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Getting in shape to play a superhero is no easy task. Actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been known to spend weeks or even months getting themselves in the best shape possible before stepping foot on a movie set to portray their characters. Ahead, we’re breaking down how some of the biggest actors in the MCU got ripped for their roles.

Watch any movie in the MCU whether it be Iron Man — the movie that led to the Avengers film franchise and the rise of Marvel Studios — or a newer addition such as Black Panther (2018) or Avengers: Endgame (2019) and there will be a strong, ripped actor dominating fight scenes. To be able to do what their roles required, or at least look realistic while stunt doubles did the more complicated moves, actors had to hit the gym and pay extra attention to their diets. 

Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner at the 2015 MTV Movie Awards
Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner at the 2015 MTV Movie Awards | MTV/MTV1415/Getty Images for MTV

Chris Evans: ‘I lifted heavy stuff and I put it back down’

In 2011, Chris Evans made his first appearance as Steve Rogers, better known to fans as Captain America. He starred in Captain America: The First Avenger and became a fixture in the MCU. Needless to say, he’s had years of figuring out how to get in superhero shape, and by the time Avengers: Endgame came around, Evans probably knew exactly what he had to do to get ripped. 

During a 2019 interview with Men’s Journal, Evans mentioned what his training process had been like prepping for the record-breaking movie. “I went to the gym, and I lifted heavy stuff, and I put it back down. And then I lifted it again, and then I put it back down until I got tired,” he said with a smile. 

Of course, he did more than that. He worked with personal trainer, Simon Waterson, to help him get ripped. Waterson told Coach Magazine in 2016 he had Evans do a series of high-weight/low-rep moves to help him build lean muscle mass quickly. 

Robert Downey Jr. gained more than 20 pounds

After Robert Downey Jr. had pretended to get the part of Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man, he actually had to prep for the role. Working with a personal trainer, the now-54-year-old actor packed on more than  20 pounds of muscle, according to Men’s Journal

“We cut way back on cardio and really increased the weight he was lifting,” Brad Bose, the actor’s trainer, said. 

Not only that, Downey Jr. consumed 5,000 calories a day and continued his longtime practice of Wing Chun, a technique popularized by Bruce Lee. 

Brie Larson trained for almost a year

When 30-year-old actor Brie Larson joined the MCU as Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers, she reportedly trained for nearly a year before filming began on 2019’s Captain Marvel.

Larson focused a lot on upper body moves, including pull-ups and deadlifts. By the end of her training she could supposedly deadlift 215 pounds. Burning so many calories in the gym, Larson didn’t have to adhere to a very strict diet. She ate “mostly clean” and ate pasta on occasion. 

Scarlett Johansson worked with 2 personal trainers

Making her first appearance as Black Widow in 2010’s Iron Man 2, Johansson has been getting ripped to play a superhero on and off for nearly a decade.

With the help of not one but two personal trainers Johansson has been able to convincingly play a fighter with serious muscle. The actor herself trained to be able to deadlift 245 pounds and perform push-ups with 45-pound weights on her back. In addition to building strength and agility in the gym, Johansson practiced time-restricted eating. 

Clearly, the MCU actors did a variety of things to get in shape but they all focused on building muscle and getting ripped.