Of all the up-and-coming action stars in Hollywood, it might have been easy for producers to look past Johnson for the iconic role of Hercules. But then again, when it comes to a role played by the likes of Steve Reeves, Lou Ferrigno, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, you can’t allow the character to devolve physically. You have to go bigger. You have to go with Dwayne Johnson. The film experienced delays at the outset as Johnson recovered from multiple surgeries: one to repair a triple hernia and another to repair two leg muscles that had torn away from his pelvis during WrestleMania 29 in his match against John Cena. But it didn’t end up affecting his on-screen look. Johnson followed a body-building split designed by Dave Rienzi of Rienzi Strength and Conditioning in Sunrise, FL. Rienzi didn’t resort to any exotic exercises or trendy equipment, instead relying on a simple, proven size-and-shred principle: unearthly amounts of volume. Johnson’s back routine, for example, which began with four sets of pullups to failure, ended up totaling 28 sets. Clearly, this exceeds by more than double the amount of sets recommended for larger body parts (12 to 16), but Rienzi emphasizes that it was a temporary approach to elicit a particular result.
“You can’t sustain that level of volume too long without overtraining,” Rienzi says.
By the time cameras rolled, Johnson was a very lean 260 lbs. Setting aside his dimensions for a moment, it’s worth noting that he was taking down nearly 5,000 calories per day and more than 500g of protein—totals that would intestinally cripple most of us. Johnson, then 40, couldn’t have been happier with the process or the product.
“Certainly, Arnold had put in time when he did Conan, and he set the bar very high.”
SEE ALSO: Mythical Proportions: An Exclusive Interview With Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson