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July 19, 2021 10 min read

Sylvester Stallone has been a film icon for nearly fifty years. It’s not easy to maintain a career of that length, especially when your image is tied to your physique the way Sly’s has been from the beginning.

Even before he made a huge splash playing Rocky Balboa, Stallone was busy building muscle. The fact that his fitness routine, although altered, has lasted through Rambo and up to more recent movies like The Expendables demonstrates Sly’s staying power and the effectiveness of his fitness routine.

No workout plan is complete without the right supplements. Read on to find out how Stallone got his ripped form and what additional supplements he uses to maintain his physique even in his seventies.

Sylvester Stellone as Rocky Balboa in Madame Tussauds Hollywood wax museum

Building Muscle Like Rocky Balboa

You can blast Eye of the Tiger and run up the steps to the Philly Art Museum but there are some parts of the Sylvester Stallone workout routine that are best left to the master. Sly himself has admitted that some of the tactics he used to build muscle during filming of Rocky III and Rocky IV were unhealthy and left him feeling lightheaded and woozy at times.

If you’re trying to get fit and looking to Sly as a role model, make sure you don’t push it too far. He may have survived into his seventies, but he has also had the benefit of trainers and advisors ever since he became a film star following the success of the first Rocky film.

Bodybuilding actors like Sly and Arnold Schwarzenegger are great role models because they have accomplished great things, but that doesn’t mean everyday people should emulate them. We don’t all need to look like John Rambo to be healthy - most people simply don’t have the time commitment to build up the strength and constantly pay attention to dieting and working out to reach the professional level.

If there’s one thing you can take from the Rocky movies and Stallone in real life, it’s the dedication to the grind. You may only have an hour or two to commit to the gym a few days a week, but make sure you fill that time with the right exercises and keep your energy level high so you can push your muscles as far as they will go.

Don’t forget that every decision you make in your diet plan and throughout the day impacts your fitness regime and moves you further from or closer to your goals. Keep that Balboa mentality and you’ll be better prepared to push through the hardest parts of your routine and meet your gains goals more readily.

What Does Sylvester Stallone Eat?

Most pro weightlifters and bodybuilders will tell you that, while supplements are fantastic for giving your body more of the nutrients it needs to build muscle safely, they’re only as good as the rest of the diet that surrounds them. Your body can’t survive on supplements alone - it needs nutrients from real, whole foods as well.

When Stallone was on the set for one of his most famous movies, he was practicing some pretty incredibly unhealthy eating habits. Sugar-free gum and coffee with honey were favorites, along with sparse amounts of tuna and brown rice. The gum was to curb his appetite.

Stallone was down to the lowest body fat percentage of his life during filming for Rocky IV, but it was not a sustainable or healthy stage for him. In more recent years, Sly has steered away from such breakneck dieting. He still adheres to fairly strict standards to stay fit, but he also takes care to get the nutrients his body needs to stay healthy rather than depriving himself of food to shred fat constantly.

The movie star’s current meal plan includes many things you might expect from someone trying to stay in their best shape, such as lean protein sources, whole grains, bananas, vegetables, and plenty of water. Sly Stallone avoids trans fats, processed ingredients, and junk food.

Complex carbohydrate sources like oatmeal and pumpernickel help give Sly the energy he needs to get through the day and particularly difficult workout sessions.

While he primarily sticks to protein sources like broiled fish, egg whites, and broiled skinless chicken when he’s getting into top shape for his next action hero role, Stallone also uses supplemental protein sources to give himself the edge and pump his muscles up as much as possible.

And, unlike some other famous names, Sylvester doesn’t shy away from the occasional cheat day. He says it helps him mentally get through the leaner parts of his diet and fitness regimen.

Sly Stallone’s Supplement Stack

The main thing in Sly’s supplement stack is protein. Muscles need it to reconstruct themselves during hypertrophy and function during lifts and other exercises. Although getting the majority of your protein from food sources is the best way because they’re complete proteins with all the needed amino acids, taking it in a supplemental form gives your body the extra advantage.

Additional whey protein and BCAAs help give your body an abundance of the building blocks it needs and the smaller elements of those proteins that make the whole body system work. Stallone has also gone on the record in favor of testosterone and its positive effects on his mindset and physical ability, particularly as he gets older.

Some speculate that he may also use creatine, L-carnitine, chromium, or collagen as part of his supplement stack, but since he’s remained fairly tight-lipped about what exactly he takes to stay in shape, we can only guess. Multivitamins and perhaps high-fiber supplements when he’s aiming for weight loss might be included in this Hollywood star’s stack.

Throughout his career, Stallone has altered between building muscle mass and cutting weight so his existing muscles pop out more. Since he primarily gets to show the results of his workouts on camera, he has frequently used cardio and fat burner supplements to shed body fat and give his muscles more space to shine.

Stallone and HGH

Human growth hormone, or HGH, is created naturally in the human body by the pituitary gland. It’s a protein that causes growth in children and teenagers. A certain kind of synthetic HGH called Jintropin is prescribed by doctors for children and adults with growth hormone imbalances.

During a promotional trip to Australia in 2007, Stallone was found to be carrying 48 vials of Jintropin HGH. He was quoted as telling customs at the time that “This stuff [HGH] gives your body a boost and you feel and look good.”

By all indications, Sly sees HGH as a tool for staying fit rather than an artificial enhancer like steroids. It caused a bit of a stir when Stallone received a fine for bringing the HGH into Australia, but there wasn’t much of a lasting hit to his reputation.

Anyone who is trying to emulate Sly in their fitness routine should understand that he not only has far more time and resources to put into his own exercise and health routine, but he also has higher stakes if he’s not in shape for a role. If he’s also using supplements that aren’t available to most people, the results of his routine might not translate if you try them yourself.

