How to get a body like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: Arms and shoulders workout

 Dwayne Johnson Ultimate Performance

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

Actor, businessman and professional wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is most famous for his acting career, the ‘People’s Eyebrow’ and his epic 5,000-plus calorie diet.

He has devoted his life to fitness, and his leading roles in Central Intelligence, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and various Fast & Furious movies reflect the hard work that he has put in inside the gym.

Before embarking on his acting career Dwayne Johnson was a professional wrestling star in the WWE, making his debut in 1996. Widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, the 10-time world champion constantly strives to be the best version of himself.

The Rock has some of the biggest set of shoulders and arms in the whole of Hollywood, raising the question, how many hours does he really work out for?

Building a physique like The Rock is no easy feat, but with consistency and determination, we can show you how to build your own set of movie star muscles that might just land you a starring role in Hollywood’s next big blockbuster!

This is the workout you need to help you emulate The Rock’s physique.

The Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson workout

How to perform the exercises

This guide is aimed at trainees with a good knowledge of the exercises and how to train safely and effectively.

To start your life-changing body transformation today, visit any one of our gyms around the world or begin your online training program.

Seated dumbbell shoulder press

The set-up

  • Pick up the dumbbell using a neutral grip and sit on the bench with them resting on your thighs, close to your hip crease.
  • Position your feet shoulder-width apart, under or behind your knees and flat on the floor.
  • Lean back against the bench, using your thighs to help get the dumbbells into position, level with your chest and then up to a stacked position, with the wrist, elbow and shoulder all aligned.
  • Point your chest upwards (but keep the ribcage tucked down) towards the ceiling and tuck your shoulder blades down into your back pockets.
  • Your shoulders and glutes should be touching the bench and there will be a small gap between your lower can and the bench.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • From the stacked position at the top, “pull” the dumbbells down towards your chest with the arms at an angle of 45-60 degrees to your torso.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you can no longer lower the dumbbells without the shoulder rounding forwards.
  • Pause before reversing the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Pause again before repeating for the desired number of reps.
  • On the last rep, lower the dumbbells to the start position, tuck your elbows in and sit forwards using your legs to generate momentum. You can also ask a training partner to take one dumbbell from you at a time.

Trainer tips

  • The set-up and movement are the same as other versions of the dumbbell bench press but this angle places more emphasis on your shoulders.
  • Make sure that the dumbbells do not clang together at the top of the movement.
  • Ensure that you do not ‘shrug’ the weight up at the top. This reduces shoulder stability and increases the risk of injury. Focus on keeping the shoulder blades tucked down throughout.

Standing barbell biceps curl

The set-up

  • Pick up the barbell with the selected weight and grip with an underhand grip.
  • Let your arms hang down in full extension in front of your thighs.
  • Point your chest up and pinch your shoulder blades back together.
  • Position your elbows directly below your shoulders.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Curl the barbell up towards your shoulders.
  • Keep your upper arms still and wrists straight throughout the movement.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot move any further without your shoulders or elbows pulling forwards.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your biceps.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Keep your upper arms still and elbows fixed below your shoulders to keep maximal tension on your biceps.
  • If discomfort occurs in the wrist joints, swap the regular barbell for an EZ bar.
  • Focus on curling your little finger up towards the ceiling to help create a more intense contraction.
  • Single-joint exercises, like the barbell biceps curl, require less full-body effort than multi-joint exercises, and it can be tempting to cut short your rest period. Make sure you stick to the recommended rest interval to give your muscles time to recover and maintain performance levels.

Flat close-grip bench press

The set-up 

  • Lay flat on a bench press, taking hold of the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
  • Dig your heels into the floor, keep the glutes contracted and pull the shoulder blades down your back to maximise stability.

The movement

  • Unrack the bar (having a spotter for any barbell movement is always recommended) and bring it into the starting position.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked in tight, lower the bar back down towards your chest in its natural path.
  • Once the bar has lightly touched the chest, drive your heels into the floor, keeping the glutes contracted to press the bar back up into its starting position.

Trainer tips

  • The main reason for digging the heels into the floor and keeping the glutes contracted throughout the exercise is to create stability. The more stable your base (legs) the better you can control the weight and ultimately, over time, lift more weight and grow more muscle.

Cable W-bar biceps curl

The set-up

  • Attach a W-shaped bar to the bottom of a cable machine.
  • Stand up holding onto the bar with your palms facing up.
  • Your grip will be a shoulder-width distance apart.
  • Make sure to keep your elbows tucked into your sides to limit shoulder movement.

The movement

  • Initiate the movement by flexing at the elbow, contracting the biceps up towards you.
  • Once at the top range of the motion, begin to slowly lower the weight back down into its original starting position.
  • The movement should always come from the elbow and not the shoulder.

