The Rock Is the Poster Boy for Hollywood’s Steroid Obsession

It’s easier to market actors who actually look like superheroes.

Daniel Hopper
Apr 24 · 15 min read
Dwayne Johnson — The Rock: Is he on steroids?
Dwayne Johnson — The Rock | Pinterest

The Rock is ridiculously muscular for a 48-year-old.

Born into this world as Dwayne Johnson, he is Hollywood’s biggest male star. According to Forbes, The Rock was the world’s highest-paid actor in 2020.

Hollywood has a history of casting muscular men in lead roles, going back to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in the 1980s.

This trend is becoming even more prominent over the past ten years, as superhero films have taken over Hollywood. According to this list, there have been more than 50.

Is that what the consumer wants? Apparently so, because there were another eight released in 2020. If nobody were watching them, it wouldn’t be the case.

To play the part, normal actors have to get into superhero shape.

Here, Hollywood’s dirty little secret comes in — actors using steroids to transform their physiques for movie roles.

And The Rock is their poster child.

The Rock is on Steroids

First introduced to the world by WWE in 1996, The Rock got his first Hollywood role in 2001 and left wrestling a few years later as his acting career took off.

He is a charismatic and likeable guy with great comedic timing. His WWE one-liners are cult favourites.

That’s how he became Hollywood’s leading man.

A professional wrestler!

The Rock doing promos in his WWE days

But he’s not honest with us. I think it’s pretty clear that he has been using steroids for several years.

You can’t keep improving your physique forever if you’re natural! Once our natural testosterone drops, our muscle potential reduces. I’ll get to this in more depth shortly.

The photo below is an excellent example of how much he has bulked up over recent years.

On the left, Dwayne Johnson looked like he has stopped taking any PEDs circa 2006–2010. He had left the WWE, and Hollywood producers commonly cast him in leading roles in family action/adventure comedy movies, such as Get Smart, Race to Witch Mountain, and Tooth Fairy.

It’s still an impressive physique but noticeably downsized on his wrestling days.

The Rock’s transformation
The Rock’s transformation
Source: YouTube

On the right is Dwayne with an extra 30–50 pounds (15–25 kg) of muscle — great genetics and work ethic vs great genetics and work ethic, plus steroids.

In 2013, The Rock bulked up again to return to WWE and role in Pain & Gain — a movie about bodybuilder criminals.

Dwayne talks about being the hardest worker in the room. Sure, I have the same philosophy. But it doesn’t mean I’ll be more muscular at 50 than I am now at 36.

“What’s the key to success? The key is, there is no key. Be humble, hungry, and the hardest worker in any room.” — Dwayne Johnson

He is probably the motivation for many people to get into shape. But, the most important component of his physique isn’t talked about.

He should be transparent about the drugs.

Johnson did admit in a 2009 interview trying steroids back in college — but apparently, that’s when it stopped.

“I tried it. My buddies and I tried it back in the day when I was 18 or 19. We didn’t know what we were doing.” — Dwayne Johnson

So he tried it when he was young, but he wasn’t on steroids in the WWE?


The WWE has a well-documented history of their wrestlers using steroids, which I’ll get to shortly.

Another thing to consider is that Dwayne Johnson admitted to having gynecomastia surgery in 2005 — a procedure for male breast reduction, sometimes also called a ‘‘moob job’’.

Often referred to as Gyno, men experience growth in breast tissue. This is a common side effect of steroids.

Johnson said he chose to get surgery purely for “ aesthetic purposes.”

Of course! Man boobs don’t look very attractive on an action hero.

The optimal age for building strength and muscle

The most obvious reason to be dubious of Dwayne’s physique being natural is his age of 48.

Our ability to build muscle mass naturally peaks in our mid to late 20s.

Testosterone is the male hormone essential to building muscle and can decline at nearly 3% a year after natural testosterone production peaks at around 18.

Muscles are at their strongest at around 25 years old. Although through resistance training, we can retain most of this muscle for the next 10 or 15 years

There are very few athletes older than 35 who are at the top of their sports. Sprinters peak in their mid-20s, and the average NBA player is 26 years old.

“Strength peaks around 25 years of age, plateaus through 35 or 40 years of age, and then shows an accelerating decline, with 25% loss of peak force by the age of 65 years.” — Shephard, 1998

After this point, the ability to build and/or retain muscle mass starts to decline. That’s why men get hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — to supplement their decreasing natural testosterone.

The Rock in his early WWE days
The Rock in his early WWE days
The Rock at 24 years old | Screenshot via YouTube

In the photo above, Dwayne is in his mid-20s. He looks pretty bulky at this point and is holding much more body fat than he is now. You can see it in his face.

