Zac Efron Got Ridiculously Shredded for Baywatch. Here's How.

It’s one thing to train someone to look like a superhero if they start off with Herculean genetics. But to take a guy from normal-looking to Rock-like in a few short months—drug-free? That’s the Holy Grail of fitness.

Over 20 years in the business, L.A.-based trainer Patrick Murphy has pulled off just this feat with dozens of stars, including the once-skinny Tobey McGuire and the formerly-doughy Jason Segal. His most impressive accomplishment, though, was morphing Zac Efron into the guy who stood shirtless next to Dwayne-freakin’-Johnson in 2017’s Baywatch—and held his own.

How did he pull it off? “All my clients follow the Murphy Rules,” he says.

For a little more clarity, I met with the 47-year-old trainer at the sleekly understated Hollywood gym where he conducts business, HVY Industry, so he could take me through the kind of workout he used to get Efron into life-saving form. Albert Hammond Jr., singer, songwriter, and a guitarist for seminal rock band The Strokes (and one of Murphy’s clients), joined the Men’s Health crew for a rundown of the routine.

Zac Efron’s Baywatch Split


15 reps each side

15 reps each side

15 reps

15 reps each side

The Workout

These are all supersets. Perform all exercises back to back with no rest. You’ll perform 3 rounds of each group.

Set 1

15 to 20 reps

15 to 20 reps

15 to 20 reps

Set 2

15 to 20 reps

15 to 20 reps

Set 3

15 to 20 reps

15 to 20 reps

Set 4

16 to 20 reps

16 to 20 reps

Set 5

15 to 20 reps

15 to 20 reps

Set 6

15 to 20 reps per side

15 to 20 reps per leg

If you want to take on Efron’s whole program, you can check out Murphy’s full plan. All of his training is based on his set of Rules—so it helps to understand them a little better.

Murphy’s Rules

Dial in Your Alignment

You’d think the Murphy Rules would be a Fight Club-like litany of tough-guy directives like ‘You puke, you clean it up’. They’re actually all about something decidedly anti-macho: alignment. “Don’t jut your head forward,” he says. “Keep your shoulder blades back and down. Contract your abs and glutes on every rep.”

That’s every rep of every exercise—a tall order when you’re trying to squeeze out your last barbell curl or walking lunge.

But there’s a method to the uber-precise madness: the rules, he says, keep your body in its strongest, safest position throughout your entire workout. “The further you get from a neutral position,” he explains, “the higher risk you create.”

Choose Your Moves Wisely

“The body adapts to everything you do in the gym,” he says. “Some exercises aren’t worth the trouble.” Murphy believes that if a move pulls you out of optimal alignment, you should skip it. Burpees, for example—that go-to classic for trainers seeking a quick way to exhaust their clients—are out. “Your knees cave in, your back flexes. It’s one big negative adaptation,” the trainer says.

Rule of thumb: if you look athletic and smooth when you do an exercise, it’s a keeper. If not, lighten the load or take a pass.

Turn Up the Heat

One of Murphy’s favorite techniques when it comes time to crank up the intensity using compound sets or trisets—two or three exercises, performed back-to-back, with immaculate form, for the same muscle group.

It’s not a new idea, but when you perform each move with Murphy-worthy form, this technique allows you to work a muscle to an extreme point of exhaustion without using minimal weight.

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#Repost @zacefron with @repostapp. ・・・ Back and bi’s #baywatch — Training @ZacEfron 5 days a week with my specialized super setting technique, accompanied by super duper clean eating, week after week, yields nothing short of insane results. The #Baywatch movie prep is a complete success and we still have more time for training – 👊! #murphytrained

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Keep Your Muscles in Your Mind

Murphy’s patter is almost continuous when he trains clients: “Don’t drive your hips forward…unlock your knees…10 more like that.” The stream of instructions made me realize how every muscle is involved in every move—and kept me honed in on what I was doing, enhancing what bodybuilders call the “mind-muscle” connection.

Thanks to his observations, I become aware of tiny postural deviations I never would have spotted otherwise, and I dialed into the working muscles in a way I rarely do when I’ve got the earbuds in. Thanks to his guided tour, I could feel my muscles taking notice and making little corrections along the way.

No trainer to keep you on track? Use the mirror the way it was intended: For feedback on your form. Are your shoulders level, your feet parallel, your spine stacked? Are you controlling the weight in both directions, using a full range of motion? If not, lower the weight.

Go Big Sometimes—Then Back Off

Extreme fitness demands extreme commitment. With Efron, Murphy pushed the limits. “I threw everything I had at him,” Murphy says. “Stability training, power, mobility, athletic training.” Morning sessions lasted an hour. In the afternoon, the actor either returned for another session, or did lifeguard training with the rest of the cast for 2 to 3 more hours. “He did more two-a-days than anyone I ever worked with,” says Murphy. For months on end, his diet was virtually carb-free. The results spoke for themselves.

At the end of the day, though, staying ripped is neither fun nor particularly healthy. So after the shoot, Efron dialed back his training, ate some carbs, and enjoyed his life.

So if you want to reach an elite level of fitness, go for it: count back a few months from a goal date, tighten up the diet, and commit to a religious training schedule. No beer, no pizza, no late nights, and no missed workouts.

Then get ready to snap some photos, because once your event has passed, you’ll want (and need) to go back to a training and eating schedule you can maintain within reason. Life’s too short to spend it all in the gym.

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