We meet the trainer who helped sculpt Thor’s superhero physique.
While he may have the genes and physical stature of a demigod, even Chris Hemsworth has to put the hard yards in when it comes to building the type of musculature the role of Thor requires.
Luckily for Hemsworth, his mate and personal trainer Luke Zocchi has a lot of experience getting actors into peak physical condition for the cameras. And while you might think that building the kind of muscle mass needed for the role of Thor would mean hours and hours in the gym every day, the reality is quite different.
“We limit each session to an hour a day, six days a week,” Zocchi says. “We would never train over an hour a day, and sessions would average between 45-60 minutes. People are often under the impression that when Chris gets big we spend hours on end in the gym, but we never do longer than an hour.”
Sure, this may partially be because Hemsworth is already naturally a big bloke, but if you train right, you don’t need to spend valuable hours slogging away.
“I honestly believe that if you train with the right amount of intensity you don’t need more than an hour – more that that is too much,” Zocchi says. “If you’re training at that level of intensity you would only be doing more harm than good if you trained for more than an hour. And because we’ve done it before we know what works best for him.”
Function and force
For Hemsworth, his goal was to get big and strong to look the part, but he also wanted to be able to have functional fitness, so that he could build strength but also maintain full mobility.
“We do a lot of weightlifting but there is also a functional element – bodyweight training so he could move and be agile,” Zocchi says.
During an average training session, the warm-up would consist of functional movements and bodyweight training such as bear crawls, pull-ups and squats.
“From there the session moves into more traditional weightlifting sets, like four sets of 12,” Zocchi explains. “Then at the end we would do some more functional work and some core work.”
Because these sessions are performed at high intensity – with a maximum of 60 seconds rest between sets – the training also provides a cardiovascular workout.
“We keep moving throughout the session, so we’re keeping the fat burn and heart rate up the whole time,” Zocchi says.
Arms of a god
A lot of attention is paid to Hemsworth’s arms, and with good reason – the man has some major guns. And Zocchi has developed a special arm circuit for Hemsworth that can be done as part of a regular training session, or to get a pump on while on set.
“We hit arms in about 20 to 30 minutes, and generally it would be supersetting,” Zocchi explains. “For instance, we would start with a biceps exercise with a triceps exercise – perhaps standing straight bar curls straight into a triceps pushdowns on a cable machine, then we would have a 40 second rest and then go again.”
This might be followed by something like standing dumbbell curls into a triceps rope pushdown, and then it’s finished with some isolation exercises, such as a seated incline curl into a skullcrusher, to really focus on isolating those muscles.
Unlike some other trainers, Zocchi likes to train alongside his clients rather than just standing there and directing them.
“I feel like you get more respect that way,” he says. “Everyone trains people differently, but for me personally I don’t get motivated having people screaming at me. I prefer to train with people and go through what they’re going through and push them on and motivate them to keep going. That’s just my style.”
To help him bulk up to play Thor, Hemsworth needs to eat a large amount of food to fuel his muscles and power his workouts. And Zocchi has developed a nutrition plan for Hemsworth to help him reach his goals.
“In previous years he has used a nutritionist, but in these last two Avengers films I have managed his nutrition,” Zocchi says. “It’s basically just a clean diet with a lot of protein. He’s eating six times a day, anywhere from 3500 to 4000 calories a day. Every two to three hours he’ll have a decent meal with some protein and vegetables and some carbs. We don’t weigh everything anymore, because he has done it so many times now, he knows himself so well – we can gauge it by how he’s looking.”
To prepare for his superhero roles, Hemsworth usually starts training with Zocchi about three months prior to shooting.
“That’s when we do our hardest work,” Zocchi says. “That’s when I build him up and get him to a certain level. Then when it comes time to shoot it’s more about maintenance. Not slipping into neutral, but training smart – we do the hard yards before the shoot to get him up to that level and then just maintain it the best way possible in the limited time that we have.”
When Hemsworth is between roles he still trains about four days a week, but there is a something he loves more than the gym – the ocean.
“He really loves surfing,” Zocchi says. “So when he’s not in a movie or in preparation he still trains regularly, but definitely surfing becomes more of a priority.”
Zocchi has been training with Hemsworth for around five years now, and over that time he has found that many people have approached him with questions about training. So he decided to develop his own online training program – Twenty40 (https://zocobodypro.com).
“Basically, it’s designed for the everyday person – 20-minute workouts and eat well and still get results when you live a busy lifestyle,” Zocchi says. “People always say they don’t have the time to go to the gym, so I pretty much designed the whole program with bodyweight exercises and only one or two pieces of equipment. So you can get a workout in and feel good and get results and you can do it pretty much anywhere, anytime.
“If I can teach you how to train with basically no equipment then there is no excuse. You can do workouts in your backyard or in the lounge room – you don’t need to go to the gym to be fit.”
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