‘I followed Natalie Portman’s intense Thor workout for a week’

Natalie Portman is one of those people with unwavering dedication. If she’s going to do something, she’s going to do it well, and that’s exactly how she approached her role in new Marvel movie Thor: Love and Thunder. She started training four months before filming even began and continued for another five months while shooting, and her new strength training routine was completely foreign to her usual cardio fix.

Upon being asked to ‘get as big as possible’, five foot three Natalie tells us: ‘[Thor training] involved a lot less cardio and a lot heavier weights than I’ve ever done. Because I’ve never tried to bulk up before,’ adding, ‘I felt the strongest I’ve ever felt, and the most physically balanced ever.’

Portman trained with PT Naomi Pendergast, who we also caught up with, and who prescribed YouTube star and physiotherapist Amy Leesha Portman’s exact workout routine. Always up for a challenge, Leesha followed the regime for seven whole days. Here’s everything she wants you to know, including what Portman’s workout routine entails, and how Leesha fared.

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Natalie Portman’s workout routine

  • Day 1: upper body workout
  • Day 2: Pilates/stretching/mobility
  • Day 3: upper body workout
  • Day 4: Pilates/stretching/mobility
  • Day 5: upper body workout

Upper body workout (three times per week)

Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes

4 different supersets

  • Set 1:
  • Dumbbell row 10 slow reps
  • Body weight offset push ups – 10 slow reps
  • Lat stretch
  • Set 2:
  • Dumbbell reverse fly – 10 s.r
  • Dumbbell seated shoulder press – 10 s.r
  • Back stretch
  • Set 3:
  • Standing dumbbell arm raise (palm up) – 20 s.r
  • Assisted pull ups – 6-8 controlled reps
  • Roll up
  • Set 4:
  • Dumbbell bicep curl 10-12 reps
  • Dumbbell tricep press 15 reps
  • Upper body rotation stretch
  • Boxing and skipping round 4-5 sets
  • Core exercises to round it off

What Leesha learned from Portman’s workout routine

1. It focuses on upper body

Before beginning her week’s challenge, Leesha requested an additional leg workout from Prendergast, since she noticed that the routine included only upper body exercises. Prendergast kindly obliged with a unilateral focussed leg session, and Leesha reported back that, ‘It’s not your standard workout, it’s super functional with a lot of unilateral movements and balance, it was hard.’

(FYI, that workout has now been added to Naomi’s training app.)

Why no lower body? While we wouldn’t recommend focusing on any particular body part purely for aesthetics, Prendergast revealed that the main goal for Portman was ‘arm and ab definition’. It’s her job to look a certain way, and so her workout routine was structured in a format that would help her fit the role she was briefed on. Anyone who has seen the movie will know she well and truly met the requirements, and Leesha adds ‘I can assure you, if anything will achieve that goal, it’s definitely going to be these workouts.’

Remember, for you and I, there’s little use in focussing on a specific body part – a balanced body is the one that will serve you best.

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2. It takes no prisoners

As we’ve mentioned, Portman doesn’t mess about if she’s got a goal in mind. Besides the fact that she started training five months before filming began, she woke up at 4.30am every single day in order to fit her workouts in around her busy schedule. Leesha quipped, ‘I can’t believe she did this for five months at 4.30am. It’s doable, but not enjoyable.’

As for her regular upper body workouts, they’re no joke. ‘This has taken me one hour and 45 minutes, I feel really good though,’ Leesha says on day one. ‘As much as I am so exhausted from that I feel so energised.’

When day five comes around, though, it sounds like Leesha’s energy is waning after her third intense upper body session. ‘That was a great workout, however I didn’t feel like I could give it my all after being exhausted from the week.’

3. Injury-prevention is key

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Prendergast previously told us, ‘The initial brief for Natalie’s training was to get strong arms and abdominal definition, but her role also involved a lot of stunts which meant we needed a focus on keeping her joints agile and avoiding injury.’ It’s for this reason that Portman’s upper body workouts were woven between one hour-long strength and mobility sessions.

For example, on day two, Leesha took on a Pilates workout that focused on balance and stability in the core. ‘It was quite nice to change pace. My biceps were already sore, and we’d barely started the week,’ Leesha says. She continued this pattern throughout the week: one upper body day, followed by a day of Pilates-based mobility and balance.

Prendergast adds that, while they mainlined upper body work, she made sure that Portman switched up the individual exercises to avoid over exertion and running the risk of injury. ‘Every week would be slightly different from the previous, and we’d use progressive overload so that her body learned to take more load safely and effectively,’ she explains. Incorporating different exercises is about giving your muscles a bit of a break – overdo it and you’ll only end up hurting yourself. Not the one.

4. Eating enough is mandatory

Upon finishing her first workout, Leesha says, ‘I feel shaky.’ Her comment speaks volumes. Upping the intensity of your workouts should be synonymous with upping the amount of food you eat. If you don’t eat enough, you won’t have the energy to workout. It’s like trying to drive a car without petrol.

Protein is particularly important for muscle recovery since it’s the building blocks needed for muscle cells to repair and grow. Portman’s a vegan, so it was key for her to introduce more plant-based protein. In fact, shakes became such a prominent part of her diet that she told us, ‘I never want to see a protein shake again!’

Form Vegan Performance Protein – Chocolate Peanut

Whey Less protein powder – Cookies And Cream

MyProtein THE Whey+ protein powder

Myprotein
myprotein.com

£69.99

Complete Protein Blend – Whey, Milk, Eggs

protein
bulkpowders.co.uk

£10.39

Here are some more example meals from her menu that Leesha tried for herself.

  • Breakfast: strawberry oatmeal with maple syrup and almond butter.
  • Lunch and dinner: falafel and chickpea curries were a repeat contender, all served alongside a vegan protein shake

Leesha’s verdict

‘Training like a superhero is hard and not a good portrayal of sustainable training or realistic goals. That being said, set big goals and pursue them until you get them, your mind is stronger than your muscles.’

As we always say, you’ll get so much more out of skill-based goals than you will aesthetic ones, but for the purpose of this experiment, Leesha also measured the circumference of her biceps, to see if she could also increase their size like Portman.

She succeeded, but caveats, ‘Just because I got these results doesn’t mean everyone will, I have a lifetime of training and different genetics behind me.’

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