Sylvester Stallone (Actor, Director, Producer & Screenwriter):

“I’ve seen a lot of changing but what I’m trying to say is that if I can change and you can change, everybody can change.”

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

Hey guys in today’s video, we’re going to talk about Sylvester Stallone’s diet and training that not only helped him achieve his best physique, but arguably one of the greatest physiques ever seen on film. Of course, I’m talking about the legendary Rocky IV, a movie that came out in the mid 80s that was chock full of amazing training montages, no doubt inspired millions across the world to get in better shape themselves. It was also a movie released in the same year’s Rambo: First Blood Part II, both of which helped Stallone become the biggest box office movie star in the world.

It’s only fitting he’d have a physique to match and exemplify the great hard work and dedication it took to achieve that level of success. So sit back and let’s see what it took for Stallone to build that Rocky IV body.

Preparation for Rocky IV conveniently coincided after the production of Rambo: First Blood Part II. Sylvester Stallone would have been 38 at the time and would have finished wrapping up production for Rocky IV in July of 1985 which would see him turn 39. That should be a great motivation for all of us around 40 by the way, we can still be in our prime. Rambo: First Blood Part II was a film that Sylvester Stallone was in phenomenal shape foreign as well but in his eyes it wasn’t good enough.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

Stallone said “I always worked harder whenever I had a new Rocky or Rambo movie coming up.” So of course, he felt he needed to one-up his Rambo II physique for Rocky IV. The last time we’ve seen Rocky was back in 1982, when he defeated Clubber Lang, played by Mr. T. In that film Stallone was beyond shredded. Make sure to check out the video I did on Rocky III where I broke down his diet training and physique (by the way linked in the description below).

But Rocky III sees Stallone at his lightest body weight in all of the Rocky films, tipping the scales at just 163 pounds of shredded muscle. Instead of trying to top that physique, as far as leanness goes, Sly went for a more well-built muscular physique for Rocky IV, where he ended up weighing a 173 pounds. That extra 10 pounds looked to be pure muscle since he looked equally impressive as far as leanness goes when comparing his physique to Rocky III. Sly himself doesn’t quite fully agree though, when referring to his Rocky IV physique he said: “I like this weight because it’s a fuller, rounder look, more in keeping with the old roman athletes. I’m not quite as sinewy as I was in Rocky III, but I feel stronger.”

What do you guys think? Was he just as lean in Rocky IV as he was in Rocky III? Comment below.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

As far as his body weight goes we got to keep a few things in mind. 173 pounds is not exactly huge on someone who’s around 5’9 or so but here’s why he looks so impressive at that weight:

1. While a 173 pounds by itself is not big, 173 pounds when someone is ripped and doesn’t have their shirt on, actually looks pretty big. In a sweatshirt, he’d probably just more look like a normal guy though. That’s actually a pretty common complaint with guys who are in really good shape, really lean but don’t have overly sized muscles. They don’t really even look like they work out when they have a shirt on, especially when they put on a sweatshirt. Put on a sweatshirt, it’s kind of like this.

Sylvester Stallone (Actor, Director, Producer & Screenwriter):

“We’re changing. We’re, like, turning into regular people.”

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

2. He’s pumped up, lubed up and lighted in such a way that makes him look more impressive than he ordinarily would if he just randomly took his shirt off. Like Drago, “I must predict you”. Lighting can also make her break you as far as how you look.

[“The Strike” is the 166th episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld.]

Jerry Seinfeld: 

“You know you might want to take the tunnel.”

Jerry Seinfeld: 

“Have you come across this?”

George Costanza:

“Yes I am familiar with this syndrome.”
“She’s two-faced.”

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

As far as the pump and lube goes, the film’s make-up artist, Leonard Engelman remembers that the Rocky IV crew used the term “pump” and “lube” while filming was underway to achieve the on-screen look of glistening sweat during Rocky’s training sequence and during his battle with Ivan Drago. The makeup team would wait for Stallone to pump up his muscles and then the artist would lube his body, creating an artificially sweaty look, add in some nice lighting to that and you really see the muscles pop.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

3. Stallone never had the best leg development. I think he could easily be 5 or 10 pounds heavier if his legs matched or even exceeded the musculature of his upper body. So with all that in mind, ripped, not quite as developed legs and then pumped, lubed and lighted properly, a 173 pounds looks and is extremely impressive on screen.

Alright, so as far as the training goes, the production notes for Rocky IV state that, after completion of Rambo: First Blood Part II, Stallone adapted a grueling workout routine under the guidance of world renowned bodybuilding champion Franco Columbu. However, despite what the production notes for Rocky foresay, that’s not quite the real story.