Twenty years past his prime, The Rock is probably bigger than he was at 25-30 in the WWE — when he was likely to be already taking PEDs.

It doesn’t make sense that he would now be natural, does it?

What makes more sense is that he’s on a higher number of compounds, more powerful PEDs and/or higher dosages.

Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) in 2021
Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) in 2021
The Rock in 2021, at 48 | Dwayne Johnson’s (The Rock) Facebook page

WWE’s well-documented steroids use

Dwayne Johnson comes from a culture of steroids. The WWE.

The Rock got his big break in the WWE, becoming its most prominent star in the late 90s. Pro-wrestling has a well-documented history of steroids abuse.

His father, Rocky Johnson, was also a professional wrestler in the WWE in the early 1980s. He had a pretty impressive physique himself, at a billed weight of 262 lb (119 kg).

Dwayne Johnson’s father Rocky Johnson, in the WWE
Dwayne Johnson’s father, Rocky Johnson | New York Times

At this time, steroid use was common, as later disclosed by WWE’s biggest star, Hulk Hogan.

Steroids use by pro wrestlers was just as prevalent in the 1990s. Another WWE star, The Undertaker, spoke about a culture of steroid use in WWE. He said that this was due to pressure the wrestlers felt to look as huge and ripped as possible.

“There was a time when you had to be jacked. Especially with the big guys there was a stigma. You had to be 300 pounds…” — The Undertaker

Other high-profile WWE wrestlers implicated with steroids over the years include:

  • Hulk Hogan
  • Roman Reigns
  • Randy Orton
  • Kurt Angle
  • Batista
  • Brock Lesner
  • The Ultimate Warrior
  • Jesse Ventura
  • The British Bulldog
  • Chris Benoit
  • Eddie Guerrero

Three generations of stars. There’s plenty more too.

These wrestlers have either by being caught in drug tests, admitting the use themselves or have been caught in busts of steroids rings.

Eddie Guerrero died in his hotel room in 2005 due to acute heart failure. Later ruled as heart disease, the toxicity complicated by an enlargement of his heart due to prolonged steroid usage.

Chris Benoit died in a murder-suicide of his family in 2007. Brain damage from numerous head knocks and steroid abuse was attributed. Not great!

Busted steroids distributers

Shortly after these deaths, the second significant steroids scandal embroiled the WWE.

In the so-called ‘Florida Raids’ in 2007, Government Agencies busted a network of “anti-aging” clinics, doctors, and pharmacies for conspiring to fraudulently prescribe and dispense steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Also referred to as wellness centres, the clinics prescribed customers for performance-enhancing drugs over the internet without seeing patients in person.

A multibillion-dollar underground industry with an international supply chain, the NFL and MLB leagues also had players caught up in this scandal.

Benoit and Guerrero were two of the 14 wrestlers supplied by the steroids ring. In the case of Guerrero, the pharmacy sent him drugs two weeks before his death.

As you would expect, this was a disaster for the WWE. Especially for the credibility of their newly introduced Wellness Policy, which included drug testing wrestlers.

The first scandal was back in 1993/1994, just before The Rock entered the WWE. The US government accused Vince McMahon of distributing steroids amongst his wrestlers in the 1980s and ’90s to build up their physiques. Thus, making them more appealing to audiences.

McMahon admitted under examination to taking steroids himself, and perhaps the most famous wrestler ever, Hulk Hogan, testified that he’d been using steroids for 14 years.

Hogan said when the steroid orders arrived at WWE headquarters, he would “pick them up along with my paycheck, fan mail or whatever.”

“I would tell kids to train, say their prayers and take their vitamins. But it wasn’t just vitamins I was taking…” — Hulk Hogan

Hogan admitted he wasn’t told directly by McMahon to take steroids, so McMahon's charges didn’t stick.

Almost 30 years later, at 69 years old, McMahon is still very muscular — defying his age. Apparently, the wellness policy doesn’t apply to him…

Vince McMahon at age 6
Vince McMahon at age 6
Vince McMahon — age 69 | Muscle & Fitness

69 years old!

According to Vince, “Age really doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

Can I say, “LOL”?

Who does he think he is fooling?

Hollywood body transformations

As I alluded to in the article's title, Dwayne Johnson using steroids to look amazing isn’t an isolated occurrence.

Over the past ten to fifteen years, several of Hollywood’s leading men have had radical body transformations to prepare for movie roles. Often for superhero films.

Some of the actors who have had questionable transformations are Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Hugh Jackman, Tom Hardy, Bradley Cooper, and Jason Momoa.

