How Brie Larson got ripped for Captain Marvel

Just because Brie Larson has Oscar gold doesn't mean she won't pump iron for a superhero role. The Room and Short Term 12 star has been putting in some serious hours at the gym to prepare for her arrival in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. An early costume reveal showed off at least one version of the outfit she'll be wearing when she suits up as Earth's Mightiest Hero, but one thing's yet to be explained — how did she go from the emaciated frame she kept during her Room performance to the Avengers-level shape she's in today? Follow along as we break down how Brie Larson got ripped for Captain Marvel.

Put your back into it

While many slender people are afraid to lift weights out of a fear of getting bulky, those fears misunderstand what building muscle actually does for the body. Thanks to the guidance of physical trainers, Brie Larson's learned that hitting the weights for functional strength can work wonders, and won't make you bulk up in a bad way.

In prepping for her Captain Marvel role, Larson's worked on building muscle in every part of her body, particularly the areas in which women are typically weakest — the shoulders, arms, and upper back. For the first time in her athletic life, Larson's doing pull-ups at the gym, as well as other heavy-weight exercises that one of her coaches, Jason Walsh, says "weren't necessarily even in her thought process." 

Working out these upper-body muscles can turn a shapeless back into a contour map of muscle, through moves like chair dips and tricep extensions for the arms, lat pulldowns and chin-ups for the back, and overhead presses for the shoulders. As Larson built strength doing moves like these, she also burned off fat, resulting in a strong and sexy look that shines in a strapless dress.

Jump school

Brie Larson's coaching has also led her to the wonderful world of plyometrics, a.k.a. jump training. To help shed pounds and shore up muscle, she's been catching some serious air, doing box jumps over her hip height — or about 3 feet. That may not sound that impressive compared to the numbers some people put up on Instagram, but when it comes to this particular workout, form is everything, and doing it right at a lower height is how you reap the benefits. 

Starting strength

Praise be to the almighty deadlift. The staple weightlifting move may look like backbreaking work, but as long as it's done correctly, it's exactly the opposite. Deadlifts, and other core strength moves like squats and overhead presses, help build the foundation of a fit body regardless of physical size, making one strong without necessarily making them huge. 

Don't believe us? Refer to the tape. Brie Larson's been using deadlifts to get a strong and trim body since her role in Room — you know, the movie where she played an undernourished prisoner. While preparing for that role, Larson put on 15 pounds of muscle, combining early-morning deadlift sets with a no-B.S. diet to carve a sinewy physique. Now that she's escaped from Room, she's been able to build on that baseline, staying svelte but getting strong.

"There were many ways I learned about the strength I have inside," Larson said in 2016, talking about the lessons she learned preparing for her Oscar-winning role. "One was gaining 15 pounds of muscle; I was able to lift things I never thought in my life I would be able to. That became such a huge part of the routine of making this movie. Every other day I worked with this incredible trainer, and he would have me lift extreme weights over my head. Just having that, being able to dead lift before I went to work every morning, gave me this mental change that I had never had before." 

That mental change led to a physical metamorphosis. "My highest right now is 215 pounds in deadlifts. 400-pound hip thrusts," she revealed in June 2018. "Being able to lift weight like that really changed my perspective and understanding of myself."

A fitness foundation

Thanks to Brie Larson's previous experiences at the gym, her transition into superheroism has been a process of keeping up good habits. It's true that the hardest part of working out is getting started, but once you break through the initial pains and awkwardness, the process starts to feel — and look — rewarding. It's no surprise if Larson's training programs have only gotten more intense; regular exercise has been shown to effectively rewire the brain, making subsequent workouts easier and less stressful. 

After Room, Larson starred in the comical shoot-em-up Free Fire, which she called her "first physical role," despite the hard training she did for her previous picture. "The action element of what I'd done before was really mental and very emotional," she said, discussing the distinction. "This was the opposite."

Afterwards, Larson continued to challenge herself with the intense Kong: Skull Island. "I spent two months — just like two hours a day of tearing my body down every day, just to be able to physically get through a film like this, because you're moving and climbing on so much stuff," she said

For Captain Marvel, Larson's putting everything she's learned into Carol Danvers, building the character on the inside and out. 

"Anything that's the physical side, from past experience, you hire specialists to help you understand that and quantify it and pace you out and figure it all out," she said. "I'm just in charge of what's going on in her head."

Rise to the occasion

Nobody gets to peak fitness entirely by themselves. Brie Larson has had a helping hand in honing her physique from a number of renowned trainers, including Jason Walsh of Rise Movement, a celeb-favorite gym in West Hollywood. Walsh is a bona fide trainer to the stars, having worked with the likes of Minka Kelly, Alison Brie, Emma Stone, and Miles Teller

Before she collaborated with Walsh, Larson worked with another trainer on Room who helped her develop not just a fighter's body, but a fighting mindset, introducing her to the chemical rush that turns normal humans into gym rats, and keeps them coming back for more.

"The muscle gave me this surge of testosterone where I just felt so much more power," she said. "I'm a pretty relaxed person, so it gave me this sense of urgency and strength to really fight that I had never felt before."

Food as fuel

Even with intense regular exercise, one thing always remains true — you are what you eat. While working out is beneficial to the body no matter what, those benefits won't be that obvious to observers if your diet starts and ends with salty chips and sweets.

When Brie Larson was first building up muscle for Room, she adopted a diet of the bare essentials — fat for energy, protein for muscle growth — and ate just enough of the right things to give her energy to effectively do her workouts, relying on almond butter, chicken, fish, starch-free vegetables, and a minimal amount of fruit. Along with that and plenty of water, she seemingly had little else.

Without the guidance of a nutritionist, we definitely wouldn't recommend adopting Larson's restrictive Room diet while you're weightlifting — and even then, it doesn't sound fun. She reportedly even restricted her intake of certain vitamins and nutrients while preparing for her Room character, which in normal circumstances wouldn't be a very wise move. A diet like this with the portions scaled up — and the proper amount of vitamins — would still be effective at promoting maximum muscle growth while burning fat.

Air Force assistance

Of course, you can't really call yourself a convincing Air Force pilot unless you've spent some time hanging out with the actual Air Force. Brie Larson shared a photo from a January 2018 visit to an Air Force training facility, showing herself fully suited up for some serious-looking training. "Learning to fly," she wrote in the caption.

To see what goes into making a pro pilot, Larson paid a visit to the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, where she spent time hanging out in a harness in her own custom jumpsuit, poking around the cockpit of a warbird, and commiserating with the troops. This sort of prep work may not help her physical fitness, but it does help ensure physical accuracy in her performance. Carol Danvers isn't just a pilot in the MCU, after all — she's a captain, so she's gotta look like she knows what she's doing. 

While visits like this are important for showing Larson what's expected from a pilot in peak form, she presumably isn't getting a lot of help in learning how to fight off Skrulls. She'll have to figure that one out for herself. Hopefully she'll do the job justice and make the real-life airmen proud when Captain Marvel takes flight in March 2019.