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Lifting Like a Champ

WWE Superstar John Cena dishes on 'roids, reps, and rap

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.

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