When the media asks the actors about their transformations, it’s almost like they are all given the same script. They‘ll say something along the lines of:

  • Their diet consisted of chicken, broccoli, and rice
  • The hardest part was eating so much and every 2 hours
  • They worked out three times a day, seven days a week
  • Huge amounts of calories
  • So much protein
  • The transformation happened in 8 to 12 weeks

Some of the numbers claimed in their transformations seem far fetched, to say the least.

The media reported that Kumail Nanjiani put on 25 pounds whilst reducing body fat from 20% to 10%. Kumail looks tiny in the image below; next to 6'1" Mitch Pileggi, s like a completely different person on the right.

Kumail Nanjiani transformation 2018–201
Kumail Nanjiani transformation 2018–201
Kumail Nanjiani transformation 2018–2019 | Instagram

Jake Gyllenhaal apparently worked out six hours a day for six months for his role as a boxer in South Paw.

For his role as a bodybuilder in Pain & Gain with Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg claimed he gained 40 pounds of muscle in 7 weeks, eating 12 meals a day.

For anyone with an educated and rational mind about fitness will say:

  • these diets are deficient in essential vitamins and minerals
  • they are past their peak age for building muscle
  • You can’t build muscle that quickly
  • their fitness routines are very basic and go against scientific literature
  • they built a ridiculous amount of muscle whilst losing body fat. It doesn’t make any sense

Chicken, broccoli, and rice: code for steroids?

I’m going to touch on a couple of things many of these transformations have in common. Firstly, chicken, broccoli and rice.

Some quotes from the actors are:

“I was eating so much chicken breast. The hardest thing about it was actually chewing it all. So I would just put it into a blender and blend it all up, and drink the chicken .” — Zac Efron

“…Literally brown rice, chicken and broccoli… Working out two or three times a day, six days a week, for about a year-and-a-half. Your body will change. Water, eat every two and a half hours to keep your metabolism going. That’s it.” — Michael B. Jordan

“We couldn’t keep eating pulled pork, sadly, because there came a point where pulled pork had to stop, and we were only allowed chicken and broccoli.” — Tom Hardy

“It’s back to the monotony of chicken and broccoli. Your house smells of broccoli for months. There’s no fun. There’s no sugar.” — Channing Tatum

There are two significant issues with the chicken, broccoli, and rice diet.

First, this diet has a considerable deficiency in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). It would put these actors’ health at risk when they need to be fit and healthy to spend long periods on set and train.

Furthermore, to consume the thousands of calories they claim, you would have to eat a ridiculous volume of food. These are low-calorie foods — it’s not like eating pizza, which is much easier to eat 4–6000 calories worth.

Broccoli has only 34 calories per 100 grams, which means you would have to eat almost three kg worth to eat 1000 calories worth. One kg of chicken breast contains 1650 calories. We’re sitting at around 2500 calories and already eaten four kilograms of food.

To get to 5000 calories, we’d require another two and a half kg of brown rice.

That’s over six kg of chicken, broccoli, and rice a day!

Building muscle extremely fast

The second thing that is off with all these Hollywood transformations is the unrealistic timeframes of the transformations. Many of these celebrities claim their transformations took place in as little as 8–12 weeks, gaining 30–40 pounds of muscle whilst remaining lean or even losing fat.

It is often beginning with less than impressive physiques, meaning they probably don’t have great genetics to gain muscle naturally.

In my article about Chris Hemsworth, I talk in-depth about the science of how much muscle gain be gained naturally per year.

To summarise, if you’re brand new to lifting, drug-free, and can gain 1–2 lbs of muscle a month, you’re doing superb. You might be lucky enough to gain 20 pounds of muscle in your first year of lifting weights seriously, assuming the optimal diet.

After 3–4 years, growth potential reduces to 2–5 pounds a year. There are diminishing returns when it comes to putting on muscle.

As you can see, these Hollywood transformations are well outside the realms of our natural potential to build muscle.

Steroid use in Hollywood

We’ve ascertained that steroid use is widespread in pro wrestling, where Dwayne Johnson got his break into the entertainment world as The Rock.

But, what about Hollywood? I’ve discussed many transformations, but besides seeming too drastic to be natural, what actual evidence exists of actors' steroid use?

Veteran Hollywood trainer Happy Hill estimates that up to 20 percent of leading men are using PEDs to transform their bodies.

There is easy access to subscription PEDs in Hollywood through many legal anti-aging clinics in California.

I typed “Anti-aging clinics in Los Angeles”, and this is one of the results that came up. When they use words like holistic in their copy, you know they’re serious.

anti-ageing clinic
Screenshot from an anti-aging clinic website

In the US, some PEDs and steroids are legal with a prescription to treat medical conditions. HGH, for example, if a blood test shows naturally low levels of HGH.

