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Chris Hemsworth plays Thor. (AP/Paramount Pictures)
Chris Hemsworth plays Thor. (AP/Paramount Pictures)

Want a superhero's body? Here's how to get it Add to ...

Getting the body of a superhero isn't complicated but, then again, it's not easy, either.

"You're going to have to go in [to the gym]and have to do heavy lifting - 90-pound dumbbells, 100-pound dumbbells are part of your life," says Duffy Gaver, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based trainer who helped Chris Hemsworth get ripped for Thor, just the latest supersized superhero flick to hit the big screen. Mr. Gaver, a former Navy Seal has become the go-to trainer for sci-fi and action heroes. He has worked with Tobey Maguire for Spider-Man, Channing Tatum for G.I. Joe and Sam Worthington for Avatar.

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His goal for turning Mr. Hemsworth into the god of thunder? The emphasis, he says, was on creating "that big V shape, the narrow waist, wide shoulders, and a good set of arms."

Even if you're not the son of Odin, and even if you can't make 100-pound dumbbells a part of your life, there's still a simple way for you to get that classic V shape.

"Do pull-ups," Mr. Gaver says. "You just work so much of your body. And if you can do a burpee pull-up, all the better."

It's the exercise he would pick if he had only one exercise to use with clients - it works everything from your arms through your core down to your legs.

Take the average guy, Mr. Gaver says, and have him do five burpee pull-ups three times a week. The next week, do 10, and keep increasing the number until he can do 50.

"What do you think the guy that can do 50 of them three days a week looks like in comparison to the guy who drinks beer and doesn't do them?" Mr. Gaver says.

Um, Thor?

Definitely a lot more like Thor than he did before, he says.

But if you want to have great power, it only comes with great motivation.

"My information doesn't change. The human body doesn't change. Your work ethic? That's the variable," Mr. Gaver says. "You either show up to win or you show to spend time and money on an idea that's more of a distraction."

Superhero fitness tests

Are you as strong as the Hulk? Do you have Catwoman's ability to always land on your feet? Here's how to test your own powers and get them truly super.

The Green Lantern gut-check test

Assume the plank position (similar to a push-up, but propping yourself up on your forearms) and hold it for as long as you can. Increase the difficulty by holding a side plank (above). "It's one of the most commonly used tests to look at core strength," says Marc Ikin, a Montreal-based operations manager at the GoodLife Personal Training Institute.You're in the Green Lantern Corps: You can hold the position for 60 to 90 seconds.

You don't have the stomach for it: 30 to 60 seconds is average.

Earn your power ring: Planks and their many variations, as well as lunges, dead lifts and squats, are "excellent for working the core," Mr. Ikin says. Do these exercises every other day to increase your core strength, he says.

Catwoman balance test

Stand on one foot with eyes closed and both arms held out. Hold the position for as long as possible.

"You have to be able to sense all that postural sway and make all those fine-tune adjustments," says Thomas Lam, director of athletic development at FITS Toronto, an athletic performance and sports medicine clinic. "It's wonderful because it's safe and it actually has lot of research behind it."

Purrfect results: Can maintain the position for 30 seconds or more.

Less than purrfect results: Can't hold the position for 30 seconds.

Boost your superpowers: Keep doing the test every day, Dr. Lam says. Alternate feet to mix things up and try spelling letters with your raised foot for added difficulty.

The Incredible Hulk strength test

Test your dead lift one rep max by squatting down, gripping a barbell with the front of your hands facing forward and lifting as you stand up until it rises to the level of your thighs. "The dead lift is probably the truest test of raw strength there is," says C.J. Murphy, founder and head instructor at Total Performance Sports, in Everett, Mass. Just do it safely. "Form is everything," Mr. Murphy says.

You're a green monster: Your one-rep max is two times or more of your body weight.

You're a puny Bruce Banner: The average man or woman should be able to lift their body weight.

Smash your way to the top: "If you're trying to get stronger, you should be training with weights at least three days a week at a fairly decent intensity," Mr. Murphy says.

The Mr. Fantastic flexibility test

Figure out your flexibility by maintaining a neutral spine position while lying on the floor. Slowly lift one leg as high as it can go while keeping your knee straight. Other traditional flexibility tests, such as bending over to touch your toes, break that neutral spine position. "That's an absolute no-no," Dr. Lam says.

You're a rubber band: You can raise your leg 90 degrees.

You're not so fantastic: The average person can raise their leg 60 degrees.

Get fantastic: Repeat the test as frequently as possible while maintaining the neutral spine position - otherwise it could make your flexibility worse, Dr. Lam says.

Follow on Twitter: @Dave_McGinn

 

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