Want the perfect workout program?Take Quiz
When it comes to developing a massive, ripped physique, we all know the deal: the Pro bodybuilding look is only achievable if you're willing to spend a fortune on anabolic steroids. But, there are a few prominent figures, admittedly not as impressive as a Mr Olympia contestant, with bodies that millions of people naturally look to as inspirational and achievable. Probably the most famous is The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson.
So, is the Rock's physique really achievable naturally, or is he secretly on the juice?
Dwayne, 'The Rock,' Johnson has admitted to taking steroids - but only for a couple of weeks when he was 18. He's now in his 50s, with a more massive and ripped physique than when he was in his 30s. Many people are convinced that his level of muscle and definition is impossible without chemical enhancement. Yet, the man continues to insist that he's natty.
So, what's the truth?
In the absence of steroid test results, or his personal admission, the best we can do is make an educated assessment based on all the available evidence. It's then up to you to come to your own conclusion.
Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, California, on May 2nd, 1972. Both his grandfather and father were professional wrestlers, which made it pretty clear in which direction Dwayne's life would go. His father, Rocky 'Soulman' Johnson, was Canadian-born, while his mother was of Samoan descent.
Dwayne's grandfather, on his mother's side, was also a wrestler - and not just any wrestler. Peter Maiva was one of the biggest stars in the WWF in the late 70s and has been inducted into that organization's hall of fame.
Rocky began teaching wrestling moves to Dwayne at the age of six. Rocky's pro wrestling career saw the family moving often. As a result, Dwayne went to school in New Zealand, Hawaii, Tennessee, and Georgia.
Now stop and look at these images of the Rock's dad and grandfather.
Both of these guys are huge. The picture of Dwayne's dad, Rocky, exhibits the ideal upper body structure of a bodybuilder: wide clavicles, broad shoulders, and narrow hips. We don't know if either of these gentlemen was on steroids (they were rife in the wrestling scene of the '60s and '70s). We can say that the Rock was born with a genetic advantage in terms of muscle-building potential.
It's also worth noting the Rock's Samoan heritage. Samoan men are famous for being stronger and more muscular than other ethnicities. If you need proof, just look at the number of Samoans in the NFL. There have been a number of theories to account for these strength and muscle advantages, with some scientists believing it's due to a strength gene called ACTN3.
We can't say for sure whether the Rock has this special strength gene. What we do know is that at the age of 17, he was already bench-pressing 300 pounds!
In a 2009 interview with MTV, The Rock admitted to using steroids for two weeks when he was 18. At the time, he would have been playing football for the University of Miami. Here's what he said ...
"I tried it. Me and my buddies tried it back in the day when I was 18 or 19. Didn't know what we were doing."
In another interview, Dwayne added that he and his friend began developing gynecomastia, also known as 'bitch tits' as a result of their steroid experimentation.
Apart from this episode in his teen years, The Rock has been adamant in his assertion that he has not used anabolic steroids.
(Image credit - WWE)
Men naturally lose muscle mass and increase fat levels between the ages of 30 and 50. That's due to a number of lifestyle factors as well as the natural age-related decline of testosterone and human growth hormone that kicks in at around age 30.
One look at the comparison pics of The Rock in his 30s and now, in his early 50s, and that logic gets turned on its head. During his wrestling career, Dwayne was what can best be described as 'beefy.' He had a decent amount of size, but the definition was missing.
Today's Rock physique is much more massive and much more ripped. So, not only has he run counter to the natural loss of muscle mass, he's actually lost body fat rather than putting it on like most guys.
Of course, between his mid-30s and now, the Rock has been working out pretty intensely and maintaining a strict lean muscle-enhancing diet. But, even still, the results he has achieved are far from normal. He is far more muscular now when his natural testosterone supply is significantly less than he was in his 20s when it was at its peak.
It could be argued that, as he has gotten older, the Rock has learned to train more efficiently and follow a better diet. However, by his own admission, he has been immersed in training and eating for results since the age of five and has been working out regularly since his early teens. It's not as if he suddenly discovered how to work out and eat for muscle growth in his 40s!
Let's now drill down on a few notable differences in the Rock's body that may indicate steroid use. Before we get to his physique, compare the man's head in the two images above.
In the earlier shot, his head is more rounded. However, the shot taken in his 50s shows a more prominent, square skull. Losing body fat will give you a squarer jawline, but it won't reshape your skull. This effect may be a result of injecting chemical human growth hormone (HGH) into your system.
