How the Top Action Heroines Got in Shape

Scroll through to see how Jessica Biel, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, and more of Hollywood's leading ladies work out-and toughen up-for their heroic movie roles!

Scarlett JohanssonScarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson
The Avengers
-which broke box office records its opening weekend-features Johansson as the lone female in a superhero boys' club. Despite her minority status, however, she proved to be a formidable force after a month of intense martial arts training. "I think Scarlett's fight scenes are some of the most impressive," co-star Chris Hemsworth tells the Associated Press.

"We taught her Wushu and Kung Fu techniques using a staff," says Sunny Sun, a member of the movie's stunt team. "Once she had good command of that, we incorporated swinging and twirling patterns," adds Jonathan Eusebio, the film's fight coordinator. "She wanted it to be second nature, so she'd practice at home too." Eventually, a heavy prop gun replaced the training stick, but that didn't hinder Johansson. "She really excelled and added her own flavor," says Sun.

Noomi Rapace and Charlize TheronNoomi Rapace and Charlize Theron

Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron
One look at the gripping Prometheus trailer and it's clear that what began as an Alien prequel has taken on a life of its own. Rapace plays a strong Sigourney Weaver-esque heroine-and says she has "cuts and scars and bruises" to prove it. Shielded from most of the action is Theron, whose character works for the company funding the alien planet mission; not unlike Paul Reiser's suit in Aliens, she has questionable motives and spends the majority of her time away from danger-until a scene where she must sprint across sand with heavy gear on her back. "I was out of breath and like, 'Oh my God, it hurts!'" said Theron at last year's Comic-Con. She recently admitted to Hello! magazine that she "probably should have trained a little bit. It was one take of sexy running and then I was all ugly running."

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Anne HathawayAnne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway
While on Chelsea Handler's show last summer, Hathaway said her cat suit in The Dark Knight Rises was "unforgiving" and required "a lot of motivation"-plus the help of several people-to put on. "It had to be a lifestyle change to get into the suit," she revealed on Regis and Kelly. "My stunt double, Maxine, has been really getting me on my protein and lots of other things. And she has guns like you've never seen, so we just go to the gym and work out. I want to be strong!" Besides weight training and sticking to a vegetarian diet, Hathaway also took up Bikram yoga.

Jessica BielJessica Biel

Jessica Biel
Biel made her action hero debut in 2004's Blade: Trinity and, after months of "two or three hours in the gym every day, a crazy nutritional plan, and martial arts fight training every day for an hour," the actress says her shoulders got so huge that she was told to tone them down for her next film, Stealth.

Nevertheless, Biel calls the fight scenes from Blade: Trinity "the most fun I've ever had," and continues to practice the martial arts skills she learned on set. She also does boxing and yoga. "Yoga is a constant for me because it keeps my muscles long and flexible," she told us. Other secrets to her athletic frame: Getting enough sleep, loading up on water, having a healthy diet, and abstaining from alcohol. "It's so boring, I know, but doing these things really help," says Biel, whose good habits undoubtedly came in handy for her latest role as Colin Farrell's right-hand woman in Total Recall (see photo).

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Kate BeckinsaleKate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale
Beckinsale also stars in Total Recall, as Farrell's sinister wife, played by Sharon Stone in the 1990 original. "There's still a bitch in it, and that's me," Beckinsale joked at last year's Comic-Con. Despite her juicy part, the actress tells Empire magazine she's partial to her Underworld series because she's "the toughest one" in that franchise.

As vampire warrior Selene, Beckinsale is, in fact, a one-woman army; to prepare, she logs in hours with personal trainer Ramona Braganza. For the recent Underworld: Awakening, Beckinsale worked with Bragranza three to five times a week, doing her favorite yoga moves and Braganza's signature 321 Training Method. To complement her exercise, she ate healthier, portion-controlled meals.

Angelina JolieAngelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie
Jolie has an impressive streak of action movies to her name (think Lara Croft:Tomb Raider, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Salt, just to name a few). Of these films, however, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life was arguably the most physically demanding-not that Jolie had any complaints. The actress considered the fight sequences from the first Lara Croft flick "just too easy" and eagerly went to work on its sequel. Whether swimming underwater, stick-fighting, firing guns while riding horses side-saddle, shooting arrows, or mastering high-flying tricks on jet skies, Jolie did it all. "She wants to do everything but sometimes you have to rein her in because obviously, insurance-wise, she's not allowed to," laughed Simon Crane, Cradle of Life's stunt coordinator, at the time. To keep Jolie busy, he had her do weight training and Tae Kwon Do.

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Lucy LiuLucy Liu

Lucy Liu
Liu threw some pretty good punches in the Charlie's Angels movies, but it's her role as assassin O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill: Vol 1 that gets high kicks. Sure, she wasn't exactly the protagonist, but Liu tells the New York Times that O-Ren Ishii is simply misguided: "I felt like I really understood her emotionally. In my mind she was a survivor, and it was either kill or be killed." To prepare for her onscreen fights, Liu did martial arts and Japanese sword training. "Samurai swords are very heavy, and you have to hold your body in a very specific position where you don't bend over," she told Spike TV. "You have to have your back straight the entire time, and you have to be squatting; it's an intensive workout on your thighs and forearms because of the sword."

Linda HamiltonLinda Hamilton

Linda Hamilton
When you have to defend your son, mankind's future leader, against bloodthirsty cyborgs, chances are you're going to pack on some muscle-or a lot, in the case of Sarah Connor. Which is why, to play Connor in 1992's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, actress Hamilton enlisted the help of fitness guru Anthony Cortes. In the 13 weeks before shooting started, Cortes trained Hamilton for three hours a day, six days a week, and got her on a nonfat diet that revolved around cereal with skim milk, chicken, and dry salads. "I did everything. I lifted a lot of free weights, did presses, shoulder work, legs-I killed myself every day, but that's what you have to do," Hamilton told David Letterman during an appearance on his show. "It was very much a part of the character; she's turned into a warrior since the last [movie] and I just had to get out there and do it."

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Jennifer LawrenceJennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence
Lawrence hit the gym for her role as Mystique in X-Men: First Class, and rumor has it that her blue bodysuit had to be remade in order to accommodate her tauter figure. But it's her athleticism in The Hunger Games that leaves us breathless. To play the beloved Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence told MTV she had daily archery lessons, running drills, and combat sequences, plus "yoga and things like that to stay cat-like." As if that doesn't already sound completely tiring, her set trainer, Joe Horrigan, adds that she did stationary bike work and obstacle courses with rock and tree climbing.

Jessica AlbaJessica Alba

Jessica Alba
"I broke a few ribs doing stunts on Dark Angel," Alba revealed to David Letterman in a 2009 interview. Since then, the hands-on actress has taken her dangerous moves from TV to the big screen in films like Fantastic Four, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and Machete. To get ready for her fight scenes, Alba trains with Ramona Braganza five or six times a week-and according to Anne Hathaway, Alba doesn't mess around. "I was literally working out next to a pregnant Jessica Alba and she could do more push-ups than I could," laughed the Catwoman actress on Chelsea Lately last August.

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