How J.K. Simmons Got Jacked—With Zac Efron’s Abs Trainer
Former Marine turned trainer Aaron Williamson, who’s worked with everyone from The Rock to Stallone to Efron, on how the ‘Whiplash’ star got so shredded up.
You caught a glimpse of them creeping out of the corners of his tight black T-shirt in Whiplash, but now actor J.K. Simmons has officially entered beast mode.
On Wednesday, trainer Aaron Williamson posted a pair of photos of the Oscar winner lifting weights at the gym, showcasing bulging biceps and veins that all but leapt through your computer screen and slapped you across the face. Simmons, who is 61, has given a whole new meaning to the “old-man strength.”
Wiseass Miles Teller-types beware.
Williamson is a former Marine and trainer to the stars, having helped sculpt the bodies of Jamie Foxx on Django Unchained, Zac Efron in Neighbors, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on G.I. Joe: Retaliation (not that it needed much sculpting). The bodybuilder met Simmons on the set of Terminator Genisys, where he was training lead actor Jai Courtney. And apparently the Aussie actor’s physique gave the grizzled Simmons a bit of body envy.
“J.K. kept telling me, ‘I want arms like that,’” Williamson tells The Daily Beast. “So whenever we’d train together we started focusing on arms and to try and bring his shoulders out a little bit. It eventually became this goal where he could find a role where he could wear a tank top and give people a look at something they’d never seen before.”
According to Williamson, Simmons has been training his body since before Whiplash—with an additional trainer, Dana Perri—but in the past year the two have “taken it to the next level,” doing a mixture of physique training, blood volume work, and traditional weight training in order to “make certain areas more round and make things pop more.”
“We don’t do a lot of bench work,” says Williamson. “J.K. has little aches and pains here and there, so we do a lot of what I call ‘blood volume training’ where you hit the muscle from different angles and hit it in a way where you’re doing supersets and drop sets, so you’re really stressing the muscle out without using heavy weights which is much easier on your joints and tendons.”
There’s been speculation that Simmons is getting jacked for his role as Commissioner Gordon in the upcoming Justice League films, taking over for Gary Oldman. “If he’s preparing for Justice League, I don’t know about it. This was just a personal goal of his he was trying to achieve,” adds the training expert.
Here is, according to Williamson, Simmons’s training regimen, which opens with about 15-20 minutes of cardio to get the blood moving (Note: DB = dumbbell):
· Rope Pressdowns superset with Overhead Rope Pressdowns — 4 sets (each) x 10-12 reps · Standing DB Curl superset with 1 arm DB Preacher Curl — 4 sets (each) x 10-12 reps · Bench Dips superset with DB Tricep Kickbacks — 3 sets (each) x 12-15 reps · Standing EZ Curl Bar superset with High 1 arm Cable Curl — 3 sets (each) x 12-15 reps
· Seated Crunch Machine — 4 sets x 15-20 reps (2-3 second contraction) · Hanging Leg Raises — 4 sets x 15-20 reps (controlled reps) · Planks — 3 sets max hold
Simmons’s dumbbell weight can go as high as 50 pounds, says Williamson: “In the gym he’s intense and in there to get results. We’re at the point right now where J.K.’s body fat is the lowest its ever been at well under 10 percent.”
Williamson called training with Dwayne Johnson “a highlight,” but the actor he’s worked the most with is Johnson’s Baywatch co-star Zac Efron. The two met on the 2012 movie The Lucky One, where Efron was tasked with transforming his Disney Channel body into that of a Marine sergeant, and now, after the gun show that was Neighbors, the ex-High School Musical star has become known for his buff physique.
As for how Williamson got Efron those Neighbors (and Neighbors 2) abs, well, a lot of it has to do with eating right. “Zac is very, very disciplined when it comes to his nutrition,” says Williamson. “It wouldn’t be weird for him to be out somewhere and have an alarm set where he’d need to eat. Not everyone is like him in the sense of being willing to do that.”
“It was a lot of lean proteins, a little bit of carbs in the beginning of the day and then we taper the carbs off,” he adds of Efron’s eating habits. “He did a lot of veggies, too. We’d do carb-rotation where he’d have two to three consecutive low days of carbs and then a high day of carbs. He would eat anywhere from five to eight times a day with a protein shake or two somewhere thrown in.”
In addition to dieting and nutrition, Efron put in quite a bit of work at the gym. “He did every ab exercise you can think of, but a lot of plank work, a lot of hanging leg raises, a lot of crunches. A lot of people are mistaken when it comes to abs: The reality is that your abs are already there, you just need to get rid of the fat—and the only way you’re going to get rid of the fat is by eating right and doing cardio,” he says, adding, “and it takes a hell of a lot of work.”