So, production for Rambo II ended on August of 1984 and then roughly 8 months later, in April of 1985, production for Rocky IV began. Based on the timeline from what I can surmise, Stallone worked out with Franco for several months in the back half of 1984. These workouts, according to Franco, consisted of what he called HIRT (High-Intensity Resistance Training), where Sly would move from one station to another, performing weighted exercises with minimal rest until he had nothing left in the tank.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

To me, it essentially sounds like a high-intensity circuit training routine but looking at his arm workout, it seems that he continuously blasted the same muscle group, unlike a typical circuit where you do a chest exercise, move on to a back exercise and shoulder exercise etc. Here’s his arm routine for example which consisted of four different phases; biceps, forearms, triceps and then a wrap up.

Go ahead and pause the video if you’re curious about the exercises he did during each phase. This is not really a routine I’ve ever seen anyone do and you likely won’t run across it in a magazine or online article.

“What are you doing?”


In fact, I don’t even think Stallone did it that long himself, because Rocky IV was the film where Stallone switched trainers. From having started to work with Franco Columbu in the late 70s during Rocky II, he’d switch over to George Pipasik in January of 1985 for Rocky IV and then would even continue to work with Pipasik years later for 1988’s Rambo III.

Here’s a picture of the two men on set for Rambo III right here, while Stallone’s trying to get pumped up.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

Before we talk about George Pipasik in the training though, I do want to point out a couple of things, Franco Columbu said that Stallone would have continued to incorporate in his training. Franco said after training upper body, you should flex your upper body muscles because that promotes additional growth as well as burning off body fat for better definition. This is something that Arnold Schwarzenegger used to do a lot and talked about in pumping iron as well. You’re essentially doing a static contraction. It’s actually harder than it looks if you’re squeezing those muscles as hard as you can and it’s a good reminder to do, at least for me because it’s something I’m going to start incorporating in my workouts again. Also, in reference to the Rocky films, Franco said Stallone wanted a lot of stuff in the shoulders and form so when the camera came in, it would look really big.

In his book “Sly Moves”, Stallone talks about the hanging exercise he does from a bar. He said the hangs were something he started doing with Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV because it gives a huge pump to your forearms and taxes the arm and back muscles that you would never normally activate. Dolph Lundgren said Sly not only wanted us to move like champion boxers, he wanted us to have the best looking physiques anyone ever saw in a ring. And that meant developing muscles that boxers usually don’t develop. The way Stallone performs these hangs by the way, is with a wider than shoulder-width grip, slight bend in the elbows while keeping the bar deep in the palm of his hand.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

Alright, so as far as George Pipasik goes, let me give you a little background on him and I’ll make sense as to why Sly wanted to train with him. George Pipasik was born in Czechoslovakia, which has since split into two separate countries Slovakia and the Czech Republic. On a side note, I’ve really been brushing up on my geography research since being called out on my “Who were those fighters in Bloodsport?” video, where I mistakenly said that Helsinki was the capital of Sweden and not Finland. As having Nordic and Viking roots, I’m deeply ashamed but I am American, and geography is not exactly our strong suit but I digress.

George used to play hockey as a teenager during which time he and some friends began lifting weights at the age of 19. He really took to it and ended up becoming one of the most important representatives and pioneers of bodybuilding in Slovakia. You can see him in some of these pictures here, where he sports a very impressive physique. He emigrated to the United States in 1968 and actually trained Arnold Schwarzenegger for eight months in early 1974.

In 1982, he opened his own gym, the Santa Monica Bodybuilding Center. Pipasik said Sylvester Stallone became a member of the club after its opening in November of 1982. He first trained alone, similar to what Clubber Lang used to do.

Mr. T as Clubber Lang:

“I live alone and I train alone.”
“I’ll win the title alone. ”

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

Then, Stallone worked with several coaches including Franco Colombu, and then later asked Pipasik to be his coach and prepare him and Dolph Lundgren for Rocky IV. So, here’s how their training went down:

They trained six days a week, hitting each body part twice a week. Having an entire day devoted to rest each week is very beneficial, not just physically for the body to recover but also mentally. As far as your split goes, it’s one of my all-time favorites: push/ pull/ legs. And of course, they would repeat that. So, push day was Monday and Thursday, which consisted of chest, shoulders and triceps. Tuesday and Friday would be a pool day: back and biceps. And, Wednesday and Saturday would be everyone’s favorite: leg day, which when it comes to working out I’ve always liked to say: “Time to separate the men from the boys. ”

As far as the workouts go, they do three to four exercises for each muscle group. Four sets on average with a rep range of six to twelve. That type of workout, in my opinion, is very beneficial.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

It’s classic bodybuilding. It’s a classic bro split essentially. It’s actually very similar to the workout that I do, which I bring up because some people have asked me in the comments section in my other videos on what sort of workout routine I have, so I am a big fan of that one. Pipasik said they trained very intensively for about an hour each session. The duration of the workout makes a lot of sense. You really got to decide and find a nice balance between volume and intensity. The more intense workout you generally want to do, less volume and spend less time in the gym. So, one hour makes a lot of sense. While on the other hand, with less intensity you generally want to incorporate more volume, which would result in a longer workout. Now, the weightlifting was just one part of the training. Stallone would spend another two to three hours a day focused on boxing with Dolph Lundgren. The boxing was done at another gym Stallone had built a few miles away in Culver City, where the two men were coached by Richie Giachetti.

