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September 06, 2020 10 min read

Seldom does a movie come along that has the eye-candy that 2017’s Baywatch does. Everyone’s combined body fat percentage in that movie was probably in the single digits. 

And since it came out, it’s almost proven to be a watershed moment for society’s idea of what a beach could look like. Or at least your idea of what YOU could like on a beach. Whatever your tastes, we’re willing to put down serious money that your eyes were following the main cast the entire time.

But when it came to ‘mirin, it was Zac Efron who really stole the show.

While by now we’re used to the jacked-up physique of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing up his physical prowess, Efron really took it above and beyond when it came to achieving a ridiculously shredded body. The man looked like an absolute unit throughout the film, and you’d be lying if you said that’s not the body you want for your next beach day

Down below we’ve got the training principles, the training routine, and the proper diet to make it all happen. Well, everything but the red swimsuit and your own Summer Quinn.

The Man of the Hour 

With his breakout role being High School Musical, Efron is no stranger to heartthrob status; he’s had a solid physical foundation to build off of throughout his film career. With Baywatch, however, he really dialed everything up to 11. 

One aspect of his body stands out; how absolutely shredded he was. Efron apparently succeeded in achieving and maintaining a body fat percentage of 5% for filming, which is an impressive feat in itself. His trainer turned him into Matt Brody in the span of 12 weeks, saying that Efron’s impressive work ethic made it that much easier.

However, we can glean some important training principles from his trainer as well.

The Trainer that Made it all Happen

Having a personal trainer makes things a hell of a lot easier, let’s not kid ourselves. And Efron’s trainer, Patrick Murphy, is one of the best. 

Having trained the likes of Olivia Wilde, Cameron Diaz, and Keanu Reeves over the course of 20 years, the workout below has been inspired by the principles he used when training Efron. What might those principles be?

It shouldn’t’ come as a surprise that Murphy really put the actor through the wringer. 

The workout routine was ever-changing—going from days of full-body workouts, to varying splits, strength training, powerlifting, training Efron’s balance, obstacle course training, hiking, and even lifeguarding. If that’s not quite the ambitious training routine, we don’t know what is.

What this chaotic training routine did was prevent Efron from hitting plateaus. It was go, go, go for 3 months where he shed fat and gained muscle, always challenging his body in original and new ways. After putting Efron what he was put through, there was no way Murphy was letting him go without being shredded as hell. 

But there was one other aspect which guided Efron’s training, and it’s the one that this workout is built around.

Supersets for Super Gains

Supersets have been a mainstay in gyms for quite a while now, with even Schwarzenegger being a massive proponent with his superset arm days remaining popular. This type of training requires you to perform two different exercises back to back while minimizing (or completely eliminating) rest times in between.

You really do get a lot of creative latitude with what you make a superset out of, and there are several benefits to top it off.

For one, they’re a great way to save time during a workout. Much like compound exercises, they hit a lot of muscle groups in a short amount of time. Since you’re going relatively fast and one after the other in terms of sets, you’re also increasing muscular endurance and influencing neural capacity. 

This leads into the fact that there’s also a major metabolic benefit to training with supersets. You wanna get a 5% body fat percentage like our man Efron? Then you’re going to probably need to burn quite a bit of fat—even if you are in relatively good shape.

Along with the increased hypertrophy due to providing additional stimuli for muscle growth that single sets do not, supersets have also been found to increase the power output of an athlete. This is, however, specific to supersets that go from a “push” exercise (such as a bench press) to a “pull” exercise (a bent-over row, for example).

All in all, the superset route is a solid path to rippling muscles and that’s the one we’ll be using for this workout.

The Zac Efron Workout

This workout is a three-day split that has you training back and biceps on the first day, legs on the second, and shoulders, chest, and arms on the third. It’s meant to be done in three consecutive days and then with one day off after that. However, if you need more time to recover, feel free to take a day off after 2 days and then continue with the workout plan as you normally would. 

Each superset is denoted by a number, so you would exercise “A” and then exercise “B” immediately afterward. After each superset is finished, take a maximum of 60 seconds to rest before moving onto the next superset.

Before each workout take some time to stretch and warm-up. And at the end of each workout, take a solid 15 to 20 minutes to do some cardio of your choice. It doesn’t have to be very intense—it can be a sport you enjoy or a casual jog.

The weights will obviously be entirely dependent on your own strength. For this workout, your muscles need to be challenged to a very high degree, but also keep in mind how dense the workouts are. You don’t want to risk injury because that’ll set you back further than if you’d just started off by taking things easier. Get off on the right foot by choosing weights that you know you can handle, and then move up from there. 

This workout is meant to be done over the course of 12 weeks.

Day One: Back & Biceps 

  • 1A Straight-Arm Pulldown: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 1B Ab Rollout: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 2A Seated Cable Row: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 2B Suspended Row: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 3A Neutral Grip Pullup: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 3B Lat Pulldown from Knees: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 4A Chin-up: 3  8-12 reps
  • 4B Dumbbell Biceps Curl: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Day Two: Legs

  • 1A Leg Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps 
  • 1B Suspension Squat Jump: 3 sets of 20 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 2A Swiss Ball Leg Extension: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 2B Swiss Ball Leg Curl: 3 sets of 20 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 3A Reverse Walking Lunge: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 3B Mountain Climbers on Sliders: 3 sets of 20 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 4A Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 4B Kick Butts: 3 sets of 20 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 5A Unstable Single-Leg Calf Raise: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 5B Single-Leg Squat Hop: 3 sets of 20 reps

Day Three: Shoulders, Chest & Arms

  • 1A Dumbbell Squat Front Raise: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 1B Cross-Body Cable Raise: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 2A Dumbbell Floor Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 2B Push-ups: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 3A Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 3B Dumbbell Overhead Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 4A Cable Chest Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 4B Bosu Plyo Pushup: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 45 to 60-second rest
  • 5A Single-Arm Pushdown: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 5B Single-Arm Curl: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Beach Bum Diet

Or rather, the not-so-beach-bum diet.

