When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shares footage of one of his workouts, it pays off to pay attention. Unlike many of his Hollywood peers, the big man genuinely knows what he’s doing in the gym without being guided by a top-tier trainer (he does work with a strength coach, Dave Rienzi, to help design his programs, but Johnson usually trains solo). You can pick up some helpful tips by following along and implementing those muscle and strength building principles at home.
We usually highlight Johnson’s workouts through his Instagram posts, but the actor decided to switch up his social strategy with his latest routine. The Rock shared a series of Instagram stories to offer his fans a “warm invite” into his Iron Paradise to show off a series he calls the”21 Gun Salute” (and promote his latest Project Rock drop).
Johnson starts off with some med ball core work, crushing sets of Russian twists and an elevated v-up. The next few clips, however, lead into the workout’s namesake, as Johnson chalks up, then drags a pair of chains over to a barbell for some curls.
We’ve seen Johnson hit the 21s rep scheme before, but then, he was using a standard barbell with plates. Here, he takes on the biceps blaster with chains, a staple for many of his routines, added for resistance. The clanking links aren’t just to make his lifts louder and more badass—working with chains offers a totally different experience because of their variable resistance. Instead of just static weight, you’ll feel the load lighten through the eccentric (lowering) phase of the movement as more links of the chain fall to the floor. Once you start the concentric (lifting) phase, the load gets heavier as those links leave the ground.
Johnson’s 21 Gun Salute is also striking because of his smart setup, according to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “This is one of the strongest-looking humans out there, and he’s curling… the 45-pound bar with some chains attached. He’s not ego-lifting, but watch his technique: Heavy reps, minimal rock, upper arms and elbows never shifting forward. All biceps.”
That form is so laudable because Johnson ignores the typical conventions to work within the range of his own body. “He’s not curling to his chest (an arbitrary standard), but he’s focusing on curling as high as he can without letting those elbows shift forwards,” says Samuel. “That’s biceps isolation at its finest, and it’s here that the barbell curl gets to do its best work, organically challenging your forearms to supinate hard as you curl.”
While it appears that Johnson is repping out standard curls through the two frames he shared, you can hit a true 21 series by performing 3 types of curl per round: 1 set of 7 reps lifting to the halfway point of a standard rep (forearms parallel to the ground), 1 set of 7 reps lifting from the halfway point to the top of a rep, and 1 set of 7 full reps. Try 2 to 3 rounds to really build your biceps.