- Actress Brie Larson trained for nine months with celebrity trainer, Jason Walsh, for her role as Captain Marvel.
- With the help of Walsh, I worked out like Brie Larson for one week.
- I learned that working out like this for a week built up my stamina.
Brie Larson is my (super)hero. I became a fan after watching her breathtaking performance in “Room,” and, as fans do, started following Larson on social media. Up until now, the Oscar-winner’s posts were pretty standard for a 29-year-old actress – poses on the red carpet, magazine cover shoots, vacation snapshots here and there. But then “Captain Marvel” happened, and Larson began transforming from a strong actress into an incredibly strong superhero.
Now obviously I’m nowhere near Hollywood star status, but here’s where Larson and I do share some common ground: Before embarking on my fitness journey five years back, I had zero interest in exercise. This was partially because I was lazy, but it was also because I preferred reading books and writing stories than running on a treadmill or lifting weights.
“I didn’t know what strength was [before training for ‘Captain Marvel’],” Larson told E! News at a press conference back in May of 2018. “I was truly an introvert with asthma before this film, so I had a lot of work to do, and I just started to fall in love with it.
“I think in the past, I was more interested in my body never being part of the conversation,” Larson continued. “To me, it felt like objectification; I just wanted to be a brain, so I’ve only cared about reading books and understanding words, and anything that involved my body made me itchy. But this was an opportunity for me to … make my body mine.”
To train for her new role as the strongest hero in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, the 29-year-old actress joined forces with Jason Walsh, a celebrity trainer and founder of the Rise Nation program, for nine months of intense workouts. Several months later, and Larson told Variety she now deadlifts 215 pounds, hip thrusts a solid 400 pounds, and, oh yeah, can push a 5,000 pound Jeep with her bare hands.
“Being able to lift weight like that really changed my perspective and understanding of myself,” Larson told the outlet.
To shake me out of a long-standing fitness rut, and to channel my inner Captain Marvel, I contacted Walsh to set me up with a workout routine inspired by his sessions with Larson. I may not be able to deadlift more than 20 pounds, but here’s what it was like to workout like Brie Larson for a week.
Day 1: I started small
- Julia Guerra
Anytime I start a new workout program, I approach my first time running through the routine like a beginner’s course. When Walsh sent over my Brie Larson-inspired workout and half the exercises on his list were ones I didn’t recognize, I knew my process would be no different this time around.
So here’s what I was working with for my week-long experiment:
- Bear Crawl2. Full body roll 3. Standing single leg toe touch4. Rear foot elevated split squat 1.5 reps5. Push backs6. Pull up iso hold w/ slow eccentric7. Eccentric push-ups with 4 sec. downs8. Split stance dumbbell row9. Towel reverse lunge10. Torso elevated split stance hip thrust11. Swiss ball rollouts
Walsh instructed that exercises should be done for a total of three sets of 30 seconds, with a 30-second rest in between each set. Notice that I wouldn’t be doing push-ups with chains wrapped around my torso, hip thrusting a 400-pound barbell, or shoving a 5,000 pound Jeep during my training? That’s because Walsh said during our phone conversation that Larson certainly didn’t start out with all these bells and whistles; she had to build her strength first by starting with the basics. Thus so would I.
“I think most people have assumptions and preconceived ideas as to what training entails,” Walsh told me, and it’s true: Especially on social media where fitness influencers are flaunting their personal records and sculpted abs, training can feel all kinds of complicated for someone who maybe hasn’t experimented with exercise and finding what’s right for them.
On that note, I know myself, and I like to think I’m advanced in some aspects of fitness, but I am in no way, shape, or form an expert. The first day of this experiment was spent on the floor of my home office with my computer open in front of me. I searched for videos of each move on the internet as I went through the list, and even though my first session included a lot of pauses, I finished feeling incredibly (albeit satisfyingly) sore.
Day 2: Things got tough
- Julia Guerra
After I’d done my homework and took a few mental notes on the correct form of some of the exercises, like the standing single leg toe touch, elevated split squat, and torso elevated split stance hip thrust, I felt comfortable enough going through the workout on my own. However, I didn’t want to go all-in just yet.
Instead of three sets of the workout, I completed two sets of each exercise in full, paying close attention to my form. If that session was any indication of what was to come, I had no doubt in my mind that Walsh was about to royally kick my butt, because I was already sweating bullets.
Days 3, 4, and 5: I got in touch with my body
- Julia Guerra
Once I started going through three sets of each exercise, I could feel my body adapting quickly. Exercises that had tested me at the beginning were still challenging (I was convinced eccentric push-ups would be the death of me), but I could feel my muscles growing a little more accustomed to the movements. This didn’t make the workout any less challenging, though. Getting through an entire three sets of 11 exercises is no small feat.
I was starting to learn how important it is to not only control your breathing, and get into a rhythm of inhalations and exhalations for each movement, but to breathe in general. Once in a while, I’d catch myself holding my breath, but doing so could cause you to faint or blackout, so it’s really important to make sure you’re breathing is a focus, too.
I was also starting to pick up on when my body can keep going versus when it needs modification. There’s no shame in dropping to your knees in a push-up, or trading split squats for traditional form. What matters is that you listen to your body, and honor its cues.
Day 6: I started getting good
- Julia Guerra
I purposely wasn’t tracking how many repetitions I could do of each exercise from the beginning of this experiment for no reason other than I know myself, and I tend to get very caught up in and obsessed with numbers. That being said, six days into working out like Brie Larson, aka the Captain Marvel, and I was already noticing an improvement in my stamina.
I’d gone from struggling with split squats to squatting almost 15 times in 30 seconds. Not to toot my own horn, but my push backs were near flawless, and I was consistently making it through the entire workout three times over. You might not necessarily be able to see a physical improvement in just one week, but you can definitely feel your body start to adapt.
Day 7: I felt awesome
- Julia Guerra
One week into working out like Brie Larson and I can honestly say, I was feeling pretty great. I might even take a page from Larson’s book and treat myself to a donut to celebrate my efforts.
For me, the biggest takeaway from this experiment – and, as you can see, I learned a lot – is that while celebrities might share their toughest workouts or fitness milestones on social media, true strength is something you build over time.
What you see on Instagram are highlight reels of someone’s successes, and though there really is no denying Brie Larson is a beast at the gym, but once upon a time she had to start from square one and learn the ropes just like I still am, just like you easily could.