Trainer Luke Zocchi, the man behind the godlike physique of Chris Hemsworth in the Thor franchise, has parlayed a stroke of serendipity and a Zock-solid grasp of training and nutrition principles into a wonderful life. Here’s what he knows about making every day count.
“I WAS BORN IN ADELAIDE and moved to Melbourne when I was two. I met Chris in primary school. He was in the year above me and we started hanging out when I was in Grade 2 or 3. Then we went to the same high school. I was an amateur fighter when I was at school and Chris used to come down to the gym and watch me spar. After a while we started training together. I’d be like, ‘Oh, mate, you should jump in the ring!’ Because he always wanted to. But even back then he was like, ‘Oh, mate, I can’t ruin my face – I want to get into acting’.
He did Home and Away and we stayed close. But things really clicked into gear when we were in Costa Rica around Christmas 2012 and he was training with me every day because he’d just finished filming Thor: The Dark World and he was trying to slim down. Because of my boxing background we’d get up and we’d do runs and then I’d hold the pads for him in the afternoon, and I think that must have sparked the idea for him. It was just before Easter he rang me. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I told him I was just working. I’m an electrician by trade and at that time I used to run boxing circuits out of PCYC. He said, ‘Mate, do you want to come with me to the States? It’s just a six-week boot camp’. ‘Yeah,’ I thought. ‘I’ll come to the States for six weeks’. We did the six weeks together and then he said, ‘Come with me to my next film’. It was Blackhat, a Michael Mann movie. From that film, we wrapped in Kuala Lumpur, jumped on a plane, flew to London and went into a meeting with Ron Howard for In the Heart of the Sea. That’s when I starved Chris and Bobby: they had to lose a lot of weight through the movie, so there was about a month when we went for it – intermittent fasting, around 2500 kilojoules a day. Chris usually sits at 93-94 kilograms and at more than 100 kilograms when he’s Thor. For this movie we got him down into the low 80s. And he wasn’t happy. Anyway, this became my new life. I never returned to my old one. I prepare Chris for all his films. For each role he comes up with an image of how he wants to look. I do my research and put together a program, and then we get to work.
When we do a film there’s Chris, me, Bobby – there’s a whole crew of us. There literally is that Entourage vibe. Honestly, in all the years we’ve been together, there’ve been like one or two niggles. We travel really well together. We actually joke about it: how have we not got sick of each other already? I guess we’re all pretty similar. We’re all active. We train together. We’re all likeminded. Guys say to me, ‘I want Chris’ arms!’ And I laugh, because Chris is gifted. One time, before filming an Avengers movie, a costume lady measured him up and he was pretty big. And she turned to me and was like, ‘You train Chris?’ I said, ‘Yeah’. And she said, ‘How come your arms don’t look like his?’ And I was like, ‘I eat the same food! I do the same moves!’ I don’t want to dishearten people. Chris is something else. The thing is, though, he doesn’t lift super-heavy most of the time. What he does is focus. He dials in and slows down the movement and really contracts those muscles he’s working. Chris’ physique might not be attainable for you, genetically, but you can still aim to be your best.
That’s something that’s ingrained in me: being the best version of yourself. But I’m also a huge believer in the power of exercise. I just notice how much better I feel, mentally, after doing some. It doesn’t have to be a crazy, hour-long session chasing benchpress PBs. The feeling I get from training – it’s like having a coffee or something. Afterwards, I’m on a bit of a high. Guys also say to me, ‘I can’t have a fulltime personal trainer or a chef, and I’m pushed for time to work out’. The workouts I’ve designed for Centr take that on board. I’m a firm believer you can get in a really strong workout in 20-25 minutes if you train correctly with the right movements and intensity. And the biggest thing: backing up your training with the right nutrition. Food is so important. We all think the more we kill ourselves in the gym the better it’s going to be. But it comes way more down to food. And rest. Even this week I’ve been training twice a day and I’m probably doing more damage than good. In your head it’s like, ‘More work’s better!’ But in reality your best course is to train hard, rest and back it all with good nutrition. Then you’re dialled in to go again.
Here’s the thing about food. If you’re eating fewer calories than you burn – people have done this and proven it – you can eat McDonalds. I’m not saying that would be good for you, but if you ate 1000 calories a day of McDonalds and you burned 1500 calories a day, you’d lose weight. But that’s not healthy. And here’s the other thing: if you were to eat 500 calories of McDonalds, that might be one burger. If you were to eat 500 calories of a balanced meal of wholefoods, it would be a huge plate. You can eat more when you eat clean, good food. Both Chris and I have gone more balanced with our diets. I don’t bang on about vegan eating because diet’s a very personal thing. But I think as a general rule we eat way too much meat and not enough vegetables. Reining in your meat intake is not going to do you any harm. Prepping for the last Avengers, Chris did go more plant-based and was able to maintain his muscle mass by taking in more food. We’ve never started from him being skinny and gone the bulk without animal protein, but that’s something I’d like to try. For a previous Avengers, for three months, Chris had a fillet steak, three boiled eggs and 100g of blueberries every day for breakfast. That’s effective, but it’s not cheap. I feel I can relate to guys when it comes to food. I’m not a chef. I’ve only been cooking for a couple of years. But I have the same mentality that I take into a workout: I just want to do what needs be done in the most efficient way possible. If I see a recipe with more than eight ingredients, forget it.”
Read more in the March issue of Men’s Health, on sale now.