Zac Efron Got Absolutely Jacked For Iron Claw

The way actors are able to physically change their bodies for roles through consistent hard work, often in such short times, is nothing short of impressive. A very current example of this is "High School Musical" and "Baywatch" alum Zac Efron and his appearance in the recently released movie trailer of "The Iron Claw." The movie is a biopic about one of wrestling's most famous, and most tragic, families, The Von Erichs. Efron was cast in the movie back in June 2022 and immediately began working to perfect his look.

Efron, who plays Kevin Von Erich, the last surviving brother in the family, looks absolutely jacked. The trailer begins with Efron running the ropes and the actor is almost unrecognizable. Throughout the trailer, Efron is seen training and wrestling alongside his brothers, and the various tragedies that happened within the family are addressed as the trailer goes on. From the deaths of David and Mike Von Erich, to Kevin meeting his future wife Pam Adkisson, all look to be addressed in "The Iron Claw." Efron is in absolutely perfect shape to portray the character, with the real Kevin Von Erich praising the actor to TMZ, though he said he had no real involvement with the film.

So how did Efron get into better shape than ever, looking even more jacked than he did when he starred alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in 2017's "Baywatch?" It took consistent hard work, a crazy training schedule, and a ton of dietary changes for the star to transform into a WWE Hall of Famer.

Training & Recovery

For Efron to get this incredibly jacked, he, of course, had to hit the gym hard. Speaking with Men's Health to promote another one of his recent movies, Efron said his physique in "Baywatch" looked "fake" or "CGI'd" and he actually prefers to carry around two to three percent more body fat on his frame than he did for that movie. For "Baywatch," Efron said he trained twice a day for five to six days a week, but the hard work didn't bother him. He said he liked having these fitness goals to keep him balanced. The same mentality certainly came in handy for "The Iron Claw." "The more you learn, the more your workouts evolve and change," Efron explained to Men's Journal Fitness

According to Men's Health, Efron got into a routine during his "Baywatch" training days where he'd train one muscle group, like chest, shoulders, or back, one day, then switch things up the next. He also utilizes supersets in his workouts, meaning he doesn't take a break between exercises so that his body burns more calories. Efron trained so hard for "Baywatch," he actually tore his ACL and broke his wrist, among other injuries. 

He tried cryotherapy, but now incorporates ice baths into his routine to recover from training. Efron told Men's Health that ice baths are his "favorite part of the day," and before them is when he's "most miserable." He added that, "when you finally just commit and jump in there. From that point forward, you've conquered something deep within you; you do not want to get cold." Efron further explained, "That's the simplest philosophy: Anything you don't want to do, make it a habit." In addition to constantly lifting weights, Efron also incorporates yoga into his fitness routine. He's so invested in his time in the gym, that he even created a YouTube show, known as "Gym Time," where he works out with celebrity guests. The channel has over a million subscribers.

Bulking Up Over Leaning Out

While training and dieting for "Baywatch," the goal was for Efron to become more lean. For "The Iron Claw," to achieve the jacked look of a professional wrestler, especially of one in the '70s and '80s, the actor needed to bulk up. He made many dietary and lifestyle changes in order to do so.

"There's this trigger that happens after two or three weeks of dieting and eating healthy food, where your body switches its primary energy source from burning mainly carbohydrates to burning fat," Efron told Men's Journal in 2021. When the change happened, he said he began to crave foods he should be eating, like kale and sweet potatoes, rather than junk food. "And when it switches over, all your cravings change. You go, 'Holy cow, I want kale and vinaigrette shredded with beets and a little bit of sweet potato!'" he said. Efron said that during his "Baywatch" diet, he wasn't happy not eating carbs. He explained he now allows himself to eat "what he needs to" on set and is not as restrictive about what he puts in his body. Those extra calories helped him bulk up for "The Iron Claw." 

He also made two drastic changes when it comes to food. The actor was previously eating vegan, which helped him stay lean. After he made the switch to once again incorporate meat, he told Men's Health that his body "wasn't processing the vegetables" the right way. Though, morally, he still wishes he was vegan, switching to foods with more protein aided him in his workouts, helping him feel "significantly" less exhausted after his constant training. Efron said he also started intermittent fasting when he stopped eating vegan. He said it's been helpful for his body and energy. "I guess the philosophy around my current diet is intermittent fasting mixed with getting enough nutrition to sort of sustain me throughout the day," he told the outlet.

Iron Claw Trainer Speaks

Efron's trainer for "The Iron Claw," Farren Morgan, spoke to British GQ in February about the actor's workout regime to get prepared for the movie. He explained that Efron needed to focus on optimizing "his strength and mobility training" to remain "fast and agile," because professional wrestling demands so much athleticism. The compound exercises Morgan and Efron trained with tested the actor's body through longer ranges of motion. Morgan said some of their staple exercises to train with included overhead squats, pull-ups, back extensions, weighted hanging leg raises, and incline bench presses. As for repetitions, Morgan said he suggested performing three sets of six reps of each exercise until the actor was able to add volume and do more.

Morgan said in addition to all Efron's hard work in the gym, sleep was absolutely necessary for the busy actor. He said recovery and sleep are just as important as training, if not more important. He said Efron needed at least seven hours of sleep at night to "optimize his muscular hypertrophy." "While you sleep your body releases protein-building amino acids at an increased rate which is crucial for anyone looking to develop bigger and stronger muscle," he said.

