How Chris Hemsworth got ripped to play Thor

Though Chris Hemsworth has had to change his body (and hairstyle) for a variety of projects, none have been as demanding as the jacked-up Norse god and Marvel Avenger Thor—a role he's played since 2011. Unsurprisingly, staying in superhero shape is no easy assignment, especially when tasked with shedding weight for other big-screen roles that call for a lighter frame. So how does Hemsworth keep his biceps bulky enough to lift Mjölnir and stay cut enough to make even Scarlett Johansson blush? Let's find out.

Drastic changes

In between stints saving the world as the Asgardian god of thunder in The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World, Hemsworth nabbed the role of playboy Formula One champion James Hunt in Ron Howard's Rush—forcing him to drop, then regain, some serious weight in a very short period of time.

F1 fans know drivers aren't particularly large individuals, as the cockpits of the low-flying aircraft they call 'cars' don't provide much in the way of legroom. "The first thing Ron Howard said to me when I got the Rush job was, 'I don't know if Thor is going to fit into a race car,'" Hemsworth recalled to Bodybuilding.com. "I was filming The Avengers when I got the call for Rush, so I went from 215 pounds, which is how much I weigh when I'm playing Thor, down to about 185 pounds to be able to fit into the car. That was all in about four months."

Cutting weight is never a pleasant thing for an actor, especially when it needs to be done in such a short period of time. "I immediately went from weightlifting into cardio training to shed that extra 30 pounds, which was a pretty nasty thing to do," Hemsworth said. "I'd rather put on weight anytime. I was basically underfed and overtrained for a number of months—and it was still a squeeze to get into the Formula 1 car."

He ate strategically

After beating out racing legend Niki Lauda for the 1976 Formula 1 title—and shedding much of his hard-earned muscle mass in the process—Chris Hemsworth had to go back to work as Thor… which meant regaining that 30 pounds he lost. In order to accomplish this unpleasant feat in such a short period of time, the Australian actor focused on eating strategically.

"Nutritionally, I had to be very efficient," Hemsworth told Bodybuilding.com. In this case, that meant shoveling in Asgardian-sized meals on a regular basis. "It was buckets of protein, brown rice, vegetables—I mean really large quantities and I ate regularly, every three hours … Then I ate fruit and vegetables to help break down the protein, and a lot of broccoli." Hemsworth also stressed the importance of 'eating for value,' while making brown rice and quinoa the staples of his diet, with the latter taking precedence when really looking to get cut.

Of course, putting food in your stomach when you don't really feel like eating can ruin one of life's greatest pleasures, but Hemsworth would still take his Thor diet over the rapid weight loss he endured while trying to fit into a Formula 1 car. "Sometimes you're eating when you're not hungry and taking in that amount of food can be exhausting," he said, "but I much preferred it than my Rush diet."

Protein, protein, protein

In order to get big like the Norse god of thunder, you'd best believe you've got to consume some serious protein. But how much, exactly?

Hemsworth's daily eating schedule while bulking up to play Thor found him starting his day by eating a cup of oatmeal, a banana, half a cup of sultanas, four egg whites, a whole egg, and 50g of cheese, while washing it all down with fat-free milk, orange juice, and a protein shake. Next came brunch, and with it a turkey roll, some cottage cheese, mixed nuts, yogurt, and another protein shake.

If you're following along at home and still feel the need for a midday snack, you could chew on some beef jerky… but be ready for a substantial lunch of three chicken breasts, 100g of brown rice, a cup of broccoli, a cup of kidney beans, and a glass of fat-free milk. Dinner then calls for three filets of salmon, 100g of quinoa, 100g of asparagus, yogurt, and yet another glass of fat-free milk. Finally, assuming you somehow have any room left in your belly, supper is simply two boiled eggs, two slices of brown bread, and a protein shake.

Eat like that, and you'll be well on your way to looking like Thor. Of course, there's still a lot more to it than simply shoveling down buckets of food.

Part 1: bulking up

In order to gain 30 pounds in a matter of months while staying cut, Hemsworth utilized a specifically structured training regimen. According to Michael Knight, Hemsworth's trainer and director of Michigan-based personal training company Art of Strength, the Aussie's training regimen was split into two parts. "The first was a bodybuilder-type protocol focused on high-weight, low-rep moves designed to pack on maximum size," Knight told Coach Mag, "while the second was total-body circuits designed to shift his excess fat while maintaining muscle."

Hemsworth's eight-week bulking plan is simple to follow and is comprised of three training sessions per week. The first session is all about the chest and back, requiring bench pressing, bent-over rows, weighted pull ups and weighted dips. The second session is focused on the legs, utilizing squats, dead lifts, and hamstring curls. Finally, the third session is dedicated to the arms, with weighted chin-ups and closed-grip bench presses.

