Tom Hardy is a slightly eccentric British actor that is most famous for his portrayal of the violent criminal Charles Bronson. He is currently working on an MMA / cage fighting film called Warrior, and is also lined up for the lead role in Mad Max 4.
During the training for Warrior he broke 2 ribs and injured his hand. But those injuries were nothing compared to the broken neck sustained by one of the pro cage fighters that worked on set with him.
Tom Hardy has a personal fitness instructor who is also an old friend. He goes by the name of Pnut (many get it wrong and called him Peanut), and he is an ex-soldier and MMA fighter from New York. As part of Tom’s fitness regime, Pnut gets Tom to carry him as well as do more traditional weight training. Carrying another person in a fireman’s lift is a classic martial arts fitness exercise and is an excellent way to build strength and stamina.
Tom’s role as Charles Bronson was very impressive. He managed to really bulk up for the part and looked like a real strongman. He put on 7 pounds a week while eating and lifting. Pnut had him doing volume training, working the muscles over and over to build bulk. His focus was on the upper body only, to build big arms, chest and a thick neck. His lower body was neglected, but this was intentional to look the part on screen. His transformation for the role, which he says only took a couple of months, is on par with DeNiro’s Raging Bull and Christian Bale’s Batman. The real Charles Bronson is certainly not a man to be messed with. He was a bare knuckle fighter for a while before being imprisoned for holding up a Post Office.
While in prison his violent nature developed further and he was eventually moved to a maximum security prison and has spent much of his time in isolation. However, the real Charles Bronson is a fitness fanatic and works out tirelessly in the most confined spaces. He has a book published on his training, called Solitary Fitness (available from Amazon.com).
Tom Hardy’s Workouts
So, how did Tom Hardy turn himself into an action actor? His fitness training is almost entirely inspired by martial arts fitness workouts. He does specific strength training for fighting, bodyweight circuit training and cardio. There is no doubt he is in great shape.
Martial arts training is really one of the best ways to get in shape. To fight you have to not only be very fit but also strong, powerful, flexible and agile. Tendon and joint strength is also developed to withstand fighting. Just being strong or fast is never good enough for a fighter, all round fitness and strength is essential. So to get fit like Tom Hardy you need to train like him.
Tom Hardy said of Charles Bronson (he met him in prison to learn more about the role) that he is not a big guy. He is muscular, but lean. A real fighter’s body. This is what Tom worked towards and trained to achieve.
The Warrior Film Weight Training Workouts
For the Warrior Tom Hardy needs to put on an additional 35 pounds of muscle and fat. A huge task. He has been working with Pnut to bulk up but admits he it is a real battle to put on that much muscle, even with such excellent fitness instruction and the time in which to do classic volume training for size.
Warrior is the first film about mixed martial arts. MMA / UFC is huge business in American now and is becoming bigger than boxing. Warrior is the story of how Paddy Conlon (played by Nick Nolte) an ex-boxer attempts to put his life back together after alcoholism tore his family apart. Paddy does this by training his youngest son who is played by Tom Hardy. But this puts Tom’s character on a head on collision with his older brother who becomes a rival and still does not forgive his dad for bringing ruin to the family.
Typical martial arts strength training would include these exercises:
- Bent-over rows
- Upright rows
- Military Presses
- Pull Ups
- Chin Ups
Full body workouts is designed to build function strength, i.e. to be strong, fast and powerful. To be able to lift your bodyweight easily. Pull ups and chin ups require you to build your upper body strength and learn to work all your muscles together. Isolation exercises like dumbbell curls can make your biceps stronger, but do not make your whole body stronger.
Emphasis is on building athletic strength, bulking up the muscles (more for artistic than functional purposes) and developing muscular endurance to withstand hours of training.
This workout routine covers all these areas. You do not require much equipment, just some dumbbells, a bench and a pull up bar.
Dumbell Front Squats
These can also be done with a barbell if you have one. This is the most important exercise for building strong and powerful legs.
Reverse Lunges with Chest Flyes
These build the muscles you need to fight. Step back with one leg and lunge while at the same time raising a pair of dumbbells out in front of you to above shoulder height. Imagine that your are thrusting a sword forward while stepping backwards and you can see that martial element of this movement.
