In this series, we’re going to (re)visit some of the most iconic physiques (both past and present) to ever appear in theaters and/or on television.
In the process, we’ll research some of the specific training and dietary protocols associated with the times and the actor/actress to help put together a little bit of a sample “inspired” template.
Before Instagram and YouTube, Hollywood was the avenue we drew the majority of our fitspiration from.
Through the years many men and women have appeared in film, getting in the best physical shape of their lives to portray the roles they’ve taken on.
And while certain looks define certain eras, muscle mass transcends any duration of time.
In our pioneer installment of this series, we’re going to take a look at one of the most iconic physiques in Hollywood history, Sylvester Stallone.
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Sylvester Stallone Mini-Biography
Sylvester Stallone is arguably one of the greatest action heroes of all-time. Firmly inserted into the conversation with the likes of Arnold and The Rock (and if you want to get real lengthy with the list, Van Damme and Bruce Willis), Stallone is most known for 3 roles:
- Rocky Balboa
- and Barney Ross
For many of us, his training montages in Rocky are what inspired us to even think about training.
Sure, we didn’t realize that the imagery within the movie lacked any sort of thought-out programming and running in Chucks probably isn’t the smartest idea, but damn if you don’t feel like you can crank out some pushups and run through a wall after watching that something is wrong with you.
What made Stallone so successful at playing Rocky Balboa was the fact that he WAS Rocky Balboa. After years of struggling to land any major roles within the film industry, he wrote the movie script about a struggling and aging boxer. And he refused to sell that script unless he was allowed to star as Rocky.
The rest is history. And the widespread success lead to his next opportunity in the movie Rambo.
Both of which turned into franchises that viewers loved rushing to the box office to see (and still do to this day with the new Creed spin-off franchise and Rambo: Last Blood).
In 2010, Stallone began a third franchise which featured numerous action movie stars from the 70s-00s (a lot of which will be discussed within this series – don’t you worry). The series, written by Stallone, is called The Expendables and has 3 installments and a rumored 4th in the works.
But, what’s truly made Stallone’s work memorable, outside of his relatable blue collar persona in each installment, is the physique he’s continuously brought to their portrayal decade after decade.
Sylvester Stallone Workout Philosophy
Sylvester Stallone has been working out for decades and still goes hard in the gym now nearing his mid-70s.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on his training and nutritional philosophies during the prime of his training career.
Sly claims he stumbled upon fitness at the young age of 12. I don’t think that’s unheard of – at my middle school weight lifting was an optional elective beginning in the 7th grade. Implementing some foundation at that age is definitely helpful to promote muscle maturity in later stages of life (however, if you’ve missed the boat – it’s never too late to start).
He’s also claimed in several interviews to having been highly influenced by former Mr. Universe and the first man to really bring muscle to the silver screen, Steve Reeves.
I personally think his physique in both Rocky and Rambo really highlight this influence and would imagine he trained similarly to Reeves via full body workouts.
Prior to beginning the filming of Rambo 2, however, Stallone was asked to transform his physique by adding 15lbs of lean body mass. Having had already been visiting him for chiropractic services while training for Rocky and Rambo, Sly elicited the help of 2x former Mr. Olympia, Franco Columbu.
It was at this time that Stallone’s training took on more of a Golden Era Bodybuilding approach. For those who are unfamiliar, Golden Era lifters would often weight train twice daily. They’d also only rest one day per week.
If you’re interested in checking out some of Franco’s methodologies that he used with Sly, there’s a pretty fascinating 3 part series in which he discusses working with Stallone while prepping for Rambo 2. He provides a lot of awesome soundbites that both bodybuilding and Stallone fans are sure to enjoy:
Stallone utilized this methodology whenever he portrayed a role that required size. For roles in which he needed to have a leaner, more athletic physique, he’d incorporate more full body routines with metabolic circuits.
At this point, Sly still keeps up with his workouts and focuses more on full body workout routines utilizing exercises that are joint friendly based on what he feels capable of doing. He’s even been known to try out some of his daughters’ workouts.
Sylvester Stallone Inspired Workout Overview
The following is a 6 day workout that was inspired by a combination of Golden Era training and the exercises recommended in Franco Columbu’s series, How to Become Rambo.
It will follow a 6 day cycle where you will train arms and chest, back and shoulders, and legs and calves before hitting all of those body parts in the same order again. Some may find training shoulders and back the day after training arms and chest too difficult. It is important to know your own capabilities and also realize that what works for some may not work for others.
