The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Rocky IV and Healthier Exercise

Even before Actor Sylvester Stallone made news this week for stating he used the performance-enhancing drug growth hormone, I was preparing a post about him. His movie Rocky IV was on television. Not long after this movie came out in late 1985, I saw it in the theater when I moved to the U.S. to study another graduate exercise physiology degree. It was the first Rocky movie I saw. I loved it for poking fun at exercise science, all the artificial movement used for training popularized in the 80s, and at my own Soviet Russian heritage (and our interactions with Americans). In the movie, the supposed stereotypes were personally familiar - Russians were stunningly physiqued, disciplined, straight-postured, stern, and humor-challenged. The Americans were comically rude, indulgent, hostile to foreigners, and flamboyant.

Dolph Lundgren (born Hans Lundgren in Sweden) played Soviet boxer Ivan Drago. The movie spotlights Drago and Rocky's training for their epic match in Russia. Drago has teams of lab-coated trainers pushing him on dozens of beeping machines with blinky lights, and hints of performance enhancing drugs. He runs on motorized treadmills and uses shiny equipment to simulate activity. Rocky runs through deep Russian country snow and clambers up freezing mountain slopes. He rescues horse carts stuck in ditches, heaves rocks, and chops wood. These activities train his muscles and outlook in the real ways he needs for fighting, while Drago is made to simulate movement in artificial conditions that did not directly prepare him, and lead to his on-screen loss of confidence and the match itself.

In real life, Lundgren knows real training. He was a full-contact karate champion, and looks it. He holds a 3rd Degree Black Belt in Kyokushin Karate. Lundgren also has a master's degree in chemical engineering and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on a Fulbright Scholarship. Mind and body.

I received an e-mail asking why the previous post was named Human Growth Hormone even though the injectable form is not human growth hormone (made from humans), but synthetic which has a different name. Human growth hormone for medical use was originally extracted from human pituitary glands (from cadavers), and abbreviated "hGH." By 1985, concerns about transmitting incurable fatal brain diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease led to replacing pituitary-derived hGH with synthetic growth hormone. Human growth hormone (hGH) is no longer used in medicine or sport doping. Instead, biosynthetic human growth hormone is used, called recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH), somatropin, somatotropin, or somatotrophin, to remind of the pituitary cells called somatotrophs where the human form is made. If products are marked "HGH" they would contain no growth hormone (and you would not want them to). Also know that the underground market of performance enhancing drugs is known for having many fake (counterfeit) drugs for sale, including fake growth hormone.

The post was named Human Growth Hormone because the point was that you can make your own Human Growth Hormone in your own body, safely, easily, and cheaply. You can be younger, leaner, and stronger without injections, through the three main things that stimulate human growth hormone - healthy exercise, sleep, and eating right, described throughout this Fitness Fixer blog.

Rocky IV was one of the highest-grossing sports movies ever. At the end, Rocky spoke to the crowd, saying that fighting in the ring was better than war between countries, and stressed respect over animosity. Remember to use the message of real training through real activity, not artificial movements in a gym. The crowd, including Politburo, stood and cheered when he declared, "If I can change and you can change, then everybody can change!"

Related Fitness Fixer:

Fun U.S. /Soviet Technology Observations:


  • Effective, fun exercise, stretch, and improvement for body and mind, performance enhancing foods and drugs, avoiding injuries: Healthy Martial Arts.


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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.