Brie Larson is making the jump from Oscar-winning actress to the most powerful superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But transforming into an all-powerful superhero like Captain Marvel—who can shoot energy beams from her hands, and harness the power of flight and super strength—doesn’t just happen overnight.
That’s why Larson teamed up with trainer Jason Walsh to prepare for the action-heavy film. Walsh, who has worked with numerous Hollywood stars over the years—like John Krasinski, Bradley Cooper, Emily Blunt, Jessica Biel, Matt Damon, and Anne Hathaway—put together a comprehensive program for Larson to give her the physicality she needed to play Carol Danvers. It also built the necessary endurance and mental fortitude to handle stunts… and everything else production threw at her.
“There was a lot of work to do at the start,” Walsh told Men’s Journal. “I’m always completely up front and honest about what we need to do and achieve, and what it’ll take to do it. When you have someone 100 percent committed, and with the level of dedication that Brie has, it’s a great situation and a combination for success.”
(Captain Marvel had some big success to start: The movie is closing in on $500 million worldwide box office, according to Deadline.)
Due to Marvel’s production schedule, Larson did work on Avengers: Endgame before she even started working on her own standalone Captain Marvel film. Three months before shooting Avengers, Walsh put Larson through a lot of functional and maintenance-focused workouts, but once she was finished filming that work, Walsh ramped up the training.
“When she got back from Avengers, it was game on,” Walsh says. “We got deep into heavy progression, doing two-a-days, four days a week, sometimes five days a week unless Brie was feeling destroyed. She did the work—nutrition, recovery, sleep—everything required of her. The whole process took nine months of training, and we focused in on a number of key moves, including hip thrusts, which was a staple of our workouts.”
When Larson first started working with Walsh, she joked about how she “wished she could do a pullup”. Walsh took that idea to heart. By the end of their nine months of training, Larson was able to bang out full sets of pullups with ease, do 200-pound deadlifts, and push Walsh’s 5,000-pound jeep.
“There was a lot of talk about the Jeep workout—and it was superhuman in a way—but that’s not something we normally did,” Walsh says. “It was something fun and cool for her to do just to see she could do it. What we tried to establish in the training was also part of character building: What’s the psychology of a character who’s basically invincible? I wanted to get as close to that as possible. Having that physical strength helped her become the character.”
A typical workout included soft tissue work and foam rolling to start so she could stimulate her muscles and get circulation around her body going.
“We’d go from mobility into activation work, which we considered a warmup, then into the primary strength exercises,” Walsh says. “That could be a squat aspect, bilateral exercises, unilateral moves, hip-hinge work, and a lot of hip thrusting and posterior chain work to fire up and support the spine. Then we’d do circuits of secondary exercises—basically everything other than those primary moves—and make sure her joints were supported and muscles were activated throughout the workout.”
Obviously all that training required a proper amount of fuel and recovery, too. Since the work in Captain Marvel included all types of stunt work and fight scenes, injuries were always a possibility, and on a massive Marvel film, even a small delay for an injury to Larson could mean production delays. Larson was “ravenous with her nutrition,” Walsh says, and that helped her recovery after the intense workouts.
“On a movie like this, she needs to take a fall here and there get up from it, and that was we were going for in her training,” Walsh says. “I’d stretch her out manually after a workout, we’d do a lot of soft tissue work and put a big focus on hydration supplementation and nutrition. Sleep was also extremely important. If you don’t sleep well, it’s hard to put in all this work. Even the mental aspect of recovery was big, I mean there were some moments where I made her cry in the gym, but she was able to push through that because of how dedicated she was to this.”
Now, Larson is ready to take flight as Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel, which is in theaters on March 8. As part of his work with Larson, Walsh has partnered with Disney and the Playbook App to put together a free two-week training program that fans can use to train like Larson did for the film.
Captain Marvel is in theaters Friday, March 8, 2019