Similar to other actors he’s worked with recently (Ana De Armas, Keanu Reeves, Liev Schreiber), Novotný’s approach towards Hemsworth was to treat him as though he was a professional athlete.
“He was like, You guys need to bring it right back. This man is not resting nearly as much as he would if he was a pro athlete, He’s on set filming all day then he’s trying to train at the end of the day,” Zocchi remembers.
For Extraction 2, the brief given to Novotný was simple. “He needed to not have such big muscles,” Novotný tells GQ, so muscle definition and a higher overall fitness were the goal, while paying great attention to a sore back that has hampered Hemsworth over the years.
Treating pre-existing injuries
The first thing Novotný got Hemsworth to do was manual therapy for his sore back. That involved exercises in the gym together as well as sessions in the swimming pool incorporating plenty of resistance bands work.
“Chris has lower back pain with increased muscle tension in the lumbar area. The muscles are built mostly with slow twitch fibres, which means they are ready to keep our posture straight all day. If you are working in the gym, you are giving them extra work, which increases their tension even more causing lower back pain. Chris needed these postural muscles to have complete rest from gravity and water immersion in a pool is perfect for this purpose,” Novotný says. “I needed to keep him in an upright position, with no gravity while working out core muscles and legs. Chris was standing in the pool with water up to his shoulders, while I was behind him creating resistance in his legs.”
Before any gym sessions, Novotný also spent about 30 minutes doing physiotherapy on all of Hemsworth joints, “which is the same that I’m doing with professional athletes,” he adds. Those sessions would finish with more than 50 different stretches for the whole body, which would take 15-20 minutes. “There was mostly a lot of core work for his low back pain together with muscle definition,” says Novotný. “But the main priority was to keep his lower back fit for the tough scene when he was doing a lot of running with a kid on the snow all day.”
Embrace change as you get older
With Hemworth’s discipline and hard work at Novotný’s disposal, the most important thing he had to figure out was rest and recovery times.
“When you see how professional athletes train at the age of 20 compared to 35, they need to program the resting time much more carefully,” Novotný tells us. “What we needed to do was make sure that losing muscle cells was at a minimum because when you go to the gym, you destroy muscle and as you get older it grows back slower, so it was important to factor that into the exercises he was doing day in day out.”
Hemsworth’s main cardio is surfing
“100% Chris isn’t a big cardio man. He could surf for four or five hours but if you tell him to go for an hour run, he’ll really struggle to do it,” says Zocchi. Surfing is a great workout, and during filming for Extraction 2 in Europe, Hemsworth regularly flew to France so that he could surf. “It is a lot of paddling, so it’s about having a strong back and activating a pulling movement that engages your lats. Then when you actually get on the wave and stand up, it’s a lot of lower body legs,” adds Zocchi. “Chris is a pretty good surfer so he’s not just getting up and cruising straight. He’s putting in big turns so it’s a lot of agility, a lot of core, and a lot of explosive movements.”
Intermittent fasting to lose bulk
After filming Thor: Love and Thunder, Hemsworth was keen to lose a lot of the weight he had to put on so he did a lot of intermittent fasting. “The 16-8 routine, where you don’t eat for 16 hours, and you have an eight-hour eating window, comes down to portion control,” says Zocchi. “We’ve had a lot of success with it because it works for Chris’s lifestyle. There are also health benefits when you go into these bigger fasts when your body has time to have a break from food. Doing that also brings down how many calories you actually eat, making sure you’re not in a surplus. The only problem is when you start fasting you can feel really hungry to the point you’re overeating. Within two weeks you should be able to get into a rhythm and feel comfortable.”
Smaller, more defined biceps for the win
One day in the gym Hemsworth asked Novotný about the best way to work on biceps. Very well defined at all angles was the answer he got. “It’s important to work biceps together with deltoids in a vertical position in the opening position,” says Novotný. “It’s not to have a bigger biceps, but the opposite. Hemsworth wanted to have smaller, more defined biceps.” Zocchi says that this was a revelation to Hemsworth, as tiny tweaks to techniques enhanced the way. Nolotny made small but significant changes to Hemsworth’s routine. The first was to work the biceps not as an isolated muscle but as a muscle chain, either with frontal deltoid and abdominal or with lateral deltoid and lateral abdominal.
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