John Cena’s 7-Exercise Upper-Body Routine
The following workout program is John Cena’s upper-body workout routine from his powerlifting days which helped him build a substantial portion of his current power muscle mass. Follow the program to break plateaus and make gains like a pro.
#1. Single-arm dumbbell row
TARGETED MUSCLES: middle back, lats, shoulders
HOW TO: Choose a flat bench and place a dumbbell on each side on the floor. Place your right leg on top of the end of the bench, bend your torso forward until it becomes parallel to the floor and place the right hand on the other end of the bench for better support. Keeping your lower back straight, pick up one dumbbell off the floor with your left hand and hold the weight so that the palm of the hand is facing your torso. As you exhale, pull the resistance straight up to the side of your chest while keeping your torso stationary. When you reach the peak contracted position, squeeze your back muscles hard. As you inhale, lower the resistance down to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Make sure that your upper torso is stationary and only your arms move all throughout the movement.
PRESCRIPTION: Perform 4 sets x 5 reps with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
#2. Machine row
TARGETED MUSCLES: middle back, biceps, lats, shoulders
HOW TO: Go to a low pulley row machine with a V-bar. Sit down on the machine and place your feet on the front platform, keeping your knees slightly bent. With a neutral back, lean over and grab the V-bar handles. Fully extend your arms and pull back until your torso becomes perpendicular to your legs. At this point, your back should be slightly arched and your chest should be sticking out. Maintaining a stationary torso, exhale and pull the handles back towards you until you touch the abs and contract your back muscles. Hold for a second, then inhale and return to the original position.
PRESCRIPTION: Perform 3 sets x 8 reps with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
#3. Barbell shrug
TARGETED MUSCLES: traps, arms, forearms
HOW TO: Stand up straight with feet at shoulder width apart and hold a barbell with a pronated grip and hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. As you exhale, raise your shoulders up as far as possible and hold the contraction for a second. Inhale then slowly return to the starting position. For this exercise to be fully effective, you have to avoid lifting the barbell by using your biceps. In addition, as long as your shoulders are healthy and optimally flexible, you can also rotate your shoulders them as you go up.
PRESCRIPTION: Perform 4 sets with a 6-6-5-5 rep pattern and 90 seconds of rest between sets.
#4. Landmine twist
TARGETED MUSCLES: abs, glutes, lower back and shoulders
HOW TO: Position a bar into a landmine and load the bar to an adequate weight. From a standing position with a wide stance, grab the bar and raise it from the floor by extending your arms in front of you and maintaining a tight core and take it up to shoulder height. Rotate your trunk and hips and swing the weight all the way down to one side, keeping your arms extended, then swing the weight all the way to the opposite side. Continue alternating sides for the prescribed number of reps.
PRESCRIPTION: Perform 2 sets x 10 reps with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
#5. Barbell bench press
TARGETED MUSCLES: chest, shoulders, triceps
HOW TO: Regardless of your amount of experience with this exercise, it’s most advisable that you use a spotter to ensure maximum efficiency and prevent injury. To perform it, lie back on a flat bench. Using a medium width grip, unrack the bar with straight arms and hold it straight over you. As you inhale, lower the bar to your mid chest (having it touch your chest is optional). Pause briefly and as you exhale, press it back up until you’ve locked your elbows. Squeeze your chest in the contracted position at the top of the movement, hold for a second then start slowly lowering the bar again. Keep your butt on the bench all throughout the movement. For best results, lowering the weight should take about twice as long as raising it, and you should be in full control of the barbell at all times.
PRESCRIPTION: Using around 70% of your estimated max, perform 3 sets x 5 reps with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
#6. Warrior incline dumbbell bench press
TARGETED MUSCLES: chest, deltoids, triceps
HOW TO: Set an adjustable bench to an incline of 30-45 degrees. Holding a pair of dumbbells, lie on your back on the bench and lift both dumbbells directly above your shoulders with fully extended arms and pull your shoulder blades together. Stick out your chest a bit and slowly lower both dumbbells to the sides of your chest, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Pause for a second, then explosively press the dumbbells to full extension. Try to maintain a neutral back and tucked elbows all throughout the movement.
PRESCRIPTION: Perform 3 sets x 6 reps with 90 seconds of rest between sets.
#7. Skull crusher
TARGETED MUSCLES: triceps and forearms
HOW TO: You can perform skull crushers with dumbbells, barbell or EZ bar, and use a variety of angled benches. If you increase the angle of the bench, more work goes to your triceps long head, while using a more declined bench will place the emphasis on the lateral triceps head. Lie on a bench and lift an EZ bar, using a close grip. Keep your arms perpendicular to the floor, which means that they won’t be perpendicular to your body if you’re using an incline or decline bench. Without moving your arms, inhale and lower the bar under control by flexing your elbows. When the bar is directly above your forehead, pause for a second, then exhale and power it back up by extending the elbows. Stop just before you reach full extension in order to maintain the same level of muscle tension throughout the whole range of motion, then lower it down on the same way again. Keep in mind that you should avoid allowing your upper arms to move from their position as you raise and lower the weight, because that will transfer a big portion of the load on your shoulders. Also, avoid flaring the elbows to ensure that the triceps are doing most of the work.
PRESCRIPTION: Perform 3 sets x 5 reps with 90 seconds of rest between sets.