- Scarlett Johansson’s personal trainer Eric Johnson explains how he helped Johansson get in shape to play Black Widow for the Marvel Avenger movies.
- To prepare for the role, Johnson focused on building strength and functional movement. They treated him like an athlete preparing for competition.
- His training program has three phases: explosiveness, strength and slimming.
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Here is a full transcript of the video.
[laser beam blasting]
Eric Johnson: In these scenes, Black Widow wields her weapons, and we can see that she needs a lot of spinning power. The rotational medicine ball slam is therefore a perfect exercise to apply to this.
I am Eric Johnson. I’m a celebrity personal trainer for stars like Scarlett Johansson, Andrew Garfield, and Jonathan Groff.
Narrator: When Scarlett Johansson landed the role of Black Widow in 2009, she said she had never set foot in a gym. So we visited Eric to find out, with the help of his wife, Melissa, how he managed to get Scarlett to never lift 245 pounds in the deadlift.
To help prepare Scarlett for the role, Eric and Scarlett agreed on a basic philosophy from day one: focus on strength and functional movement, not appearance.
Eric: So I like to approach training as an athlete more. We want to prepare the actor for whatever is thrown at him, so that he can do what he does best, and that’s the act.
Narrator: While many movie stars choose to focus on the muscles of vanity, Eric and Scarlett knew she was going to have to do some of the stunts in these movies for herself and that it would be important to have strength. convenient.
Eric: Confidence will be the biggest thing that will result in her becoming a superhero.
Narrator: However, none of this was a quick fix. It took Scarlett about a year to achieve the desired levels of strength and fitness. To meet their fitness goals, the duo divided their pre-movie workout into three phases, each lasting three to 12 weeks.
Eric: We still want to be, like, six weeks from our prime. But sometimes we have longer periods. We could have 12 weeks; we could be six months old. But I like to divide his training into different kinds of blocks.
Narrator: For this first phase, Eric says it’s about trying to reset Scarlett’s body and increase her mobility.
Eric: We focus on the contractions and build that mind-body connection and develop his aerobic conditioning.
Narrator: With explosive oscillations, plyometric movements, and muscle-burning isometric grips, this phase sharpens the reflexes and agility it needs for stunts. A good example of where this part of the training paid off is this scene from “Captain America: Civil War”, where Scarlett really needed to be explosive with her moves.
Eric: In this scene, Black Widow performs one of her iconic leg twists around Hawkeye and throws a pretty high kick. So she’s going to need hip mobility and hip flexor strength to be successful. It’s a move she performs a lot, so we do the 90-90 hip pivots to make sure she has the mobility to perform it well.
We try to optimize the body to have mobility in the right places and stability in other places. So, for this exercise, we really want an external rotation and an internal rotation of the hips by integrating the core and a nice upright posture. And we hope that translates to Black Widow kicking and punching onscreen.
Narrator: The second phase of their training program focuses on strength training.
Eric: In the second phase, we really try to define the basic strength work. We are trying to build our muscles here. We are trying to improve all of its elevators. This way we have more strength to take advantage of when we go into peak power. So, it allows us to go to the end of these goals, by increasing the pull-ups or by increasing our dead lift. This way your body can be more resilient.
Narrator: This strength phase saw Scarlett complete a 245-pound dead lift and one-legged pistol squats.
A good example of where this part of the training paid off is this scene from “Captain America: Civil War”.
Eric: In this scene, Black Widow really shows off her power with her punches. And you can really see that the strength of his legs is demonstrated and translated in these punches.
In fact, it’s not with your arm at all, it’s through your legs. This is where it reverberates. If I want to generate energy, that’s right, it has to come from the ground until the fist hits the next person.
One of the goals we had in our training was to do a pistol squat. It was really difficult for Scarlett and most people in general. So we had to work on it and we were able to do it at the end of the training. What we did was Scarlett crouched down against a box, and then we slowly lower that box as it got stronger. So it’s a great way to build that leg strength so that I can get that spinning power and throw that punch.
Narrator: The third and final phase involves getting lean before you pull off, focusing on explosive cardio like sprinting as well as kettlebell and fight ropes exercises that increase heart rate while building strength.
Eric: In phase three we try to increase his peak conditioning, we try to reduce the periods of rest, we incorporate drop sets and intensifiers, such as giant sets where we could do three to four different exercises for the same part of the body. We’re really trying to culminate here, his conditioning, his athletic performance, his aesthetic appearance. Trying to get slim and really fit, and really trying to put the finishing touches on your character.
Narrator: Eric says Scarlett needs to be able to do more than just complete a move. It should move with ease and fluidity while being as fresh and powerful in the first take as in the 20th. Take this scene from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
Eric: In this scene, Scarlett gives a full effort, a full sprint, and just keeps her cool throughout it. This is where our metabolic conditioning really comes into play.
So one way to do it is to fight with ropes. It’s a great way to sort of work out the cardiovascular system. So, here we are going to work 15 to 30 seconds, well, rest. And now on the recovery, we’re really trying to focus on your breathing, trying to lower your heart rate as quickly as possible. And how that translates to the cameras, like, we’re also trying to control his face. So we don’t want that kind of sore face. So when you have to do physical scenes, you are able to do it and look like a superhero.
Narrator: Physical training is essential to get back in shape, but diet and nutrition are also extremely important.
Eric: We never really stress specific macros down to the gram of protein. We keep it very natural. We’re trying to figure out, first of all, from a recovery point of view, is she consuming enough calories? Instead, we made it more flexible. We had chocolate cake, dark chocolate and donuts because it’s more than just filming or looking great. It is also about living and enjoying the experience.
She begins to climb the rope, she climbs very high. On the way up, she brings me to my knees opposite. She goes up real high, she goes down, and she’s so happy, then she looks at me and I gush with blood. My nose is running. So, she’s deadly onscreen because she’s turned off.
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