debate over light vs heavy weights in the body building community, both provide good results but the problem with training with light weights is that you need to do high reps, so 15-30 and over time this puts a strain on your joints and can wear them out, but light weight high reps does work, if you look at rowers and swimmers they have great shoulders and back, and just using a rowing machine can build good definition and mass.

It also depends on if this superpowered persons muscles reacts to stimulus in the same way as a normal person if so then even heavy weights wont seem super, I have trained with people who can lift 300-400 kg on most compound lifts and I personally can lift 340 kg on a bar for some exercises not included machines which you can lift 400 kg over on, so anything under 600 kg is not super strength, it is just normal person strong. But if this super powered beings muscles cannot be stimulated by normal peoples weights then they wont be able to build mass, it would be like us trying to get big with 1 kg dumbbells. In that case some secret truck lifting at night will be needed.

• High reps are still very obvious. Imagine OP’s hero doing 30 reps of 300kg deadlifts. Dec 19, 2021 at 16:48

You don't want a Gym Strength work breaks muscle fibres, and the re-growth of those fibres is what adds bulk. So your character needs to avoid heavy work, and do lots of (relatively) light work but frequently. Might call this "endurance"

Consider the difference between one lift, and lifting a thousandth of that mass, a thousand times.

Weight-loss is simply a matter of (energy-in) being less than (energy-expended) averaged across a day.

I suggest cycling as a solution - the rider will move around the region, so not being in the same place means less likely to be noticed. Riding 10% faster requires double the energy input - so riding 33 km/h is twice as hard as 30 km/h if everything else is the same.

Each crank-rotation is a light-weight single exercise, but you'd be doing the same action 60-90 times a minute which gives the endurance exercise required.

Finally, cycling can replace a car/train/etc commute, so can be blended with your character's daily activities. And if the straight-line commute isn't enough, take a scenic "tiki-tour" route between home and work.

A story needs interactions between people, consider:

• "a `fat' man on a MTB blasts past roadies and they can't catch him"
• "same, but catches and passes a bogan/yob/chav driver, who takes offense"
• "same, but passes police car on callout" and hijinks ensue.
• This is also useful. The gym is required because it's in the script. Why is so much harder to ride 10% faster? Is it just the air resistance? Dec 21, 2021 at 18:27
• @Magicsowon yes - as speeds increase, air resistance becomes the main thing to overcome, growing faster than tyre resistance, drive train losses, etc. How about "riding the stationary bike at the gym" and/or riding to/from the gym rather than driving ? If you want to play with some numbers, bikecalculator.com is handy. A normal human can do 100-200 watts for an hour, a pro sprinter might peak at ~2000 watts but only for 10 seconds. Your super-man might triple that and risk breaking metal parts. Dec 21, 2021 at 21:23