No one doubts John Cena’s toughness. After tearing a tendon in his pectoral muscle last year, he came back ahead of schedule to take down this year’s Royal Rumble. We recently chatted with the WWE superstar about his worst career injuries, but once we finished with that, we got down to the juicy stuff: how the former bodybuilder trains, what gets him pumped up for a big lift, and what he thought about Roger Clemens and steroids in Major League Baseball.
MF: You were a bodybuilder before you were a pro wrestler. How do you train?
Cena: I’ve switched from a very bodybuilding-based, high-volume, high-rep, muscle isolation program, to more of an athlete’s program, more of a multi-joint movement, core-strength exercise program. I do a lot of balancing stuff, one-leg Romanian deadlifts, a lot of exercises done on the Swiss ball like shoulder presses and dumbbell presses. I use chains and bands to vary resistance. With bands you can lock out the top of a movement or overload the bottom of a movement, depending on where you attach them. I’ll still do the basic principles of bodybuilding, though. I’m still getting in there and doing arms, you know? But my whole philosophy has changed, basically because of the injury. I noticed I have a weak core, and I’m not as stable as I once was, so that’s my new goal. If I was training for the Mr. Olympia, I would train differently. It’s not like I’m going to turn into a twig overnight. It’s still a strength-based program. I’m stronger than I ever was. That’s a very good thing, but at the same time, I’m getting a good way to keep my balance and hopefully become a better athlete.
MF: How important has bodybuilding been to your life?
Cena: I think the most important principle that I took from bodybuilding is discipline. I mean, people can say whatever they want about the sport of bodybuilding, but to get prepared to do a contest or even think about doing a contest, or even to get into decent shape, it requires a certain amount of discipline, and it comes from taking a new year’s resolution to a lifestyle.
MF: What kind of music do you like listening to in the gym?
Cena: Anything metal that’s not really death metal. I like the old Metallica, Slayer, ACDC. The gym I grew up in was a very rock n’ roll focused gym, so I mean, like Rage Against the Machine, stuff that’s really, really hard but not that stuff that’s just guys screaming into the mic. There has to be a little bit of music.
MF: Your John Cena character used to be more of hip-hop guy, even though it’s tailed off a bit. Who are some of your favorite artists in the genre?
Cena: I think the greatest hip-hop artist of all time is Jay-Z, without a doubt. He just keeps amazing me with his performance, and since ’96, that guy has been producing at least one hit every summer and every winter. That’s a pretty good resume. He finds a way, even if the entire album isn’t a home run, he’ll get a song on the radio, and it’ll be fantastic. And not only that, he maintains a certain lyrical integrity with all of his stuff. He never just says nothing on the microphone.
MF: Who are you listening to these days? Any new artists?
Cena: Jay-Z’s real good, I’ve always been a Kanye West fan, but believe or not I had this conversation last night. I really like G-Unit, I just think because they know how to make good music. Those guys are lyrically gifted, but they also know how to make good, catchy music people like. That’s about all I listen to, maybe some DMX.
MF: As a New England guy, how excited are you to be living in the golden age of Boston sports?
Cena: It’s very, very good for the city. It’s a cold-weather city, and honestly, my hat’s off to the Patriots, but it’s surrounded by a baseball environment. The Red Sox are such a deeply rooted part of that city. For them to win the World Series, it was unbelievable, because that carries you through the summer months, then when it gets cold, obviously the traditions of the Patriots run deep, especially their recent success and it’s really, really good to see a franchise like the Celtics who pretty much ruled the hardwood back in the day with Havliceck, Russell, start to dominate again. The city really loves its athletes.
MF: Since you’re a pro wrestler, someone who’s been criticized and dragged through the mud about performance-enhancing drugs in the past, we were hoping to get your take on the MLB steroid scandal. How do you respond to the inquiry into Roger Clemens and MLB?
Cena: I think it’s something that needs to be done. I don’t think baseball has taken the right approach, just like I don’t think the media has taken the right approach as far as scrutinizing professional wrestling. The absolute correct approach would be the same as the war on drugs. These drugs are illegal, they’re not for any prescription, they’re not for any athlete. So make the penalty if you get caught using an illegal substance arrest and jail time.
The government is allowing each sanctioning body, whether it’s sports entertainment, the NFL, the NBA to police its own. If an athlete fails a drug test, they get a 30-day suspension, where if I’m John Q. Public, walking around the street with a bunch of anabolic steroids, I’m going to jail. There is a severe double standard. If the government and Congress want to step in, they have to start at the source and make sure the athletes know these drugs are illegal. I think if the penalty is severe enough, the amount of offenders will go way down. In baseball, if it’s a 30-day suspension, that might be the equivalent of a 15-day suspension. For an athlete, a lot of times, that’s worth the risk.
There was just a sprinter who was put on four years’ suspension, which basically equals two Olympic Games and the end of a sprinter’s career. So, I think, the IOC, even though they’re not trying these guys under governmental law, really has it down. If you do it once, your career is pretty much over. There’s a big difference between sitting for 15 games, or, man, if I get caught, I have to find another job. I think that’s Step One.
I think the Mitchell report was a mistake only because it was based off of opinion and heresay, like in the case of Roger Clemens. There’s no paperwork to support that he ever purchased performance-enhancing drugs and, most importantly, there’s no failed drug test. It was basically one guy’s word against another guy’s word. That’s a battle that could go on for the dawn of time. So if they had done more investigation into the purchasing of anabolic steroids and failing drug tests, then you’d have a little bit more to go on. I think the blame falls on the major league for not having a drug-testing program.
For so long, the players’ union protected the players, so they did not have any sort of drug testing program. If you’re not going to be tried by your government, and you’re not going to be tried by your sanctioning sports body, there’s no freakin’ risk. Absolutely not. Major League Baseball-I hate to say it because it is the National Pastime- Major League Baseball almost encouraged the athletes to go ahead and take part, because for so long there was no penalty.
I think that was a big flaw in our entity. For so long, there was no penalty. As soon as it got to the point where it became an issue, immediately a policy was instituted that “we can’t fix what happened yesterday,” no one can friggin’ turn back the clock, but as far as today, if you’re caught, you’re going to be looking for work. The best that baseball can do is pretty much what everybody else is trying to do, really tighten up that policy, because this is an issue that is going to be talked about for so much longer.
MF: Ain’t that the truth.