THE ROCK, or to use his given name, Dwayne Johnson, is standing in his home office in Los Angeles, a bright, inviting space into which sunlight pours through French doors. Next to Johnson is a life-size replica of a T. rex skull, an unapologetically masculine piece of decor. Behind him on a shelf are bottles of his tequila brand, Teremana. Johnson is wearing a black Project Rock muscle tee, with tattoos creeping out of the sleeves onto his mountainous biceps. He’s also wearing red shorts and occasionally grabs at his knee. Needless to say, he is in awesome shape.

Johnson is fresh off the buzz surrounding Black Adam (streaming December 22 on HBO Max), a passion project he’d been thinking about for 15 years. It’s a notable addition to his canon for a number of reasons. First, as many have posited in relation to Tom Cruise, you wonder if Johnson is too big a star for comic-book fare. Are the power of his personality and the wattage of his charisma somehow neutered in spandex? Time will tell on that one. Second, the film required the most likable and popular actor of his generation to play an antihero. Finally, it also required him to get in the best shape of his life. “That was our goal, for me to bring in the best physique possible,” says Johnson. “So the challenge with that is not only do you set the bar high—which is fine . . . bring it on!—but then you realize you have to maintain that for months.”

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Johnson prides himself on being the hardest worker in any room he’s in—if he and Cruise were ever to share the screen, that would be a hashtag-palooza. It’s this ethic that’s kept him at the head of the Hollywood pack for more than two decades now. And as he enters his 50s, Johnson’s not letting up: His day job includes finishing production on Red One, an adventure comedy with Chris Evans, as well as shooting several undisclosed movies and season 3 of NBC’s Young Rock. Then there’s his work with his brands: Under Armour’s Project Rock, Teremana Tequila, and Zoa energy drinks. And he’s a co-owner of the XFL, set to kick off in February 2023.

All told, his net worth is a swole $1 billion-plus. At home, he’s busy raising his two younger daughters, Jasmine, six, and Tiana, four, with his wife, Lauren Hashian. (His 21-year-old daughter, Simone, with his ex-wife and current business partner, Dany Garcia, recently signed a deal with the WWE.) If anything, Johnson says, this is the time when, as a man, you’ve got to double down on hard work. Between the Rock and a hard place, perhaps. That’s the uncomfortable space he’s always inhabited. That’s where you have to go to get results.

the rock lifting weights
Get The Rock’s look: Under Armour’s Project Rock T-shirt; Under Armour’s Project Rock Shorts.
Flannery Underwood

Men's Health: How’s your day going?
Dwayne Johnson: Just got up with the babies; regardless of what time you go to bed, they’re up. I went to bed probably around 1:00, 1:30, as I normally do. Babies had me up at 6:00 A.m. I’ll go train [next].

MH: Let’s start with Black Adam. What excited you about the role?
DJ: It’s been 15 years since we first started talking about Black Adam. It’s been seven years since we all agreed—Seven Bucks Productions and Warner Bros. and DC—that we were going to make Black Adam. What excited me about it was delivering a character in the superhero genre that had never been seen before. No actors had played Black Adam. In addition, but more important, is the opportunity to disrupt the superhero genre. You have a character like Black Adam, who is, depending on how you interpret his philosophies—is he a superhero, an antihero, or just a bad dude? Now, the difference is in Superman there’s a code of ethics that Superman abides by, which is why he is the greatest superhero. Superman won’t kill anyone. Black Adam, on the other hand, you can’t finish your sentence if you mean harm to him or his family.

MH: Did you have any internal conflict about playing against public perception?
DJ: I’ve identified so deeply with Black Adam. . . . Yes, he lives in a gray area, but his philosophy is black-and-white. If you hurt the ones I love or my country, you’re going to pay. And there are no questions asked. There’s no bringing you to justice. There’s no apprehending you. You die. What also was very appealing to me, and I think will appeal to a lot of people, is that you can’t put him in a box and you can’t say, “You have to be like this. You can’t do this. You have to do that.” I felt like I experienced that throughout my career when I first got to Hollywood 20 years ago: “You can’t call yourself the Rock. You can’t talk about pro wrestling. You can’t be this big. You can’t work out as much. Change your diet. Lose weight. If you want to be like Will Smith, Johnny Depp, George Clooney, who were the stars at that time, this is how you have to be.” Well, I tried that on for a few years, and then finally I said, “Man, fuck this. I can’t be like that. I’m not those guys. I could never be those guys. I’m not in a box. Don’t tell me how to be. I’m going to be myself.”

