How women of the MCU got in shape for The Avengers

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, also known as the MCU, is chock-full of strong, fierce women who are on a mission to help save the universe — and existence as we know it. Oh yeah, they're doing it alongside male Marvel heroes like Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and others, but who's counting? They'll begin the battle for existence in earnest with the April 2018 release of the third Avengers movie, Avengers: Infinity War, and continue it (in some form) with the 2019 release of the fourth, yet-unnamed Avengers movie

They've battled smaller foes along the way, but their battle in Infinity War is against the evil Thanos, a legendary villain in the Marvel universe. Even as a superhero, all that universe-saving isn't easy. All your favorite Marvel women, and maybe some you've never heard of, put in some serious time at the gym to get in shape for the war ahead. Here's how each of them prepared for the battle against Thanos.

Black Widow got competitive

Natasha Romanoff, otherwise known as Black Widow, made her MCU debut in 2010's Iron Man 2, played by Scarlett Johansson. In the eight years between that movie and the release of Infinity War, Johansson has needed to stay in tip top shape to portray the deadly assassin in several other movies. When she spoke to Access Hollywood in 2014, she shared what it takes to get ready for the Lycra bodysuit Black Widow sports. 

"It's no secret," she said. "Boring 5 a.m. workouts. It's that old tried and true 'work out like a dude and eat like a rabbit' [plan]," she said. She did share, however, that the way she gets through workouts is through friendly competition. That's right, Black Widow can certainly hold her own against Thor, saying she and star Chris Hemsworth get competitive in the gym. 

Still, if you're looking for a bit more direction to channel your inner Black Widow, the trainer she worked with to get in shape for Avengers told Pop Workouts that she worked out seven days a week for 90 minutes of total body circuits.

Maria Hill has black-ops training, should she need it

S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill, played by Cobie Smulders, made her MCU debut in in 2012's The Avengers and has reprised the roles in subsequent movies and in the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

To transition from her role as Robin Scherbatsky on How I Met Your Mother to an operative within an elite government agency, Smulders said on a 2011 podcast (via Comic Book Movie), that she wasn't leaving her training up to chance. "I hired this amazing black-ops trainer to teach me how to hold a gun, take me to a shooting range, how to hit, how to hold myself, how to walk, and basically how to look," she said. 

While she didn't do much fighting in that first movie, the character of Maria Hill is incredibly important in the comics, and has the potential to be incredibly important in the upcoming Avengers movies, in which she's confirmed to appear. In a 2015 interview with Yahoo Health, Smulders revealed that she put in hours of training with a combination of boxing, spinning, and strength-training to get and stay in shape. Take that, Thanos!

Gamora controls what she can and lets the rest unfold

Zoe Saldana's portrayal of intergalactic master assassin Gamora began with 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians will finally meet the rest of the MCU heroes in Avengers: Infinity War and Gamora has a special connection to Thanos that will play a major role in the upcoming film. 

While Saldana is no stranger to highly physical roles, it's her relatively relaxed attitude about fitness that might be most surprising. "Between travel, meetings, and shoots, schedules are rough for me," she told Shape in 2017. "I try to work out three times a week, but I don't believe in getting on one machine for 30 minutes." 

With that difficult schedule, Saldana can't always work out when she wants, but instead of stressing over it, she controls what she can. "I can't work out regularly, so I compensate by eating a lot healthier than I might otherwise. Once you have relatively healthy eating habits, your workout can become playing with your kids, strolling around the neighborhood, playing airplane, or just changing diapers." 

She's also said in the past that she stays away from hardcore workouts as a general rule. Saldana is living proof that you can work out smarter, not harder.

Nebula got a boost from Jumanji

Gamora's sister Nebula, played by Karen Gillan, also made her debut in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. While Nebula is a conflicted character and only joined the ranks of the heroes in the second Guardians of the Galaxy outing in 2017, the horrors inflicted upon her by Thanos during her childhood ensure she'll join the heroes in the 2018 Avengers movie. 

For her first Guardians of the Galaxy outing, Gillan said at the Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con in 2014 (via Comic Book) that she had to work out for two months prior to the role in an attempt to bulk up. "And then, I had to do fight training every day that I wasn't shooting," she added. "They told me that you have to do something six thousand times before it's second nature. I didn't manage to do the routine six thousand times, but we certainly tried." 

Gillan had a bit of a leg up for her training in advance of her 2018 Avengers role, though. She was also working on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which required even more intense training than she endured for Guardians. But even after leaving her trainer behind when Jumanji wrapped, Gillan committed to "continue my mission to swol without him!"

It's all about nutrition for Scarlet Witch

Beginning with 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, viewers were introduced to Wanda Maximoff, also known as Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen (yes, of those Olsens). A product of HYDRA's illegal human experimentation with the mind stone, Scarlet Witch is able to manipulate things (and people) with her mind. But don't think that means she doesn't have to stay in shape as a member of the Avengers team. 

Unlike her co-stars who focused on bulk and tactical training, however, Olsen's focus is on staying lean. For the first movie, she told Allure that she worked out five days a week with a combination of ballet, bootcamp, and yoga. For Infinity War, however, her focus was on nutrition so she worked with nutritionist Philip Goglia to lose body fat and add muscle. 

