The Marvel Cinematic Universe has introduced a bevvy of kick-ass heroines over the years. From Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel to Danai Gurira’s Okoye in Black Panther, these women have shown young fans that the superhero genre isn’t just for the boys. And this summer, no Avenger is having a bigger breakthrough moment than Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow.
An MCU staple in 2010’s Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johannson’s Romanoff is a spy who had been trained in combat since childhood, due in part to the nefarious “Red Room” training program. Much like Romanoff, who has embodied female empowerment throughout her nine MCU film appearances, Johansson is also a figure of strength both inside and out, according to her longtime trainer, Eric Johnson of Homage, an elite fitness brand.
“She’s the best,” says Johnson, who has been working with Johansson for the past 12 years. “She’s like family.”
Johnson, the co-founder of Homage fitness facilities, first crossed paths with Johansson, 36, in New York. The duo continued to work together in Los Angeles, where Johnson relocated for about two years, before taking their training to the other side of the globe in New Zealand, where Johansson filmed the 2017 sci-fi thriller, Ghost in the Shell. To prep for Black Widow, Johnson says Johansson had already built a solid foundation based on her previous roles, which also included 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
“Scarlett Johansson already had this great training base, this huge foundational strength base,” says Johnson. “We had a big quote-unquote offseason, we had a lot of time to prepare, almost a year, so I could really get her foundational strength and condition really up to where we wanted it to be.”
For Black Widow, which began production in May 2019, Johnson says he also kept recovery in mind as part of Johansson’s program, as well as other stresses that could come with her job not just as an actress, but as one of the film’s executive producers.
“On paper, I had a perfect plan but it was more about coming in [and saying], ‘Okay, how are you feeling today? What stresses do you have?'” explains Johnson. “Our workouts are very efficient. I think it’s a misconception that you need to gruel away and spend a ton of time in the gym. If you’re efficient with your time, you pick good, quality moments, your basic stuff — it might be squats — but it’s also figuring out what squat is going to be best for her.”
Johnson says his workouts with Scarlett Johansson would typically begin around 5:30 and 6:00 am. To kick the day off, they would begin with mobility work, which is essentially the body’s ability to access all sorts of range of motion without pain. Foam rolling would be an option for Johansson, pending on the time, followed by core work, which could consist of the hollow body holds or dead bug exercises. As interesting as the name sounds, “dead bugs” are actually an impactful core workout. To start, you would first lie on your back. Next, you would bring your arms straight above your head while raising your legs but making sure you bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. From there, you could extend your left arm while extending the opposite leg but stopping before touching the ground. You would then return to your original position before extending the right arm and the left leg, repeating until you complete a circuit.
Johnson says he also likes to do “a ton of medicine ball throws,” including rotational throws, slams, and chest passes. “I’ll kind of start with a circuit to get her nervous system up and running, so we’ll do kettlebell swings or we’ll do some different kinds of jump plyometrics,” he says, which can include lateral bounds, which requires you to jump from your left foot to your right foot, a la a skating motion.
Want to get a taste of what it’s like to train like Scarlett Johansson herself? Try this workout from Johnson, aptly dubbed the “Widow Maker.”
Scarlett Johansson’s Full-Body ‘Widow Maker’ Workout
How to do it: You’ll begin with a primer (aka a warm-up) circuit that, you guessed it, primes your muscles to ensure they are activated and warm for the rest of the workout. From there, you’ll complete three circuits with two moves in each and repeat as many times as noted.
What you’ll need: A medicine ball and an exercise mat. For certain moves, such as the windmill and an overhead press, you can add a kettlebell and dumbbells, respectively.
Primer (aka Warm-Up)
A. Begin seated on the ground with legs together and toes pointed.
B. With palms pressed to the ground near hips, lift legs off the ground to hover, keeping them together.
C. Pause at the top before lowering back down with control.
Do 10 reps.
