If there was ever a man who truly embodied the look and feel of a dangerous character, it’s Tom Hardy. If you need carnage, destruction and an underlying sense of menace, he’s your man and it starts with the hard work in the gym.

The screen might add a few pounds, in the same way that it makes Tom Cruise look fully grown, but Tom Hardy seems like the kind of guy you really wouldn’t want to stumble across in a dark alley – despite standing 5’9. Such is the range of his acting chops that he’s been able to play super villains and apocalyptic heroes, carrying himself as if he’s seven foot tall. It’s this indomitable physical presence, developed by decades of excellence in the field of training, which you can learn from over the following pages. Here’s why and how he excels physically and how you can put his advice into play.

Character Muscle

How Tom Hardy trained and ate to embody some of his biggest roles.

2008: Bronson

The training: “I had to gain around 42lb overall and no drugs, that’s important. Training-wise, it was all bodyweight resistance. All things you could do in a prison. I used different types of press-ups, pull-ups, dips, crunches and different abs exercises with the help of my boy ‘P-Nut’ (Patrick Munroe). I pushed a lot of floor, but I did some weight exercises as well to bulk up – mainly my chest and arms.”

The diet: “My staple was chicken and rice, but then I had pizza, chips, ice-cream, fizzy drinks and creatine too. It’s not something I’d recommend but I had to put the weight on. I was 147 lbs to start with and I had five weeks to put the weight on so it was very quick.”

2011: Warrior

The training: “We did two hours of boxing, two hours of kickboxing and two hours of choreography a day. Then two hours of lifting six days a week. Lots of functional and strength-based weights, and a lot of resting. When I was lifting I would hit a different muscle group every day using typical barbell and dumbbell exercises. I gained a lot of muscle on Warrior, not so much fat.”

The diet: “I ate five-to-six meals a day, lots of protein. I was carb depleting, so it was chicken and broccoli, all day. Horrible. Especially because I trained so hard
for so long.”

2012: The Dark Knight Rises

The training: “My preparation for playing Bane was more about building and packing on density and muscle. It was heavy weights and circuits throughout the day, again with the help of ‘P- Nut’. We did sessions four times a day and it was focused on strength.”

The diet: “When I played Bane there was less emphasis on being cut, so my diet wasn’t as strict as it was in Warrior. There was a lot of chicken and protein, but more fat and carbs – it wasn’t nearly as strict because I wasn’t trying to really get the cuts everywhere.”

2015: Mad Max

The training: “There was a lot of stunt and fight training, which was also pretty intense. The guy is very hungry and very dangerous; he’s like a puma.”

The diet: “I had to lose weight after The Dark Knight Rises, so I cut down on the junk completely and ate a diet like I did for Warrior to get back down to my normal weight.”

2018: Venom

The training: “It’s a different process and journey with each role. With Venom it was a lot of MMA. There was boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, grappling, fight choreography. I love jiu-jitsu and I love sparring, I get so much out of that. There’s so many nuances to MMA, and there’s so much humility and complexity to it, so much discipline, so much care. MMA is an art form, and there’s something so invigorating about sparring and grappling. And I love learning from the trainers and stunt coordinators and stunt people, who are at the top of their game. I love being a part of a team, and the process really informs you. But the physical transformations, it’s always character-based. And that goes with the different touchstones for the characters, how they hold themselves, how they move, what’s going on psychologically? It’s a process, just like getting in shape, the alchemy of that. You work at it, inform yourself, day by day.

A Natural State of Being

“When I’m not trying to be big for a role, I like to walk around at 10 ½ – 11 stone (147 – 154lbs). It’s a lot easier for me to do that because it’s my natural weight. Also, my missus doesn’t like it as much – me being bigger. I tend to adopt a different character in life when I’m a little bit bigger – there’s a little more ‘ugh’ about me,” he laughs. “I do get down to 11 stone (154lbs) after packing on muscle, and because I’m working a lot it’s good to get down to that weight.”

A Master of His Craft

Few actors can boast a resume as diverse as his and he does it by immersing himself in his work. “If you’re gonna do it, you have to really commit and make sure you’re informed. You want to be connected to these characters. That commitment is essential, because with the work you have to sustain a level of energy throughout the filming process. I immerse myself deeply in these roles, work on different touchstones, because I want to make sure my part in the team is as useful as possible. You need to be ready and be professional, because you want to do the material and these characters justice. You want to take everything into account, psychologically or in the way they carry themselves and how they move, where they come from, and you have to be faithful to these characters. I always have to find these identifiers and I find the preparation process a lot of fun and interesting. It’s osmosis.”