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When Thor, the Norse god of thunder, was adopted as a Marvel Comics hero, the character’s powers – aside from his immortality – were his superhuman strength, speed and durability. So making the leap from page to screen would require someone whose physique was more fitting of a deity than a mortal. Step forward Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in one of this year’s most eagerly anticipated action movies.
‘In the comic strip Thor looks to be around 500lb [227kg], so obviously that wasn’t my goal, but it was very important for me to look the part and be as powerful as strong as I could while still maintaining that element of agility,’ says Hemsworth.
The sequel to 2011’s £280m smash Thor, subtitled The Dark World, is in cinemas now and sees Hemsworth return in the role of the titular hero. To help him get into superhero shape, Hemsworth recruited the assistance of Michael Knight, director of Michigan-based personal trainers Art of Strength. ‘Chris’s regime was split into two parts,’ says Knight. ‘The first was a bodybuilder-type protocol focused on high-weight, low-rep moves designed to pack on maximum size, while the second was total-body circuits designed to shift his excess fat while maintaining muscle.’
Hemsworth admits getting into superhero shape was hard work. ‘The kettlebell routines that Mike put me through were intense, partly because I’d never used them before but also because it’s a heavy combination of cardio and weightlifting,’ says the 30-year-old former Home & Away star. ‘Most of my training previously was geared more around cardio – mainly boxing and Muay Thai, with some elements of weights. I hadn’t experienced kettlebells, but it’s a great way to build functional strength.’
As if Hemsworth’s training wasn’t tough enough, he had to start the programme while filming another movie. ‘When I started working with Chris he was doing 12-hour days on the set of Red Dawn, but he still had the time and energy to train for between 60 and 90 minutes five days a week after his shooting commitments were over,’ says Knight. ‘Above all, he has an amazing work ethic, always pushing himself further and harder. It shows that if you’re prepared to work hard you can get the results you’ve always wanted.’ Hemsworth adds, ‘It was certainly exhausting at times, but I prefer to be training than not. It gives me more energy and I just generally feel better about myself. I feel like I’ve earned that beer at the end of the week.’
Now that Hemsworth has returned to the big screen with Thor: The Dark World he has got back on a protein-heavy diet in order to regain his strong, bulky physique. ‘I basically overfeed on protein and endless amounts of chicken breast and steak and fish and vegetables and brown rice,’ says Hemsworth. If you follow a similarly strict diet and perform Hemsworth's workouts listed below, you too can have a body to rival that of a Greek god.
Session one: chest and back - Bench press
- Bent-over row
- Weighted pull-up
- Weighted dip
Session two: legs - Squat
- Hamstring curl
Session three: arms - Weighted chin-up
- Close-grip bench press
‘Once Chris put on the muscle I needed to get him lean, which meant stripping away any fat he had accumulated during the first phase while maintaining all his newly built muscle,’ says Knight. ‘I did this by getting him to do this total-body circuit based around classic strongman moves, such as log presses, tyre flips, sledgehammers and prowler sprints, as well as circuits with kettlebells of varying weights.
‘This got Chris down to his fighting weight of 220lb [100kg] – and as you can see from the pictures, it was all muscle.’ Hemsworth adds that he kept a ‘very close eye’ on his diet. ‘I was eating a lot of clean protein, fruit, vegetables and some carbs, as well as drinking four to five litres of water a day.’
Circuit one: Tabata (20sec on/10sec off): - Double kettlebell squats - four rounds
- Eight rounds of snatches - eight rounds
Circuit two - Kettlebell swings - 30sec two-hand, 30sec right-hand-only swings, 30sec left-hand-only swings, 30sec alternate swings
- Cleans - 5 right, 5 left, 4 right, 4 left, 3 right, 3 left, 2 right, 2 left, 1 right, 1 left, then back up to 5 each side for a total of 60 reps with no rest
Circuit three - Turkish get-ups - 5min continuous
- Windmill - 5 each side