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MH: Did you have to train even harder to fill out the Black Adam costume?
DJ: We did. My goal was to bring in the best physique of my career, and that includes my years as a football player and as a pro wrestler. I’ve worked with Dave Rienzi, my trainer, very closely now for over a decade. The real challenge was to maintain that [physique] for months. It’s not All right. Go after it and grit and grind it out. No. You can’t do that, because your body can’t sustain it and your body will break down, whether you’re in your 20s or 60s. So we had to really approach it with care and science, and [Dave] was there throughout the shoot and constantly looking at my body, seeing how it’s coming along. How’s my sodium intake? How are the carbs? There’s just so much we have to look at.

Now, what’s interesting is we could have said, “Fuck this—put the muscle pads in the suit,” as they normally do. And it’s not a knock to my friends at all, but I felt like, “Let’s be disruptive and let’s do it differently.” Let’s take all the muscle pads out, which we did, from Black Adam. When you have that suit on, every detail shows. Man, it was constant work, constant tweaking, tweaking, tweaking for months.

the rock lifting weights
Johnson in Black Adam
Warner Bros.

MH: You turned 50 in May. How are you feeling about that?
DJ: There are markers you have in your life. As dudes, you hit your 30s, you like to think you’ve got your shit together. You generally have no fucking clue. You’re trying to work your shit out. And you’re trying to fake it till you make it, that kind of thing. You hit your 40s, hopefully you’re starting your family, you’re getting settled, feeling comfortable, and then you’re going through a lot in your 40s, too. I wanted to hit the fifth level in my rhythm and groove. What I mean by that is that my body was in a great place, that it wasn’t too banged up.

Project Rock Black Adam Sleeveless Hoodie

Project Rock Black Adam Sleeveless Hoodie

Project Rock Black Adam Sleeveless Hoodie

Shop at Under Armour

So really, in my 30s and early 40s, when I was coming off of wrestling, I was still feeling the effects of all my wrestling injuries. At 40, I said, “Okay, I’m going to spend the next decade training as smart as I can, balancing out training and family and work, being an open sponge, learning every day but also not worrying about ego training, not worrying about the weight that I’m putting on the bar, pushing myself so hopefully, by the time I hit the fifth level, my joints are feeling great and I’m still able to not only maintain but add real muscle and some really dense muscle.” That’s a long answer to tell you I’m feeling pretty good.

MH: Has your diet changed?
DJ: My philosophy is to eat clean and make sure that my diet is commensurate with my goals, which stay consistent throughout the year. It’s better to stay in shape than to get in shape. I am a real creature of habit. I usually eat the same thing every day for days and weeks and months. It’s very consistent. It’s very boring. It’s also extremely disciplined. That’s something I picked up from my old man, who was a hardcore gym fanatic. He taught me very early on not to eat to please the tongue but to eat to nourish the body. He taught me that when I was five. That’s probably why I need therapy.

“there are skills you learn in the gymdiscipline, working through your fatigue, pushing past what you perceive as a limit ’cause there’s greatness on the other side"

MH: What’s your breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
DJ: Well, I eat six meals a day [and they’re all similar in terms of nutrients]. Breakfast consists of eggs, a meat like bison, a complex carb like oatmeal, and fruit, usually either papaya or blueberries. My second meal, around 10:00 A.m., usually consists of a chicken breast, a complex carb like rice, and some greens. And dinner is fish or chicken, a complex carb like sweet potatoes, and some greens.

MH: You count your macros, right?
DJ: In a very specific way, yes. I have a strength and conditioning coach. I have a nutritionist. I also have a lead chef advisor who speaks to a lot of the chefs I work with because I am often in different locations. So they work out all that math and they extrapolate. They’re much better and smarter at that than I am. I do see results quickly when we adjust the macros. [The range: protein 40–45 percent, carbs 40–50 percent, fats 15–20 percent.] We’ve got it down to a science where we fine-tune the macros and I never feel hungry. That’s a key: Training and dieting down for a goal requires discipline, and you can often feel hungry.

MH: How has your training evolved?
DJ: I still train with the same intensity, but I’d like to think I train smarter. When I was 25, I was doing Olympic lifts, which are tough on the joints with the torque. I actually train shorter, but I get more out of it. What I’ve also been able to do with experience is listen to my body. You know, there’s a difference between the pain that you can work through—and that’s good to work through—and the pain where you have to stop what you’re doing and take care of that particular part of your body that’s hurt.