Steven Seagal:

“Anybody seen Richie? Huh?”

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

Hey Steven, I found him. He’s here with Larry Holmes, who he worked with and guided to the heavyweight title. He’d also later be one of Mike Tyson’s trainers as well. It should be no surprise that Stallone ended up surrounding himself with world-class trainers and had all the motivation in the world to go after it, since he was training alongside Dolph Lundgren. I can only imagine that the two men were trying to outdo one another in the run-up for the film. Dolph had said in an interview, in their final days of training just prior to the start of filming that they were sparring for four hours a day. It should be noted that at this time they did tone down the bodybuilding workouts which by this point in their preparation consisted of just a few heavy sets for each body part. It sounds like they did just enough to maintain the muscle mass they built, while getting all their definition and conditioning from those boxing workouts and of course, diet which we need to talk about next.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

Now, Stallone has mentioned and brought up some of the ridiculous and extreme diets he’s had over the years, specifically the one from Rocky III. As far as Rocky IV diet goes, I believe Stallone likes to exaggerate for dramatic effect. He is an accomplished writer after all. When reflecting on Rocky IV, Stallone said: “I looked great for a little while and is probably my best physique in Rocky IV, but what you didn’t see on camera is that it was quite literally running my body into the ground and you can’t live like that”, which echoes what Adrian said to him in Rocky III: “and you can’t live like this, we can’t live like this.”

He continued and said: “These days I have learned how to look after myself and keep on top of my nutrition without all the crazy stuff I used to do and that’s definitely the approach I’d advise other people to take, above all else be healthy. I was so unhealthy. I even went through a period where all I ate was burnt toast. Burnt toast!”

I’m thinking as far as carbs go, he probably just resorted to burnt toast so as to cut back. While still obviously, eating adequate amounts of proteins and fat. Dolph Lundgren said Stallone had his own cook on set. So, I highly doubt Stallone just had his private chef turn the toaster settings on high. If that were the case, that chef literally had the easiest job in the world.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

When Stallone was training with Franco Columbu prior to Rocky IV, Stallone said the diet Franco had them on was yogurt, yogurt and more yogurt. But the more yogurt he ate, the slower and bulkier he got, which caused him to bloat. He choked it up to Franco’s body just being completely different from his when it came to processing food. In his book “Sly Moves”, Stallone said yogurt slowly brought the curtain down on his and Franco’s working relationship. So it’s safe to say, yogurt was not part of Stallone’s diet in Rocky IV.

As far as Pipasik goes, he’s a big advocate on the diet attributes 80% of workout results to it, promotes clean natural foods and doesn’t believe in supplements. He did say Stallone likes to supplement with protein shakes though. In an interview with the website StalloneZone, Pipasik gives us some background info on Stallone’s Rambo III diet. Since I couldn’t find much more in Rocky IV, I’ll share the Rambo III diet because it’s actually a diet that makes sense and I bet had its origins from Rocky IV. Three times a day, he’d have green vegetables and chicken but throughout the day he’d have oatmeal cookies and honey with his coffee. During Rambo III, Stallone would constantly pump up his muscles prior to filming scenes, which is why he chomped on those oatmeal cookies between takes. Pipasik even mentioned every 15 minutes. The fact that he also pumped up prior to filming scenes during Rocky IV, leads me to believe that he was also likely eating those oatmeal cookies with his coffee during that film.

David Anthony (Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder & Martial Artist):

For all you guys that work out, I’m sure that makes a lot of sense to you. I’ve always used the analogy that, without any carbs in the body, when you’re lifting, it’s literally like trying to pump up a tire with a hole in it. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t stick. You end up feeling pathetically flat. By the way, even if you haven’t necessarily been neglecting carbs, sometimes you just have those workouts where you can’t get pumped.

If you think your ability to get pumps broken and you’re going through that, you need to check out my dragon’s blood recipe, all-natural healthy mixture you can make and blend up at home that’ll give you a crazy pump. I’ll link that in the video description below. But anyways, Stallone’s physique and Rocky IV is absolutely amazing. I hope that background info on his training and diet was as interesting to you as it was for me. If you’re a fan of Stallone, make sure to subscribe and I’ll be sure to keep giving more great content.

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