There’s no question that at the peak of Sylvester Stalone’s movie trilogy Rocky, he was in the best shape of his life aesthetically and strength wise. He was very muscular and lean, but not too big or freaky looking. In short, he gave most men a realistic and achievable look that could be attained by anyone who trained diligently and consistently.
We received glimmers of what a true Rocky Balboa workout would look like as he trained for his title fights in the movies. I mean, who could ever forget when he trained in Russia in Rocky IV old school style while running in the snow and training in a barn?
That’s what this workout is targeted at. Attaining that lean, muscular look reminiscent of a top level boxer. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it or not, but many top level boxers are in incredible shape. They look like shredded bodybuilders, but aren’t musclebound and are lighting fast.
More than that though, they are aerobically conditioned. This is what’s so special about this type of athlete, the boxer. They seem to have the full package as far as muscle size, strength, endurance, and agility goes.
With this Rocky Balboa workout, I’d like to break it into two distinct parts for the sake of distinguishing between the muscle building aspect and the aerobic conditioning aspect, both of which are vital to attaining that Balboa-style physique.
Ok, so I’m sure you all remember the trademark exercises that Rocky was known for as he trained for his fights against Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, and Ivan Drago, among many others. Here, I’d like to implement these exact exercises that epitomized the work ethic and legacy of the iconic figure we all know as Rocky Balboa.
From when Rocky’s trainer Mickey Goldmill had Rocky attempt to chase and catch a running chicken, the iconic scene when he ran up the steps of the Philidelphia Art Museum with the hundreds of onlookers following closely behind him, and when he trained in the blistering cold in Russia to seek vengeance against Ivan Drago, the list goes on and on as far as all of the diverse ways Rocky trained for his fights.
So, without further adieu, let’s begin this Rocky Balboa workout with the muscle building aspect of his training.
Rocky Balboa workout for muscle growth
- 10 minute warm up jog
- Bottom ups 3-4 sets 12-20 reps
- Military press 3 sets 8-10 reps (1 rep in front of head, the 2nd rep behind head)
- Barbell bench press 3 sets 10-12 reps
- Body weight pull ups 3 sets 8-12 reps (1 rep in front of head, the 2nd rep behind head)
- Dumbbell side laterals 3-4 sets 30-40 reps
- Barbell deadlifts 4 sets 8-10 reps
- Walking barbell lunges 4 sets 16-24 steps
In short, this Rocky Balboa workout epitomizes how he trained in the movies. When you analyze each exercise he performed, they all had complete significant importance to his purpose of fulfilling his desire of being the heavyweight champion of the world.
The bottom ups exercise which he performed helped to greatly strengthen his core, glutes, and hip flexors. He of course didn’t opt for the easier “bending-of-the-knees” version of the exercise. He instead kept his legs completely straight as he raised them to where his entire torso was lifted off of the ground while in a lying position, leaving only his scapula’s touching the floor. Talk about difficult!
I’m sure we all remember when he performed barbell military presses while his trainer Mickey was by his side helping to psyche him up. Rocky did these in a front to back alternating fashion. He started his first repetition with the barbell in front of him.
Then, while the barbell was in the top position overhead, he lowered the weight behind his head instead of back in front. He then raised the weight back up from behind his head and lowered it once more in front of his head. This alternating fashion became very popular after the movies and can still be seen being done today. The exact same technique was used by Rocky when he performed pull ups as well.
If you might have noticed, the dumbbell laterals exercise listed requires you to do a very high number of repetitions. This is reminiscent of a clip they showed when Rocky was training where he went up to 50 repetitions! This exercise not only helps to build width on your frame, but also to greatly increase your muscular endurance.
Endurance in your shoulders is extremely important for boxing as you need to have the stamina to be able to keep your arms raised and ready to strike for long periods of time. Fatigued shoulders means that you’ll get “heavy arms” and they’ll want to drop (rest). This leaves you wide open for the opponent to take advantage. So, high reps when doing dumbbell lateral raises are very important and very effective at increasing your upper arm’s muscular endurance.
There’s no question as to the many benefits of dead lifting. This exercise is bar none one of the most influential and effective movements out there. It not only helps to develop strength in the lower back, glutes, and thighs, but it’s also a great size building movement as well.
After this exercise you’ll then do walking barbell lunges. This movement is reminiscent of when rocky did lunges outside with a wooden post rested behind his shoulders. See, even Rocky never missed leg day!
Rocky III pre-fight
Rocky III 2nd fight
Rocky Balboa workout for improved aerobic condition
- Jump rope 15-20 mins
- Punching bag 3 sets 3 mins
- Speed bag 3-4 sets 3 mins
- 3 mile jog
These four aerobic condition exercises are all vital to boxers everywhere and can easily be seen being performed in the Rocky movies by Balboa himself. All it require’s of you is high levels of endurance and will, and perhaps some boxing gloves.
If you can complete this entire workout, even with the 3 mile jog finisher, then you’ve truly displayed a beyond average performance. Oh yea, and I’m sure that your glad you won’t have to chase any chickens with this workout either, huh?
Also, just as a quick reminder, it would definitely not be a good idea to do this endurance workout immediately after or before the previous muscle building workout. If you can manage, try to put them on opposing days to ensure that proper neuro-muscular recovery has taken place.
Rocky Balboa workout final thoughts…
Ready to step in the ring? This is how the legend trained, how he built his physique, and how he became the world heavy weight title holder! (In the movies that is…) Though some of these exercises may seem to be on the difficult side, don’t worry. For every complicated exercise or movement that exists, there is always a simpler version of it that it was built upon from. A starting point if you will. And if you have to start from this “beginner” phase, then by all means do so.
Don’t try to do more than you can in an attempt to merely imitate this Rocky Balboa workout. Remember to be patient. So, put on the gloves, jump in the car, and get ready to spar! On second thought, you may want to keep your gloves in your bag until you arrive at the gym…