Sylvester Stallone’s Dangerous ‘Rocky’ Diet & Workout Plan

Hey yo Adrian, it’s the Rocky workout and diet plan! Okay, okay, we promise no more bad impressions. But anyone who grew up in the last quarter of the 20th century will certainly understand the reference. Thanks to franchises like Rocky and Rambo, Sylvester Stallone became one of the biggest names in Hollywood by the mid-1980s (and beyond). A veritable talent both on-screen and off, he also flaunted a famously chiselled physique. What fans may not realise is just how far the actor pushed himself to trim his body fat and boost muscle definition. On the other hand, he’s been synonymous with extremes ever since the start of his unlikely career.

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As anyone who’s seen the iconic Rocky training sequences can attest, Stallone knows a thing or two about hard work. One may even look at that particular franchise as an ongoing metaphor for his personal determination and subsequent success. Behind the scenes, the actor frequently applied just as much dedication to both his craft and his physical fitness. By the time he was starring in “Rocky III,” that same perseverance was pushing his mind and body to the very brink of their respective limitations.

Like Rocky or Rambo, Sylvester Stallone defied every odd on his path to glory. Yet even when it seemed like he’d fulfilled his dreams, the actor strived to take on new challenges and reach new peaks. He later admitted that his perennial pursuit of perfection left him feeling “lightheaded” and “physically exhausted” during at least one production. Should you want a Sylvester Stallone body of your own, we suggest modelling your ambitions after either the early or later part of his career, though you still have your work cut out for you. Meanwhile, his Rocky III and Rocky IV training regimens were downright dangerous. Here are the deets.

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Who is Sylvester Stallone?

Sylvester Enzio Stallone originally hailed from New York’s gritty Hells Kitchen neighbourhood. Due to complications during childbirth, he was born with partial paralysis on the left side of his face, which accounts for his unique appearance and slightly slurred inflection. However, that didn’t stop him from studying drama at the University of Miami and then pursuing an acting career. Famously, one of his earliest roles was in the 1970 softcore porn film “The Party at Kitty and Stud’s.”

By the early 1970s, Stallone was living in New York City, working odd jobs, and struggling to make ends meet. He was on the brink of quitting before he landed a handful of either starring or supporting roles. One was for the 1974 drama “The Lords of Flatbush,” which earned him some early critical acclaim. Soon, he was getting enough regular work (albeit largely for bit parts) to stay in the game.

According to legend, Stallone conceived the first Rocky film after watching the 1975 championship bout between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner. He reportedly churned out the script in just three and a half days and then submitted it to his agents. The project ended up at United Artists Studios, who wanted a well-known movie star to tackle the lead role. Putting his career on the line, Stallone stubbornly insisted that he play Rocky Balboa. Shot on a budget of just over one million dollars (plus about $4 million in marketing costs), the film went on to become one of the biggest success stories in Hollywood history.

From 1976’s Rocky to 1982’s First Blood (which introduced John Rambo), Sylvester Stallone cultivated a unique brand of talent. Despite his meathead-like disposition, the man continued to demonstrate serious creative chops. Not only did he write or co-write a number of major screenplays, but he often took on directing duties throughout his career. All the while, he continued to train his body, putting him alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of cinema’s most muscle-bound movie stars.

Age: 74 years
Height
: 5 ft 10 inches
Weight: approximately 190 lbs
Movie career: 1974 to the present

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Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Rocky’ Diet Plan

Diet and nutrition play a role in Rocky’s training as early as the first film when Stallone chugs raw eggs from a tall drinking glass. Behind the scenes, the actor’s diet plan was no less extreme. That theme continued well into his career and only grew more intense with each subsequent film. By Rocky III, the actor was practising some dangerous eating habits in his pursuit of lean body mass and bulging muscles.

Back in 2017, Stallone posted a rare photo from the set of Rocky III, in which he’s performing a handstand (or “fist” stand) inside the ring. While he appears to be in top shape, he revealed that his diet plan was leaving him in a state of mental and physical exhaustion. Specifically, he wrote the following:

“I was on a very high protein diet which did not provide much physical or mental energy. During the period I only ate very small portions of oatmeal cookies made with brown rice and up to 25 cups of coffee a day with honey and a couple of scoops of tuna fish. Sounds incredible right? At the time my body fat got down to 2.9 which is a really dangerous level. I may have looked pretty good on the outside but inside it was (a) very dangerous thing to do.”

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Stallone went on to write that the film was about change or adaptation and so too are his personal fitness habits. “I will always believe the adaptation is the key to survival and that’s what this story was all about,” he wrote. Nevertheless, malnutrition was taking its toll at the time, and the actor was feeling the drain. The handstand he’s performing in the photo was actually his attempt to “try to get some blood back into my head so I could carry-on with the complicated fight choreography.”

