I tried Natalie Portman's Thor workout and my abs and arms are still aching

Thor: Love and Thunder actor trained for 10 months with top PT Naomi Pendergast to get God-worthy arms and abs

Strong healthy toned woman training, holding dumbbells, preparing for workout in urban industrial gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As a die-hard Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, it’s fair to say I got more than a little excited when Thor: Love and Thunder finally dropped this July after months of re-writes, re-shoots, and pandemic pushbacks.

But if you think it was that glorious glimpse of Chris Hemsworth’s super jacked Thor physique in the nuddy that got me all fired up, you’d be very, very wrong. Because while I admit I’ve been swooning over Hemsworth’s bulging biceps for well over a decade, it was the return of Natalie Portman’s astrophysicist character Doctor Jane Foster – and the epic reveal of her breathtakingly beefed-up guns as she takes up the mantel of The Mighty Thor - that blew my mind this time around.

So, just how did Portman get arms Marvel-ous enough to wield Thor’s magical hammer, Mjolnir? I decided to find out everything I could about her incredible body transformation and give her gruelling workout a go.

Natalie Portman’s Thor Workout – The process

Natalie Portman is no stranger to going through the body transformation process for a movie role. Indeed, she famously trained for up to 16 hours a day and followed an extreme diet to prepare for her Oscar-winning performance as a ballet dancer in the 2011 film Black Swan, dropping 20 pounds from her already-lean 5’3” frame along the way. 

But while Portman was asked to get “as small as possible” for Black Swan, she told Variety (opens in new tab) that she was “asked to get as big as possible” for the fourth instalment of the Thor franchise, which she claims was “an amazing challenge”, not least because the 41-year-old actress was completely new to weight training and ate a vegan diet to boot. 

Aside from sticking to a strict high-protein meal plan to adequately fuel her workouts and maintain her muscle growth, Portman trained for 90-minutes to two hours a day, five days a week, for a total of 10 months to bulk up for her role as the new God of Thunder, embarking on her regime with trainer Naomi Pendergast five months before shooting began and continuing throughout the duration of filming. 

Happy athletic woman using mobile phone while drinking a protein shake at home

This is not Natalie, but this is how I imagine she looked like after downing vegan protein shakes every day for ten months

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“We did a lot of weight training, and a lot of protein shakes — heavyweight training that I haven’t ever done before,” Portman told Vanity Fair (opens in new tab). “Of course, I’ve never really aimed to get bulky. It was very physical, so it was a lot of both agility work and also strength work,” she added.

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I can only assume this intense strength training programme must have come as a total shock to the actress’s body, considering she previously stated in a 2019 Women’s Health UK (opens in new tab) interview that running and yoga were her preferred workout methods of choice.

But, according to Pendergast in US Weekly (opens in new tab), Portman was more than up to the task, and the RPX Fitness director credits the actress’s determination as the essential ingredient to her training results.

“I provided the exercises and guidance, but she did the rest,” Pendergast emphasized. “She is focused, determined, and humble. Natalie turned up every session that was scheduled for the 10 months and gave 100 percent, even on the days she was tired.” 

Okay, so it sounded like I’d need the determined mindset of one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers – alongside an appetite for thrice-daily protein shakes and a willingness to sacrifice my own life – if I wanted to get the body of a superhero. But what about the workouts themselves?

Young woman in sportswear exercising at home on her mat, doing sit-ups

It's all about those abs

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Natalie Portman’s Thor Workout – The goal

On creating Portman’s buff Thor bod, Pendergast said ‘the initial goal was to build arm and abdominal definition,’ although they also worked on ‘stability and agility for injury prevention as Natalie had some dynamic stunt scenes that required her to move, twist and land in various positions.”

To achieve this, Pendergast devised a plan that mixed weightlifting sessions with cardio workouts and injury prevention exercises to build Portman a body that was strong, athletic, and agile enough to meet the physical demands of filming, while also delivering an authentically ripped ‘superhero’ aesthetic that didn’t require any additional touch ups from the CGI department.

‘We worked on building her upper body three times a week, which included arm, back, chest exercises, boxing, skipping and running," explains Pendergast. "The other two days were dedicated to injury prevention work, which included Pilates-based exercises, stretching, release work and balance exercises."

