I went inside the WWE's Performance Center to train with top superstars
The WWE have recently opened a state-of-the-art Performance Center in the UK
I was lucky enough to get an inside look at the WWE superstars of the future in training, and even joined in on the workout myself.
At this point, you're probably wondering why I've misspelled 'Centre' twice. It's fully intentional. That is because the Performance Center (PC for short) is set up to mirror the US developmental territories in every single sense - even down to the Americanised name and grammar.
Although the launch of the PC has been widely publicised by WWE, its exact location has not been made public. For good reason. It's to stop people like myself necking two scoops of pre-workout and then turning up without notice, demanding to use the gym - which I would absolutely do.
Thankfully, in this instance, the WWE kindly invited me down for an inside view. And it didn't disappoint.
Inside the WWE's UK Performance Center
WWE NXT superstar Travis Banks gave me a tour around the PC, and said: "the goal of the entire centre is to create new stars for the future.
"This center literally has everything you need to be a WWE athlete. We've got two rings and a whole gym set up."
Every single aspect of a superstar's training is covered at the PC. The stars of the future are in there for a full day's work. The life of a WWE superstar is really no different to that of your favourite Premier League footballer.
Banks said: "We're in here the whole week - Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - and we're on the road for shows on the Friday and Saturday."
WWE superstars begin their day with two-to-three hours of in-ring training. This is overseen by Robbie Brookside, a Liverpudlian with experience of wrestling all over the world for a variety of promotions including the WWE and WCW.
When this done, they then spend another couple of hours hitting the gym, under the direction of Sean Hayes.
Hayes programmes all gym workouts in his position as WWE NXT Strength and Conditioning Coach. He's a close friend and ally of Joe DeFranco, personal trainer to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
Although superstars of yesteryear such as Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior conjure up images of bodybuilding-style, bicep curl after bicep curl sessions, training is nowadays more strategic and oriented towards sports performance goals.
Workouts combine strength, power, endurance and hypertrophy (muscle gain).
Rack Pull Deadlifts
We began by deadlifting with Dave Mastiff. Mastiff is one of the stronger performers on the NXT roster, which is why he priorities heavy lifts such as this.
Today, we performed rack pulls, where the Deadlift is performed from a raised pin in the squat rack. The purpose of this is mainly to protect the lower back. It isn't an exercise you'll perform a high number of reps with. Each of the four or five sets is capped at a maximum of six reps.
Mastiff combines deadlifts with Farmers Walks, a lift usually tested in strongman competition using a specialised bar (see below).
However, in this instance, the ante was upped even further. We used fatbells, a kind of kettlebell but with the handle inside.
Fatbell Farmers Walks
Wrapped around the handle was a resistance band and then a fat grip to hold on to. The instability of the resistance band places another level of stress on your core stability.
I then moved on to power-building exercises with superstar Jordan Devlin. Devlin says "the holy grail for a professional wrestler is explosive power", and for this we trained Resistance Band Medicine Ball Throws.
Resistance Band Medicine Ball Throws
You begin on your knees, with your waist braced against a resistance band. You have to explode up through your feet, against the elasticity of the band, and then press-push the medicine ball across the turf.
A wealth of wrestling moves are grounded in explosive power, and this lift builds that strength throughout the entire body.
Barbell Split Squats / Sled Pushes
This full-body strength was then tested when I moved on to Barbell Split Squats with Isla Dawn. Balancing one leg on the pad behind the body, you then drop to a squat position.
This is tough enough in itself, but made even harder by strength coach Hayes' addition of chains and resistance bands.
This exercise is performed back-to-back as part of a superset with sled pushes. But these sled pushes are not like any other.
While busting a gut to get your sled down the other end of the turf, using all your core, glute, quad and hamstring strength in the process - your training partner is trying to make life very difficult.
They wrap a resistance band around your waist, and pull from the side. This external force is designed to pull your centre of gravity away, to the point where you can't drive forward in a straight line. Driving forward calls on an immense amount of core stability, while also improving your speed.
With such meticulous programming, the UK Performance Center provides the platform for the superstars of the future.
My visit to the Performance Center didn't disappoint, and with such impressive facilities in place, it looks like the future of the WWE won't, either.
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— JOE (@JOE_co_uk) May 16, 2019