How did Stallone build his Best Body Ever!?
Rocky 4 Diet, Training and Physique!
Sylvester Stallone’s Training and Diet helped him achieve not only one of his best physiques ever onscreen, but arguably, one of the greatest physiques ever seen in film. Which film exactly? I’m of course talking about the legendary Rocky 4. Make sure to pick up your copy of this amazing film on Blu-ray from Amazon https://amzn.to/3AmJ261
A movie that came out in the mid 80’s that was full of spectacular training montages, no doubt motivating millions of people around the world to get into better shape. It was also a movie, released in the same year as Rambo First Blood part 2, both of which resulted in Sylvester Stallone becoming the biggest movie star in the world.
It’s only fitting he’d have a physique to match and exemplify, the hard work, grit and determination to achieve that level of success; so sit back and let’s see what it took for Stallone to build his Rocky 4 body.
Preparation for Rocky 4
Conveniently coincided after the production of Rambo First Blood Part 2; Sylvester Stallone would’ve been 38 at the time and would’ve finished wrapping up Production for Rocky 4 in July of 1985, which would see him turn 39.
That should be a great motivation for all of us around 40 by the way!
Rambo First Blood Part 2 was a film that Sylvester Stallone was in phenomenal shape for; but in his eyes, it wasn’t good enough.
“I always worked harder whenever I had a new Rocky or Rambo movie coming up.” So of course, he felt he needed to one up his Rambo 2 physique for Rocky 4″.
The last time we seen Rocky was back in 1982 when he defeated Clubber Lang played by Mr. T; in that film, Stallone was beyond shredded, make sure to check out the video I did on Rocky 3, where I broke down his diet training and physique here https://youtu.be/ihhJ9X_h5hc
Rocky 3 seen Stallone at his lightest bodyweight in all of the Rocky films, tipping the scales at just 163 pounds of shredded muscle. Instead of trying to top that physique as far as leanness goes, Sly went for a more well-built, muscular physique for Rocky 4, where he ended up weighing 173 pounds; that extra 10 pounds looked to be pure muscle, since he looked equally impressive as far as leanness goes when comparing his physique to Rocky 3.
Sly himself doesn’t quite fully agree though, when referring to his Rocky 4 physique he said,
“I like this weight because it is a fuller, rounder look, more in keeping with the old roman athletes. I’m not quite as sinewy as I was in ROCKY III, but I feel stronger.”
As far as his body weight goes, we need to keep a few things in mind; 173 pounds is not exactly huge on someone who’s around 5’9” or so.
But here’s why he looked so impressive at that weight:
1) While 173 pounds by itself is not big, 173 pounds when someone is ripped and doesn’t have their shirt on actually looks pretty big; however, in a sweatshirt, he’d just look more like a normal guy.
2) He’s pumped up, lubed up and lighted in such a way that makes him look more impressive than he ordinarily would if he just randomly took his shirt off.
As far as the pump and lube goes, the film’s makeup artist Leonard Engelman remembers that the Rocky IV crew used the term ‘pump and lube’ while filming was underway. To achieve the on-screen look of glistening sweat during Rocky’s training sequence and during his battle with Ivan Drago, the makeup team would wait for Stallone to pump up his muscles, and then the artists would “lube” his body, which created an artificially sweaty look. Add some nice lighting to that and you really see the muscles pop.
3) Stallone’s never had the best leg development; I think he could easily be 5 or 10 pounds heavier if his legs matched or even exceeded the musculature of his upper body.
With all that in mind, ripped, not quite as developed legs and then pumped, lubed and lighted properly; 173 looks and is extremely impressive onscreen.
Alright, so as far as Training goes, the Production Notes for Rocky 4 state that After Completion of Rambo First Blood Part 2, Stallone adapted a grueling workout routine under the guidance of world-renowned bodybuilding champion Franco Columbo; however, despite what the Production Notes for Rocky 4 say, that’s not quite the real story.
Production for Rambo 2 ended on August of 1984 and then roughly 8 months later, in April of 1985, production for Rocky 4 began. Based on the timeline, from what I can surmise, Stallone worked out with Franco for several months in the back half of 1984.