A. Begin standing with
B. Turn both feet so toes are pointing 45 degrees to the right (or northeast). Hinge at the hips, pushing butt out to the back left (or southwest), maintaining a neutral spine as you reach right hand toward inside of the right ankle.
Do 5 reps, repeat on the opposite side.
A. Sit on an exercise mat with the right knee in line with hip at a 90-degree angle. The left knee will also be bent at the side. Lean forward and keep the spine neutral.
B. With palms placed down on the mat, lean backward and begin to open up the hip on the left side and rotate.
Do 5 reps, repeat on the opposite side.
Repeat Primer once more for a total of 2 rounds.
Circuit 1: Reactive
Medicine Ball Rotational Slam
A. Holding a medicine ball in both hands, raise the ball above your head and keep your core engaged. Bend at the knees as you slam the ball to the ground to the left of your feet.
B. Grab the ball as it bounces back up, raising it up overhead again before slamming it to the opposite side. Alternate sides.
Do 6 reps.
A. Begin standing. Bend right knee to raise the right foot off the ground. Keep left leg in place. Raise your right arm in front of your chest to stabilise balance with your left arm bent at the side.
B. While shifting your weight to your left hip, jump to the right as wide as possible, firmly planting the right foot and lifting left (to mirror starting position). Pause. Jump to left and repeat.
Do 10 reps.
Repeat the Reactive circuit once more for a total of 2 rounds.
Circuit 2: Strength
A. Start with feet hip-width apart with knees soft. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of body with palms facing thighs.
B. Maintaining a neutral spine, and send hips back while squeezing shoulder blades.
C. Lower dumbbells in front of legs, keeping them close to the body. Upon reaching the knees, keep the hips from sinking further.
D. When you reach roughly low-to-mid-shins, drive through heels to return to standing, extending hips, and squeezing glutes at the top.
Do 6 to 8 reps.
Zombie Overhead Press
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees soft and core engaged. With a dumbbell in each hand, lift arms to shoulder height with palms facing forward and elbows pointed down to create a field goal or U-shape with your arms.
B. Press dumbbells overhead, and exhale. Make sure wrists are stacked directly over shoulders and biceps are next to your ears. The core should remain engaged.
C. Reverse the movement to return to starting position.
Do 10 to 12 reps.
To have a physique like Scarlett Johansson, repeat the Strength circuit two more times for a total of 3 rounds.
Circuit 3: Assistance
A. Grab a pull-up bar or similar with palms facing toward body.
B. Keeping core engaged, raise the body up using multiple upper body muscles including your lats (posterior muscles) and biceps (anterior muscles), until the chin reaches above the bar.
C. Lower the body back down with control until the arms are straight.
Repeat three times with maximum repetitions to fatigue.
A. From standing, place left foot behind body diagonally with left heel lifted and a soft bend in right leg. Loosely extend both arms to the right side.
B. Pressing through right foot, quickly hop to the left, Gently landing on left leg as the right leg glides behind the body, arms extended to the left, mirroring the starting position. Repeat, alternating sides.
Do 6 to 8 reps.
Repeat the Assistance circuit two more times for a total of 3 rounds.
Although those wanting to grind like Scarlett Johansson can do this in the comforts of their own home, for residents and guests of YOTELPAD Miami, they’ll soon have a space of their own to channel their inner-Marvel superhero. “It’s going to be our first hotel project,” says Johnson of the Homage space. “The project is half residential, half hotel. We designed the gym for both guests of the hotel and owners of the condos, who have access to the hotel. What we try to do really is incorporate our philosophy of what fitness is, but also, we want whatever fitness is to you, for you to be able to do that in our gym space.”
The space itself will include cardio and wellness training machines, a free weights section, and Peloton bikes. “Whether [guests] want to follow us or their favourite Instagram influencer or their own coach that sends them programs on the go, we want to have all that available in our gym space,” says Johnson. Truthfully, training like a superhero never looked — or sounded — like so much fun.
This story first appeared on www.shape.com
(Main and Feature Image Credit: Getty Images)
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