When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was first positioned as the heir apparent to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of cinema’s action-hero megastar, many dismissed it as a joke. Sure, the pro-wrestler-turned-actor had an outside shot at big-screen success…but an icon? The jury was out.
Approximately 20 years after Johnson swapped the squared circle for Hollywood full-time, he reached the top of the movie-star mountain, regularly ranking number-one on lists of highest-paid entertainers in the world.
Like Schwarzenegger, Johnson’s formula for box office dominance was built on a combination of his pre-filming aura and reputation, combined with size, charisma, chiseled facial features, and regular displays of physical strength that border on unreal.
But that begs the question: How strong is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? We look at the evidence below:
[Related: How Strong Was Arnold Schwarzenegger?]
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Training Style
Johnson trained differently during his time as a college football player, a pro wrestler, and an actor. When he was still a WWE Superstar in his early 30s, “The Rock’s” training program seemed to emphasize the maintenance and maximization of explosiveness and athleticism. Training this way ensured Johnson’s ability to replicate impressive feats of power in the ring, night in and night out, without a special effects department or CGI stunt doubles to bolster his performances.
As he’s settled into the role of Hollywood’s go-to action hero, Johnson appears to have transitioned his training methodology to a more traditional bodybuilding style. He doesn’t flirt with weight totals that are on the uppermost fringes of his one-rep limits — and why would he?
Why would Johnson put filming schedules of Jungle Cruise 14 or Jumanji 11 at risk for an aching desire to know exactly how much he could bench press without his ulnas snapping in two? With millions of dollars and a reputation for reliability at stake, some questions aren’t worth discovering the answers to.
Fortunately, for our purposes, Johnson freely offers glimpses into his training routines and posts workout videos to his Instagram page on a weekly basis, so we can see the sort of strength and muscle control he’s working with.
The Rock’s Sample Workout
There are plenty of Johnson’s workouts floating around online. Below you’ll find his back routine from his prep for 2019’s Hobbs & Shaw with trainer Dave Rienzi:
Johnson and his team provide full workouts for public consumption. Additionally, fans typically see Johnson going hard and heavy on the weights on Instagram. These feats include Johnson incline benching 100-pound dumbbells like they’re made of paper and belt-squatting more than 700 pounds for reps at the tail end of leg day.
[Related: 8-Time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney’s Back Workout Explained]
In most cases, these videos on social media rarely illustrate where Johnson is in the progression of his workouts, what his rep count is, or exactly how much weight he’s using. What is clear is that the Rock’s training methods are consistent with bodybuilding ideology.
We don’t see any evidence of Johnson performing clean & jerks or otherwise whipping around a loose, plate-loaded barbell like he’s preparing for a classic weightlifting competition. He does every exercise with a manageable weight — at least to him — within a rep range intended to induce hypertrophy.
So, How Strong Is “The Rock”?
While we are bereft of any concrete examples of Johnson trying to show off his one-rep max lifts, we do have some anecdotal evidence and some extrapolations to draw from.
On the Bench Press
Before we get into how strong the Rock is, let’s talk about how strong he was, or at least how much power he allegedly possessed once upon a time.
The Rock’s football teammate from the University of Miami, Leon Searcy, pegged Johnson’s bench press at around 400 pounds and his squat at 500 pounds as a freshman. Searcy said Johnson was out-lifting the veterans on the team.
For a more modern look at his power, fast-forward to an interview with WIRED from 2021, when Johnson estimated that his one-rep bench max fell somewhere between 400 and 500 pounds. That’s not much to go on, but fortunately, we have some other means of estimation at our disposal.
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Take the lift above, where Johnson said he benched 275 pounds on a neutral grip bar for five partial reps, followed by 10 full reps with two-second pauses. If the weight and reps are accurate, we could use a one-rep max conversion tool to put his total in the 430-pound range. When viewing the effortlessness with which he cranked out pause-rep sets with 120-pound dumbbells, those projections don’t seem outlandish.
On the Squat
In June 2022, Johnson uploaded a video of himself performing belt squats with what looks to be 740 pounds for at least six reps. According to one comparison of belt squat vs. back squat weights, a single belt-squat lift at 800 pounds would place his maximum squat at around 480 pounds.
[Related: 12 Science-Backed Benefits of Squats You Should Know About]
Based on the volume of reps, Johnson’s single-rep max for traditional back squats could be in the 500-pound range, if not higher. Again, these are all forecasts of potential strength, and Johnson doesn’t have many videos of himself performing traditional back squats.
How Does His Strength Stack Up?
Impressively. If exercise-to-exercise extrapolations are anywhere near exact, Johnson essentially maintained the raw strength he possessed as a 20-year-old NCAA Division 1 defensive tackle in the mid-90s. He potentially built upon that strength to exceed his marks from three decades prior.
While Johnson does not appear to lift for maximum power anymore, we can use his projected max on the bench of around 430 pounds to put his strength in perspective.
In 2019, Johnson posted that he weighed around 260 pounds, putting him in the 120kg (264-pound) weight class in the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). For comparison’s sake, that weight class’ heaviest bench press at the 2022 Powerlifting America Classic Open Nationals went to Enrique Lugo, who topped out at 230 kilograms (507 pounds), followed by Nicholas Guidice at 225 kilograms (496 pounds).
[Related: How Strong Was Ronnie Coleman?]
The fact that a 50-something actor like Johnson owns a bench press potentially within 100 pounds of some of the most elite lifters on the planet is impressive. Johnson’s also within 100 pounds of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s self-reported bench max of 525 pounds.
The Rock’s current peak upper- and lower-body strength rank him highly among athletes from all walks of life. At the same time, he understands not to lift with his ego; it’s why you don’t see one-rep max videos on his Instagram every week. He knows that potentially billions of dollars at the global box office are resting upon his massive shoulders — and that type of restraint requires a whole different type of strength.
Featured Image: @therock on Instagram
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