With his 25-cups-of-coffee days behind him, Stallone currently advocates for a more practical diet plan. In his 2005 nutrition book “Sly Moves,” he highlights the importance of drinking water, in particular. “Eight glasses. Ten glasses. A gallon. Lake Michigan,” he writes. Not just a way to stay hydrated, water helps curb appetite, as does chewing sugar-free gum or eating a banana (according to the actor). He also stresses the importance of cheat days, allowing for one per week.

Here’s an example of a Stallone meal plan around the time of “Rambo 4,” “Rocky Balboa,” and the first “Expendables” movie:

  • Pre-breakfast: A glass of liquid aminos
  • Breakfast: 3 egg whites, half yoke, Irish oatmeal, toasted pumpernickel bread, fresh papaya, few figs
  • Lunch: Roasted summer squash, broiled skinless chicken, salad, figs or berries
  • Dinner: Salad, broiled fish, high-fibre toasted bread; veal on occasion

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Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Rocky’ Workout Routine

Keeping both himself and his fans on their toes, Sylvester Stallone approached each Rocky movie with different physical goals in mind. For the first two instalments, his training regimen was largely centred around building mass. By Rocky III, however, the actor was mostly targeting muscle definition. In the process, he dropped his body fat percentage down to a jaw-dropping (and dangerous) low of 2.9 per cent.

“I wanted to look like Tarzan—sleek, tight, almost catlike,” said Stallone of Rocky III, in which he squares off against Mr. T’s Clubber Lang. “I wanted to forget the bulk and go for well-developed muscles.”

For Rocky IV and the second Rambo, Sylvester Stallone basically went full body-builder. Enlisting the help of former Mr. Olympia Franco Columbu, the actor wanted nothing short of bulging muscle and rock-hard firmness. By the time he stepped into the ring against Ivan Drago (played by a similarly shredded Dolph Lundgren), the effort had definitely paid off.

In an interview with Pop Workouts, Columbu said the following: “I had to charge Sly a good amount for the training because he wanted to train full out, just as if he were preparing for the Mr. Olympia contest. That meant two workouts a day, six days a week. I had to drop almost everything else in order to concentrate on getting him in the best shape of his life.”

Working with a different trainer, Sylvester Stallone continued to push himself well into the 21st century. Even in the early 2000s, he was working out twice a day, six days per week. He was kind enough to share an example of his training schedule for when he was making 2006’s Rocky Balboa through to 2010’s The Expendables. While not as dangerous as his previous regimen, it’s still fairly extreme. Here’s how you can train like Rocky and get a Sylvester Stallone body of your own:

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Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Mornings: Chest, Back, and Abs

  • Incline Bench Press (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Dumbbell Flys (4 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Close-grip Bench Press (5 sets, 6-8 reps)
  • Wide-grip Chin Ups (6 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Bent-over One-arm Lateral Raises (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Close-grip Seated Rows (4 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Raised Leg Crunches (3 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Seated Extension (3 sets, 8-10 reps)

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Afternoon: Shoulders, Arms, and Abs

  • Military Press (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Side Lateral Raises (4 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Bent-over Dumbbell-Flys (5 sets, 6-8 reps)
  • Barbell Curls (3 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Seated Incline-dumbbell-curls (3 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Concentration Curls (4 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Lying Dumbbell-raises (3 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Bent-over One-arm Lateral Raises (3 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Cable Pull Downs (3 sets, 10 reps)
  • Alternate Leg Raise (3 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Decline Bench Sit-ups (3 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Oblique Crunches (3 sets, 6-8 reps)

Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday Morning: Calves and Thighs

  • Seated Calf-raises (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Standing Calf-raises (4 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Standing Barbell Alternate Calf-raises (5 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Incline Leg-press (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Squats (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Seated Leg-extensions (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Leg Curls (4 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Leg Extensions (4 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Stiff Leg Deadlift (4 sets, 10-12 reps)

Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday Afternoon: Rear Deltoids, Traps, and Abs

  • Bent-over Dumbbell Rear-Delt Raise (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Cable Crossovers (4 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Reverse Pec-deck Flyes (5 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Barbell Shrugs-front (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Barbell Upright-rows (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Flat-bench Cable-rows to Neck (4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Ab Crunch (4 sets, 8 reps)
  • Oblique Crunches (4 sets, 10 reps)
  • Cable Crunch (4 sets, 10-12 reps)

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General FAQ

What was Sylvester Stallone's Rocky workout plan?

Stallone brought different goals and plans to each Rocky film. In most cases, he worked out twice a day, six days a week. His routine primarily consisted of strength training in order to either build mass or improve muscle definition.

How did Sylvester Stallone get so ripped for Rocky?

Stallone is arguably at his most ripped in Rocky IV. With help from former Mr. Olympia Franco Columbu, the actor worked out twice a day, six days a week.

Did Sylvester Stallone take steroids?

Sylvester Stallone has clearly taken performance-enhancing drugs throughout the bulk of his professional career. In 2007, he was arrested with over 40 vials of a Chinese HGH called Jintropin in his possession.