Exploding Push Ups / Clap Push Ups
Push ups are often overlooked by gym rats, but these exercises are still favored by the military and martial artists today for their excellent upper body conditioning. As well as building and toning the chest they strength shoulders, elbows and wrists and work the core too. Adding the clap up elements turns them into a plyometric exercise to build power and speed.
Single Arm Presses On a Resistance Ball
These are great stability exercises and work the shoulders more than a standard press. Lean back on a gym ball with your fee flat on the floor then perform presses.
Single Leg Dumbbell Rows
Balance exercise and row combined to strengthen core and back. Martial training is all about be poised, balanced and agile as well as strong and powerful. While standing on one leg you are working stabilising muscles that will keep you on your feet in a fight.
Incline Bicep Curls
Biceps are not just for show, they are a vital muscle in martial arts, creating pulling and grappling strength. Sit on a bench in inclined position with dumbbells hanging downwards. Curl up to shoulders and return.
Triceps Plank Press
Like the biceps, the triceps are also vital fighting muscles that give extra thrusting and pushing power. Start in a plank position with your elbows touching the floor, then raise until you are in a push up position
Dumbbell Shoulder Snatch
Sometimes the most important martial movement you will ever need is to be able to block a heavy blow from above. Training to lift a heavy weight (sword/shield) above your head is vital, so this is where presses are needed. Simply lift a single dumbbell from your hip to above your head in one fluid movement. As you start to get tired imagine there is a sword coming down towards your head, this should provide the motivation to keep that dumbbell rising.
Hanging knee raises
These work the core while also building on grip strength. You are only as strong as your weakest point, and a weak grip is fatal in a fight. Hold onto a pull-up bar and then lift your knees to your chest
Pull Ups and Chin Ups
While you are at the bar it is a good time to do some pull ups. These are one of the best exercises for building upper body strength and help to unite all the muscles to work together. Pull up training is hard, so learn to build up strength methodically.
This is a pure core exercise which works the abdominals. Using a medicine ball and balance ball for extra resistance lie flat on the floor with a balance ball between your feet and holding a medicine ball behind your head with arms slightly bent at the elbow. Raise arms and legs so that the balls meet above your waist.
Medicine Ball Pistol Squats
Back to building powerful legs. these are a great way to develop leg strength without using heavy weights. From a standing position lift one leg forward and then squat downwards as far as possible. You are aiming to squat, so that you are almost sitting on the floor. Then lift. Holding a medicine ball out in front of you at the same time, working the shoulders too.
These are performed like a normal squat but they are done plyometrically, that is, with explosive power. Like the clapping push ups, they build extra speed and power into the muscles. Essential for leaping into and out of dangerous situations.
There are many other exercises that you can perform as part of your warrior training. The key is functional exercises that will aid you in a fight. All round strength, muscular endurance and speed are required. Other exercises you can include are punch bag workouts, rope climbing, shuttle runs and quick marches. The life of a warrior is not easy, and nor is the training.
Tom Hardy’s Diet
As Tom Hardy is an actor that likes to keep some things under his hat, we do not really know how serious he takes his diet. He joked on the Jonathan Ross show that he eats pizza and ice cream and his physique is all down to the workouts he does with his trainer, Pnut.
We know that he has also said that he ate chicken and rice every day too, and Pnut kept making him protein shakes. As he is bulking up for Warrior then he really could be eating lots, especially as his weight training and fitness regime is so intense. He will be consuming a lot of protein to help build up his muscles, to put on that extra 35 pounds.
Tom Hardy is becoming a bit of an action hero. He has also stared in Black Hawk Down, Star Trek Nemisis and Minotaur, he is also set to appear in The Warrior, Inception (with Leonardo DiCaprio) and Mad Max 4 (due to be released in 2012). He has also played a very different character in the form of Stuart Shorter, a homeless alcoholic in the film Stuart: A Life Backward. To slim down for the role of an alcoholic he was eating just vegetables and running about 5 miles per day.
Image ref: From the poster for the film Bronson, published on Wikipedia.