Cena’s Five Essential Exercises


These are the exercises that have been the most useful in keeping John Cena healthy and making him stronger. If they’re not in your routine already, add as many of them as you can to build a powerful, balanced body. Where we could, we show Cena doing the exercises.

Glute/Ham Raise

One of John’s favorites because of its difficulty and its many benefits. Hamstring strength was a weakness of John’s, so he worked hard to improve it. Unfortunately, not all commercial gyms have the glute/ham apparatus, but if you can find one, give it a try. It corrects muscle imbalances, thereby preventing injury, and can help you become a more explosive athlete.

HOW TO DO IT: Secure your feet against the back plate of the apparatus and rest the middle of your thighs on the pad. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, straighten your knees, lowering your body toward the floor. Stop when you feel your back is about to lose its arch [1]. Tuck your chin to your chest and explode back upward, bending your knees and pulling with your hamstrings to raise your body straight and vertical [2]. That’s one rep. Use a spotter at first, as beginners can find it difficult to complete even one rep. Try to get strong enough that eight reps is no challenge.


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This is the exercise that made John Cena the man he is today. You should squat hard enough so that you can walk out of the gym after squats and consider it a good workout even if you do nothing else. You should at least be able to squat your bodyweight to call yourself strong. Try to get to sets of 1.5 times body weight for some reps. John can squat with more than 550.

HOW TO DO IT: Grab the bar tightly, hands as close together as is comfortable and elbows pointed down-this will make sure your upper back is contracted. Come up under the bar, resting it on your traps, and lift it off the rack. Step backward, and stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart and toes turned slightly outward [1]. Take a deep breath, forcing your abs outward, and bend your hips back as far as you can. At that point, keeping the arch in your lower back, bend the knees to lower your body as far as you can (try to squat to where your thighs are below parallel to the floor) [2]. When you’ve squatted as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back, contract your glutes and thighs and explode back upward to the starting position, exhaling the breath forcefully. That’s one rep. Do not let your heels come off the floor at any point.


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One of the best tests of total body strength, this one works almost every muscle you have and translates well to everyday life because we all pick stuff off the ground at some point. The deadlift isn’t dangerous as long as you perform it with good form, and it can actually be beneficial to your lower back (which may be weak from sitting in a chair in front of a computer all day). John can pull over 600 pounds but worked hard to get there. Start with a goal of deadlifting your body weight for a set of five reps. A longer-term goal would be to deadlift double your bodyweight with good form. If you get to a triple-bodyweight deadlift, you may be a gorilla. Please seek genetic testing.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand in front of the bar so that your shins touch it and your feet are roughly shoulder-width apart. Squat down and grab the bar overhand, hands slightly wider than shoulder width and elbows straight. Your lower back should be in its natural arch. Draw your shoulders back, push your chest out, and tense your lats [1]. Take a deep breath and begin standing up. Focus on pushing your heels into the floor and pulling your chest up while squeezing the bar hard (it may help you to think of falling backward as you rise, to fire up your glutes). Keep the bar as close to your legs as possible, even if it scrapes your shins a bit as you come up. As soon as the bar passes your knees, push your hips forward with power (this is called the lockout). You should end up standing tall and straight with the bar in front of your groin [2]. Reverse the motion, making sure to keep your abs braced, and lower the bar to the floor. That’s one rep.

The weight you use should be close to your squat poundage. It is manlier to not use lifting straps. Never claim you can deadlift a weight if you were wearing straps when you did it-that’s a gym faux pas (so is using the term “faux pas”).


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Power Snatch

A snatch is one of the two contested Olympic lifts, and a fantastic indicator of athletic performance in sports involving strength and speed. If you can snatch your body weight, you are very strong. If you can lift more than double your body weight, call the Olympic training center in Colorado.

HOW TO DO IT: Place a barbell on the floor and grab it with an overhand grip, hands twice shoulder-width apart. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, crouch down behind it as if you were going to perform a deadlift [1]. Now stand up and explosively pull the bar straight up in front of your torso by shrugging powerfully. When the bar reaches chest level, flip your wrists to face the ceiling and allow the momentum from your hips to help you fling the bar straight overhead [2]. Reverse the motion to return the bar to the floor. That’s one rep. Think of moving your body under the bar rather than the other way around.


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Power Clean

A clean is one half of the clean-and-jerk, which is the other contested Olympic lift. The clean brings the bar from the floor to the shoulders in a very quick motion. Again, speed is a big factor here. As you may know, Olympic lifters have been tested to have some of the highest vertical jumps of all athletes (including basketball players), and along with the snatch, the clean can help build great explosive power. Most people turn this into a reverse curl, which it is not. The bar stays very close to your body. The first part is just a deadlift, but then as your hips come in the bar accelerates rapidly and you shrug the bar up and jump under it.

HOW TO DO IT: Set a barbell on the floor, crouch down, and grab it with hands shoulder-width apart. Your lower back should be in its natural arch [1]. Explosively stand up and shrug the bar, coming up onto the balls of your feet. As the bar rises to chest level, flip your wrists over so that your palms face the ceiling and your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Allow your knees to bend as you absorb the force of the bar at your shoulders [2]. Reverse the motion to return the weight to the floor. That’s one rep.

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