Both how much and when you exercise is crucial, of course. In this case, you'll always do four sets of each exercise, but the number of reps changes on a weekly basis. During the first and fifth weeks, you should do four to six reps. Weeks two and six, you should do six to eight reps. Weeks three and seven, you're looking to go hard with 8-12 reps. However, on weeks four and eight, you should drop back down to four to six reps.

Such a workout will definitely add some bulk, but to look like Thor, you also need to get cut…

Part 2: trimming fat

"Once Chris put on the muscle I needed to get him lean," Michael Knight told Coach Mag, "which meant stripping away any fat he had accumulated during the first phase while maintaining all his newly built muscle." In order to accomplish this, his trainer had Hemsworth train like a Strongman, explaining that he built a "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 220lbs … all muscle."

Hemsworth's four-week fat-shedding plan is easy to imitate. The first circuit is all about Tabata training, with four rounds of double kettlebell squats and eight rounds of snatches—20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. The second circuit is comprised of kettlebell swings, starting with 30 seconds of two-handed swings, before moving to 30 seconds of right-hand-only swings, 30 seconds of left-hand-only swings, and 30 seconds of 
alternate swings. You'll then want to move on to kettlebell cleans: "five right, five left, four right, four left, three right, three left, two right, two left, one right, one left, then back up to five each side for a total of 60 reps with no rest." Finally, the third circuit maintains five minutes of continuous Turkish get-ups, as well as five windmills on each side.

He loves Foundation Training

Lifting heavy weights and shedding fat with classic weightlifting exercises is all well and good, but Chris Hemsworth likes to mix it up. One addition to his workout regimen, the actor's particularly fond Foundation Training, which—as he told Men's Health—he picked up from an old acquaintance. "He was a stunt guy who had really serious back injuries," he explained, "and told me how Foundation Training helped him a ton."

Foundation Training was designed by Dr. Eric Goodman and is essentially a series of exercises designed to strengthen your back, as well as activate your posterior muscle chain through a series of movements, postures, and poses. Not entirely dissimilar to yoga, it aims to correct the problems associated with complacently adapting to the comforts of modern life — which mainly stem from sitting all day. By teaching your body to correctly manage the burden of supporting your weight, Foundation Training claims to be a gateway to all sorts of pain management.

Hemsworth is so down with Foundation Training he apparently wrote an introduction to Goodman's book, True to Form, writing: "Like so many people who have found relief with Foundation Training, I am grateful for the healing." He also once told the Instagram world that "I incorporate it into my everyday workouts and daily movements and I've never felt stronger, it's incredible."

Nothing too fancy

While he makes sure to keep a well-rounded workout regimen incorporating traditional weightlifting, Muay Thai, boxing, yoga and Foundation Training, Hemsworth and his trainers aren't into any Hollywood fitness fads. Instead, they like to keep things simple.

"I did do a lot of functional training," Hemsworth told Bodybuilding.com. "I would do circuits and bodyweight exercises for more functional strength: stuff like chin-ups and pull-ups and box jumps, and even some CrossFit stuff. I also worked with kettlebells … They're basically a combination of cardio and weightlifting, and they're a great way to build functional strength." Aside from mixing in some fighting sports, yoga and Foundation Training, there's not a lot more going on inside Thor's gym. "We've pretty much stuck to the original template," Hemsworth's trainer and former Navy SEAL Duffy Gaver told Muscle and Fitness, referring to his workout regimen focused on basic weightlifting. "Of course we've had some variation over time to keep things interesting and prevent plateaus."

Still, Gaver insists there's no need for anything fancy. "So many of the products you see advertised on infomercials right now did not exist when the first Mr. Olympia contest was held," Gaver says, "which should tell you something … There's no particular exercise combination that will ever beat the guy who realizes, 'Hey, this all comes down to hard work.'"

He surfs some serious waves

In order to stay in godlike shape, Hemsworth regularly hits the gym and shreds his body. Just for fun, however, the Australian likes to shred waves.

In an interview with THE CUT, Hemsworth recalled his favorite surfing memories in Currumbin, Queensland. "My friend has a Jet Ski so he would ride it around the wave," Hemsworth told. "You then sit sidesaddle on it with your board and hop off, and then you can stand up straight into a barrel. It's a really fast wave." He also recalled catching waves in the surfer's paradise of Indonesia. "There's a place called Sumba that's a beautiful reef with very few people around," he described. "I've had some amazing waves there."

Most memorably, however, is the time Hemsworth paddled out with surfing legend Kelly Slater. "I was at home on the couch at 9PM," he recalled, "and I got a text from him saying, 'I'm going out tomorrow, you want to come?' I looked at my wife and was like, 'Can I go to Fiji?' She says, 'Who's asking?' It ended up being one of the most memorable sessions in my life. Watching him dominate that place was pretty special. The waves were massive. I probably shouldn't have been out there. I was shouldering him and he was telling me what to go for. He was my hero when I was a kid and now we're mates! It's crazy."

