Scarlett Johansson Trains Hardcore For Her Superhero Body

Scarlett Johansson AvengersNatasha Romanov is a superhero in a skintight slinky black catsuit, and Scarlett has to be in tip top shape to play her.

Scarlett trains “like a guy”, her words! Yep, you read that right.  Scarlett does chin ups, push ups, explosive movements and lots of circuit training to get into Hollywood superhero shape. Her trainer, Bobby Strom, gets her started a few months before filming. She eats lots of lean proteins, vegetables, oatmeal and drinks lots of water and trains with weights. Here is what he told Self Magazine about her workout:

“I was having her do a lot of balance, coordination, and core work, but what she really loved was the strength training – things like pullups and kettlebells – and the idea of feeling and looking strong.”

Scarlett Johansson, on her diet and the “secret” to getting in shape:

Salad and chicken and, you know, nothing else, pretty much,” she said, laughing. “It’s that old tried and true ‘work out like a dude and eat like a rabbit’ [plan].”

Scarlett stays in shape year round, eats well, and kicks it up a notch with her diet and training right before a big movie. So this isn’t how she eats and trains year round, its a high intensity plan for being in her best shape for a targeted period of time. The rest of the year, she still works out and keeps in good shape, but she’s a little more moderate, which is an important take home point as well.

Scarlett Johansson Avengers Body Workout

In general, this is how Scarlett trains:

– she uses “big bang” movements that use lots of muscles and burn lots of calories, i.e: squats, lunges, push ups, and even olympic lifts.

– she uses high intensity circuits, no more than 90 minute sessions per day.

– she uses a variety of tools like dumb bells, barbells, kettlebells, TRX and bodyweight movements

– she trains like a dude and is not afraid of some hard work for big results!!!

Scarlett Johansson for Dolce & Gabanna, 2012.

Scarlett Johansson for Dolce & Gabanna, 2012.


Go Hard or Go Home! Kettlebell Workout.

I love doing “met cons” for fat loss. In conjunction with a solid diet, doing rounds of relatively light, fast and sometimes ballistic resistance and bodyweight movements really gets the ball rolling in the right direction.

“Met Con” is just short for Metabolic Conditioning.

Metabolic conditioning can truthfully be almost anything, however it does take a bit of knowledge and know-how to design an effective one. You can use dumb bells, barbells, kettle bells, medicine balls, your trx, you can use bodyweight only, you can do sprints or other traditional cardio in between. Rests are other variables you can also play with.

Most people are talking about high intensity, interval, anaerobic work when they talk about doing “met cons”, but technically speaking, metabolic conditioning work is really about optimising performance within specific energy pathways. So while most people talk about doing  some type of a “metcon”, a “metabolic finisher” or just plain old HIIT with weights, they’re talking about doing a form of HIIT and they’ll tell you that DUH?!! I’m doing it for fat loss, dummy… why else? Another reason you may be doing some type of metabolic conditioning is to improve performance in a particular energy pathway of the body, whether its your short bursts of all out effort (the phosphagen pathway), intermediate (the glycolyctic pathway) or aerobic/oxidative pathways.

Metabolic conditioning work has a wide scope and versatility depending on how smart your program design is based on your objectives 🙂

Me? I do them primarily for fat loss and because sometimes they make me feel bad ass, haha. (In my opinion, if your workout doesn’t make you feel like you are awesome and can leap tall buildings in a single bound, then it’s no fun and probably not worth doing. This is why you’ll never catch me doing zumba, lol.) This type of training gives you a lot of bang for your buck, you’re finished in under 30 minutes and you get results fast. Adding metcons and HIIT to your program will get the fat off FAST AND GOOD… provided you are eating for fat loss. Remember, there is no fat loss workout without a fat loss DIET. You cannot outtrain a bad diet, EVER! Even with metcons. Metcons are not magic.

I try to program mine so I’m not doing any movements that interfere with my big lifts on subsequent days. So, for example, if the day after my metcon day I’m going to be doing deadlifts, then I’m not going to do glute-ham raises or heavy kettlebell swings the day before. I’ll keep everything a bit lighter and faster. It also may be prudent when writing a metcon circuit to alternate body parts, so if you’ve just done some lower body work, the next exercise you might want to choose would be for the upperbody, like push ups, for example.