Now, take a look at the trapezius development on the modern-day Rock. His traps are enormous, having grown tremendously since his wrestling days.
Most natural lifters are not able to build massive traps. But when they go on the juice, the upper traps are one of the first body parts to respond. That's because there are a large number of androgen receptors in this area.
One more physical change of note is the Rock's skin color. It's gotten darker. That may be due to a number of factors, including a higher body temperature. Steroid use may cause elevated blood pressure, which can indirectly contribute to an increase in body temperature.
When popular podcast host and former UFC commentator Joe Rogan speaks, people tend to pay attention. Back in 2022, Rogan set his sights on The Rock. Specifically, Joe claimed that the Black Adam star was lying about not using steroids and implored him to come clean for the sake of his fanbase.
Rogan's steroids accusation came in the wake of the Liver King video controversy, where fitness personality and raw meat advocate Brian "Liver King' Johnson was revealed to be a steroid user after repeated denials. Rogan implored the Rock to follow in the Liver King's footsteps and release a video explaining how and why he takes anabolics.
Rogan and Derek from More Plates More Dates analyzed images of The Rock taken straight after an intense workout. Here's a quote from Rogan, taken from the podcast:
"There's no way you can look like that, in your 40s. The Rock should come clean right now. He should make a video in response to the Liver King video. I need to talk to you because the Rock's been lying. There's not a f-king chance in hell he's clean. Not a chance in hell. As big as the Rock is, at 50? He's so massive, and he's so different than he was when he was 30. There's a responsibility you have to people who are listening to you. If you don't want to talk about it, that's one thing. But if you do talk about it, there's a responsibility you have to people listening to you and I think you have to be honest about it, which is why I'm honest about it. I don't think there's anything wrong with taking hormone replacement."
Interestingly, in November 2023. Rogan actually had The Rock as a guest on his podcast. But, rather than pressing him for the definitive answer on the steroid question, the two of them were all buddy buddy, spending just a couple of minutes admitting an image of The Rock's dad and inferring that it was all genetics rather than chemical enhancement.
There's no denying that The Rock puts in the sweat equity in the gym to achieve his superhero physique. He trains early - like 4 am early. His workout begins with 30-50 minutes on the elliptical machine. He'll then break for breakfast before hitting the weights with what he calls 'clangin' and bangin'.'
Dwayne follows a conventional body split routine that sees him in the gym six days a week. On most exercises, he does four sets of 12 reps with a 60-90 seconds rest between sets. Here's how he splits his training:
The Rock is a highly disciplined eater. He eats five meals daily, focusing on lean proteins, starchy carbs, leafy vegetables, and healthy fats. However, once per week, he allows himself a cheat meal. He has become famous for his cheat meals. Here are five of the craziest:
Despite these massive carb and calorie attacks, The Rock maintains a shredded physique. That's quite an accomplishment for a man in his 50s when his metabolism naturally slows down.
Here is The Rock's chest workout:
No, it is not possible for 99% of the population to achieve a physique like the Rock naturally. And I'm not even talking about a man in their 50s. Most guys could never build that sort of body at any age. Even a 50-year-old who was on testosterone-replacement-therapy (TRT) wouldn't be able to do it.
It should be noted that retaining muscle is more accessible than building it. As we've seen, the Rock has had a large amount of muscle all his life. He's undoubtedly added size between 30 and 50, which is likely to have been partially due to chemical enhancement. To keep that muscle, he'd be able to use a much milder steroid dose.
Having done a deep dive on the question of whether The Rock is on steroids, what can we conclude? The Rock was born with superior muscle-building genetics, and his Samoan heritage also puts him at a natural advantage in the strength and size stakes. However, the remarkable transformation that he has experienced from his 30s into his 50s simply defy the laws of science and of natural aging.
The physical evidence in terms of his huge trap development, darker skin, and changed skull shape adds weight to the claim that the Rock is on the juice. Weighing it all up, we believe that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is, indeed, a steroid user.
What's your opinion on the Rock's steroid-free claims? Is he on the level or taking us all for a ride? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
At SET FOR SET, we strive to equip you with the tools and knowledge needed for your fitness journey. Our team of experts, including certified trainers, dietitians, and athletes, brings over a decade of industry expertise. Our goal is to be your primary resource for all fitness inquiries, guiding you toward a stronger and healthier life. Sign up to stay up-to-date!