When it comes to one of the most-talked-about celebrity transformations of 2022, you’ll be as surprised as I was to find that all of the hard work was done at home. Yes, I’m talking about English actor Lily James’ transformation to play Pamela Anderson in Hulu’s Pam and Tommy. James nailed Anderson’s long lean limbs and toned beach-body physique for the role, but how did she do it?
James’ trainer, PT Matt Bevan, has shared his secrets after working with the actor for five months to get her in shape to play the iconic Baywatch star. The two trained virtually, as like the rest of the world, they were restrained by Covid lockdowns and gym closures. The training phases were split over four-week blocks, and in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK (opens in new tab), Bevan revealed Lily used “Long bands, handle bands, mini bands, a couple of pairs of dumbbells, three kettlebells, a Swiss ball and some sliders” for the workouts. His preferred moves included “dumbbells and the bands with handles, especially for muscle definition.” (Looking to build your home gym? We’ve found the best adjustable dumbbells and the best resistance bands for training at home here.)
Read on to find the exact exercises Lily James did to transform herself into Pamela Anderson. It’s worth noting, however, that every body is different, and what works for Lily James might not be the best exercise for you. If in doubt, check with your doctor or personal trainer before undertaking a new exercise regimen.
How did Lily James transform her body?
When speaking to Women’s Health (opens in new tab), Bevan revealed that James would do five workouts a week, with one rest day and one low-intensity cardio day that was used as active recovery.
There were four different phases to the transformation. The first involved James building a base and learning the different exercises, so she had a strong foundation before adding any weights, while the second consisted of full-body workouts, designed to improve James’ strength and work hard.
“We wanted to maintain lean muscle while dropping some weight,” Bevan told Harper’s Bazaar. Think high-intensity circuits, using resistance bands and dumbbells. Here’s an example of a circuit, which would typically include 8-10 exercises back-to-back, with 30 seconds on and 15 seconds off, with a 2-minute rest at the end of the circuit.
Kettlebell or dumbbell goblet squats: To do a goblet squat, stand with your feet a little further than shoulder-width apart. Imagine you’re standing on a clock-face, and point your toes to 11 o’clock and one o’clock. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell against your chest, underneath your chin. To start the squat, bend your knees and hips as if you’re sitting on a chair that’s directly beneath you. As you squat down, push your knees outwards so that they track directly over your middle toe.
As you squat lower, push your chest out, and keep your eyes looking straight ahead to keep your back flat and avoid hunching or rounding your spine. Squat down as low as you can while keeping your knees in line with your feet and your back flat, then push with your feet to stand back up to your starting position. Here’s more on how to do a squat.
Dumbbell or resistance band deadlifts: To do a deadlift with a resistance band, you’ll want to stand on the band, with a handle in each hand. Here’s how to do a resistance band deadlift.
Bent-over rows: Rows are a brilliant way to strengthen your back muscles. We’ve rounded up how to do a dumbbell row here, with a number of modifications to try, including single-arm and double bent-over rows.
Press-ups: Another working-out-from-home staple, press-ups are a brilliant way to work the arm muscles using just your body weight. Here’s how to do a press-up, plus the different modifications to try.
Stage three of the workout plan involved single-sided movements, before working on specific muscle groups. “I started to isolate muscles that Lily felt it was important to define,” Bevan told Harper’s Bazaar. “At the beginning or the end of the workout, we sprinkled in some aerobic conditioning, either on a versa climber or mini trampoline, which also helped keep the workouts fun and varied.”
Here’s an example of some of the single-sided exercises James would use in her routine:
Split squats: Almost like a static-lunge, holding a dumbbell in each hand, put one leg in front of the other and bend the hip, ankle, and knee of your front leg, lowering your back knee to the floor. Lower until your back knee is a couple of inches off the floor, before rising back up to your starting position.
Lateral lunges: To do a lateral, or side lunge, stand with your feet hip-width apart, and take a big step out to the side on your left leg, keeping your right foot pressed into the floor. Bend your left (stepping) knee, then lower until your left knee is almost at a 90-degree angle. Then push off from your left knee and return to the starting position before repeating on the right. Here’s more on how to do a lunge and the variations to try.
Single-leg Romanian deadlifts: To do a single-leg Romanian deadlift, start with your feet shoulder-width apart, with a dumbbell in one hand. Keep a slight bend in your knees, and raise the foot that’s the same side as the hand with the dumbbell. Think about hinging at the hips as you lower the dumbbell to the ground, so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Pause, then rise back up to the starting position.
Staggered-stance deadlifts: Another deadlift variation, the staggered stance deadlift positions your feet one in front of the other. Your front foot should be one step in front of your back foot, about hip-width apart; only your heel should be touching the ground on your front foot. Hinge at the hips. As you deadlift, your front leg will be straight, and your back leg will be bending. Once the dumbells lower past your front knee, hinge back to your starting position.
Bevan revealed that James’ strength sessions were also mixed up with cardio workouts on the versa climber and mini trampoline, or walking on the treadmill as she learned her lines.
In addition to all this training, James ate a balanced diet of proteins, carbs, fats, and vegetables, and cut out alcohol. She also made sure she drank four liters of water per day to stay hydrated both on set, and during her workouts.
Looking for more workout inspiration? Here’s how to build your glutes (without weights) with four easy moves, the best ab workouts you can do from anywhere, and how to master the arm exercise Arnold Schwarzenegger created.