Here is a kettlebell workout of mine from last week. I used a 16kg kettlebell and it kicked my butt. I did 3 rounds. This week, I did 4 rounds and also 5 cleans instead of 3 and 12 swings instead of 10.


You always have to do just a little bit more so you can say that you are better than you were before. Always. That’s one of the workout rules I live by, whether I’m doing traditional lifting, metcons or going for a run outside. Be fundamentally, inarguably better than you were last week. And if I can’t manage even 1 more rep, then I’ll rest… and do a whole extra set.

I hope you try out my kettlebell workout, let me know how you go in the comments!


Side bends! Part 1 of exercises you should stop wasting your time with yesterday!

As a trainer, it’s quite often pretty hard watching people do useless exercises day in, day out, but it’s a fact of gym life, especially when pretty often, most gym-goers are less than receptive to unsolicited advice. It’s hard a hard topic to broach in the best of circumstances! So unless someone is doing something that will cause injury, I just leave it well enough alone.

But YOU know better, and if you didn’t before, you will after reading this article!


The first exercise on my list is the weighted side bend… and for people with a goal of slimming or spot reducing the waistline, any direct oblique training at all! Don’t do it. Targeting the obliques is counter-intuitive to most people’s goals.

So, side bends. These are probably my #1 exercise that I consider to be the biggest waste of time! Multiply that by 100 if you do these with a weight in both hands. With a weight in both hands, what is the side you are targeting resisting? You’re just balancing out the resistance for a sum total effect of -1 out of 10. With one dumb bell in hand, the training effect is like .5 out of 10, just so you know!

What you should do instead: tricky question. This depends on your goal. If you have any abdominal fat to lose at all, regardless of your goal, you need to clean up your diet. Read my previous article about the rules of transforming your physique, specifically the stuff about spot reduction. Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym, my friend. Diet, diet, diet. There is no other way, no magic exercise. Just solid, consistent dieting and good nutrition. You have to lose the fat on your belly to reveal any definition.

Now, if you have low enough body fat to see your obliques, the next question is do you want to achieve a slim, tapered waistline, or a muscular, athletic waistline which can sometimes look quite thick with little to no taper? The degree to which your waist is inclined towards this “thickness” is largely dependent on your genetics. Targeting your obliques specifically will create hypertrophy in those muscles (i.e: growth). This will thicken the waistline to some degree, so unless one of my clients specifically tells me they want big, well-developed abdominals, I never prescribe any targeted oblique exercises whatsoever and no heavily weighted ab exercises. A light medicine ball is OK.

What can help the appearance of your midsection, regardless of your body fat levels and your goals are all variations of leg lifts, planks, push ups, sit ups (with or without additional resistance, dependent on your goals). Why? All these exercises strengthen and heavily utilise the transverse abdominus – a fundamental internal stabiliser. When this muscle is strong, it works like an internal girdle and sucks everything in. The fibers in this muscle run horizontally and support your spine, wrapping around your internal organs for protection and support. In my experience, incorporating these exercises across the board produces a dramatic aesthetic effect including improved posture, flatter tummies and improved performance.

If you specifically want to develop muscular abs and achieve hypertrophy in your obliques and rectus abdominus, the best exercise you can incorporate into your routine is the kneeling cable ab crunch. In conjunction with a heavy lifting routine that includes squats and deadlifts and maybe some knees-to-elbows and windshield wipers (don’t forget the diet!), you will beef up your abs in no time!

What has given you the best results in your ab training? Was it just diet, or did you do something specific in your training routine? Let me know in the comments!



Pushing Through The Not-So-Stellar Days

No one is a rock star every day in the gym.

Sometimes, we’re weak that day and we miss lifts.

Sometimes, we didn’t sleep well or we had a stressful, tiring day outside of the gym and it makes it hard to do what we set out to do inside the gym.

Sometimes, there’s a twit doing his 8th set of curls in the squat rack and you are frustrated with waiting and your motivation is slipping away by the minute.

It could be any other number of things, really.

First, have you been training hard for more than 4 weeks? I define hard training as training with maximum intensity, 5 – 7 days a week for more than 4 weeks. If you have been doing so for more than 6 weeks, you should absolutely schedule a deload week. A deload week is one where you scale it all back to give your body adequate rest and recovery. You can’t just beat yourself to a pulp week in and week out and expect good results and endless progress and gains. It doesn’t work that way.

