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Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Strength of THOR, "God of Thunder"

Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studio's THOR (directed by Kenneth Branagh) hits theaters on May 6, 2011. (Courtesy of Paramount)

Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios plan to give you a thundering jolt into the mystical world of the Norse gods on May 6, 2011 when their motion picture adaptation of the Marvel comic book superhero “Thor” strikes theaters. Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) is the mighty, but arrogant, hammer-wielding god of thunder who lives in the mythical realm of Asgard, where magic and science are “one and the same.” Thor falls from the graces of his father, King Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins), after his heedless actions reignite an ancient war with the Frost Giants of the frozen realm of Jotunheim. As a result, Odin strips him of his enchanted hammer (from which Thor acquires his supernatural strength and the ability to control the storms) and casts it, and Thor, down to the lower realm of earth, where Thor is to learn humility as a mere mortal.

This action-packed epic will certainly evoke sheer awe of Thor’s might and have you yearning to possess even just a fraction of his superior strength and power. A fantasy you say? Fortunately, there is a facet of human existence in which magic and science meld into one…’s called fitness. That’s right, regular exercise empowers you with optimal health and arms you against chronic diseases. And, proper training can help you develop the god-like physique that Chris Hemsworth acquired for his role as Thor.

Actor Chris Hemsworth trained hard to acquire the muscle mass needed for his role as the god of thunder, Thor. (Courtesy of Paramount)

Hemsworth was able to transform his shape with the help of celebrity trainer Duffy Gaver, a former U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper and Navy Seal. Gaver described Hemsworth’s training regimen to me during a recent phone interview. “Building muscle was top-shelf priority,” he said. “If you want to bulk up you gotta get back to body building basics. We bulked Chris by traditional weight lifting.”

Intense, heavy lifting with dumbbells and barbells were often the exercises of choice, but good old-fashioned push-ups and pull-ups and drills in which Hemsworth was “under the gun of the speed clock” were also incorporated. “You do not need expensive equipment or to go to a gym to get fit,” said Gaver. “The military has been getting fit in an open field for years. You just need an open space and something that you can pull yourself up on and/or across the field," he stated. Simply put, to achieve your fitness and health goals, effort is required. “My take on training,” explained Gaver, “is that it is hard work. If you work hard, you will get results.” This is an important point that he raised, because the type of exercise and equipment chosen become irrelevant if you are not willing to give it what it takes to get into shape.

“Chris was ready to go,” stated Gaver. Hemsworth actually exceeded his muscle building goals according to press notes released regarding the production of THOR. Perhaps his attitude helped. To acquire physical prowess, you must have strength of mind. “What you say to yourself is what turns out," Gaver noted. "What you tell yourself is what gets you past and to the next level. If you tell yourself you can’t, then you won’t.” He also explained that you need to “train without thinking about it.” That is, “approach it as you would brushing your teeth,” Gaver suggested. “You don’t think about having to do it [brushing your teeth], you just do it. You should look at training the same way. You have to take for granted that that is what you do, you train. Tell yourself that you will train.....[it is] just what you would do as a part of life.”

Only those who are "worthy" are able to lift the enchanted hammer. (Courtesy of Paramount)

Gaver noted that in addition to weight training, nutrition and rest also played a role in Hemsworth’s muscle mass gains. “You do not get big in the gym. You get big by resting [from the workout]. In the gym you are tearing yourself down. When you eat the right foods for repair, your body will recover and you will get bigger,” he explained. These are noteworthy points. While you sleep, your body repairs and rebuilds itself. And, it can only do that when it has sufficient quantities of the proper nutrients. Gaver stated that Hemsworth met with a nutritionist who added protein to his diet and took away extra starchy carbohydrates.

Another pertinent issue that Gaver addressed is that you need to have fun with your workout. “The best exercise is what is fun to do, because you will do it,” he stated. “It’s not worth bringing the intensity of a workout down a notch just to make a client do the exercises you want him to do. If there is an exercise that he likes, then you incorporate that into the routine. You will get the same result, just a different route,” he explained. Adding variety and attempting new exercises are ways to make working out more enjoyable and can help you develop a desirable physique like Chris Hemsworth did for his role as the titular character Thor.

If you want a taste of what it is like to be the hammer-wielding god of thunder, then let the science of exercise bring you the magic of good health by incorporating the Thor-inspired exercises depicted below into your routine. NOTE: Recommendations are for the general public interested in improving strength to enhance overall health. If you wish to achieve large muscle mass gains, such as Hemsworth did to play Thor, then consider seeking the advice of a certified personal trainer or fitness professional for a personalized program. To find one in your area, visit the website of the American Council on Exercise.

“Hammer” Lift (Wide-Stance Dead Lift) – works the glutes (buttocks), hamstrings (back of thighs), hip adductors, quadriceps (front of thighs) and erector spinae (lower back).
Technique: Assume the squat position with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and pointed out at a slight angle. Grasp the dumbbell, and in one fluid movement, pull back your shoulders while extending your hips and legs to push your torso upward while lifting the weight. Hold the position briefly and then slowly lower your body to the start position. Perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions using the heaviest weight that allows you to complete your set without compromising your form.

Single-Arm “Hammer” Swing- works glutes (buttocks), hamstrings (back of thighs), quadriceps (front of thighs), core stabilizers and deltoids (shoulders)
Technique: Flex your knees and hips until your torso is approximately at a 45 degree angle to the ground with the dumbbell between your legs and your arm straight. Forcefully extend the knees and hips to swing the dumbbell up to chest level while assuming an upright position. For the downswing, flex your knees and hips while bringing the dumbbell down through your legs. NOTE: The momentum of the swing comes from the flexion and extension of the hips, with comparatively minimal involvement of the shoulder and arm muscles (which are to be used only to guide the weight). Perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions per side using the heaviest weight that allows you to complete your set without compromising your form.

Warrior’s Lunge-works the glutes (buttocks), hamstrings (back of thighs), quadriceps (front of thighs), hip abductors, core (midsection) and obliques (sides of abdomen)
Technique: Hold kettlebell with the horns at chest level. Step back with one leg while flexing the knee of the other and rotating your torso toward the side of the lead leg. Hold briefly and then return to the start position. Perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions per side using the heaviest weight that allows you to complete your set without compromising your form.

Strike of Thunder (Wood Chopper) – works the core (midsection) and obliques (sides of abdomen)
Technique: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly flexed while holding the dumbbell with both hands. The dumbbell should be held over one shoulder with outstretched arms. Recruit your core muscles to bring the dumbbell down, across your midsection toward the outside of your opposite leg. Hold briefly, then return to starting position. Perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions per side using the heaviest weight that allows you to complete your set without compromising your form.

THOR opens in theaters May 6, 2011.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

Duffy Gaver, Celebrity Personal Trainer; April 19, 2011 Phone Interview.

Paramount Pictures: "THOR" Production Information

Muscle Mechanics: Correct Technique for 65 Resistance Training Exercises, Second Edition; Everett Aaberg; 2006.

Fitness Professional's Guide to Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Human Movement; Lawrence A. Golding, Ph.D., FACSM and Scott M. Golding, M.S.; 2003

Body Sculpting with Kettlebells for Women; Lorna Kleidman; 2009

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