Tom Hardy's body has had a busy year. Since February, Hardy has starred in This Means War with Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine, The Dark Knight Rises with Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway, and next month’s Lawless alongside Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman. Although he is notorious for his transformations (see our slideshow), this year has seen Hardy, 34, push his body to the limit — most famously as the menacing villain Bane in the third installment of the Batman trilogy. But a brief look at his career shows that the actor was not always this ripped.

Hardy has come a long way from his scrawny Black Hawk Down (2001) and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) days. As Charles Bronson in Bronson (2008), pictured below, Hardy plays a real-life prisoner who was heavy and muscular but not necessarily fit, so Hardy was tasked with the unglamorous task of gaining weight and strength sans the chiseled six pack abs. “For Bronson, I put on about 7lbs a week — with no steroids,” Hardy revealed on AskMen UK. “In the end I’d put on about 2 and a half stone by eating chicken and rice, which was my staple diet throughout the day. Then I’d have a pizza, Häagen-Dazs and Coca-Cola. So not good stuff, but I had to put weight on."

The next few years saw Hardy get slimmer for Wuthering Heights (2009) and softer around the edges in Inception (2010), until he landed the role of professional fighter Tommy Conlon in Warrior (2011). To be in shape for the mixed martial arts scenes, Hardy put on significant muscle weight and maintained a lean physique thanks to a rigorous workout program of boxing and weightlifting sustained on a protein-based diet regimen. “There are no shortcuts,” his trainer and ex-marine Pnut told Men’s Health.

But Hardy's most physically demanding role to date was no doubt that of the brutish Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), for which he had to bulk up to an astonishing 196 lbs. "I pushed a lot of weight, I ate a lot and I didn't do any cardio for about a year. So I ended up being really fat and now I am suffering the consequences. I have a big fat neck in it," Hardy, pictured below, told the Belfast Telegraph. “Tom is one of those actors who’s a transformative actor,” producer Emma Thomas told NY Daily News. “When we were doing costume fittings for Bane, for example, he’d come in — and this is before he had put on much of the bulk — he would walk in and he’d look quite slim and slender… then he would hold his body in a different way and sort of stick his gut out, do something with his shoulders and suddenly you’d see exactly what it is he’s going to do.”

Hardy is currently filming Mad Max: Fury Road, which will premiere next year, and is set to star as Al Capone in David Yates' Cicero trilogy, which begins filming in 2013, by which point he may be entirely unrecognizable.

In the meantime, watch Hardy work out below:

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