Hollywood stars are a source of inspiration for many of us, and certainly one of those areas of inspiration is how they look, especially when they get themselves into fantastic shape for an upcoming superhero or action film in an incredibly short space of time. Of course, the biggest downside of this inspiration is when the average person tries to replicate their favorite star’s workout routines in hopes of achieving the same success in record time. That’s not to say it can’t be done, because getting in great shape is still very achievable and most Hollywood actors don’t have perfect genetics worthy of the Olympic stage.
What they do have, however, are unlimited funds, the best personal trainers and dieticians in the world, the absolute best supplements money can buy, and adequate rest and recovery time. The average person doesn’t have all that; they’d need to be motivated enough to prepare their own meals, train around their working hours, and make sure they are getting sufficient rest so the muscles and recover and grow.
Getting in great shape is very tough, even with all the benefits of being a Hollywood A-lister, but again, it is still achievable. With the right knowledge and motivation, you can develop the desired look of your dreams. It will likely take a bit longer than your favorite actors did, but don’t give up, because they are human beings just like you. With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at some of most inspirational actors that have completely turned themselves around by getting into action hero shape.
16 Alicia Vikander - Tomb Raider
Since the Tomb Raider franchise was rebooted in video game form, Lara Croft’s appearance took on a more realistic look. She looked more natural and relatable, while still looking athletic enough to be able to survive the perils of an unwelcoming island filled with crazed bad guys.
The new look and rebooted gaming series were received well by critics and it wasn’t long before Hollywood wanted to give the series Tomb Raider another shot at the big screen. Keeping in line with Lara’s new look, they went with Alicia Vikander. To prepare, Alicia trained with Magnus Lygdback, a famous Hollywood trainer who helped Alexander Skarsgård get into shape for The Legend of Tarzan.
Vikander trained for five to six days a week, incorporating MMA, weights, climbing, and a strict high protein diet. She went from slim to athletic and ripped, packing on noticeable muscle on in her traps, deltoids, and abdominals, showing that the hard work and diet paid off well.
15 Chris Hemsworth - Thor
When Marvel first announced that they were casting for the role of Thor, speculation was rife regarding who would not only play the part but look every bit the Norse God that’s capable of going toe-to-toe with The Incredible Hulk. There were heavy rumors that the studio was looking at WWE Superstars Triple H and John Cena.
So when it was announced that Chris Hemsworth, a young soap actor from Australia, would be playing filling the Asgardian’s boots, the news was, as usual, met with skepticism from a few fans. However, not only did Chris play the part perfectly with natural comic timing and charisma, he developed a tremendous physique, making the man worthy of wielding the mighty Mjölnir itself. Chris is reprising the role for the fifth time in Thor: Ragnorok.
Although Chris was in a good shape and already had the foundations in place, he still had to bulk up from 185lbs to 215lbs. To do this, Chris trained 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week, using a combination of Kettlebell circuits and a weight training routine that focused on compound lifts, such as bench presses, dips, pull ups, squats, and deadlifts to build overall strength and muscle thickness.
14 Jessica Biel - Blade Trinity
Before Blade and even Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jessica Biel was better known for playing the romantic love interest in family comedy films like I’ll Be Home For Christmas and Summer Catch. Even before she took on the role of vampire hunter Abigail Whistler with the likes of Wesley Snipes, and Ryan Reynolds in the superhero vampire film Blade: Trinity, she was already in shape from working out regularly.
However, to get into the condition required of a superhero film, she upped the intensity, by training up to six days a week under the guidance of Hollywood trainer Jason Walsh, using a high volume training program with very little rest between sets. In addition, she practiced martial arts for up to 60 minutes most days to prepare for her role. Jessica’s diet consisted of vegetables, proteins from grains and animal sources, allowing herself one cheat day a week.
13 Christian Bale - Batman: The Dark Knight Trilogy
Christian Bale’s 63-lb weight loss for the film The Machinist, taking his bodyweight all the way down to 121 pounds, took the term "method acting" to another level. Equally as shocking was Bale’s incredible weight gain, and acquiring enough lean muscle mass to play the part of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.
Those who watched Bale in American Psycho saw that he had an already impressive physique, so muscle memory played a huge part in regaining his lost size. However, it shouldn’t be underestimated just how difficult it probably was for him to get his body not only back into a healthy state, but also looking like an athlete again.
Once he gained his weight back on a high-calorie diet, Bale needed to gently reintroduce exercise after a few weeks and began with running to get his heart healthy. Eventually, his bodybuilding routine consisted of a split-training focusing on different muscle groups every day. In addition, his diet for Batman was smaller meals eaten every 2-3 hours, consisting of high proteins, moderate carbs, and healthy fats.
12 Emily Blunt - Edge Of Tomorrow
The former Devil Wears Prada and future Mary Poppins actress Emily Blunt may not be the first lady you’d expect to throw herself into a tough action role in Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise, but she not only met the expectations of action star, she totally exceeded them. In fact, her work ethic and training impressed the notoriously super-fit Tom Cruise so much that he wanted to them to work out together because she was able to keep up with him.