If the workout looks hard to stick to, the diet might be even more difficult. Murphy’s workout philosophy extended to Efron’s diet as well, especially when it came to always switching things up.

Every two weeks Efron would not only change his daily caloric intake, but also the macros he was eating (fats, carbs, and proteins). This is because the body gets used to how much nutrition you give it, and after a certain time, it gets more difficult to get to the extremely low ranges of body fat percentage. By always pulling the ol’ switcheroo, you stay one step ahead of your body.

While the diet may have seemed forever changing, there was one constant that Murphy stuck to: a whole food diet.

No processed foods; no flour; no “bad” fats. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but it’s extremely important nonetheless. You can’t out-train a bad diet, even if you train as hard as Efron did. The proteins he stuck to were lean, so things such as chicken or turkey breast, egg whites, and lean cuts of steak. Fish can be included in there as well; even though they may not be lean they contain a lot of healthy fats. 

Speaking of healthy fats, along with fish we have avocados, seeds, and nuts taking the crown for some of the best fatty foods you can eat. Which brings us to the carbs.

Carbs and the Baywatch Bods

Carbs have gotten somewhat of a bad rap in recent years, with diets such as the ketogenic diet blowing up. A keto diet is based on putting your body into ketosis; where your body doesn’t have any carbs to use as energy, so it fuels itself with fat. There are several variations, some restricting carbs more and others being less strict—but the main idea remains.

Efron has done a low-carb diet before, and he and his trainer definitely instituted at some point during training. Especially when it came to getting his physique into film-ready shape.

But when trying to stick to a whole food diet, all carbs are not evil. Whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, and oats (which made up most of Efron’s carbs for his Baywatch diet) are healthier carb options since they contain a higher ratio of fiber and starch compared to sugar.

Along with these healthy carbs, Efron loaded up on the leafy greens and vegetables in general. When it came to fruit, he ate high-fiber options such as pears, apples, and berries. All great sources of vitamins and other micronutrients.

If you put all this together, it makes up for one solid as hell diet plan. And the name of the game is whole, healthy, foods. You don’t want to load up on junk and then feel like garbage afterward. But speaking of junk; cheat meals (or rather refeeds) are a good way to not only keep up your motivation, but also beneficial for fat loss.

Cheat Meals and Refeeds

Efron utilized three “refeed” meals throughout the months he was training. While cheat day and refeed are often used interchangeably, they have different assumptions backing them. A cheat day, for example, is when you essentially binge and stop counting calories. This can be good for your motivation (since dopamine levels are raised) but do this too often and it can push back your progress.

A refeed, on the other hand, is a planned day or meal where you work towards your goal with a short-term boost in calories. Sounds kinda similar, doesn’t it? The difference lies in leptin.

Leptin is a hormone that regulates your satiety and your energy intake, so it’s important to keep in check when losing weight. However, the hormone also decreases when your body fat percentage goes down and carb intake is limited. In effect, your satiety is reduced the lower your body fat is.

So, a refeeding day should be aimed at helping out with your dietary plan, and it’s better to do this with a high-carb refeed than a high-protein one, due to its effects on leptin levels.

A cheat day shouldn’t break your diet, and it doesn’t even have to work against it if planned out properly.

Supplements for a Superstar Shape

While Murphy has talked about the large amount of water that he made Efron drink during training, it’s fairly safe to assume that he paired a ketogenic diet with dehydration in order to prepare himself for his scenes (at least the shirtless ones).

While a legitimate strategy for professional bodybuilders, dehydration isn’t too practical for your average guy who wants to look as shredded as possible. While taking supplements isn’t necessary with a good diet, it can bring that extra edge you might need to push yourself into a Baywatch-level physique.

Working with Murphy, Efron himself only went the water and whey protein powder route. However, Murphy made sure that the whey they used was of the very highest quality—even opting for unflavored types in order to make sure it was as pure as possible. When you’re training at the level that Efron had to, it makes sense.

Creatine—especially for the type of workout above—would also be a good idea. This supplement improves strength, lean muscle mass, and helps your body recover faster after workouts. Furthermore, it’ll also help you achieve short bursts of speed and power during high-intensity workouts—such as supersets. And since your body is able to recover faster as well, you’ll be able to hit the gym sooner and harder 

Another good supplement that complements whey protein is casein. Another protein variant, its use lies in the fact that it takes much longer to digest than whey protein. Athletes tend to take this powder at night in order for the body to have some kind of fuel for what is essentially an 8-hour fast (or however long you sleep for). It becomes especially important if you consider working out to such a high degree while also maintaining low body fat percentages and limiting carbs. Casein gives your body something when its only other option would be to start breaking down your muscle for fuel—the muscle you’ve been working so hard to gain.

Becoming a Beach God

When trying to replicate these insane physiques you see in movies and ads, it’s important to take things with a grain of salt.

Efron’s Baywatch body should be taken as inspiration—a way to motivate yourself if you haven’t been working as hard you should be—and not necessarily a how-to guide to getting all the attention next time you hit the beach. 

What is a sure thing, however, is that following the above workout and diet plan will put you on the right track to sculpting your own beach bod; something that’s wholly yours and you can be proud of. It’s important to make the distinction that this was Efron’s job. Dehydrating yourself before your next pool sesh isn’t a very good idea, unless you live and breathe Hollywood.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work towards it. Keep your perspective aligned, motivations in sight, goals in check—and you too will be the envy of the beach, and maybe even a lifeguard.


Photo Credit:

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Image 2: Frank Massi / Paramount Pictures

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