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The Flash's Francis Manapul is an artful dodgeballer

Francis Manapul

Comic book artist

Francis Manapul, 31, comic book writer and pencil-and ink-artist working on The Flash for DC Comics, is the picture of health. But the Manila-born Manapul, who emigrated to Toronto 20 years ago, suffers from lower back pain and shoulder pain in his throwing arm. He hasn't ruled out seeing a doctor, but in the meantime is looking for tips to improve his workout.

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My goal

"Because the crux of my job is sitting or standing and drawing for hours during the day, I'm trying to keep energy up and keep my back strong. I fool my brain to think I'm not working out by playing a sport."

My workout

"I used to lift weights three times a week, but I started dodgeball with my friends last year because the goal of getting fit with just lifting weights wasn't that motivational for me. We play every Sunday indoors for one hour.

"What I like about dodgeball is it keeps the cardio going but not as intensely as basketball. I feel like I could play the entire game and not sit; whereas with basketball you can't play full out for one hour, you gotta sit every now and then, and I hate sitting. So dodgeball has enough breaks in between bursts of energy, plus the twisting motions have helped my back.

"I have a gym in my condo, so once a week if I want to keep stamina up I go on an elliptical for 30 minutes, or if I don't want my shoulder to seize up I do some exercises like lateral raises with resistance bands, and then I'll do military press. For overall upper-body strength, I do three sets of 12 reps in a circuit: one set each of shoulders, biceps, rows and a core exercise. This improves my posture and the way I sit."

My lifestyle

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"I work every day, either in a studio or my home office, and work unconventional hours.

"I'm not a breakfast guy, so I do a bit of work for an hour and then eat. On a good day, I work out first and then eat a sandwich or granola cereal. I keep lunch light. Dinner I have chicken with rice or pasta, but because of deadlines I grab something quick at Sobeys because they have healthy alternatives ready to eat. I'm good at avoiding fried foods."

My motivation

"Frank Mastromauro, who runs Aspen Comics over in California, is the role model I'm trying to follow. He's so proportioned in the way he eats - it's always grilled chicken with salad, no fries, and he works out every other morning with the guys in the studio. He's the one who said, 'If you're bored lifting weights, go play some sports,' and I found through playing sports that training made sense, so that I wasn't just using that part of my body once a week."

My anthem

"My Body by Young the Giant."

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My challenge

"If I don't do arm exercises regularly during the week, I feel like my right arm has pitched nine innings on Sundays. For example, last week I was too busy with work and, sure enough, my arm felt like it had blown out after a few games."

The critique

Train for functional shoulder strength

Eric Cressey, strength-conditioning coach and president of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Mass., assesses and corrects pitching problems for professional baseball players and offers two suggestions that may reduce shoulder pain while improving posture.

"Francis's lifting builds up the deltoids, as opposed to improving functional strength and stability. I'd encourage him to do more horizontal pulling and shoulder external rotation work for the scapular retractors and rotator cuff," Mr. Cressey says, suggesting moves including standing one-arm cable rows and side-lying external rotation abduction.

Warm up for dodgeball

Mr. Cressey, who publishes a blog at, also recommends that Mr. Manapul include a move from a superhero in a warm-up before his dodgeball sessions, and adds that the exercises would also counter the effects of being hunched over a desk at his job.

"This wouldn't be jogging a few laps, but rather an eight to 10 dynamic flexibility exercise circuit designed to loosen up Francis's ankles, hips and thoracic spine while activating his glutes, core and scapular stabilizers."

Mr. Manapul could warm up by performing "Spider-Mans" with overhead reach, downward dog push-ups, quadruped extension rotation on knees, and standing scapular wall slides.

This interview has been condense and edited.

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