Goglia spoke to People about his work with Olsen and shared, "She was focused on body composition," adding, "She wanted to be dense, heavy and athletic, and she just really nailed it." According to Gogen, that meant no gluten, dairy, or yeast across seven to eight high protein meals each day.

Plenty of fight training for Mantis

An empath with martial arts training, MCU audiences first met Mantis in 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. She'll be joining the other Guardians in their quest against Thanos in Infinity War, and actress Pom Klementieff certainly takes the training for that role seriously. 

Klementieff is no stranger to kicking butt. In fact, she's not even a stranger to kicking Josh Brolin's butt (he will be playing Thanos in the 2018 Avengers film, and also starred alongside Klementieff in 2013's Old Boy remake). To make sure she stayed in top shape for this most recent undertaking, Klementieff has spent her days doing lots of fight training, and has shared much of it on her social media accounts. 

From mitt work training to "monkey abs" on the heavy bag and lots of martial arts training among her workouts, the actress never seems to slow down. She told Elle in 2017, "Female characters in Marvel films are usually cool and badass and strong, and I love that!" Us too, Pom.

Shuri isn't afraid to fight

As of April 2018, Black Panther is the highest grossing superhero film of all time in the US. That could all change with Avengers: Infinity War, but that doesn't change that Black Panther's stars are at the top of MCU popularity. Among them is the titular hero's sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. 

The scene-stealing actress may have spent the majority of Black Panther in a lab, but Shuri wasn't afraid to suit up and fight when the future of her country was at stake. She'll be doing the same when the universe is at stake in Infinity War, and she's well prepared — now, at least. Prior to Black Panther, Wright hadn't performed in many physical roles and that meant, as she told The Hollywood Reporter, the role required a lot of work. "It was a lot of training, a lot of prep," she said. 

While Wright admitted to ESPNW that not everyone would consider the work particularly difficult, it was all new for her. "I did a lot of hand-to-hand combat stuff," she said. "It was not crazy, it wasn't grueling, but it was cool to learn how to fight and get prepared. It was tough, but we got through it."

Okoye channeled Michonne — but only a little bit

Unlike Letitia Wright's experience portraying Shuri, the actress who portrayed the Dora Milaje's general Okoye in Black Panther had prior combat experience. That actress is Danai Gurira and she's perhaps best known to television viewers as the katana-wielding Michonne on AMC's The Walking Dead. And that katana is no joke. Gurira told Self it's like swinging a 5-foot dumbbell. 

But even though she's a walker-fighting warrior on that show, she still had to train for her role as Okoye, who trades Michonne's katana for a spear. "To an extent, there was some overlap, but it was also very distinct," she told ESPNW. "It was a lot of hard work and there were times where I was like, 'I'm never going to get this twirl.'" 

But if you're wondering how Gurira's Okoye will fare in Infinity War, have no fear. "I've always been a bit of a tough chick," Gurira told Self. "I'm happiest when I feel strong. And I do what I need to do to get there." That includes a mat, dumbbells, and Jillian Michaels workout DVDs in her trailer — because Danai Gurira is apparently all of us in her love of Jillian Michaels.

The Wasp focused on the little things

While it's still unclear what the fourth Avengers movie will cover when it's released in 2019, we can definitely count on The Wasp and Captain Marvel (more on her next) to be there. Even though these two MCU women won't be part of Infinity War — unless maybe in a credits scene — the near-simultaneous filming of the third and fourth movies meant the stars were working hard alongside their future co-stars. 

Viewers first met Hope Van Dyne aka The Wasp (played by Evangeline Lilly) in 2015's Ant-Man, but even before she joins the Avengers team, we'll get a chance to see her in a solo outing — sort of. She'll still be starring alongside Ant-Man in Ant-Man and The Wasp in 2018. As the tiny heroine Wasp, Lilly's workouts in preparation for the role have also focused on the little things. 

In between stunt training and filming, Lilly has been getting in workouts whenever she can at home, including what appears to be cardio kickboxing alongside running the stairs in her home, ab routines, dancing with dumbbells, and plenty of stretching. All that work has left Lilly with what she calls "Wasp ready arms" and she's more than ready to take her place among the MCU women.

Captain Marvel brings heavyweight power to Avengers 4

Another face you won't see join the Avengers team officially until the 2019 fourth movie (except, again, maybe in a credits scene), Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel will officially burst onto the scene in her titular movie in 2019. But because she'll be in the fourth Avengers movie, and because shooting on that film has already wrapped, the training Captain Marvel's actress Brie Larson did for the role spanned both movies. And it's some seriously intense training. 

Rest assured, Captain Marvel is bringing the power to whatever follows Infinity War. Not only has Larson been doing her homework on the US Air Force in preparation for the role of USAF Colonel Carol Danvers (prior to becoming Captain Marvel), she's also been spending serious time in the gym. In an Instagram video of the actress doing pushups with heavy chains draped across her lower back, Larson shared, "Getting stronger is a process I'm committed to showing up for everyday." Another video shows her easily completing hip thrusts with over 300 pounds of weight, while a third shows her doing pull ups with ease. 

As Larson captioned the last video, "9 months of training really does some stuff to your body." We're glad she's taking her training seriously. There's a lot at stake!