WHEN DWAYNE JOHNSON hit his mid-40s, he started changing his gym tactics.“The wear and tear in the joints, it catches up with you,” says his longtime trainer, Dave Rienzi. This coincided with one of Johnson’s biggest undertakings yet since becoming the global icon known as The Rock: building a physique worthy of a superhero. And not just any comic book figure—one tough enough to be played by the biggest man in movies.
This year, Johnson turned 50 (which we discussed with him, among other topics, in his new Men’s Health cover interview). To keep the icon in antihero shape for his role in Black Adam without putting him in danger of overtraining or injury, Rienzi implements these four strategies in his routine.
How The Rock’s Strength Coach Keeps Him Healthy (and Strong) at 50
Johnson doesn’t want to train ultra-heavy, so he makes lighter loads challenging. He’ll often do a set of an isolation move (say, a chest cable fly), then immediately follow up with a compound move (say, a bench press). The iso move leaves his chest fatigued, making the compound move harder, even with a moderate weight.
2. Do Glutes for Days
“We really prioritize training the posterior chain,” says Rienzi. Johnson does Romanian deadlifts 2 or 3 times weekly in order to attack his back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings. Glute muscles help protect the lower back—and keep him explosive.
3. Squat Late
Most lifters do squats early in their workout. Johnson often does them as the last move of leg day. That means his leg muscles are already burned out from other lifts (like those Romanian deadlifts!), so he can tax his quads and hamstrings with a moderate weight.
4. Slow. It. Down.
During at least 2 moves in every workout, Johnson concentrates on time under tension. He’ll grab a moderate weight for, say, a biceps curl, then curl up, squeeze his biceps, and slowly lower the weight for 4 seconds. “Thirty-five-pound dumbbell curls with a 4- second negative for 10 reps is a brutal exercise,” Rienzi says. Do 3 to 4 sets. Enjoy the burn.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men’s Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He’s logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men’s Health in 2017, he served as a sports columnist and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.