Like his greatest enemy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone inspired millions to transform their bodies for the better. And although Arnie has always been huge, Sly is particularly famous for his muscle mass for films such as Rocky and especially Rambo 2. To reach Peak Arm, Sly recruited two-time Mr Olympia winner Franco Columbu, who recommended a exercise technique that I use often. in my own workouts today, nearly 40 years after the movie was released.
What was Stallone’s secret to adding 10 pounds of lean muscle in eight weeks for Rambo 2? According to other cast members working with him on the film, Sly trained up to four hours a day while filming the film, which is admittedly a lot of effort. The results speak for themselves, however!
But that’s not all: Franco Columbu, a former bodybuilder, licensed chiropractor and Sly’s personal trainer for the film, said Stallone used a training method called supersets to make his arms bigger and help him lose weight faster. Franco was himself an established bodybuilder in the 70s, alongside Arnie, and knew very well how to prepare quickly for big competitions.
Watch the master talk about Sly’s arm training for Rambo 2 in this video:
Sylvester Stallone Rambo 2 training: What is a superset?
Supersets are two exercises performed without rest. You perform the first exercise for the required reps, then go straight to the second exercise.
For example, you can do eight reps of strict overhead presses followed by 12 reps of overhead tricep extensions. This combination would give your triceps a run for their money.
There are a million different combinations for performing supersets; it is only your imagination that limits the possibilities. In general, you can use supersets to:
- Supplement a large compound exercise, such as the bench press, with an isolation exercise to overload the muscles
- Form the to push and shoot muscles of a certain part of the body (eg arms or legs). Learn more about what a push/pull split is here: best push-pull-legs workout
- Combine two exercises to burn more calories (e.g. pull-ups with squats)
Supersets put more strain on your nervous system because they push your stamina more than standard sets; Be careful not to apply them too frequently. Even someone as used to exercising as Sly used supersets for a specific period of time to achieve a particular goal (to build up muscle and losing weight).
Speaking of weight loss: since each superset lasts longer, your heart rate will be higher and you’ll burn more calories. Again, be careful and use supersets with caution for best results.
Sylvester Stallone Rambo 2 Workout: Build Arms As Big As Rambo
According to Columbu, Sly used push-pull style supersets to sculpt his guns for the Rambo 2. If you want similar sized arms, try making the supersets as described below.
Superset #1: Two-Hand Dumbbell Tricep Extension/Dumbbell Bicep Curl (Inclined Bench)
Set the adjustable weight bench to a 45 degree angle. Take one dumbbell, then lean against the back of the bench. You should be standing and just leaning against the bench, not sitting on it. Hold one end of the dumbbell with both hands and lift it above your head with your elbows straight.
From there, slowly lower the dumbbell, bending your elbows but not moving your upper arms. Once your elbows are at a 90 degree angle, stop and extend your arms, focusing on your triceps in the process. Repeat the movement for 8 to 12 repetitions.
Without a break, grab another dumbbell and lean back against the bench once more, arms straight, hanging, dumbbells held with a grip. Slowly raise the dumbbells in front of you by bending your elbows but without moving your upper arms.
Once your elbows have reached a 90 degree angle, stop and lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat the movement for 8 to 12 repetitions.
After that, rest for 60-90 seconds (or however long it takes to recover).
Superset #2: Hammerhead Triceps Extension/Seated Dumbbell Curls (Flat Bench)
Lower the backrest of the weight bench so that it is parallel to the floor. Grab two dumbbells (one with each hand) and sit on the bench, then slowly lean back until your back and head are flat against the bench. Raise your arms, so they are pointing up, perpendicular to the bench.
You should hold the dumbbells using the hammer grip, which means that they are parallel to each other.
From there, lower the dumbbells toward your head, bending your elbows but not moving your upper arm. Feel free to drop the weights as low as your arms allow you to monetize the full range of motion of the exercise. Then slowly extend your arms and return to the starting position. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps.
At the end of the series and without interruption, sit on the bench and lower your arms. They should be perpendicular to the ground. (You should still hold the dumbbells). Perform 8-12 reps of seated dumbbell bicep curls, making sure your arms are moving slowly and you’re not swinging the weights.
Allow a 60-90 second break after completing the bicep curls.
Superset #3: Overhead Triceps Extension / Standing Dumbbell Curls
You are done with the bench for now. Stand up and extend your arms upward, holding the dumbbells with a hammer grip (dumbbells parallel to each other).
To perform an overhead tricep extension, you need to do the same thing you did in the previous superset, only in an upright position. Lower your arms by the elbow without moving your upper arms until the dumbbells are behind your head, then slowly extend your arms again. Repeat for 8 to 12 repetitions.
Once done, lower your arms, so that they are pointing down; you are going to make curls now! Standing bicep curls are best performed alternately, moving one dumbbell at a time. The slower you can perform the movement, the faster your muscles will grow (slow movement = more muscle under tension). Do 8 to 12 repetitions of this exercise.
Bonus Exercise: Forearm Curls / Forearm Holds and Ends
Franco is an old-school bodybuilder, so naturally, he would draw your attention to body parts that only bodybuilders care about, like calves and forearms. Your forearms will be working hard throughout the Stallone arm workout because you’ll have to hold those dumbbells firmly, but in case you want to bombard your forearms more, Columbu recommends the two exercises below.
To perform a forearm curl, kneel next to the bench or follow Franco’s advice and do a half squat if you don’t have one. Hold the weight – dumbbell or barbell – with the handle underneath with your palms up. Lower your wrist and open your grip slightly so the weight drops a bit.
You should hold the weight with your fingers halfway down. From there, tighten your grip and finally twist your wrist as much as you can. He is a representative.
The forearm ins and outs train the same area, but you will need to do them while standing. You must use dumbbells for this exercise. In a standing position, have your arms hanging by your sides, holding the dumbbells with the hammer grip. From there, you want to extend the wrist as far as you can and then flex, so you bring them back. Do not overextend/flex your wrist and always perform the exercise slowly for maximum results.