These workouts, according to Franco consisted of what he called HIRT (High Intensity Resistance Training), where Sly would move from one station to another, performing weighted exercises with minimal rest until he had nothing left in the tank. To me, it essentially sounds like a high-intensity circuit training routine, but looking at his arm workout, it seems that he continuously blasted the same muscle group, unlike a typical circuit where you’d do a chest exercise, move on to a back exercise, then a shoulder exercise, etc…
Here’s his Arm Routine
For example, which consisted of 4 different phases, biceps, forearms, triceps and then a wrap up
This is not really a routine I’ve ever seen anyone do and you likely won’t run across it in a magazine or online article; in fact, I don’t even think Stallone did it that long himself, because Rocky 4 was the film where Stallone switched trainers; from having started to work with Franco Columbo in the late 70s during Rocky 2, he’d switch over to George Pipasik in January of 1985 for Rocky 4 and would even continue to work with Pipasik years later for 1988s Rambo 3.
Before we talk about George Pipasik and the training though, I do want to point out a couple of things Franco Columbu said, that Sly would’ve continued to incorporate in his training.
“After training upper body, you should flex your upper body muscles because that promotes additional growth as well as burning off body fat for better definition.”
This is something that Arnold Schwarzeneggar used to do a lot of and talked about in Pumping Iron as well. You’re essentially doing a static contraction, it’s actually harder than it looks if you’re squeezing those muscles as hard as you can.
Also, in reference to the Rocky films, Franco Said,
“Sly wanted a lot of stuff in the shoulders and forearms so that when the camera came in it would look really big”.
In his book Sly Movies, Stallone talks about the Hanging exercise he does from a bar. He said the Hangs were something he started doing with Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV because it gives a huge pump to your forearms and taxes the arm and back muscles that you would never normally activate.
The way Stallone performs these hangs is with a wider than shoulder width grip, slight bend in the elbows, while keeping the bar deep in the palm of his hand.
As far as George Pipasik goes, let me give you a little background on him and it’ll make sense why Stallone wanted to train with him.
George Pipasik was born in Czechoslovakia (which has since split into 2 separate countries, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. George used to play Hockey as a teenager, during which time he and some friends began lifting weights at the age of 19. He really took to it and ended up becoming one of the most important representatives and pioneers of bodybuilding in Slovakia. You can see him in some of these pictures here where he sports a very impressive physique.
He emigrated to the United States in 1968 and actually trained Arnold Schwarzenegger for 8 months in early 1974. In 1982, he opened his own gym, the Santa Monica Bodybuilding Center. Pipasik said Sylvester Stallone became a member of the club after its opening in November of 1982. He first trained alone, then Stallone worked with several coaches, including Franco Columbu and then later asked Pipasik to be his coach and prepare him and Dolph Lundgren for Rocky 4.
So here’s how their training went down. They trained 6 days a week, hitting each bodypart twice a week. Having an entire day devoted to rest each week is very beneficial, not just physically for the body to recover, but also mentally.
As far as their split goes, it’s one of my all-time favorites: Push/Pull/Legs.
Push day was Monday and Thursday, which consisted of Chest, Shoulders and Tris. Tuesday and Friday would be the pull days, back and biceps and Wednesday and Saturday would be everyone’s favorite, Leg day; which when it comes to working out, I always like to say “it separates the men from the boys”
Pipasik actually said it took a long time for him to convince Stallone not to neglect his legs. Franco Columbu had also mentioned that Stallone didn’t really enjoy hitting his legs.
As far as the workouts go, they’d do 3-4 exercises for each muscle group, 4 sets on average with a rep range of 6-12. Pipasik said they trained very intensively, for about an hour each session. The duration of the workout makes a lot of sense, you really gotta decide, and find a nice balance between volume and intensity. The more intense workout you’d generally want to do less volume and spend less time in the gym; while on the other hand, with less intensity, you’d generally want to incorporate more volume, which would result in a longer workout.
