The Arm Workout Natalie Portman Did to Prepare for Her Role In 'Thor: Love and Thunder'

Here's how the actress got into superhero shape for her latest film, according to her trainer.

Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman is reprising her role as Jane Foster in the upcoming Thor installment, "Thor: Love and Thunder", with a superhero transformation of her own. Unlike her past roles that required slimming down, this part demanded physical strength enhancement. She shared with Variety how she was encouraged to gain muscle mass for portraying the Mighty Thor. The challenge not only involved physical changes but also a shift in mindset for the actress.

To achieve the desired physique, Portman collaborated with Naomi Pendergast, a certified Pilates instructor, personal trainer, and triathlete who leads Real Performance Exercise (RPX). Pendergast asserts that the goal wasn't just about muscle development, but also about building core strength and mastering agility for performing stunts. This aspect of the role took Portman by surprise given its intensity.

Pendergast incorporated heavy weight training into Portman's fitness regimen alongside running — an activity both women are fond of. The duo would often run outdoors and do treadmill sprints during gym sessions. Pendergast, being a triathlete, admired Portman's innate running skills and speed.

Despite her demanding schedule, Portman made time for early morning workouts. Pendergast praises the actress's commitment, stating that despite exhaustion from long work hours, Portman never missed a session and always gave her all.

For those interested in replicating Portman's superhero transformation, Pendergast shares one of the arm exercises from their training regimen below. Moreover, Shape readers can avail of a special offer on the RPX Fitness app using the code 'Fitwomen' to get their first month free when they subscribe to the gym and fitness program.

Natalie Portman's Arm Workout

How it works: Do the warm-up exercises for 30 seconds each. Then do 3 sets of each exercise in the following five supersets for the listed number of repetitions. Rest for 30 seconds between each set.

What you'll need: a set of dumbbells and a long resistance band


Power Band Squat Press

Adopt a stance with your feet spaced hip-width apart and position a long resistance band below your feet. Grasp the opposite end of the band at chest level using both hands.

Descend into a squat, ensuring that your body weight is concentrated on your heels and your knees are aligned over your ankles.

Maintain your elbows close to your sides as you lift your arms overhead, avoiding the raising of your shoulders towards your ears.

Keep your weight focused on your heels throughout the exercise. For 30 seconds, perform as many reps as you can (AMRAP).

Power Band Reverse Fly

Begin by positioning yourself with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp a long resistance band, folded in half, in both hands, extending your arms directly in front of you at shoulder-level. Without arching your back, spread open your arms to your sides, engaging your shoulder muscles. Gradually bring your arms together with control to get the most engagement from your shoulder muscles. Ensure you maintain an even weight distribution through your feet during the exercise. Aim for as many reps as you can do within a 30-second timeframe.

Power Band Single-Arm Shoulder Press

Position yourself with your feet at hip-width distance and position a lengthy resistance band underneath your left foot while firmly gripping the other end with your right hand.

Your starting stance should have your right arm crossing downwards in front of your left hip. Proceed to press your right arm upwards at an angle, extending above your right shoulder. This movement must be executed without any shift in weight distribution.

Ensure that your right shoulder is kept down as your arm elevates and that your body weight remains steady on both feet throughout this routine. Carry out as many repetitions as possible within a 30-second timeframe before switching sides.

Superset 1

Do 3 sets of each exercise, resting for 30 seconds at the end of each set.

Dumbbell Single-Arm Row

A. Start with palm of right hand and bent right knee on bench, standing on left foot with a dumbbell in left hand.

B. Keep supporting right shoulder over right wrist and maintain a flat back.

C. Bend left elbow up, focusing on keeping left elbow tucked into side of body and left shoulder open.

D. Extend left elbow down while maintaining shoulder engagement.

Do 12 to 15 reps.

Dumbbell Overhead Raise

A. Lay down on back with bent knees and feet flat on bench, holding a dumbbell in both hands with straight arms above chest.

