John Cena is really good at beating people up. Just ask the fans packed into the Verizon Center last week who watched the WWE Superstar destroy his challenger on “Monday Night Raw.” So members of the Cenation might be surprised to hear that in his new movie, “Legendary,” Cena’s mostly beating himself up. His character, Mike, is a former wrestling champ who blames himself for his father’s death. But he finds a new purpose in life training his younger brother Cal, a shrimpy geek who wants to continue the family legacy by slipping into a singlet.
» EXPRESS: I hear you got into football to avoid getting beaten up like Cal?
» CENA: Believe it or not, I was undersized. And I dared to be different. Growing up, I wore MC Hammer pants and grew a hi-top. I was an easy target for the older kids. But even when I got bigger, as much as I got pushed around, I never returned the favor. That’s my biggest victory.
» EXPRESS: I love that you tell Cal to weigh in naked to intimidate his competitors. Ever do that?
» CENA: It wouldn’t be much intimidation.
» EXPRESS: What do you really do?
» CENA: Even when I played football, I was so relaxed. I would give the impression that it was just another day. I always wore the smallest pads. And now, I always wear a T-shirt before I fight. I try to shift people the other way so they don’t know what hit them.
» EXPRESS: How important is the psychological aspect of sports?
» CENA: That’s not just in sports. That’s life. Victory can be achieved before an event even happens. When new guys come into the WWE, and there are 10,000 people out there, a lot of times it can affect them. But I love it. I would be more intimidated if the crowd wasn’t out there.
» EXPRESS: You put Cal through an intense exercise routine. Is that how you work out?
» CENA: I train like an off-season football player so out of nowhere I can exhibit incredible strength. I do heavy Olympic lifting — cleans, barbell snatches, squats, deadlifts. I do a strongman overhead press with a log. Anything I do involves more than one joint, and I shy away from machines.
» EXPRESS: How long are you in the gym?
» CENA: It depends. There are days for core and flexibility, and that’s just 45 minutes. But those lifts are so complex that sometimes I’m there for two and a half hours doing two exercises.
» EXPRESS: How do you keep yourself healthy to do all this?
» CENA: It’s just knowing your body. I’ve been weight training since I was 12 years old. Now I know when to take a full day of rest. But I very rarely stay still. On my off days, I’ll play golf. It’s not too impactful on the joints and it involves every muscle. I just came back from Puerto Rico and I did 36 holes one day before fighting.
» EXPRESS: Any advice for kids out there who want to get bigger?
» CENA: In this day and age, a quick fix is everyone’s goal. But you can’t start out at 120 pounds and say I want to be 220. You need to take small steps. Find a program and stick with it, and you’ll have that transformation.
Photos by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images