Now the weightlifting was just 1 part of the training. Stallone would spend another 2-3 hours a day focused on boxing along with Dolph Ludgren. The boxing was done at another gym Stallone had built a few miles away in Culver City, where the two men were coached by Richard Giachetti, who worked with and guided Larry Holmes to the Heavyweight title. He’d also later be one of Mike Tyson’s trainers as well.
It should be no surprise that Stallone ended up surrounding himself with world-class trainers, and had all the motivation in the world to go after it since he was training alongside Dolph Lundgren; I can only imagine that the 2 men were trying to outdo one another in the runup to the film. Dolph had said in an interview, in their final days of training just prior to the start of filming, that they were sparring for 4 hours a day; it should be noted that at this time they did tone down the bodybuilding workouts, which by this point in their preparation consisted of just a few heavy sets for each bodypart. It sounds like they did just enough to maintain the muscle mass they built, while getting all their definition and conditioning from those boxing workouts and of course diet, which we need to talk about next.
Now, Stallone has mentioned and brought up some of the ridiculous and extreme diets he’s had over the years; specifically, the one from Rocky 3. As far as the Rocky 4 diet goes, I believe Stallone likes to exaggerate, for dramatic effect, he is an accomplished writer Afterall.
When reflecting on Rocky 4, Stallone said,
“I looked great for a little while, and it’s probably my best physique in Rocky IV, but what you didn’t see on camera is that I was quite literally running my body into the ground, and you can’t live like that.”
He continued and said,
“These days I have learned how to look after myself and keep on top of my nutrition without all the crazy stuff I used to do, and that’s definitely the approach I’d advise other people to take. Above all else, be healthy.”
“I was so unhealthy. I even went through a period where all I ate was burnt toast! Burnt toast!!
I’m thinking as far as carbs go, he probably just resorted to burnt toast so as to cut back, while still obviously eating adequate amounts of proteins and fat. Dolph Lundgren said, Stallone had his own cook on set, so I highly doubt Stallone just had his private chef turn the toaster settings on high; if that were the case, that chef literally had the easiest job in the world.
When Stallone was training with Franco Columbo prior to Rocky 4, Stallone said the diet Franco had him on was Yogurt, Yogurt and more Yogurt; but the more yogurt he ate the slower and bulkier he got, which caused him to bloat; he chalked it up to Franco’s body just being completely different from his when it came to processing food. In Sly Moves, Stallone said Yogurt slowly brought the curtain down on his and Franco’s working relationship.
So it’s safe to say Yogurt was not part of Stallone’s diet in Rocky 4.
As far as Pipasik goes, he’s a big advocate on the diet, attributes 80% of workout results to it, promotes clean natural foods and doesn’t believe in supplements. He did say Stallone likes to supplement with protein shakes though.
In an interview with the website StalloneZone, Pipasik gives us some background info on Stallone’s Rambo 3 diet; since I couldn’t find much more on Rocky 4, I’ll share the Rambo 3 diet because it’s actually a diet that makes sense and I bet had it’s origins from Rocky 4. 3 times a day he’d have green vegetables and chicken, but throughout the day he’d have oatmeal cookies and honey with his cup of coffee. During Rambo 3 Stallone would constantly pump up his muscles prior to filming scenes, which is why he chomped on those oatmeal cookies between takes; Pipasik even mentioned every 15 minutes. The fact that he also pumped up prior to filming scenes during Rocky 4 leads me to believe he was likely also eating those oatmeal cookies with his coffee during that film.
For all you guys that workout out, I’m sure that makes a lot of sense to you, I always use the analogy that without any carbs in the body, when you’re lifting it’s literally like trying to pump up a tire with a hole in it; it just doesn’t work, it doesn’t stick, you end up feeling pathetically flat!
By the way, even if you haven’t necessarily been neglecting carbs, sometimes you just have those workouts where you can’t get pumped. If you’re going through that, you need to check out my Dragon’s Blood recipe; all natural, healthy mixture you can make and blend up at home that’ll give you a crazy pump, here’s a video I made on that https://youtu.be/0RJr49F3NVc
But anyway, Stallone’s physique in Rocky 4 is absolutely amazing, I hope that background info on his training and diet was as interesting to you as it was me!