In Hollywood, the deltoids are often hit with a very high frequency leading into the shooting for a movie. This is because with large defined deltoids you’ll appear much more imposing simply by having a larger frame. That's the reason the program is laid out to hit the delts so frequently. If you don't feel comfortable with the order of the program, feel free to alter it in whatever way you deem fit.
It is important to keep in mind that this is a workout template inspired by how Sylvester Stallone trained during his prime. It is not the exact workout written by Franco and performed by Sly.
Keep your rest periods relatively short. 60-90 seconds should be plenty between the exercises prescribed. Letters within the workout tables represent supersets and circuits. You should not take rest periods in between these exercises until all exercises in the pairing have been performed.
Weight selection will be highly individualized. You will want to select a weight that challenges you for the prescribed rep ranges while keeping in mind the following day's workout.
The program can be followed for an 8 week training phase. After 8 weeks, you’ll want to consider taking a week to deload and recover from the high frequency targeting the deltoids.
Sylvester Stallone Inspired Workout 1
|Incline Dumbbell Press||5||10|
|Incline Dumbbell Fly||4||10|
|A1. Incline EZ Bar Skullcrusher||3||10|
|A2. EZ Bar Curl||3||10|
|B1. Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extension||3||10|
|B2. Seated Dumbbell Curl||3||10|
|C1. Tricep Cable Extension||3||10|
|C2. Rope Hammer Curl||3||10|
|Forearm Wrist Curls||3||10|
Sylvester Stallone Inspired Workout 2
|Bent Over Dumbbell Row||3||10|
|Dumbbell Arnold Press||5||10|
|Side Lateral Raises||4||10|
|Bent Over Rear Delt Fly||3||10|
Sylvester Stallone Inspired Workout 3
|Heels Elevated Dumbbell Squat||5||10|
|Ab Wheel Rollout||5||10|
|A1. Sit Up||3-5||25|
|A2. Lying Leg Raise||3-5||25|
|A3. Oblique Crunch||3-5||25|
Sylvester Stallone Inspired Workout 4
|Slight Incline Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press||5||10|
|A2. Incline Dumbbell Curl||3||10|
|B1. French Press||3||10|
|B2. Barbell Curl||3||10|
|C1. Tricep Kickback||3||10|
|C2. Dumbbell Curl||3||10|
|Forearm Wrist Curl||3||10|
Sylvester Stallone Inspired Workout 5
|Wide Grip Pull Up||4||10|
|Dumbbell Side Laterals||5||10|
|Bent Over Rear Delt Row||4||10|
|Dumbbell Front Raise||3||10|
Sylvester Stallone Inspired Workout 6
|A1. Sit Up||3-5||25|
|A2. Hanging Leg Raise||3-5||25|
|A3. Side Bends||3-5||25 Each|
Sylvester Stallone Diet
When it comes to dieting, the most important thing is finding a paradigm that allows you to have a sense of sustainability. When it comes to manipulating your body composition, everything is important – but diet and training are the things you have the most direct control over.
From that soundbite alone, you can tell Stallone has implemented several different dieting strategies in his career and it really depends on what kind of phase he’s in as to what he’s doing.
If he needs to look super lean for a particular shot, he may go with an incredibly aggressive deficit temporarily to get where he needs to be. If he needs to have a fuller look or energy while training for a role, he’ll likely have a lot of carbs in his diet.
It also sounds like he takes an 80/20 approach when it comes to dieting – following planned feedings during the week and enjoying whatever he likes on the weekends.
It all depends on the context. No one approach is superior to another.
For the purposes of this template and helping you look you best, I’d recommend deciding if you need to lose weight and get a bit leaner OR if you need to add lean muscle mass.
If you’re looking to get leaner, you’ll want to eat in a deficit. If you want a fuller look, you’ll want to eat in a surplus. Use this tool to find your daily calorie needs. Then add or subtract ~500 calories accordingly.
The majority of your results will result from your calorie intake. You might also find it beneficial to have a moderate-high protein intake to maximize your ability to recover from your workouts. Other than that, do what allows you to be the most consistent.
Sylvester Stallone Workout & Diet Wrap Up
That wraps up our Hollywood Muscle installment on one of the greatest physiques of all-time in Hollywood, Sylvester Stallone.
I think when it comes to following this series, and any celebrity workout you might find online, you have to keep things in perspective. For a lot of these men and women, it is their job to get in the best shape of their lives and their workouts and/or nutrition principles will reflect the resources they have available to get in that shape.
Workouts and diets are so highly individualized. No two people are the same. Strictly following what worked for someone else may work or it may not. Instead, take what is useful from it and apply it to your own lifestyle, and view it as motivation not a strict guideline.
If you have any questions about the Sylvester Stallone inspired workout, please feel free to leave us a comment in the comments section below!