Her training for the film consisted of calisthenics to develop her body strength and improve her flexibility, which she displayed in several scenes of the movie. Additionally, her trainer also got Emily to perform sprints and runs with 10 to 30-pound weighted vests to develop her strength for handling the Exosuits in the movie.
11 Chris Pratt - Guardians Of The Galaxy
For an actor who was cast as the “funny fat guy,” Chris Pratt didn’t seem like he’d become one the Marvel Universes most recognizable heroes. Chris’ weight skyrocketed up to nearly 300 pounds for his role in Parks and Recreation, and weight gain nearly cost him a part in Brad Pitt’s Moneyball.
So when it came to shredded for his star turn as Starlord, otherwise known as Peter Quill, Chris managed to drop 60 pounds in six months. To do this, he trained for two months solid, focusing mostly on developing his back, chest, and shoulders using Reverse Pyramid Training. This means Chris started with his heaviest weight first, then 'pyramids down' to lighter weights using exercises such bench presses, squats, deadlifts, etc.
Finally, for the last three months, he incorporated a lot of conditioning and cardio techniques into his training, while his diet consisted of whole foods, high proteins, and healthy fats, all while staying in a calorie deficit.
10 Demi Moore - G.I Jane
Before she took on the role of Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil in the action drama G.I Jane, Demi Moore was often cast as the romantic lead in films like Ghost, The Butcher’s Wife, and We’re No Angels. So when she proved how much of a physical presence she was when she played a woman trying to make it as a member of the U.S Navy Special Warfare Group, it’s fair to say that Demi shocked audiences, especially when she would demonstrate how easily she could do one armed push ups.
Although Demi was already in fantastic shape after starring in the 1996 film Striptease, she took her level of physical fitness to another level by training as if she was in the military, under the guidance of an ex-Navy SEAL war hero, Scott Helvenston. She combined this with yoga, pilates, martial arts, and weight training.
9 Jake Gyllenhaal - Southpaw
Jake Gyllenhaal already packed on the muscle for his role in the Prince of Persia movie adaptation, so muscle memory is a definite factor in his transformation for his role in the boxing drama Southpaw. However, when you consider that he was already slim for his role in 2013’s Enemy, and that he lost a further 25 pounds to play the part of a gaunt-looking sociopathic and narcissistic photojournalist Lou Bloom in the psychological thriller Nightcrawler, his journey to get into the best shape of his life can’t have been an easy one.
To get into boxing shape for his role, Jake trained like a boxer for five months in fighters training camp. This included 8-mile runs, followed by sparring, intense core and bodyweight circuits every morning. Then his afternoons would be focused on strength exercises like barbell bench presses, pull-ups, parallel bar dips, deadlifts, and squats.
However, his shredded appearance was also the result of his strict diet of 6-7 meals a day of nothing but natural food sources consisting of high proteins, complex carbohydrates, and steamed vegetables.
8 Noomi Rapace - Prometheus (Alien Saga)
Film fans who watched the original Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo film will already know that Swedish actress Noomi Rapace got herself into fantastic shape for that role, with a workout that consisted of mainly boxing, martial arts, and cardio interval training. For her role in Prometheus, a film in the Alien saga, she wanted to look athletic, strong and capable of surviving terrifying situations, much like her predecessor Sigourney Weaver did in the original films.
To get into shape for Prometheus, Noomi continued her lifelong martial arts training, but scaled it back enough to be able to pack on the extra muscle needed for her more athletic physique. She trained with a focus on endurance and muscularity, so her workouts likely consisted of weight training in the high rep range, and bodyweight circuits to be physically capable to do the stunt work in Prometheus.
Finally, her diet consisted of low carbohydrate and high protein foods such as meat, fish, eggs, green vegetables, and cutting out foods like potatoes, pasta, sugars, and alcohol.
7 Arnold Schwarzenegger - Terminator Genisys
When Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to go into politics, instead of the gym or Hollywood action movies, we were all surprised. Regardless of whether he was keeping himself fit or not, his focus and drive was 100% devoted to his position as the state of California's governor.
This, however, didn’t prevent some media outlets from trying to body-shame him because he lost quite a lot of "gains." What a lot of these outlets didn’t account for was Arnold’s ability to be able to get back into shape for his more recent roles in new The Terminator instalments. As he is considered one of the greatest bodybuilders ever, it’s obvious that muscle memory and great genetics played a huge part. Nothing can take away from the fact that Arnold has got himself in great shape at the age of 71, and once again, the Austrian Oak shut his critics up.
Nowadays, instead of lifting the massive weight he used to, Arnold accommodates his advancing years by using higher reps with moderate weights. He also uses machines instead of free weights in order to maintain his stability and stay injury-free, because it puts less strain on his joints and muscles.