The trainer also spoke more in-depth about the science of just how Efron was able to bulk up. He told British GQ about optimizing muscle growth and maintaining a healthy calorie intake balance. "You should consume a maximum of 20% more calories than your body needs per day to increase your weight gain by roughly 0.5% of your body weight each week," Morgan said. He explained that for men, that's roughly 2,750 calories per day to build mass safely and effectively. Morgan also said that for the right intake of food groups, a diet should consist of 45-60% carbs, 30-35% protein, and 15-30% fats. To avoid injury during bulking and training, he stressed to the outlet that things need to be done gradually. 

What's He Eat In a Day?

Efron consumed many more calories for "The Iron Claw" than any other movie he's done in the past, and he outlined his daily routine when it comes to food for Men's Health

He said he usually starts the day around 11:00 a.m., post-fast and after a cardio workout to get his blood flowing, with bone broth. Efron said he loves it because it's satisfying and "good for your stomach." For his next meal of the day, he combined vegetables with a clean protein, such as chicken, beef, or venison. His last meal is his bulkiest, he told Men's Health. "I usually have my highest carbohydrate meal sort of in the evening. That's usually another really good source of meat and [a] healthy carbohydrate, like sweet potatoes or quinoa," he said. He also told the outlet he loves liver and onions.

Co-star Jeremey Allen White told Esquire in May that the actor portraying Kevin Von Erich was "a maniac" when it came to getting into shape for his character. He said both he and Efron bulked up for their roles by "never stopping eating" and that Efron made the process look easy. "He's so focused and knowledgeable on training, diet, all that. In terms of a physical transformation, I think he kind of blew us all out of the water. He looks really amazing in this thing," White told Esquire.

No Medication Needed

While filming "Baywatch," Efron was actually taking medication to help him cut weight. He explained he was taking diuretics, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, "help reduce fluid buildup in the body" and are often referred to as "water pills." The medication helps "the kidneys remove salt and water," lowering the amount of fluid through the veins and arteries. Diuretics are one of the first medications prescribed to a patient with high blood pressure.

Thankfully, Efron did not need to take any medication during his bulking-up process for his latest film. He told Men's Health for years after filming "Baywatch," he suffered from insomnia and depression, which doctors said was due to taking diuretics for a prolonged period. 

Efron also does not self-medicate with alcohol, according to Men's Health. The celebrity embraced sobriety after a stint in rehab in 2013. "Balancing sobriety and work and finding that comfortable place where you feel like a good person [is key]," Efron told Men's Journal. He told The Hollywood Reporter that sobriety has changed his life and he feels more comfortable in his own skin. "I don't want to have to take anything from the outside to feel good on the inside," Efron said on the reality TV show "Running Wild with Bear Grylls" according to Men's Journal.

The Rock Initially Inspired Him

Efron co-starred alongside another legendary professional wrestling figure when he filmed "Baywatch" with The Rock. Efron said he was inspired by Johnson's Instagram posts featuring his impressive workout routines. According to Business Insider, the actor previously told Entertainment Tonight that Johnson's posts "motivate" him. "This guy motivates you to work out," Efron said as "Baywatch" was just starting to film. "I started following him on Instagram. He's an animal!"

Both actors shared images of one scene from the movie where their characters are involved in a tire-flipping race. Johnson said both men continued to work even after production on the movie had ended for the day. "On a side discipline note, just wait 'til you see the insane shape my boy Efron got in for our movie. Proud of the hard work he put in. That's the way you make a character 'Iconic,'" Johnson wrote on Instagram. The Rock has yet to comment on his friend and former co-star's physique or "The Iron Claw." 

Kevin Von Erich Responds

Though he admitted to TMZ he did not have anything to do with "The Iron Claw" and its creation, the real-life Kevin Von Erich (whose real surname is Adkisson), spoke highly of Efron and his look in a recent interview with the outlet. "I saw a picture of [Efron], he looked great. Man, I don't think I ever looked that good. I think they're going to do great," Von Erich said of the actor and the others in the movie, as well. Von Erich said while he was never a bodybuilder, he always wanted to lift so he could be better at what he did. He said "it makes life better when you're in shape and you can do things." He said he hasn't spoken to Efron personally, but his daughters gave the actor their stamp of approval. "They think he's the right guy to do it. But I don't know, I don't really watch movies nowadays ... I'll watch it and it'll be fun," Von Erich said.

It was recently announced that the wrestling legend will attend the movie's world premiere alongside Efron and his costars. The premiere of "The Iron Claw" will be held in Dallas, Texas on November 8. According to the Dallas Morning News, Von Erich is expected to attend the premiere with his family. A family spokesperson told the outlet the family is "working out the details" and they actually will see the movie prior to its world premiere.

The film, created by A24, an independent company that specializes in movies and TV, will debut in theaters during the Christmas season, on December 22. According to the film's synopsis, the film will follow the inseparable Von Erich brothers through their rise in professional wrestling during the 1980s. Efron is joined in the movie by White, who plays Kerry, Harris Dickinson, who plays David, and Holt McCallany, who holds the role of patriarch Fritz Von Erich.