The Dancing with the Stars“ pro dancer raised eyebrows and got hearts pumping when he revealed his new, buff body on Monday’s episode of Dancing with the Stars.
His new physique may have caught some viewers by surprise, but his defined torso and broad shoulders are actually the product of weeks of hard work.
“After last season, I took three months off where I didn’t dance or train,” Ballas tells PEOPLE. “But a few months ago, I decided I wanted to transform my body.”
“I’m in the gym five times a week and I’ve been doing a lot of cardio,” says Ballas, who lost almost 15 lbs. in just three weeks by cutting out sugar, dairy, bread and “everything GMO” from his diet. “If I’m starving after a late-night practice, I’ll have a protein smoothie with healthy stuff in it.”
Penix says there are three components that go into a full-body transformation: diet, exercise and sleep.
“Mark told me he wanted to be transformed in less than a month so I pretty much told him try and stick to egg whites, chicken, fish and broccoli. And sticking to that diet, the weight was coming right off him,” says the trainer. “But it’s not just about losing weight, you have to make sure you are losing the weight in the right places. That’s where the exercise comes in.”
Penix – who also trains PenaVega’s wife Alexa and other celebs – says he focused on wide-grip exercises with Ballas to accentuate what is known as a v-taper, which means making the torso look like a V with the shoulders and chest much wider than the waist.
“By creating a defined, flat chest, your waist looks smaller in comparison,” explains Penix. “It makes you look like a superhero.”
For Ballas, that meant a lot of wide-grip lat pulldowns; wide-grip, behind-the-head shoulder presses and wide-grip, straight-bar bench presses.
“Marks upper body responded really well to the exercises,” says Penix. “Getting his waistline down proved harder, but that’s where the diet came in. He focused on building lean muscle and eating clean and the results came fast.”
Ballas’ workout regime was sidelined after he suffered an injury during DWTS rehearsal last week, but the dancer is still pleased with the level of fitness he’s been able to attain.
“Now, I feel like I’m on the road now to have the best body I’ve ever had,” he says.
Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (at 8 p.m. ET) on ABC.