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Four

Training and Exercise from Muscle & Fitness magazine.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly and Franco ColumbuSylvester Stallone had trained with Franco Columbu to get in shape for Rocky II, so he knew the services of the two-time Mr. Olympia did not come cheap.

Still when he heard the amount of the fee Franco would charge him for the next six weeks to train for his new film Rambo: First Blood Part II, he was shocked.

“Franco,” he told the Sardinian, “why don’t you just take my house and be done with it?”

“I had to charge Sly a good amount for the training,” explains Franco, “because he wanted to train full out, just as if he were preparing for the Mr. Olympia contest. That meant two workouts a day, six days a week. I had to drop almost everything else in order to concentrate on getting him in the best shape of his life.”

According to Franco, motivating his pupil was not that difficult because of Stallone’s tremendous mental intensity and competitiveness. “Sly gives 100% all the time,” Franco says, “and his determination is awesome. He is an achiever. A leader. He never sits back and let’s things happen, he is the one who makes them happen.”

Sly lifting weights with Franco Columbu“With Sly, I worked out a program that was right for him,” Franco explains, “and then I led the way, constantly increasing weights and reps. I knew for sure that this would motivate him to try and keep up with me. If I took a weight and did 12 reps, Sly would have to try and do at least seven. After all, I may be stronger than he is, but not that much stronger. Then, next set, I would do 15 reps, so he would have to increase his reps to at least 10. By the end of our training, he was doing curls with 70- pound dumb-bells. You should have seen how strong he got!”

When Stallone first came to Franco to begin training, he was 170 pounds and very well defined. But he didn’t feel he was big enough and wanted to put on 10 pounds of muscle in six weeks. Franco knew how hard Stallone was capable of training, so he decided that was a feasible goal.

“Sylvester gained just about 10 pounds in six and a half weeks,” Franco says. “He has great structure, with a waist only about 29 inches. When we started, he had a 44-inch chest. At the end, his chest was almost 50 inches. And his arms went from 16 ½ inches to 18 inches. He was bigger, harder and much more muscular. Wait until you see him in the movie. He’s going to shock a lot of people by how good he looks.”

Franco worked out a program for Stallone based on a two day double split:

Monday/Wednesday/Friday
Morning: Chest, back, abs
Afternoon: Shoulders, arms, abs

Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday
Morning: Calves, thighs
Afternoon: Rear delts, traps, abs

A still from Rambo: First Blood Part II“Each day we would train, I would change the exercises. I had Sly do extra sets of exercises that were working, and I dropped the ones that weren’t working. And the more results he saw, the harder he trained. I’d say, let’s do three more sets, and he would immediately agree. The workouts got to be really fun, very exciting.”

Franco had Stallone training abs three times every two days, doing 500 reps every ab workout. “We trained four different ab and torso exercises: sit-ups, leg raises, side leg raises, and side bends. We did 50 reps of each, one exercise right after another, and five sets of this cycle. And wait until you see the results. Sly has great abs, intercostals, serratus, everything.”

Franco says Sly was determined to be the most impressive man on film this side of Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. “But Sly wants to go even farther for Rocky IV“, Franco reveals. “In fact, if Sly had decided to be a body builder instead of an actor, with his great proportions, his tremendous athletic ability, and his mental drive, he would certainly ended up as one of the top physique champions.”

Back in the Gym

As Stallone continues to slug it out in his workout, his jet-black hair becomes wringing wet. Sweat pours profusely off the tip of his straight roman nose and intensity conquers the contender. Working the world’s most famous biceps, he says that this is the heaviest he’s been in a while. “I was 178 for Rocky, and 200 in Rocky II. For Rocky III I was 163. For my next film, Rocky IV, I went up to 173. I like this weight, because it is a fuller, rounder look, more in keeping with the old Roman athletes. I’m not quite as sinewy as I was in Rocky III, but I feel stronger.”

A promotional shot of Sly in the gym

Stallone’s measurements when he was filming Rambo II were: chest around 50″, 29 ½” waist, and 17″ biceps. His body fat runs 4 ½%, although when he’s not filming it’s 6%. Loud bursts of energy can be heard as the star does push-ups to get pumped up for some photos.

The gym is quiet; all eyes are on the man of muscle. He does 20 pushups quicker than you can blink an eye. Exerting a tremendous amount of energy, he hits his triceps and deltoids.

This 5’10” bundle of energy, with his small waist and massive back, appears smaller in person than on the screen. Complaining to M&F photographer Mike Neveux, he says, “I’ve got to keep moving. I can’t stand still this long.”

“Relax the left shoulder,” shouts Neveux.

“Relax the other pec,” chimes in the Master Blaster himself.

Sly shouts back, “this is harder than working out!” – which generates laughter from his watchful audience.

Stallone firmly believes what the ancient Greek philosopher Plato preached: “To be a fully developed man, you must build mind and body equally.” He stresses this concept to his children. “I believe you can deal with an inanimate object and become one with that object,” he says. “Imagine what happens when you take that dedication and apply it to business, love, relationships or athletics. You become so focused, so channeled that you are going to enhance your performance at a supernormal level.”

Stallone agrees without question that once you’ve begun bodybuilding and built yourself a firm physical foundation for life, you never retreat. “Once you get those people in the gym,” he says, “they’re hooked!”