Sounds interesting, and even fun, in theory. But on paper, the workouts are seriously full on, as I soon found out to my detriment. 

After following Pendergast’s warm up with a focus on firing up the shoulder and arm muscles (Marching arms for 30 seconds, Lat stretches for 30 seconds, Beast crawl for 30 seconds, Roll down walk outs for 10 reps, and Power band kneeling reverse flies for 25 reps), it was time to move on to the main event…

Determined attractive female holding dumbbells while looking away. Young woman is in sports clothing showing toned stomach in gym

Dumbbells at the ready!

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Natalie Portman’s Thor Workout – The workout

It’s very fair to say that the workout Pendergast devised for Portman (shared in Variety (opens in new tab) and seen below) was all about the arms and abs. That’s not to say that leg days were skipped on purpose, but building an impressive set of glutes, quads, or hamstrings was never part of the assignment. 

The workout itself is made up of four supersets that focus on the back, shoulders, and arms before it moves on to some cardio work and ends with core training and stretching.

The good news is it’s actually fairly simple to do, and the only equipment you’ll need to do the workout yourself is a set of the best dumbbells, a strong resistance band, if you don’t have access to an Assisted Pull-up Machine, a skipping rope, and a pair of the best workout trainers.

  • Superset 1
  • Dumbbell row – 10 slow reps
  • Bodyweight offset push-up – 10 slow reps
  • Rest exercise – 90-second lat stretch
  • Superset 2
  • Dumbbell reverse fly – 10 slow reps
  • Dumbbell seated shoulder press – 10 slow reps
  • Rest exercise – 90-second back stretch
  • Superset 3
  • Standing dumbbell arm raise (palms up) – 20 slow reps
  • Assisted pull-ups – 6-8 controlled reps
  • Rest exercise – 90-second roll up stretch
  • Superset 4
  • Dumbbell bicep curl – 10-12 reps
  • Dumbbell triceps press – 15 reps
  • Rest exercise – 90-second upper body rotation stretch
  • Cardio
  • Boxing and skipping round – 4-5 sets of
  • 2 minutes of boxing
  • 1-minute skipping
  • 1 x 50m sprints
  • Rest 1.5 minutes
  • Core work and stretching
  • Abdominal plank on elbows – 1 minute
  • Side plank on elbow – 1 minute on each side
  • Basic curl focused on pelvic control
  • Foot, leg and hip stretches

Cropped shot of a young woman working out with a barbell at the gym

You can't get god bod without putting the work in

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Natalie Portman’s Thor Workout – The verdict

Make no mistake, this workout is long and it is tough. For an authentic experience, I performed the above workout three times in a week - on Monday, Wednesday and Friday - and did a 60-minute online Pilates workout on Tuesday and Thursday. 

Let’s just say that by the time Saturday rolled around, I was more than ready to spend the weekend playing video games and drinking beer – very much like Thor in Avengers: Endgame when he went from God Bod to Dad Bod.

Ladies shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that the workout is easy because so many of the upper body exercises are only performed for 10 reps. The key word in the workout descriptions is ‘slow’, and to really feel the moves, you’ll need to lift weights that are heavy enough to fatigue your muscles by the end of your set. Good form and controlled movements are essential if you really want to feel the workouts and get great results. And this isn’t the time to be reaching for those 2lb dumbbells. 

On the plus side, the exercises are all pretty straightforward and accessible. It’s just that you might want to do the upper-body supersets on their own three days a week and leave the cardio and abs work for different days, especially if you lead a normal working life and aren’t lucky enough to be able to spend your time waiting around to save the Earth at any given moment.

But trust me, stick at it, and I reckon you’ll be seeing a lovely pair of toned arms in the mirror in no time. They might not be worthy enough to pick up Thor’s hammer, but they will be worthy of your favourite sleeveless top.

Jo has been obsessed with writing and fitness since her teenage years and spent all her pocket money on magazines and workout VHS tapes. When ITV cancelled Gladiators – causing her dreams of becoming the next ‘Jet’ to crash and burn - she decided to combine her passions and become a fitness writer instead. A qualified PT and author of several fitness guides, she has spent the last 15 years writing for many of the UK’s most respected newspapers, magazines, and online publications. When she’s not interviewing celebrities and athletes or testing fit kit, she can be found watching YouTube breakdowns of the latest MCU releases.