Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is one of very few people we’d call a ‘must-follow’ on Instagram. That rarified status isn’t just because it’s fun to get an inside look at the life of one of the most popular people on the planet (and his absurd cheat day meals)—it’s because you’ll learn something just about every time he posts a workout video from the gym.
Johnson’s most recent training post is a perfect example of his smartly-structured routines. While other guys his size might only be interested in showcasing their massive muscles pushing through reps with as much weight as possible, he’s comfortable documenting all the work he’s putting in with loads that many lifters would be able to manage.
The workout, which is a multi-exercise biceps and triceps pump extravaganza, doesn’t require Johnson to pile on the plates to get his muscles going. Instead, he focuses on quality reps using picture perfect posture to make the most out of every single movement.
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Johnson begins the session with a quick stir the pot move on an exercise ball to activate his core, then jumps straight into the arm action. He grabs dumbbells for biceps curls and alternating curls before jumping to the cable machine for triceps pressdowns. He keeps cycling between the bis and tris: a curl variation with an E-Z bar followed by more pressdowns, then a well-positioned concentration curl variation we’ve seen from him before paired with overhead cable extensions. (Here’s the full breakdown if you want to try the workout yourself.)
The order of his movements allow him to save time—during his biceps exercises, he’s allowing his triceps to rest and recover, and vice versa—making this a super effective arm day pump. But the use of smaller weights is even more striking.
“The dude never curls more than a 30-pound dumbbell,” says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “But his upper arms are never not perpendicular to the ground. And he’s curling up only as far as he can get while keeping them perpendicular, so total focus on the biceps here.”
And he’s not just rushing through mindlessly, either. Johnson is clearly taking his time and working hard to squeeze at the top of each rep, emphasizing his focus and mind-muscle connection. The sweat clearly soaking through Johnson’s shirt is proof enough that this is no walk in the park.
Keeping the weights low is also a practical measure. Someone like Johnson, who’s consistently training hard and shooting demanding film sequences, can’t afford an injury. Mixing up tempos, using drop sets, and tiring out the muscles with pre-fatiguing movements to avoid going too hard on core lifts can keep Johnson in good shape. “Because he’s an actor and he’s an action star, and his roles are very physical, I can’t structure out programs that are too taxing on his nervous system,” the actor’s strength coach, Dave Rienzi, told us earlier this year in a breakdown of a leg day session. “If he’s squatting 500, 600 pounds, obviously that’d be very taxing on his nervous system and his adrenals and he wouldn’t be able to perform properly on-screen.”
While most of the movements in the above workout are arm day 101, Johnson does bust out a more uncommon variation on the cable machine with the underhand-grip triceps pressdown. Unsurprisingly, this was likely a choice meant to make the workout even more focused on concentration.
“The best part of the underhand-grip triceps pressdown is how it prevents you from using body lean to drive the weight,” says Samuel. “You have to focus that much more intently on using your triceps to drive the weight, almost ‘pulling’ it down. Take your time on these, and you’ll get a powerful triceps contraction.”
If you want to take on The Rock’s arm day pump, remember to follow his principles. The amount of weight isn’t what’s important for your workout—it’s all about quality reps.
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