MH: With great power comes . . . great responsibility. You have 340 million followers on Instagram craving your fitness content. Is that exhausting?
DJ: It’s a blessing. I have trained long enough to know that there are some good takeaways that I could share that could help my audience in their fitness and wellness journey. One of the responsibilities, though, is to make sure that the things I’m posting are smart, training-wise—not dumb shit that’ll get you hurt. Guys do that all the time, and they train out of ego and they train to get views and you see them doing crazy exercises. Some are very entertaining, but some are pretty dangerous, too. I think it’s really important to make sure that you don’t lose the integrity of why you’re in the gym to begin with. You’re in the gym to build your muscles or whatever your goal is. Usually when I do post training, it’s toward the end of my workout or my final set. I don’t do anything in between. I get in the gym and I don’t fuck around.

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MH: Training isn’t just about physical strength. How does it affect you mentally?
DJ: Psychological nourishment. I really feel that there are fundamental skills that you learn in the gym in terms of discipline, working through your fatigue, pushing past what you perceive as a limit. ’Cause there’s greatness on the other side. There are little achievements along the way that you’re gonna gain from your training. Big achievements, too.

MH: You’ve experienced depression. Does training help manage that?
DJ: I think so, sure. During those times when I fell into and was challenged by depression, the gym became my best friend—and I know it’s like that for a lot of people. You’re able to go to the gym to sweat out toxins and get a little bit more clarity when you walk out the door. It doesn’t fix the problem, but it helps.

“there are skills you learn in the gymdiscipline, working through your fatigue, pushing past what you perceive as a limit ’cause there’s greatness on the other side"

MH: Over the past few years, you’ve opened up more about your spirituality and mana. How does that help you?
DJ: So I’m half Black and half Samoan. And on the Samoan side, there’s a Polynesian word called mana. Really what it means is like an energy, a force, a power that we all have, and it’s ever existent in our world. When I talk about mana, it’s a feeling that I get that’s just here deep in the DNA, and you can get it when you walk into the gym. You can feel the mana. It can be quite palpable.

MH: Is that something that you try to tap into daily or you just feel it?
DJ: For me, mana becomes my daily anchor, and it’s a reminder of my cultures. It’s a reminder of who I am; and it’s a reminder to work hard, to be humble, to show gratitude; and it’s a reminder to always connect with people, like we could be connected through mana. It’s very powerful.

MH: Do you feel like you’re connecting with your spiritual side more now?
DJ: Well, I’ve always been connected to my cultures, my family, and my ancestors. But as you go down the road of life, you start to get more connected with your spirituality in that kind of way where you start to realize what mana actually means, you know?

rapid fire

MH: Does anything scare you?
DJ: The thing that keeps me up at night is just how everything shakes out, the things we have planned, the things I can control. Making the right moves, thinking about my family, my babies, all the other stuff that’s going on. Once I get everybody to bed, there’s a window of about two hours when the whole house is quiet where I do most of my thinking and where I can accomplish most of my thoughts from beginning to end. Then I can go to sleep with usually some clarity. Tequila helps, too.

MH: You have a lot going on. How do you prioritize and find balance?
DJ: I prioritize things by asking, Do I love them? Am I passionate about them? They could be big things, they could be little things, but either way, whatever they are, if they don’t get me out of bed and if I’m not running toward those things, then I don’t do them. That’s how I prioritize things. How I find balance is by making sure that I still remain in touch with the simple core things that are important to me. Life can get crazy and funny for all of us, but especially when you get a little bit of fame, things have a tendency to go sideways. So I like doing simple core things that keep the stability.

MH: Communication is really important, too, right?
DJ: Oh, man, I think one of the defining, seminal moments in my life was when I really realized the power and the value of asking for help. Vulnerability. You know, really kind of checking your ego at the door. As guys, we have a tendency to not ask for help. Ego gets in the way, and we start stuffing things deep down in our guts, which is not a good thing. I’ve become an advocate for asking for help. And it wasn’t always like that, and it’s much easier said than done. I grew up an only child. I was that guy who would stuff things down and not talk about them, and I’d figure it out all by myself. Most of the time I did figure it out all by myself, but also it just took a toll, man, on my soul and on my mental health. So these days, I’m a big advocate for asking for help. Also, I’ve lost friends, uh, who checked out and, yeah, ended their lives because they didn’t want to ask for help. Yeah. So you gotta communicate. You gotta ask for help. There’s no shame in that. If you don’t know something, ask. If you don’t know, ask.

Additional reporting by Ben Jhoty. This story has been condensed from three interviews and edited for clarity. It appears in the December 2022 issue of Men's Health.

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Ben Court

Ben Court is the Executive Editor of Men's Health. He has a decade of experience writing and editing stories about peak performance, as it relates to health, nutrition, fitness, weight loss, and sex and relationships. He enjoys yoga, cycling, running, swimming, lifting, grilling, and napping.