Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s strength and conditioning coach has shared some of the intense workouts that helped the already muscle-bound actor carve a superhuman physique for his latest film, Black Adam.
Over two weeks, trainer and professional bodybuilder Dave Rienzi used Instagram to drip-feed Johnson’s arm, shoulder, back and chest workouts to fans, before crowning this smorgasbord of swole with a bonus leg session.
Rienzi, who has been Johnson’s coach for more than 10 years, said his unenviable mission was to “take The Rock’s already legendary physique to new heights for the biggest movie role of his career”. And, seeing Johnson in the film, it’s clear he succeeded.
Johnson himself certainly thought so, paying tribute to his coach in an Instagram post.
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Referring to his transformation as "one of the most gruelling, intense and demanding commitments of my entire career", he credited Rienzi with creating the perfect balance of "health, wellness, balance, diet, discipline and iron" over a year to nail the superhero physique and help Black Adam shoot straight to number one at the US box office.
Now, thanks to Rienzi, you can try some of Johnson’s workouts for yourself as part of an Instagram video series dubbed “Building Black Adam”. This includes, Rienzi says, “four of the workouts I designed to take DJ through this Black Adam transformation” as well as a bonus leg day, due to popular demand.
“Black Adam is really the culmination of DJ’s career to date,” Rienzi wrote. “This is his biggest movie role – his first time in the DC universe. I’m going to give you a peek behind the curtain of what we did to achieve this iconic look.”
Before launching into the first workout, Rienzi explains how Johnson’s training changed over time in the lead-up to the film. In the 12 months before filming, and while shooting, Johnson’s training was broken down into four phases, as Rienzi explains.
“Phase one was really about building that superhero physique; phase two was maintaining that foundation while filming; phase three and four were both about prepping for specific shirtless scenes. Remember, there was no padding in the suit, and we had to hold that physique for the entire film.”
The first gym session Rienzi released might be one of the most in demand: Johnson’s arm workout. It follows the same formula for both biceps and triceps, performing one exercise for four high-volume sets with just 30 seconds of rest in between, then four 12-rep sets of another movement with longer 60-second rests, before finishing with a fatiguing tri-set (three exercises performed back to back with no rest in between).
Next up is Johnson’s shoulder session. While most of the six exercises featured will probably be familiar to you, what struck us was Rienzi’s use of tempo. He employs slow, controlled negatives to target the muscles.
For his back workout, Rienzie prescribes variations of well-known muscle-building moves – for example, using the reverse-grip pull-down instead of the traditional lat pull-down, and substituting bent-over rows for T-bar rows. He also varies the rep scheme between movements, introduces more tempo training to maximise time under tension, and ends the session with a tri-set which is fast becoming one of our favourite workout finishers.
In this chest workout, Rienzi programmes just four moves and a tri-set finisher, proving once and for all that quality trumps quantity. Stalwarts like the dumbbell bench press and a seated cable flye variation make an appearance, but Rienzi brings his expertise to bear on the tempo and rep schemes to challenge Johnson’s chest.
Given his penchant for lifting heavy, you might expect squats and deadlifts to dominate Johnson’s leg day workout. However, squats don’t feature until the latter stages of the session, and deadlifts are omitted entirely in favour of exercises like the hip thrust, leg extension and the abduction machine. There is also a tasty tri-set midway through to make sure your ability to ascend a staircase is compromised the day after the workout.
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