6 Hilary Swank - Million Dollar Baby
The Clint Eastwood directed Million Dollar Baby garnered a lot of warranted praise, winning Academy awards for both Eastwood and its lead star Hilary Swank. Yet it wasn’t just the dark boxing drama’s accolades that made people sit up and take notice; it was also the incredible shape Hilary got herself in to play the role of a female boxer.
Hilary Swank was already in fit and healthy condition, but to get boxing fit, she gained 19 pounds of muscle, by eating high protein diet consisting of 210 grams of protein split into smaller meals throughout the day. She had to train like a boxer, which included bag work, sparring, skipping rope, and high-volume weight training for up to four and half hours a day, six days a week.
5 David Harbour - Hellboy
When Lionsgate studios announced that they were going to reboot the Hellboy film franchise without Ron Perlman, the news was met with quite a bit of negativity, especially as fans spent years campaigning for the final part of the originally planned trilogy.
Thankfully, with their new casting choice of David Harbour – which got a seal of approval from the original Hellboy himself – and a promise of a much darker tale, more in line with comic books, fans were mostly satisfied. When David Harbour shared a recent shot of himself decked out in his Hellboy gear, fan reaction became extremely positive, and when taking into account his physical transformation, it’s easy to see why.
His trainer Don Saladino – who also got Ryan Reynolds back into shape for Deadpool – currently has Harbour on a routine of heavy compound movements focusing strength and power like deadlifts, Dumbbell presses, Barbell bench presses. In addition, they’re focusing on sprints, and kettlebell walks for high impact high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for fat loss.
4 Sigourney Weaver - Alien Resurrection
Sigourney Weaver is one of the original female action stars with her breakout performances in the Alien franchise. As Ripley, she was a relatable action hero, who didn’t act or look invincible with bulging muscles that looked like they could deflect bullets. She was vulnerable, she got hurt, and it helped make the action seem tenser and more nail-biting to watch.
However, in what was arguably the weakest instalment in the Alien franchise, Alien: Resurrection, the Ripley character was cloned and resurrected as a human-alien hybrid, meaning she was far stronger and faster than a normal human, so she had packed on the extra muscle to look the part. Surprisingly, instead of a boot camp to focus on weights for muscularity, her training was based on a Pilates routine designed to help her core strength and posture, so she could carry the heavy guns, with no detriment to her back.
3 Jason Momoa - Conan
Whatever your feelings on the 2011 version of the Conan film, Jason Momoa was a fantastic choice in the role of the barbarian. Prior to his part as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones and Conan, Momoa was best known for playing the athletic-looking warrior Ronan Dex from the television sci-fi series Stargate: Atlantis.
Although Momoa was visibly bulkier in Game of Thrones (a short time after leaving SG: A), to get the kind of lean and shredded muscularity needed for Conan, Momoa used a very high rep programme called the 110-rep routine, developed by his personal trainer, Eric Laciste.
Each workout would last 30 minutes, and it required Momoa to pick an exercise and perform 7 sets of 7 reps, resting for no longer than 7 seconds between sets. After a 30 second break, he would then do 6 sets of 6 reps, resting for 6 seconds. Finally, he would finish the round off doing 5 sets of 5 and 5 seconds rest bringing the total number of reps to 110. He would then do the whole thing again with two additional exercises.
2 Linda Hamilton - Terminator 2
Before superhero films made it fashionable for getting relatively normal looking actors and actresses in phenomenal shape for a film role, Linda Hamilton wowed movie audiences and a seven-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger with her incredible conditioning in 1991 as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2.
Hamilton trained for 13 weeks before filming and immediately started using a non-fat diet – long before the low-carb craze – consisting of chicken, skimmed milk, salads and intense training for three hours a day, six days a week. Her training focused on endurance and strength with running, biking, and swimming, combined with free weights. Additionally, she also trained with an Israeli commando for martial arts and weapons combat training to get into the mindset of a combat-hardened Sarah Connor.
1 Kurt Russell - Soldier
Kurt Russell is no stranger to the action genre, with films like Big Trouble In Little China, Escape From New York and Tango and Cash to his name. While Kurt was never in bad shape, he was more of an "every-man" action hero like Bruce Willis, rather than a bodybuilder-type like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean Claude Van-Damme.
However, when he accepted the role of Sgt. Todd 3465, a soldier selected at birth to be a dedicated fighting machine for the military, he needed to look the part in the 1997 film, Soldier, which was an unofficial sequel to Blade Runner. He used the principles made famous by bodybuilding legend and Iron Guru the late Vince Gironda – one of the original trainers of the stars.
Following Gironda’s “A Muscle Has Four Sides” principle, Kurt would use four exercises to train one body part consecutively with no rest between sets, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Each muscle would get trained every 4 to 5 days. In addition, Kurt’s diet consisted of eating high-protein wholesome foods from natural sources every 2 to 3 hours.