It's 4 a.m. and the sun is only just beginning to rise over the luxurious Landmark Ranch Estates just west of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The majority of residents living in this gated community—including NFL cornerback Asante Samuel and New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall—are in their multimillion-dollar homes, still tucked up in bed trying to catch a few more valuable hours of sleep.
While most in the area aren't even close to getting up yet, Hollywood superstar and part-time professional wrestler Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson has been awake for at least 30 minutes, stretching his huge muscles and putting on gym clothes in preparation for his morning ritual. As he steps onto the porch of his 13,700-square-foot mansion, he takes a long, deep breath to fill his lungs with the fresh Florida air, and he smiles.
Once the streetlights begin to fade, the 43-year-old starts to pound the gray, gravelly sidewalks, running past tall palm trees, which stand like guardsmen watching over his neighbors' palatial abodes. Music blares from his headphones. Some may call him crazy, but he'll be the first to tell you that it's this sort of dedication to staying in shape that has made him one of the world's most sought-after action stars.
Daily morning cardio is just one small cog in the well-oiled machine that is the Rock's training regimen. To attain the physique he's spent the majority of his life working on, Johnson has to religiously stick to a strict workout and diet plan.
To fully appreciate the lengths he's willing to go to in order to make sure he's in perfect physical condition for whatever role he's readying himself for, we followed the box-office behemoth's every move for 24 hours. Just trailing in his wake was exhausting.
To attain the physique he's spent the majority of his life working on, Johnson has to religiously stick to a strict workout and diet plan.
Johnson's run is intense. It leaves his tank top so drenched in sweat he's able to wring water from it. But he's far from exhausted by his early-morning cardio session. In fact, he feels completely invigorated by it. While the idea of waking up early to get in some morning exercise might seem like a nightmare for most people, Johnson believes working out at the break of dawn sets him up for the rest of the day.
"I love putting in that hard work as early as possible to get my day started off on the right foot, mentally and physically," he says. "Depending on the role I'm training for or playing at the time, I usually smash out about 30-50 minutes on the elliptical cross trainer first thing in the morning, whether I'm at home or at a hotel, after drinking a cup of coffee. But when I'm at home, I like to hit the road as well. And after cardio, I eat breakfast."
As he mentions his morning meal, Johnson flashes his trademark million-dollar grin. If there's anything he enjoys more than putting time in at the gym and entertaining the fans—whether it be on the silver screen or in the wrestling ring—it's eating food, and he makes sure that whatever he puts into his body helps him perform to the best of his abilities.
"Diet-wise, I generally eat five meals a day. I'm very prepared and organized, and everything is planned out in advance. It's all measured depending on what I'm training to achieve. Usually I start off my day with some dead cow and oatmeal for breakfast," he explains while shoveling food into his mouth. "The other staples in my diet include chicken, steak fillets, egg whites, oatmeal, broccoli, halibut, rice, asparagus, baked potato, leafy salads, peppers, mushrooms, and onions, and then also some casein protein."
Clangin' and Bangin'
Later, in a private Florida gym, Johnson sits on a flat bench with two 100-pound dumbbells on either side of him. Aside from a handful of other early birds doing squats, deadlifts, and plyometrics, the gym is practically empty, with the only accompanying sound drifting from four large music speakers in each of the gym's corners. When you live a life as chaotic and as busy as Johnson's, quiet time can be very precious. With no one around to bother him or ask for autographs, he's able to completely focus on giving his all to the iron, and according to him, it's something that centers his often-crazy life.
"Working out is my therapy, and it's cheaper than a shrink," he chuckles. "I can't imagine my life without training, honestly. And for getting results—as with anything in life, but especially with working out—there's no substitute for hard work.
"After I've had breakfast, I get busy with a nice session of clangin' and bangin'—epic pain, epic results. I'm big on 'together we conquer' and 'train to progress,' so I like to share that on social media. I treat training like a metaphor for life—the dedication, the determination, the desire, the work ethic, the successes and the failures—I take them all into life."
Johnson is certainly a believer in practicing what he preaches, especially when it comes to putting in time at the gym. Instead of following the numerous workout routines that have wormed their way out of the woodwork over the years, he prefers to follow the tried-and-tested bodybuilder's model of lifting heavy on a regular basis so he's always making gains and putting slabs of muscle onto his 6-foot-5 frame.
