I tried Zac Efron’s Baywatch ab workout — here’s what happened

a photo of Zac Efron at Baywatch premiere and in the role
(Image credit: Instagram/zacefron/Getty/Brendon Thorne / Stringer)

As Zac Efron hits the headlines again for his amazing transformation to play professional wrestler Kevin Von Erich in his upcoming movie, The Iron Claw, like any good fitness journalist, I started delving into his workouts.

Efron’s last dramatic body transformation was for his role in the 2017 comedy, Baywatch, in which he starred opposite Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and luckily for me, the actor has shared a few of the workouts he used to get in shape. 

It goes without saying, what works for Zac Efron might not be right for you and your body, and if you’re new to an exercise, or returning to exercise from injury, it’s a good idea to get your form checked with a personal trainer before adding reps or weight to the move. It’s also worth pointing out that visible abs are a product of a low body fat percentage, not hours of sit-ups in the gym — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters. 

In an interview with Men’s Health, Efron spoke about the difficulty he experienced staying at such a low body fat percentage during filming. “That Baywatch look, I don’t know if that’s really attainable," he said. "There’s just too little water in the skin. Like, it’s fake; it looks CGI’d... And that required Lasix, powerful diuretics, to achieve. So I don’t need to do that. I much prefer to have an extra, you know, 2 to 3 percent body fat."

While I was under no illusion that one workout would leave me with a Baywatch-ready six-pack, I unrolled my yoga mat and gave Efron’s go-to ab workout a go. Read on to find out what happened.

What is Zac Efron’s Baywatch ab workout?

In a YouTube video filmed with his Baywatch co-star, Alexandra Daddario, Efron performs the following five exercises: 

Dead bugs 

To do a dead bug, start by lying on your back with arms straight above you, and your knees in a tabletop position. Slowly lower your right arm to a couple of inches off the floor behind your head; as you do so, stretch your left leg away from your body and lower that to just above the floor. Pause, then return to your starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Make sure you keep your lower back pressed into the mat for the entire exercise — to do this, think about sucking your belly button into your spine, or as Efron does in the workout video, put a resistance band under your lower back and keep your back pressed against the band to stop it from moving.

Abandoned hollow body 

For this hollow hold, Efron and Daddario hold on to either end of a long resistance band (check out the best resistance bands here), but if you don’t have a gym partner, loop this band around a machine, or place a heavy weight plate or dumbbell on one end. Holding the band, engage your core and lower your legs from tabletop position to a few inches from the ground, then bring them back into your starting position. 

Partner Russian twists 

For this exercise, Efron and Daddario take it in turns to complete a Russian twist (here’s how to do a Russian twist, plus what happened when this writer did 50 Russian twists every day for a week). If you don’t have a gym partner, you can simply grab a medicine ball or dumbbell and complete Russian twists. 

To do a Russian twist, sit on an exercise mat and engage your core as you lean backward, lifting your legs off the floor, so you are in a V-shape position. You can cross your legs if it helps, and knot your hands together in front of your body. Bracing your core, twist your torso from side to side, and think about lowering your hands to the side of you as you twist. Follow your hands with your eyeline. Continue to twist from side to side without dropping your legs to the floor. 

Medicine ball passes 

For this exercise, start in a tabletop position with a medicine ball on your legs. Crunch your head, neck, and torso up to grab the ball, then lower the ball down behind your head. As you crunch back upwards, throw the ball to your partner, and take the second ball from your legs. Alternatively, if you’re doing the exercise alone, place the ball back on your shins and repeat. 

Shoot through

To do a shoot-through, you’ll need a set of handles or blocks. If you’re working out at home, you can try using a set of heavy kettlebells instead. Start with a hand on each handle, almost in a press-up or high plank position, with your legs outstretched behind you. Think about tucking your knees up to your chest, then shooting them underneath your body, until they are outstretched in front of you. Then repeat the opposite way. 

Ski erg 

In the workout, Efron and Daddario finish with a session on the ski erg machine, which targets the triceps, lats, glutes, and hamstrings. 

I tried Zac Efron’s Baywatch workout — here’s what happened 

The first thing I noticed after watching the video is that Efron doesn’t go into the number of reps he does for each exercise, so I had to improvise. Also, unlike Efron, I was attempting this workout in my living room, not a fully equipped gym (sorry folks, the cost of living crisis made me cancel my gym membership), so more improvisation was needed when it came to the shoot-throughs. Either way, as Daddario did 40 medicine ball passes, I opted to do four sets of 10 reps of each exercise.

Starting with the dead bugs, I loved the resistance band trick to ensure I was keeping my lower back pressed into the mat. I’m no stranger to dead bugs (read what happened when I did 100 dead bugs a day for a week here), but I often have to check in with my form to ensure I’m not arching my lower back, so the resistance band was an excellent addition to the move, and one I’ll be using in future. 

As I was working out alone, I looped my resistance band around my Peloton Bike+ for the abandoned hollow body exercise — these were a killer, and again, I had to slow down to ensure I was keeping my back pressed into the floor. For the Russian twists, I grabbed a dumbbell and completed weighted Russian twists without the throw.

Next up, the medicine ball passes. Efron said he was using a 14-16 pound medicine ball in these, so I grabbed a 15-pound dumbbell and did the passes, removing the throw. By now, my core was definitely feeling the burn. 

The shoot-throughs without the handles were tough. I tried improvising with some yoga blocks and my dumbbells but found neither was high enough from the ground for me to be able to shoot my legs underneath my body. Instead, I switched the move out for lateral shoot-throughs, where you start in a bear crawl position, with your hands on the ground, knees hovering a few inches off the ground. From here, shoot one leg underneath the body to the opposite side, twisting the torso and hips and raising the hand off the ground as you do so. While the movement pattern is slightly different, you’re still working the obliques hard in this move. 

Unlike Efron, I didn’t finish the workout on the ski erg or jump in a cryotherapy chamber, as I had neither in my house. Instead, I opted for a 10-minute HIIT workout on the Peloton and then jumped in a cold shower. As the ski erg machine didn’t really target the abs, I felt like spinning was a good substitute for the cardio burst. 

The result? While the workout didn’t leave me with a six-pack like Efron’s, it did give me a shaky core that I could feel at my desk a few hours later. I enjoyed the variety, and the use of the bands in exercises I do a lot. I’ll definitely be repeating this one again. 

Looking for more workout inspiration? Read what happened when I tried Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine workout, Chris Hemsworth’s 200-rep workout, and when our fitness writer added this 15-minute dumbbell abs workout to her routine. 

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.