During the summer of 2013 / 2014 Zac Efron was on a mission. He had a movie coming up called Neighbors in which he had to play a college jock. To pull it off he needed to develop a lean, athletic, ripped look. That meant training the CrossFit way.
Zac knew that he couldn’t get too big for this role. It wouldn’t look natural for the part he was trying to play. Here’s why CrossFit was the ideal training style to achieve the look he was after . . .
- Challenge Based Training – Workouts of the Day (WOD’s) are built around incentives. Whether it’s based on target times or number of reps, it serves as a great motivator to keep you zoned in on achieving to your best. Providing a metric to compare yourself with others is another great motivator.
- Metabolic Conditioning VS Steady State Cardio – the fast pace of training inherent in CrossFit is the best way to increase the heart rate in order to improve conditioning, and speeding up fat loss. Anaerobic exercises are taken and given a metabolic effect by structuring them alongside plyometric and gymnastic moves in the workout. This is far more exciting and a more effective way to train than steady state cardio.
- Teamwork / Community – CrossFit have built and developed a community and a camaraderie that is second to none. When you have a tight-knit team accomplishing things that you never thought possible, you are driven to achieve more than you ever imagined.
- Accessible – The workouts are completely scalable, allowing everyone from the rank beginner to the experienced athlete to work at their own level.
- Being Your Best – CrossFit allows you to bring your best self to life. You will grow – emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually – more than you can imagine. CrossFit will prove to you that you are capable of doing more than you ever thought possible.
The CrossFit Moves
Here are the basic 9 CrossFit moves that formed the basis of Zac’s training for Neighbors.
Basic Move #1: Air Squats
Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder width and your hands by your sides. With abs pulled tight and your back arched, squat down to slightly below parallel. Your arms should come up to meet in front of you as you squat down. This will serve as a counter-balance. Keep the chest up throughout the movement. Let the butt push back during each downward squat. Come up to a full standing position as you rise up.
Basic Move #2: Front Squat
Take a clean over-hand grip on an Olympic bar at shoulder width. Bring the bar up to your shoulder in what is known as the rack position. Lift the elbows as high as possible. With the bar racked on the shoulder, perform a squat exactly as you would when performing an air squat. Keep your back tight and stand all the way up each time you rise out of the squat.
Basic Move #3: Overhead Squat
Stand with feet wider than shoulder width and your arms above your head and stretching out so that your limbs form an ‘X’ shape. The armpits should be showing forward. From this position position, squat below parallel, keeping the core tight. When you are comfortable with this movement, grab hold of an Olympic bar and hold it overhead with a wide grip. The bar should be about six inches above your head.
Basic Move #4: Shoulder Press
Take an inside grip on an Olympic bar and rack it to shoulder level. With your elbows forward, simply press the bar overhead until you reach lockout. Stand up nice and tall so that the bar is directly overhead when you reach the lockout position. Bring the bar back to the shoulders in a controlled manner.
Basic Move #5: Push Press
The Push Press is similar to the Shoulder Press, except that it allows you to recruit your lower body to give you the extra push to get the weight overhead. You do this by dipping with your lower body, allowing your hips to move forward, just before your press overhead. Don’t move your glutes back as in a squat. Perform the rest of the movement just as if performing a Shoulder Press.
Basic Move #6: Push Jerk
The Push Jerk is used for a weight that you can no longer push press overhead. As with the Push Press, start with a small dip to create momentum, then begin push pressing the bar overhead. Three quarters of the way up, descend into a small squat, then stand up fully to push the weight overhead. In this movement, you are performing two dips to allow you to get the weight overhead.
Basic Move #7: Deadlift
Load a barbell and set it on the floor. Squat in front of it with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab it overhead with your hands just outside your legs, your shoulders over or just behind the bar, your arms straight and your back flat or slightly arched.
Simple as it sounds, all you really do is stand up. The key is to push with your heels and pull the weight to your body as you stand. Pause with the weight, but don’t lean back, then slowly return to the starting position. Pause with the weight on the floor and reset your body over the bar. You defeat the purpose of the dead-lift if you use momentum to knock out the reps.
Basic Move #8: Sumo Deadlift High Pull
Place a kettlebell between your feet, with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and toes pointed slightly out. Keeping your back straight, squat down to grab the kettle-bell handles with an overhand grip. Rise to an upright position, bringing the little-bell up to your chin in the upright position. Use your thighs to generate a powerful upward drive. At the top of the movement, shrug with your shoulders and pull the elbows up and back.
Basic Move #9: Medicine Ball Clean
Place a medicine ball between you feet, which are placed shoulder width apart. Squat down to grab the medicine ball from the sides. Drive up to standing position, then perform an exaggerated shrug as you bring the medicine ball to your chest. Now perform a squat with the medicine ball in front of you. That is one rep.
Here’s one of Zac’s favorite CrossFit workouts. It involves doing descending reps each sequence. On the first round you do 10 reps of each move. Then each round you drop by two reps until you end up doing just two reps of each exercise. The goal is to get as far as you can without stopping.
- Medicine Ball Clean
- Push Jerk
- Front Squat
- Pull Ups
- Push Press
- Push up
As with all good CrossFitters, Zac would be constantly changing up his routine. But they would invariably follow a similar pattern to the above sample. That’s because he knew that workouts like that were the fastest way to ripped, lean muscle.
By the look of his physique we’d say he knows what’s talking about.