However, it’s not uncommon for doctors to illegally prescribe the drugs for bodybuilding purposes.

Similarly to the wrestlers, several actors have been implicated in the busts of clinics and pharmacies dispensing the drugs illegally.

In 2018, jailed steroids distributer Rodriguez alleged famous actors would have drugs delivered under different names and separate addresses to prevent any direct identification.

Court documents named several celebrities as clients, including Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg and Josh Duhamel and WWE’s top superstar Roman Reigns — who happens to be Dwayne Johnson’s cousin.

After the incident, Wahlberg was asked about it by a TMZ reporter.

Mark Wahlberg responding to questions of whether he’s natural

Wahlberg has always has denied any steroid use. As you can see in the video, he is very awkward in answering the accusation, resorting to flexing to avoid the conversation.

Not all actors are so dishonest about their drug use, however. Some actors have admitted to using steroids for movies — some after they were caught red-handed.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has spoken about his PED use, and Mickey Rourke admitted using steroids to get into shape for The Wrestler at 56 years of age.

“I have no regrets about it… Because at that time, it was something new that came on the market, and we went to the doctor and did it under doctors’ supervision. We were experimenting with it. It was a new thing.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

Charlie Sheen admitted in an interview that he took steroids to prepare for his role as a pitcher in 1989’s baseball movie Major League.

“Let’s just say that I was enhancing my performance a little bit. It was the only time I ever did steroids. I did it for like six or eight weeks … My fastball went from 79 to like 85,” — Charlie Sheen

When reprising his lead role in Rambo in 2007, police arrested Sylvester Stallone at an Australian airport for bringing HGH into the country. He later admitted in numerous interviews that it was to help him look his best on set.

“As you get older, the pituitary gland slows and you feel older, your bones narrow. This stuff gives your body a boost and you feel and look good,” — Sylvester Stallone

David Hasselhoff was caught up in 1993 when a Los Angeles-based doctor was arrested and admitted to selling steroids to a long list of athletes and celebrities.

50 Cent, Tyler Perry, and Timbaland were among actors named in the 2008 Albany steroids ring investigation.

What’s the big problem?

The evidence suggests there’s a high probability that The Rock Dwayne Johnson is on steroids. Moreover, several action stars are likely using steroids to gain quick muscle for movie roles.

So what? It’s their job to look the part for movies, you might say.

Yes, but there are several repercussions for the way they’re doing it.

These are giving millions of people unrealistic expectations of what kind of physique is possible naturally and the time frame for achieving it.

It would be very demotivating for people when they cannot achieve similar transformations, and they may give up and succumb to the same bad habits that put them out of shape.

Furthermore, the actors or brands often use the transformations to sell supplements, diets and training plans, claiming this was the source of their new physiques.

Mark Wahlberg, for example, cofounded a supplement company called Performance Inspired Nutrition.

Steroids are probably the most contributing factor to their physique, and people should be aware of this. Instead, consumers shell out hundreds and even thousands of dollars on useless supplements, as they believe this will help them achieve these actors' physique.

Dwayne Johnson profits massively from his appearance. His clothing line with sportswear company Under Armour is worth an estimated $25 million a year alone.

If he was open with his drug use, it is highly doubtful his affiliation would be so valuable to brands. I don't see a user of steroids as a good fit with a sportswear brand's ideals — it would affect their credibility.

These actors are profiting from their lies.

Final thoughts

Hollywood seems to have an obsession with superheroes. Apparently, they’ve run out of ideas for action movies.

Several actors are making questionable transformations to look the part for these movies. The Rock is Hollywood’s biggest star, and numerous other wrestlers are getting leading roles in films. Producers seem to favour brawn over brains.

Gone are the relatable action heroes like Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson, whose physiques are relatively average by today’s standards.

Now people need to look like comic book characters. But the thing is, we’re not to look like that. Artists render comic book heroes unrealistically large and muscular — because it’s a fantasy world.

I guess it’s easier to market a ‘superhero’ movie if the actor looks the part.

You may say that is just a harmless movie, but millions of kids grow up wanting to be just like The Rock, and even many adults aspire to look like him. He has 227 million followers on Instagram!!

In a previous article, I talked about the fitness industry needing a social conscious.

Hollywood needs one too.

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Daniel Hopper

Written by

I write about Marketing and some other passions of mine | | Connect or follow on social:

In Fitness And In Health

A fast-growing health and fitness community dedicated to sharing knowledge, lessons, and suggestions to living happier, healthier lives.

Daniel Hopper

Written by

I write about Marketing and some other passions of mine | | Connect or follow on social:

In Fitness And In Health

A fast-growing health and fitness community dedicated to sharing knowledge, lessons, and suggestions to living happier, healthier lives.

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