So if you’ve earned a rest, take it!

Second, if deloading does’t apply to you, you have to re-assess. Are you being too hard on yourself? Are you really trying your best? Could it be that today is a day you do exercises or work on body parts that you don’t like training? Be honest with yourself. No, really. If it’s one or both of the latter two, suck it up buttercup!!! We all have exercises we might dislike, or that we might feel that we aren’t good at, but that just means that you have to do them more.

Get out of your comfort zone. Get really good at the things you might do poorly now.

When I first started working out regularly (about 10 years ago!), I hated doing any upper body work. I didn’t dislike the way my upperbody looked, so to my infantile training mind of the time, that meant I didn’t need to do anything. Sometimes I did lat pulldowns, and I liked tricep exercises, but anything involving a curl or an overhead press felt like hell to me! Even with the lightest weights.

Once I realised how important it was to train your body evenly (should be a blog post of its own), my answer to push through all these exercises I truly hated was to tell myself I loved them and I was great at them.

Sounds wanky, but guess what? It’s not wanky at all. It works. If you repeatedly tell yourself something, you start to believe it and it sort of comes true. These days, I still hate bicep curls, but I LOVE any and all kinds of overhead pressing. Dumb bells, barbells, push presses, strict military presses, snatches and thrusters and everything in between. My bicep curl is not too shabby either, for a chick that never “trains”  biceps, haha!

So if your workout is sucking because your attitude sucks, adjust your attitude. Tell yourself you are going to do it and you’re going to love it and you’re great at it. Greatness lies outside the borders of your comfort zone and the best bodies and the greatest athletes are built with mental discipline.

And sometimes we just have to fake it til we make it.

Third, sometimes shit happens and you have a shitty workout. There could be a number of reasons for it or no reason at all. Push through it as best you can, get some sleep and get in the gym the next day and hit it hard. Being resilient also means taking the bad days in your stride, not beating yourself up too much or over analyzing (paralyzing!) yourself. So maybe this workout sucked, but in the grand scheme of things you’re killing it. And lapping everyone on the couch. Remember that!


Strong Bodies No Excuses Workout #2

The no excuses workouts are designed to be done anywhere, at anytime with no equipment! So you have no excuse not to get going and get on with it.

This workout is designed for the intermediate to advanced trainee. So you can follow it to a “t” if you’re reasonably well conditioned and you’ve been training for more than a year. You need a strong core to get this through one as rx’ed and good strength-endurance in the lower body.

Strong Bodies No Excuses Workout #2:

Complete 20 reps of the following exercises on the first round, and on subsequent rounds do 15, 10 and then 5 reps for the fourth and final round. Take about 1 minute rest in between rounds.

1. Burpees
2. Renegade Hip Bridge
3. Push Ups
4. Alternating Forward Lunges
5. Pop Squats

You should also time yourself and try to beat your time to increase the intensity after you’ve done this workout a few weeks in a row. Enjoy!


My Love Letter To The Deadlift

Deadlift, oh how I love you. Let me count the ways!

Never was there an exercise so singularly simple, brutish and ever so effective.

Few things in life feel as profoundly primal as loading as much weight as possible onto an Olympic barbell, locking your hands around it  and lifting the sum total until you’re standing completely upright.

Lather, rinse, repeat. (Optional)

I Love Deadlifts!

If I had to pick one and only one exercise I was allowed to do forever more, I would always choose you, my darling Deadlift. All others pale in comparison.

It hurts my heart to think that for my first 3 years of lifting, I sorely overlooked and neglected you. I fooled around, dilly dallying with your Romanian cousin at lighter loads and I thought that was satisfying all my needs, but it wasn’t! It wasn’t!

Don’t get me wrong, the Romanian is cool, and all, but we just never had that chemistry, that kismet that you and I have together from the moment we met. You know what I’m talking about.

I love how you make me stronger all over.

I love what you do for my posterior chain, you back me up baby!

I love how through you, I’m better and stronger at all other physical activities that I do. You’re like the pair of shoes that match with everything!

In short Deadlift, I love you. You’re the greatest.

Love, Zvez.