‘Rock’ Hard

How Dwayne Johnson Prepped for “Pain & Gain”

‘Rock’ Hard - How Dwayne Johnson Prepped for “Pain & Gain,” New Digital Release
With the recent digital release of “Pain & Gain,” and the DVD and Blu-Ray versions coming out on August 27, let’s take a look at what Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson did in the gym and in the kitchen to play a bodybuilder in the major motion picture.

“On set. The last day of “Pain and Gain.” Insane true story – murder, mounds of coke and bodybuilder fanny packs. Been a helluva ride…”

That simple but telling Twitter post by Dwayne Johnson back on June 4, 2012 summed it all up. The man know worldwide by his legions of fans as “The Rock” has become an icon in a number of venues and being a Hollywood star is merely one of them. But his latest film – and the fact that he already loves the sport – has put him square onto the bodybuilding map.


Paramount Pictures is releasing “Pain and Gain” on April 26 and Johnson is playing an aspiring bodybuilder who doubles as a aspiring criminal. At 40 years of age, he looks bigger and better than ever and is convincing on all aspects. Johnson is a man who immerses himself in the role and ensured that his preparation was on point, the same –if not more – as if he were entering a bodybuilding contest.

“Killer arms and traps workout,” he wrote on Twitter on June 1, 2012. “Handled and done. Headed to set for final shooting days of “Pain and Gain.” Let’s finish strong…”

Peaking for prejudging and the finals is one thing, but getting your physique ready for months of shooting is another animal entirely. Cardio sessions before 6:00 am to get it in before the director shouts “action” for the morning shoot is just an example. Because this is a gym/bodybuilding-orientated action film, it became imperative to look the part. But that was a mere afterthought with the type of work ethic that Johnson brings to he table.

‘Rock’ Hard - How Dwayne Johnson Prepped for “Pain & Gain,” New Digital Release“He is the hardest working man that I know – period,” says MD’s own George Farah, who is known in the industry as the Pro Maker. “Dwayne is always on point and executes at 100 percent.”

The two – who are in their third year of working together – began an intense prep period approximately eight weeks out from the start of the shooting of “Pain and Gain.” But because Johnson is always in shape year round, the modifications were not drastic whatsoever.

“We add a little cardio (from three-to-four times per week to daily, still 20-minute sessions), take the carbs down a little and cut out the one cheat meal a week that he was eating,” says Farah [@gvfarah on Twitter and George Farah Diet Guru on Facebook]. “But the cheat meal that he was having was big – like 12 pancakes or two large pizzas. So we see immediate drastic results in his physique.”

For those not familiar with the “Pain and Gain” plot, it is one filled with twists and turns, with moods ranging from laughable to sad and everything in between. Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie and Johnson play a trio of weekend workout warriors driven by greed (and steroids) while calling the Sun Gym in Miami, Florida their second home. They concoct a plan that should get them rich quick, but things go awry when their victim survives. Then they give it a second go with another poor soul who ends up dead when they only intended on hurting and scaring him into giving up financial information.

By the way, this is based on a true story.


Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, a group of real-life Floridians lift weights by day and run what they hope to be an intricate crime ring by night. Pete Collins of the Miami Times News chronicled the entire case in a 1999 series of articles that detail exactly how unqualified they were for the job. One slapstick mistake after another became the norm for this group of juiced up wannabes, and the ‘Sun Gym Gang,’ as the scribe christened them, began to see their empire crumble.


‘Rock’ Hard - How Dwayne Johnson Prepped for “Pain & Gain,” New Digital ReleaseThe cast of the film is filled with actors that can pull off the serious as well as the comedic parts of the multi-faceted roles within the script, and fans of the Iron Game will flock to the theaters to see it. To make it even better, the fact that Johnson is a huge bodybuilding fan – and considers Muscular Development his favorite magazine in the industry – gives “Pain and Gain” even more credibility in the eyes of the bodybuilding community, as he received a big compliment from none other than eight-tie Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman.

“The Rock looking huge in his Pro Source supplement shirt,” Coleman wrote in a Twitter post, and Johnson replied, “Ready for the Olympia, Big Ron.”

As a matter of fact, it was through Johnson’s reading of Farah’s MD column that was the catalyst of them joining forces. “He knows a lot about bodybuilding,” Farah says with a hint of a smile, “and has a ton of respect for (bodybuilders). Dwayne once said to me, ‘I thought that I was disciplined, but to be in that kind of shape, you really need to be on the ball.’

“One time when we were in the gym together, Kai Greene called me on my cell phone and The Rock got on the phone with him and spoke for a while,” continued Farah. “He is so down to earth.”

The 6’5”, 260-pound Johnson looks as if he can oil up today, don the posing trunks and make the pose down at any show coming up. He looks that good here. The guy is simply peeled and dwarfs the rest of the cast, taking nothing away from them. Wahlberg, 41, is as ripped as his Marky Mark underwear ad days from two decades ago and pulls it off with ease, as well.

Dwayne Johnson’s Weekly Workout

‘Rock’ Hard - How Dwayne Johnson Prepped for “Pain & Gain,” New Digital ReleaseDAY 1 – CHEST

Pec Deck (4 sets X 15 reps)
Flat Bench Dumbbell Presses (4 sets X 8-12 reps)
Incline Smith Machine Presses (5 sets X 8-12 reps)
Dips (4 sets X 8 reps)
Hammer Strength Shrugs (5 sets X 8-12 reps)


Lat Pulldowns (4 sets X 8-12 reps)
Bent-over Dumbbell Rows (5 sets X 8-12 reps)
Seated Machine Rows (4 sets X 8-12 reps)
Close Grip Pulldowns (3 sets X 11 reps)


Squats (8 sets X 12-20 reps)
Leg Presses (4 sets X 15-20 reps)
Lying Leg Curls (4 sets X 15 reps)
Seated Leg Curls (4 sets X 15 reps)


Side Lateral Raises (4 sets X 12-15 rep)
Rear Lateral Raises (4 sets X 12-15 reps)
Front Lateral Raises (4 sets X 12-15 reps)
Smith Machine Front Presses (5 sets X 8-12 reps)


Triceps Extensions (6 sets X 16 reps)
Overhead Cable Extensions (4 sets X 8-12 reps)
Alternating Dumbbell Curls (5 sets X 8-12 reps)
Preacher Machine Curls (5 sets X 8-12 reps)

Dwayne Johnson’s Diet

MEAL 1: 10 oz. steak fillet, 2 whole eggs (omelet style), 2 cups oatmeal

MEAL 2: 8 oz. cod fish, 12 oz. sweet potato, 1 cup vegetables

MEAL 3: 8 oz. chicken breast, 2 cups rice, 1 cup vegetables

MEAL 4: 8 oz. cod fish, 2 cups rice, 1 cup vegetables, 1 tablespoon Omega-3 fish oil

MEAL 5: 8 oz. steak, 12 oz. baked potato, salad

MEAL 6: 10 oz. chicken, 2 cups rice, salad

MEAL 7: 30 grams casein protein, omelet with 10 egg whites, 1 cup vegetables (onions, peppers, mushrooms), 1 tablespoon Omega-3 fish oil

*On longer working days, one to two full meals are added. A meal is eaten every two and half to three hours.

Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures, 2012, all rights reserved

Joe Pietaro

Online Editor-in-Chief, Fitness RX For Men

Contributing Editor, Muscular Development

Co-host, FitnessRX Radio