By John Mitchell, Men's Fitness
Being a movie star is a pretty sweet gig if you can get it.
Not only are they swarmed by adoring fans and rarely told "no," they also basically get paid to work out. It's part of the job, after all—a real movie star has to look good at all times lest they face the harsh glare of the paparazzi lens with a pinch-able inch. Sometimes they even have to beef up for a particularly meaty role. As often as they are asked to drop half their body weight to play drug addicts and insomniacs (looking at you, Christian Bale), leading men are tasked with bulking up to play gods, heroes, villains and every other sort of big and brawny guy in between.
Here's a look at five of the top muscle men of the summer movie season and a glimpse into their workout routine to see how they got that way.
SUPERHERO: CAPTAIN AMERICA (CHRIS EVANS)
MOVIE: THE AVENGERS (MAY 4)
Evans takes on the role of Steve Rogers/Captain America again in The Avengers, a superhero mega-mashup that also features Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). For those unfamiliar with Rogers' back story, the man that would be Cap was a puny and frail little thing deemed unfit for military service. But he refuses to give up on his dream of protecting his country during WWII and volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, aka a "perfect" specimen of human development and conditioning, using Super-Soldier Serum and "Vita-Ray" treatment.
How He Did It:
Unfortunately for Evans, Super-Soldier Serum isn't a real thing, so he had to get his massive, chiseled physique the old-fashioned way. Evans—who claims to have a very high metabolism and loses weight easily—had to increase his food intake, particularly lean proteins, dramatically and stop all cardio. He hit the gym four to five days a week for three months, training for two hours a day, focusing on two muscle groups per session. As with his Avengers co-star Hemsworth, the key to getting so big, so fast was variation—each muscle group was worked from every possible angle to constantly stimulate his muscles and keep him in a constant state of transformation until he reached his goal.
SUPERHERO: THE HUNSTMAN (CHRIS HEMSWORTH)
MOVIE: SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (JUNE 1)
As the titular "Huntsman," Hemsworth is the picture of a sword-swinging badass. In the flick, he is ordered by an Evil Queen (Charlize Theron) to take Snow White (Kristen Stewart) into the dark forest to be killed so the Queen can eat her heart, but winds up becoming her protector and mentor. A giant in real life (Hemsworth towers at 6'3") and a natural athlete, the actor put on much of his muscle weight to play Thor in last year's hit and this year's follow-up, The Avengers, but it serves him well here—the entire point of his character is that he is a fearless force to be reckoned with. The Huntsman is the guy you go to if you need something done that's a little dirty and definitely dangerous.
How He Did It:
To put on muscle fast for Thor—and subsequently Huntsman and Avengers—Hemsworth, who says he'd never lifted before becoming an actor, adopted a weight-training routine based on the principle of muscle confusion. The actor constantly varied the amount of weight, number of reps and the speed of his lifting so his muscles never adjusted to workouts. Hemsworth reportedly worked with many of Thor's tools—think sledgehammers and kettlebells—to become the massive guy he is now, and the intensity of his workouts required a near-constant intake of calories including protein from lean meats and complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables high in fiber, which promotes cardiovascular health, and antioxidants that aid in muscle recovery.
SUPERHERO: CAPTAIN DUKE HAUSER (CHANNING TATUM)
MOVIE: G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (JUNE 29)
Tatum reprises his action hero role as Captain Hauser in this sequel to the hit original, which surprised many with its $300 million worldwide gross. Here, we find the various "Joes" uniting to take on the villainous Cobra spy Zartan, who's had many of Hauser's colleagues assassinated. Much ass-kicking appears to go down and there are plenty of big explosions to run away from, so Tatum needed to be in peak form to survive it all.
How He Did It:
Tatum, a former male stripper whose own real-life back story is largely the inspiration for Steven Soderberg's upcoming man flesh extravaganza Magic Mike, is well-known for being famously in shape. To get even more solid and strong for the G.I. Joe franchise, the actor adopted a strict three-day on, one-day off workout cycle of intense calisthenic-based (think simple, often rhythmic exercises aimed at increasing strength and flexibility) full-body workouts lasting about 30 minutes each. It's a workout that lets the busy actor knock his resistance and cardiovascular training out of the park in one quick swing. He opted away from machines, choosing instead to focus on dumbbells, a medicine ball and a jump rope for his routine. While maintaining his schedule, Tatum does vary his regimen to avoid muscle adaptation and incorporates fight-based workouts when he is preparing for roles.
SUPERHERO: BANE (TOM HARDY)
MOVIE: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (JULY 20)
Bane is less a superhero than a supervillain, but that doesn't mean Tom Hardy, an actor known for his body transformations (see Bronson and Warrior for proof), didn't get insanely jacked up to play him. How closely director Christopher Nolan hews to Bane's back story from the comics remains to be seen, but the character is written as a physical juggernaut who developed intense strength in a prison gym in the fictional Caribbean Republic of Santa Prisca, where he also learned to fight mercilessly. Bane's physical prowess moves to superhuman levels when he becomes the only surviving test subject of a powerful drug simply called Venom, which he has to receive every 12 hours or, um, bad things will happen.
How He Did It:
Hardy's trainer takes an unconventional approach to the old-fashioned muscle confusion technique by splitting up Hardy's workouts into brief, four-times-per-day sessions. The workouts typically fall first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, in the early evening and before bedtime and last for approximately 20 minutes with a focus on strength training. Beginners should plan to start with just the morning and evening workouts before adding in the other two as you become more comfortable with the regimen.
SUPERHERO: AARON CROSS (JEREMY RENNER)
MOVIE: THE BOURNE LEGACY
Renner takes the reins on the Bourne franchise from Matt Damon, whose three star turns as Jason Bourne grossed a combined $527 million in the U.S. Renner plays a new CIA operative, Aaron Cross, who gets caught up in the dark and threatening plot that pursued Bourne through the first three films. The movie is not based on Robert Ludlam's book of the same name, as the original Bourne films were, and is being touted as a reboot of the franchise. As usual with the films, it looks like we can expect some serious fight and chance sequences.
How He Did It:
Like Damon before him, Renner dove straight into martial arts, boxing and hand-to-hand combat training for his role. Already in fighting condition having shaped up the old fashioned way (a consistent mix of weight training, cardio and eating right) for his roles in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Avengers, Renner took to his martial arts training … hard. "Judo throws," Renner told a Details magazine reporter during an interview when asked about his raw, gnarled fingers, which the writer described as looking "like melted wax." Hey, no pain, no gain!