B. Slowly raise arms over head without arching back.

C. Draw shoulders down toward hips, so you feel the backs of your arm and base of shoulders working.

D. Return to dumbbell starting position with straight arms above chest.

Do 12 to 15 reps.

Superset 2

Do 3 sets of each exercise, resting for 30 seconds at the end of each set.

Dumbbell Straight Arm Raise (Palms Up)

A. Kneel on the ground with knees hips-width apart and arms at sides with one dumbbell in each hand.

B. Raise right arm up to shoulder height without lifting shoulders up, keeping body still throughout.

C. Lower right arm slowly, so you don't use momentum.

Do 20 repetitions, alternating sides.

Reverse Plank

A. Start sitting on the ground with legs straight out in front of you and arms straight with palms on the ground beneath shoulders.

B. Press up through hips, digging heels into the ground.

C. Press out of hands at the top, so you feel back of shoulders engage.

D. Slowly lower hips without resting on the ground.

Do 20 reps.

Superset 3

Do 3 sets of each exercise, resting for 30 seconds at the end of each set.

Dumbbell Arnold Press

Get into a kneeling position on the floor, ensuring that your knees are hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms splayed out to your sides and your elbows bent.

Next, extend your arms to lift the dumbbells upwards, achieving full elbow extension while maintaining your shoulders in a relaxed state. With control, bend your elbows to lower your arms back down to their initial position through the center.

Throughout this exercise, ensure that your wrists, elbows, and shoulders remain aligned. Also, it's crucial to maintain stability in the core of your body. Aim for completing 12 to 15 repetitions of this workout.

Side Plank with Twist

Begin by positioning yourself into a side plank, making sure your left shoulder aligns directly under your left hand while your right hand extends towards the sky. Keep your feet in a staggered stance.

Engage your lower shoulder's base by pressing down on your supporting hand. Simultaneously, elevate your hips and sweep your right hand beneath your body, twisting downwards towards the floor. Remember to contract your inner thighs during this movement.

Finally, lower your hips back to the initial side plank position as you raise your right arm above your right shoulder once again. Aim for 12 to 15 repetitions before switching sides.

Superset 4

Do 3 sets of each exercise, resting for 30 seconds at the end of each set.

Dumbbell Bicep Curl

A. Kneel on the ground with knees hips-width apart and arms at sides with one dumbbell in each hand.

B. Keep elbows tucked into side of body.

C. Curl hands into shoulders without shifting elbows forward.

D. Slowly lower arms down with control.

Do 12 to 15 reps.

Power Band Wood Chop

Begin in a lunge stance with your left foot ahead and your left knee forming a 90-degree angle. Maintain a 90-degree bend on your right knee with it resting on the floor and your right toes untucked.

Hold a long resistance band that's connected to a wall on your right side using both hands, arms fully extended.

From your chest and shoulders, make a leftward rotation. Throughout this exercise, keep your hips and left knee static and gently lean your upper body forward over your left knee.

Finally, rotate your arms back to the right originating from your chest and shoulders. Execute 12 to 15 repetitions, then switch sides.

Superset 5

Do 3 sets of each exercise, resting for 30 seconds at the end of each set.

Dumbbell Tricep Press

Begin by kneeling on the floor, ensuring your toes aren't curled under. Position your right hand securely on a block placed on the ground, while holding a dumbbell in your left hand.

Your left elbow should be snugly tucked into your body. While keeping your left shoulder opened up, extend your left elbow outward.

Ensure that your right shoulder is maintained directly above your right wrist for proper support throughout the exercise. It's essential to maintain a neutral and straight back during this routine.

Perform 12-15 reps of this exercise then switch sides.

Jump Squat

A. Stand with feet hips-width apart.

B. Bend from hips first then knees and jump upward, swinging arms back behind torso as feet lift off the ground.

C. Get heels down each time you land and reach arms forward.

D. Keep knees behind toes and breathe throughout.

Do 12 to 15 reps.

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