Have you ever wondered exactly how much weight the put up in the gym when they're not busy saving the world?
Trying to guess how strong really are is a game as old as the genre itself, stretching back 80 years to the debut of Superman in Action Comics #1. As Hollywood has turned comic book movies into major cultural events, the superhuman exploits of the characters have been pulled into a new, more grounded realm. The heroes have jumped from the page to the screen – and it's even easier to imagine what could be within the realm of possibility if they were truly real.
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The latest and biggest of these movies, Avengers: Infinity War, brings the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – almost unquestionably the defining superhero mega-franchise of our generation – to the final phase of its decade-long journey. The film is the culmination of an entire series of superhero action, filled with conflict, drama, and plenty of moments showcasing the heroes flexing their muscles.
In honour of this moment of cinematic and superhero history, we decided to take a crack at determining exactly how strong some of the iconic characters would be in the weight room based on the super-feats we've seen them perform onscreen. For the purposes of this story, we’re only focused on the movie versions of the characters – save your Comic Book Guy complaints about how the Hulk once held a 150 billion-ton mountain over his head in Secret Wars #4 for Twitter.
Captain America: 1,500 lb. Bicep Curl
We actually have a good idea of how much Steve Rogers, the cryogenically-preserved super-soldier, can bicep curl, thanks to a scene from Captain America: Civil War. Cap basically reels in a flying helicopter largely using his arm muscles. That helicopter – a Eurocopter AS350 – has an empty weight of 2,588 lbs. Assuming that the chopper weighs a ton and a half with a man and a load of fuel aboard, it seems safe to say Captain America can curl about 1,500 lbs with each arm.
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The Hulk: 11 million lb. Leg Press
The giant, green-skinned alter ego of Bruce Banner is often referred to as the strongest Avenger, but putting a solid number on just how strong he is is surprisingly difficult. In the MCU, he’s rarely seen lifting solid objects; he usually winds up smashing them instead. Luckily, back when The Incredible Hulk came out in 2008 (which, while it starred Ed Norton instead of Mark Ruffalo, technically depicted the same version of the character), another publication roughly calculated that the Hulk, based on his ability to rip a car in two, could likely exert about 11 million lbs of force by pressing down with his legs. Imagine what he could do if he didn’t skip leg day.
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Hawkeye: 150 lb. Dumbbell Row
Clint Barton, who in the MCU is basically just a family man whose day job involves shooting things with a bow and arrow as Hawkeye, has no super-powers. He does, however, have the strength to be able to quickly and repeatedly draw back a compound bow without fatigue – a motion which is very similar to a dumbbell row. Considering a strong man should be able to handle a bow draw weight of 60-70 lbs, Hawkeye can probably move twice that weight without a problem.
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Thor: 3,500 lb. Kettlebell Swing
Assessing Thor’s strength might be even harder than the Hulk. Basing it off his pitches with the hammer Mjolnir won’t help us either; the mystical mallet’s weight is a mystery, and while we can’t be sure, it seems to be psionically connected to him, flying where he wants. Our best guess comes from Thor: Ragnarok, in which the God of Thunder swings a giant metal hammer (non-magical) into the Hulk hard enough to send him flying the better part of a football field. That hammer was nearly as big as Thor, with a lump the size of a small block V-8 on the end; assuming it’s made of something comparable to a car engine, that puts its weight at around 700 lbs.
Let’s say that’s analogous to a Major League batter hitting a ball down the left field line; since they uses a 32-oz bat, let’s suggest that Thor’s 700 lbs is equal to a big leaguer’s two – making him about 350 times stronger. Current and former major league ballplayers like Jimmy Rollins usually use around 10-pound kettlebells for their swing, so by that logic, the Thunder God should be able to do three or four sets of ten reps with a 3,500-lb kettlebell.
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Iron Man: 20 lb. Dumbbell Double Wood Chop
Tony Stark may be the smartest Avenger – dude built a cold-fusion reactor in a cave with a box of scraps – but once you crack that titanium-alloy shell around him, he’s as soft and squishy as any ordinary man. The closest we’ve ever seen him come to a feat of actual human strength is chopping wood on Hawkeye’s farm in Avengers: Age of Ultron, so it’s safe to say he can probably do a double wood chop with a 20 lb. dumbbell. Still, when you have a flying suit of power armor…you don’t really need to bulk up.
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