Sylvester Stallone attends 'The Expendables 3' Premiere

The Sylvester Stallone Workout Routine

Sly trained under former Mr. Olympia Franco Columbu to get in shape for Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1985. Speaking about this period, costars and others around Stallone during filming marvel at how he completely retooled his body.

He would wake at 5 AM and hit the gym before putting in a full day of work filming. After that, he would go back to the gym for another workout. Overall, he did four hours of training a day for 8 months or more.

When you see him on screen, don’t forget that Sly went above and beyond to fully transform himself into Rocky, Rambo, and other action heroes. When he was going through this process, there were a few exercises he favored to get ripped muscles and also build strength.

The ripped physique wasn’t just for the camera - Stallone wanted his characters to be authentic and he would go to great lengths to make sure they were, even going through SWAT and archery training before Rambo: First Blood Part II. Here are some of the moves Stallone uses in his workout routine to make sure he looks his best:

  • Lat Pull Downs

  • Few back exercises enjoy the stellar reputation of lat pulldowns. The latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle on the back of your body and so working it out will make a huge difference in how your upper body looks. If you want developed wing muscles and a rippling neck, pulldowns are what you need.

    Stallone probably used a machine for his pull-downs, but resistance bands are a fine alternative as well. You can attach them to an anchor point like a doorway in your home or office to sneak in a small workout whenever you can find the time.

    All you have to do is get the band attached to an anchor point and then get on your knees with the band pulled toward you just enough so that there is no slack remaining.

    Your arms should be completely straight in the starting position and bend at the elbows as you pull the band back. When your elbows are at a perfect ninety-degree angle, you can return to the starting position to complete one rep.

  • Barbell Curls

  • A weightlifting classic, barbell curls are a favorite of every chiseled action hero to date. There’s just no better way to get the huge biceps you need to attract attention on a movie poster.

    Granted, some also use dumbbells to do biceps curls and tricep extensions. But moving the two biceps together during barbell curls helps even out the exertion and build strength evenly on both sides of the body.

    They’re typically done in a standing position with the barbell held in an underhand grip in front of your waist. Bend your elbows so that the bar comes up to your chest and your elbows are at an acute angle. Slowly return the bar to your hips to complete one rep.

    You can also do incline dumbbell curls if you want to target more arm muscles than just the short head of the biceps brachii. The brachialis and long head of the biceps brachii will be activated when you do incline dumbbell curls.

  • Dumbbell Flyes

  • Although the bilateral barbell curling motion is more efficient and builds strength more evenly, dumbbell flyes allow you to activate your arm, shoulder, and chest muscles from a new direction. Plus, the positioning of dumbbell flyes leaves room to work both arms at the same time so you can still work out both sides of your body evenly.

    The dumbbell flye can be a bit risky if you use the wrong form or get going too fast. One of the best ways to mitigate this possible risk is to use resistance bands. This way, you can be sure you’re using the right form and also apply pressure to your muscles throughout the exercise rather than only during the first two-thirds of it.

    Lie flat on your back on a bench with the dumbbells in each hand. Wrap the band around both weights and then underneath the bench, just as you would if you were doing a banded bench press. Extend both arms out to either side until they’re even with the height of the bench.

    Now that you’re ready to go, lift the weights until they’re directly above your chest. Hold them for one or two seconds when they’re together at the top of the move and then return them to the starting position to complete one rep.

  • Incline Bench Press

  • An incline bench press is just the same as a standard bench press except that the bench back is raised a bit. This incline focuses the activation more on the upper pecs so that you can develop a more specific part of your chest. For movie stars, this is important so that they still look chiseled even in medium close-up shots.

    This move works your upper body more like a shoulder press than a traditional bench press. You still need to set your weights the same way you would for a normal bench press, then lie back until you’re firmly resting on the bench.

    Now take the barbell out of the rack and place it on your chest. Raise it above your chest until your arms are fully extended and hold it for one or two seconds before lowering it slowly back to your chest. Make sure you have a friend or personal trainer to spot you in case the barbell gets too heavy for you.

  • Leg Curls

  • It’s not all about the upper body for action heroes like Sly Stallone. You have to look ripped from head to foot, which is why the leg press is such an important exercise. Most of the time, people use a machine to complete this exercise, although you can also use DIY methods or a resistance band to get a similar effect.

    The machine is fairly self-explanatory once you’re standing in front of it. Set your weight plates as you need them and then get onto the machine with your stomach on the bench section and your calves against the round roller cushions.

    Kick your legs out to meet the resistance of the weight plates and give all your leg muscles a workout. Repeat for 10 - 15 reps and do a few sets on leg day. If you don’t have access to a gym or a leg press machine, you can lie flat on your back on a yoga mat and wrap the middle of a long loop band underneath both feet while holding each end in either hand.

    Once you’re in this position, raise both knees above your chest until they’re bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly extend your legs until they’re straight again and then repeat until all reps are complete.

    Looking Like Sly

    If you want to try and level the playing field between yourself and Sylvester Stallone, you’re going to need some supplements. We recommend you get the T-boosters and anabolic primers in our Ultimate Mass Stack.

    These supplements aren’t a magical powder that will instantly turn you into Rambo, but they will give your body what it needs to get into prime shape. Keep up a healthy nutritious diet and a rigorous workout routine and you’ll be muscled up in no time.


    Sylvester Stallone has acted in some of the most successful action movie franchises ever filmed. He dedicated himself to transforming his body in ways that few others ever have and as such makes a great role model for people who want to cut fat and build muscle mass.

    Follow the tips in this guide and copy some of the supplements from Sly’s routine and you’re sure to be in the best shape of your life.