For an actor, the chance to play a popular superhero can be the role of a lifetime - literally. As the human being who imbues an iconic character with life, you all but assure yourself a loyal fan base no matter what else you do throughout the rest of your career.
Robert Downey Jr. will forever be Iron Man. Chris Hemsworth - flowing blond wig or no - will always be Thor. Chris Evans has the distinction of being both Johnny Storm (aka the Human Torch) in the Fantastic Four films and, more recently, Captain America. And of all the actors who've portrayed superheroes, Lou Ferrigno may be the one most indelibly linked to his Hulking onscreen alter ego.
However, to quote Spider-Man's Uncle Ben, "With great power comes great responsibility." To successfully play a superhero, you need more than just a pretty face and acting chops-you need to physically embody one.
The guys featured here did just this, building physiques that approximate the kind found in comic books by pulling and pushing tons of cold metal-iron men, all. Whose physique do you most aspire to? Lithe ladies' man Tony Stark? Godlike Thor? Broad-shouldered Captain America? Massively muscular Hulk?
Whichever your choice, we have the exact routines they employed to create their iconic physiques. Give your favorite a shot, and start building a fan base of your own.
Marvel's Avengers Assemble (2012)
Watch the Official Trailer | HD
Watch The Video - 02:24
Saving the world is old news for Chris Evans, who toasted bad guys as Johnny Storm in 2005's Fantastic Four before suiting up for the role of Captain America. He was trained for Four by Steve Zim, best-selling author of Hot Point Fitness and a trainer in Hollywood (check him out at zimfit.com).
Evans took only four weeks to prep for the movie, performing four workouts per week that lasted an hour and 15 minutes per session. Evans completed four sets per exercise, usually for 10 reps. Rest between sets was 45 seconds. For every rep, the weight was lifted quickly and lowered for a count of three seconds. Evans paused at the top and bottom of each rep.
He performed cardio after the workouts for 15 minutes, setting the treadmill to a 10% incline and running at 4.0 miles per hour.
Zim won't reveal all his secrets but says that Evans' training was split up as follows and employed several unique twists on conventional exercises. A sample of some of these exercises is described.
Day 1: Back/Shoulders/Biceps/Abs
Day 2: Legs/Chest/Triceps/Abs
Day 3: Back/Shoulders/Biceps/Abs
Day 4: Legs/Chest/Triceps/Abs
Day 5: Off
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
The Mighty Thor
The fanboy debate over who is the greatest Avenger could rage on for days. You can argue that no one is more powerful than The Hulk, has more courage than Captain America, or has more brains - and powerful weaponry - than Tony Stark.
But the argument for Thor doesn't require a lot of explanation or any twist of logic - he's the only Avenger who's an actual god.
Building a body that audiences will associate with godliness is no small feat, so Chris Hemsworth trained hard for six months under the watchful eye of trainer Duffy Gaver, a former Navy SEAL who also trained Scarlett Johansson for her role as Black Widow.
"It's pretty simple bodybuilding," Gaver says of Hemsworth's workout, which was used prior to last summer's Thor and this month's Avengers.
"We benched, but you'll notice that there's not a ton of chest work. Once you develop huge pecs, you look like another gym rat, and it makes everything else look smaller."
Gaver, whose clients include Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling, says it was Hemsworth's work ethic, not the training template, that enabled him to gain 20 pounds of muscle before filming began. "The truth of fitness is discipline, intensity, and effort, and none of those can be bought," Gaver says.
"People see Chris and they think he was on steroids, but he didn't touch a single substance. It was just red meat, heavy weights, and some protein powder. Chris looks like Thor because he crushed every single workout. He simply decided to look like Thor."
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row (Heavy)4 sets of 12 rep
Barbell Curl (Heavy)5 sets of 10-12 reps
*Start with each side filled, rep out to failure, strip one plate from each side, and rep out to failure again. Continue until there is only one plate left on each side.
Abs Circuit: 3x
Note: Perform 3 times a week.
Robert Downey Jr. gave strength to Tony Stark even when he wasn't wearing the suit. For his role as Sherlock Holmes, Downey Jr. was asked to get lean. He responded by getting absolutely diced — results that speak for themselves in the opening scene of the first film, where Holmes is seen as a shirtless pit fighter. Being completely shredded, however, doesn't exactly fit the persona of business mogul Tony Stark, and besides, Downey Jr. was far too slight at 150 pounds to be believable as a superhero, even one who lets technology do most of the fighting for him.
"We cut way back on cardio and really increased the weight he was lifting," says Downey Jr.'s trainer, Brad Bose. After months of hard training and consuming 5,000 calories a day, Downey Jr. had added 25 pounds of lean muscle. "In the long run, consistency and intensity are far more important than how much weight you lift," Bose says. "And Robert possesses both of those."
The Incredible Interview
The Avengers' Director, Joss Whedon, gives us access to the incredible star of his incredible new film (with a special appearance by Bruce Banner)
Hulk: Puny avengers! They get in Hulk's way. Except iron one. Hulk like iron one: he's shiny and pretty in the sky.
Ferrigno capture Hulk's inner pain. Like looking in mirror. That hair pretty upsetting, though.
Aaaargh!!!!!!! Lady-hair not as strong as Hulk. Hulk is strongest one there is! Lady-hair possibly more dexterous.
Wait for someone to make me mad. It usually Nick Fury. He never tell what in briefcase in Pulp Fiction! AAARGH!!! WHAT IN BRIEFCASE????
Protein, carbs, gamma rays, rage, repeat.
Hulk like pasta—sometimes too much! also big steaks, broccoli, legumes ... Hulk not eat Captain America's Nazi-alien nemesis! That rumor started by puny Stark.
Trick is changing it up. Jumping good for hamstrings and thigh work, throwing cars works the delts and lats. Rage plus invading alien horde equals varied, comprehensive session. (Hulk not work much to get these abs—hulk just blessed.)
Widow make hulk feel different in parts. Like rage, only nice ... hard to explain. Sometimes hulk get tingly and sleepy ... Like interview make Hulk sleeeeeepy ... ZZZZZZZZ
Bruce Banner: Whuh? oh, god, no! Where am I? My clothes! It happened again ... I was in my lab, and then there was some kind of flash. What have they gotten me into? WHAT HAS THAT MONSTER DONE THIS TIME?! DAAAMNN ... Can't ... Control ... rage ... oh, NOOOOO ... ARRRRGH!!!!!!
Hulk: Hulk forget question.
Ruffalo very expressive, captures Banner's punyness, but also good at being scary like Hulk. Fun on set, too.
Puny Whedon always want to talk feelings! Not best way to smash desk—Whedon very limited. Have potential, though.