updated 03/19/2010 AT 4:10 PM ET
•originally published 03/21/2010 AT 3:55 PM ET
Forget a personal trainer.
While preparing for an upcoming film role, Vanessa Hudgens recently adopted several unorthodox exercise partners – partners who had her in tears by the end of the workout.
“I trained with Navy Seals for five months,” she told PEOPLE at Las Vegas s ShoWest movie convention. “It was the most intense thing that anyone could ever do.”
Breaking from her typical tween roles, Hudgens, 21, will star in the 2011 movie Sucker Punch, an action flick set in the 1950s. “I walk around with the biggest guns you have ever seen,” she said.
But she credits those grueling workouts for mentally (and physically) preparing her for the role. “I was bawling my eyes out because they push you so hard,” she said. “But it s amazing what you find from it. When you go so far you find a certain Zen within that and you know you can do anything. It s very empowering.”
Prior to the release of Sucker Punch, Hudgens will star in Beastly, which she describes as a take on Beauty and the Beast – but in a “modern, sexy way.”