"I work out six days a week, and usually in the morning. But depending on my schedule, I may also [train] in the evening," he says. "But I definitely prefer the morning. With the iron, I separate body parts: legs, back, shoulders, chest, biceps, and triceps. I mix up dumbbells, cables, barbells, and machines.
"My workout is constantly changing and adapting, but for the most part, I do 4 sets of 12 reps with a 60-90-second rest. I don't play around in the gym. I always aim to be the hardest worker, and I make sure I clang and I bang to the best of my ability."
Fit for Film
Working out for Johnson isn't just about looking buff with his top off. He also trains vigorously so he's able to do as many stunts as he physically can, and so they look as realistic as possible.
In the blockbuster smash hit, "Furious 7," and disaster movie, "San Andreas," Johnson was involved in some incredibly fun yet physically taxing stunts. As he explains while sipping on a very large cup of coffee following his early afternoon workout, it was his vigorous training schedule for last summer's "Hercules" that put him in good stead for his most recent roles.
"The lucky thing is that those movies followed on from "Hercules," which is a role I trained and worked harder for than anything I've ever done. It was eight months of clangin' and bangin'," he recalls. "I lived alone and locked myself away in Budapest for six months while filming "Hercules," and I followed that up with "Furious 7" and "San Andreas.""
For "San Andreas," Johnson had to change his workouts significantly to be able to handle the physicality that a devastating earthquake in California demands. It was no easy task.
"In "San Andreas," I play a first responder in the LA fire department, and that was incredibly exciting, working with those guys and tweaking my workout and diet to fit that character," he explains. "That role required a lot of core strength, so I did a lot of rope work and some water-based and bodyweight work. I really enjoyed that, and my respect for the actual guys who do that job increased enormously. They're real-life heroes, in the truest sense."
For "Furious 7," Johnson knew he'd met his match in terms of physicality when he and fellow Hollywood muscle man Jason Statham went toe-to-toe. Although Johnson is used to being the biggest and baddest man on set, he was happy to share some of the spotlight with Statham for their epic office-room brawl.
"The fight I have with Jason Statham in the opening scene was really something else. It was very, very cool and special. Over the years I've had the opportunity to fight a lot of guys who have great reputations in terms of being 'Hollywood tough guys,' action guys and men of action, but Jason Statham really takes the cake. I mean that with all due respect to the guys I've fought in the past onscreen," says Johnson. "What Jason brings to this franchise is an authenticity. The guy isn't just acting when he's fighting, he's completely legit. Jason's a really tough SOB, believe me."
As his day finally reaches its end, Johnson drives his gigantic Ford F-150 truck, aka "the Black Gorilla," down a long, winding road on the way back to his mansion. Despite being known for his infectious charisma, Johnson is quiet and reflective as he rides through his neighborhood. After all, most people don't get the chance to live out their dreams of being an action star, or find the time to get into the shape of their life, yet Johnson has made a career out of doing just that. It's something he loves doing, and something he looks to improve upon for each and every one of his roles.
Johnson has proven time and time again why no one can get near him when it comes to playing the ultimate action hero, and he wouldn't have it any other way. "I love it," he says, with a massive grin on his face. "Creating and maintaining these kinds of physiques takes attention to detail, because sometimes you have to back off on cardio or add cardio or train two times a day or bump calories up or back off calories. It's always in a constant state of flux, which makes it really exciting, for sure."
The Rock's Weekly Routine
For years, Dwayne Johnson has worked diligently on achieving the sort of body that men want and women want to get close to. However, the secret to his success is actually quite simple: He lifts heavy, hard, and often. Here's his weekly workout schedule. Try it if you dare. Or, adapt it to help you reach your own physique goals!
Dieting With Dwayne
The Rock will be the first to tell you that lifting heavy and hard is only half the battle when building muscle. You've also got to put the right foods inside your body. When he's not in training for a role like Hercules, for which he ate seven protein-packed meals daily, he sticks to a five-meals-a-day nutrition regimen.
The Rock will be the first to tell you that lifting heavy and hard is only half the battle when building muscle. You've also got to put the right foods inside your body.