He’s tasked with whipping A-listers into shape—transforming their physiques from scrawny to shredded. To hone leaner, more muscled bodies, Murphy curates exclusive, personalized routines for stars like Keanu Reaves, Ruby Rose, and, most recently, Zac Efron, Jon Bass, and Alexandra Daddario for this summer’s smash hit Baywatch.
But his responsibilities don’t end there. Murphy also designs complimentary (read: strict) nutrition plans that supplement his demanding workouts.
Now, for us desk jockeys and weekend warriors who don’t have a personal trainer and nutritionist optimizing every waking moment for fat loss and muscle gains, Murphy also has some universal tips to help every guy conquer his fitness goals.
Men’s Fitness: You were in charge of training the cast of Baywatch. What was their regimen like?
Patrick Murphy: I gave them my whole toolbox of 20 years of experience—from balance to stabilization, strength to power training. When you push the capabilities of what muscles can do, you can reach full potential. When I took on the cast of Baywatch—Alexandra Daddario, Zac Efron, and Jon Bass—I used a scientific approach, and the results were amazing. I had them implement stabilization exercises [i.e., moves that build foundational strength, like pushups, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, and shoulder presses], so they could then get into more serious exercises that involve strength, power, and quick-twitch muscles.
Efron praised how calculated the workouts were. What went into the foundation of each routine?
I take every rep very seriously. I watch how someone performs, and give them cues: where to position their head; how to engage their shoulders; keep their wrists straight; tighten their abs; activate their glutes. With Zac, I helped him create positive adaptations for perfect posture and alignment, all the while going through a very high-intensity program.
I also plan ahead. I consider what type of supersets I’m slating for every workout. With Zac, it was ever-changing. I trained him for several months, and he never went through the same exact workout twice. That’s how you avoid plateaus. I saw him daily, too, so it was amazing what happened.
Especially considering we only had three months to train. Zac had the drive, motivation, and grit. He was so ready for everything.
He went through a lot of two-a-days. I’d put him through a serious weight-training workout, then he’d do lifeguard training for two or three hours, or bike for about 30 miles. His output is just amazing. Paired with the super-clean diet I’d put him through, it was a win-win. It was exciting to see his transformation happen.
On the big screen, Zac is the most ripped out of anyone I’ve seen in Hollywood history.
Can you describe his diet plan?
At its core, this was a whole-food diet. Zac stayed away from all highly refined, processed foods. No flour products whatsoever. So he could have quinoa, but not quinoa crackers. He could have brown rice, but not brown-rice pasta. Same with fruit. He could have an apple, but not apple juice.
Zac would have a cheat meal once a week, maybe, but for the most part it was all just whole foods: veggies, nuts and seeds, lean proteins.
What advice would you give to guys trying to adopt an intense workout routine on their own?
Get out of the “monkey see, monkey do” ideology. I see a lot of exercises that aren’t great for the human body being performed in the gym every day, particularly negative adaptation [e.g., cause injury, aggravate joints].
I’ll give you an example: burpees. Burpees originated in the early 1900s. [Read all about the badass origins here.]
But they’re not good for your wrists, back, or knees—especially for the average person with an office job who’s sitting all day. It encourages tight hip flexors, rounded shoulders, and a forward head. And under a timed set, your spine can flex, your knees can bow out, and your poor wrists can be forced to 90°.
It’s strain-training. Same with upright rows.
There are all these injuries happening in gyms, because there’s no concept of anatomy—of what’s good and what’s not good for your individual body. For example, shorter people have shorter levers [arms and legs]. They might not get hurt right away or feel the tendonitis creeping in as someone who’s taller would. That’s because the torque from certain exercises is a lot harder on tall guys‘ joints since their limbs are longer. That’s why there aren’t many people over 6’5″ doing CrossFit and gymnastics.
I go strictly by anatomy. I don’t go by, “This exercise looks cool. Let’s try that.” I create positive rhythms for your joints. I call it mechanical advantage exercise.
There are rules of engagement to maintain proper form and posture while you perform an exercise. For example, I never let my clients jut their head forward at all, even during a simple lateral raise. You keep the spine and pelvis very neutral and strong. The shoulders never elevate on a row or a press, or shrug. When you train your legs, there’s a straight line from the hips to toes.
Is there a piece of equipment or an exercise that’s under-used in the gym?
I love universal cable machines with arms that can move in different directions, because you can optimally put them in the proper position when you’re pressing and pulling.
On a cable machine, you can do high rows, one-arm rows, one-arm presses, proper standing chest presses. The majority of my programs are done in a standing position. I’ll have clients do legs presses, but I don’t sit clients down on machines very often.
I love free weights, too.
You can see the results of Murphy’s training with Efron, Bass, and Daddario as Baywatch was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on August 30. For individualized programs to get a body like a Baywatch star, head to BaywatchBodyWorkout.com, which offers full-body workouts, split routines, nutritional help, and training guidelines.