No excuses

While the man who plays Thor certainly takes home a fat paycheck and has the means to hire the best trainers and nutritionists money can buy, that doesn't mean the rest of us can't get into superhero shape. In fact, one excuse commonly thrown out is that famous people find it significantly easier to get into shape, simply because they have more money—something Hemsworth isn't buying.

"That's not true at all," Hemsworth told Men's Health. "No amount of money makes someone else do the work for you. If you can't afford a trainer, that's totally fine. Use friends; use anyone. Do a workout in your living room. It's really easy to jump online to find nutritional plans and workout routines and more. Ultimately, being fit is about motivation and action creates motivation."

Hemsworth has a point. While having the financial means to pay membership fees at well-stocked gyms certainly isn't going to do you any harm, there are plenty of resources available online to help you get healthy. Even if you'll never look like Thor, there's no reason you can't increase your overall level of wellbeing. "Don't wait around for someone else to come push you," Hemsworth says. "Push yourself."

Hemsworth before Thor: the origin story

Before joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Thor the God of Thunder, Australian hunk Chris Hemsworth had to work his way up from scrapping with his brothers to starring in soap operas and bit parts until he caught his big break as the hammer-wielding hero in Marvel's blockbuster cinematic universe—which wasn't easy considering his biggest competition was his own brother. Since proving himself worthy, Hemsworth has taken Hollywood by storm—not too shabby for a kid who just wanted to surf all day. Let's take a deeper look at his journey to superstardom.

He practically lived in the ocean

Hemsworth grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where—as he later told USA Todayhe spent more time in the water than on land. He can easily rattle off his top favorite beaches where he learned to surf, explored the ocean, and basically lived in "kid heaven." In fact, after making it big in Hollywood, Hemsworth moved his wife Elsa Pataky and their three children back to Australia, so the kids could explore the outback and the same beaches.

"There is a very social, outdoor, active sort of energy in Australia," he said. "Anywhere you go in the country, it's the same across the board. We like to have a good time. It's infectious. I go home and say I'm going to stay home and next thing you know, your friends are calling you up and you're out and about."

The Thor star also has fond memories of growing up with two brothers—even if their childhood antics sound more like Fight Club than Hallmark moments.

Sibling rivalry in the Hemsworth house was intense

While appearing on The Graham Norton Show (via Daily Mail), Hemsworth's brother and fellow actor Liam recalled fighting with the Thor star when they were younger.

"Our childhood rivalry was a bit vicious—a bit like The Hunger Games," Liam said. "We had a few incidents with weapons."

He wasn't joking. "One day when I was about five we had a fight in the kitchen about using the toaster, or something, and I picked up a kitchen knife and threw it at his head and the handle hit him in the forehead." Liam said before boasting about his knife-tossing skills as a young tyke. "I could have hit him with the other end if I'd wanted to. It was just a warning shot!" How generous.

He wanted to be a fashion designer

Somewhat surprisingly given his rugged Hollywood image, Hemsworth had a knack for sewing as a young kid.

"I think it's because I couldn't afford any cool clothes, so I was like, 'I'm gonna make them myself,'" he told W Magazine. "I remember doing cross stitch and for whatever reason, anything for me as a kid, I had a lot of trouble kind of focusing on one task and sitting still. I was pretty active. But anything really detailed where I had to sort of physically and mentally be involved and anything could hold my attention was a big plus for my parents, in particular. For some reason, cross stitch was one that I enjoyed."

Hemsworth's interest in sewing faded when he tried unsuccessfully to make his own pants, but the experience set him on the path to his future career. "I had a different idea every week of what I wanted to do professionally," he recalled. "I'd see movies and be inspired by things. I guess that's why acting fits, because I get to pretend to be all those things with no great amount of risk or effort."

He was a soap opera star

Hemsworth and his younger brother Liam were the first to find success in Hollywood. But it was actually their oldest brother Luke who found stardom earliest, in Australia. After landing a role on the soap opera Neighbours in 2001, Luke quickly grew disillusioned with acting and started his own flooring business where his younger brothers often worked, according to Page Six.

It wouldn't be long until Chris followed in Luke's footsteps. In 2004, he landed a role on the popular soap opera Home and Away, which led to heartthrob status Down Under—not to mention winning industry awards. But it wasn't without some awkward moments for the future Marvel star.

He competed on Dancing With The Stars Australia

While starring on Home and Away, Hemsworth competed on Dancing With The Stars Australia in 2006. It's a tidbit from his past that the actor doesn't normally bring up, but during an appearance on The Tonight Show in 2013, Jay Leno surprised him with a clip from his dancing competition days.