Trainer tips

  • Keeping the elbows tucked into your side and only allowing movement at the elbow will allow for maximum tension to be had in the biceps throughout the whole exercise.
  • Never allow yourself to swing the weight up using the lower back or jumping. This movement should be kept under complete control.
  • If your gym does not have this bar, you can use a straight bar or any other attachment.

Cable W-bar triceps pushdown

The set-up 

  • Attach the W-shaped bar to a cable stack as high as possible
  • In a vertical standing position take hold of the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing the floor).

The movement

  • Initiate the movement by extending the elbow and flexing the triceps down towards the floor.
  • Extend the arm until it is almost completely straight (keeping tension on the muscle throughout the whole exercise).
  • Once at the bottom begin to slowly flex at the elbow bringing the rope back into its starting position.

Trainer tips

  • By not locking out at the elbow, you are creating maximum tension and stimulating the triceps to their fullest.
  • Keep your shoulder blades in a stable position, not letting them hunch over.
  • This is a great exercise to add in a drop set with (perform the desired amount of reps at a given weight and then decrease).

Standing lateral raises

The set-up

  • Take hold of a pair of dumbbells and stand up straight with them by your sides with palms facing the body. Dumbbells should be held slightly away from the body to keep tension on the muscle the whole time.

The movement

  • Begin to raise the dumbbells out to the side in a controlled manner, finishing at around shoulder height.
  • Once at the top, begin to slowly lower them back down to your sides not letting the dumbbells touch the body, and repeat.

Trainer tips

  • It is important not to let the wrists or elbows rotate too much during the exercise
  • Your knuckles should be facing the ceiling once you have raised the dumbbells to shoulder height
  • In order to keep healthy shoulders, this exercise should be performed with a lighter weight under maximum control.

Face-pulls with external rotation

The set-up

  • Attach the rope attachment at a height that is at eye level.
  • Take hold of the ropes, arms straight assuming a neutral grip (palms facing).

The movement

  • Begin by pulling the ropes towards your face with your elbows up high.
  • As the rope gets closer to your face, begin to pull the ropes apart and drive the elbow back.
  • Slowly lower the rope back into the starting position and repeat.

Trainer tips

  • This exercise will not require a heavy weight, so begin lighter and focus on optimally contracting the rear delts
  • Use a smooth range of motion and do not allow momentum to creep in.
  • As you pull, ensure the elbows stay high and the rope remains at eye level.

Cable upright row

The set-up

  • With the setting of the rope at the bottom, hold the rope with an overhand grip.
  • Keep your torso still and your shoulder blades pinched together.

The movement 

  • Drive your elbows up and out.
  • Lead with the elbows and ensure to keep them higher than your hands.
  • Pause at the top for a full and deliberate contraction.
  • Lower the weight back to start position and pause momentarily without losing tension before repeating.

Trainer tips  

  • Using the rope attachment will allow your hands freedom to move and grip width to vary as you move. This makes it less stressful on the shoulders and wrists compared to using a barbell.
  • Focus your attention on the humerus (upper arm) and elbows and not the forearms and hands.

Seated lateral raises

The set-up 

  • Pick up the dumbbells, sit on the end of a flat bench bench and lean forward slightly from the waist, keeping your back straight.
  • Hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip and let your arms hang just outside of your thighs (to maintain a slight level of tension throughout) with a small bend in your elbows.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • Push the dumbbells out to your sides while keeping your shoulders depressed. Your elbows should travel just in front of your shoulders.
  • You have reached the end of your range of motion when you cannot lift the dumbbells any higher without your shoulders shrugging upwards.
  • Pause for a moment before reversing the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Do not use momentum to ‘swing’ the weight upwards. Keep control of the dumbbells at all times.
  • Keep your little finger slightly higher than your thumb throughout the movement to keep maximal tension on your medial deltoid.
  • If you cannot pause briefly at the top and bottom of the rep, the load is too heavy.
  • Single-joint exercises like the lateral raise require less effort than multi-joint movements but make sure to stick to the prescribed rest period to ensure you can maintain performance.
  • This is a complex exercise so start light and only increase the load when you are happy with your technique. Use a mirror to monitor your form.

Why this workout works

When building your shoulders up, you will need to take them through a number of different angles and as they contain a number of different muscle fibres you can hit them with heavy weights as well as lighter weights, and A LOT of volume (think 100 reps of lateral raises!).

We begin Dwayne’s “Rock Solid Hollywood Arm and Shoulder” workout with big compound strength exercises for shoulders, biceps and triceps followed by high-repetition exercises that will generate a large amount of blood flow to create a pump the likes of which you’ve never experienced before!

Incorporating supersets and giant sets will ensure the intensity required to ensure maximum results in minimum time so be strict on your rest periods as resting too long is the quickest way to kill your workout intensity.



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