"He lasted seven weeks on the Australian version of Dancing With the Stars," The TODAY Show reported. "And while most of his stateside fans missed out on watching his paso doble and tango too, Tonight Show host Jay Leno made sure they got a glimpse of the action Monday night. The audience clapped eagerly before the clip rolled, but Hemsworth assured them, 'Nothing to cheer about, that dancing.'"

But just a few years later, Hemsworth would land his first break in Hollywood playing the father of the most famous space captain of them all.

He played Captain Kirk's dad

In 2007, Hemsworth left Home and Away—and Australia—to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. It didn't take long before he landed a role in major blockbuster. The Thor hunk made his big-screen debut in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, which featured Hemsworth playing Captain Kirk's father in an intensely emotional opening scene.

But despite that fast break, Hemsworth almost quit acting and moved back to Australia shortly after Star Trek. Even though he was turning heads, the roles weren't exactly pouring in. "I had a sort of nine-month period of nothing to the point where I was calling my parents. I was ready to pack it in and come home," he told Access Hollywood. "It was like, 'This is killing me.'"

It probably didn't help that Hemsworth and his brother Liam still had a penchant for fighting. Only now they weren't keeping it in the family.

He was a bit of a brawler

Just a few months after Star Trek hit theaters, the two youngest Hemsworth brothers made headlines after they allegedly got in a full-fledged fistfight at a Hollywood event.

Describing an altercation that erupted after some "late-night smack talk" with an apparently "random" stranger, TMZ reported a "two-on-one brawl." Fortunately, security broke it up before the cops were called, and no one faced any charges. It was an unfortunate move on Hemsworth's part that could've cost him his Hollywood career just as it started, but as luck would have it, he ended up signing three movie deals right on top of each other—including a horror picture written by a director who'd soon make his own splash in the Marvel Universe.

Joss Whedon encouraged him to audition for Thor

In 2009, Hemsworth filmed Cabin in the Woods, a horror movie written by Joss Whedon, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator who'd later go on to direct Marvel's The Avengers. Cabin didn't see the light of day until 2012 thanks to financial troubles at the studio, but while it isn't one of Hemsworth's most commercially successful films, it helped him make an important connection. He was encouraged by Whedon to re-audition for Thor, which had begun casting in 2009—and Hemsworth had already been rejected. But not his brother Liam.

"I came into the audition with Kenneth Branagh and thought I nailed it and then never heard anything back," he told W Magazine. "Months went by and then my brother, my little brother, Liam, was in Australia and sent a tape across and he got a call back, then another call back and then was down to the last kind of four or five people for it. I remember sitting in Vancouver, shooting Cabin in the Woods with [director] Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon. Both of them were looking at the trades at this sort of top five guys for Thor and saying, 'Why aren't you in the mix here? What happened?' I said, 'I don't know. I blew my audition, I guess.' None of those guys got it."

After a supportive phone call from Whedon to Branagh, Hemsworth was back in the mix. And the rest was almost history—but first, he needed a little help from mom.

His mom helped him impress Kenneth Branagh

After getting back on Branagh's radar, Hemsworth knew he needed a killer audition tape, and he pulled it off thanks to his mom. "I was on the 17th floor of a hotel in Vancouver with my mom reading the lines to me," he told The Hollywood Reporter, "and something great must have happened. It got me back in the room."

"We did two or three interview sessions before we tested him," Branagh said. "We pretty much knew as we were shooting the test that he was the guy. It seemed, across these meetings, he had grown into it. He understood it better. And crucially, he was at ease."

Having his mom help him land his biggest role must've been a special moment for Hemsworth. Especially considering he started acting to help out his parents after watching them struggle for years to make ends meet.

"We grew up with very little money and that kind of frustrated me as a kid listening to my parents talk about bills every week and sort of seeing the sort of weight that put on them," he told W Magazine. "I thought, 'That's it. I'm gonna make money and pay off their house.' So I thought, 'I'll be an actor,' and very naively kind of ran into that world and started auditioning."

He went a tad overboard packing on muscle

After landing the coveted role of the God of Thunder, Hemsworth threw himself into preparing for the role and quickly realized he needed to get bigger. Which he did, but apparently there's such a thing as too big.

"[The filmmakers] kept saying 'Yeah, get as big as you can, as big as you can," he told the Los Angeles Times. "And then I came back right before Christmas, just before we started the movie, and had a final sort of camera test and put the costume on and within a couple of minutes, my hands started going numb. And everyone was like, 'Yeah, that's not cool.' And I started getting pins and needles and you'd touch the skin and the blood wouldn't return to that area so quick. And I thought, 'OK, it doesn't fit.'"

According to the Times, his Thor costume was altered, but director Branagh told the bulked-up actor to "pull back" on packing on the muscles. Although you wouldn't know it from watching the movie.