His birth certificate reads Claudio Castagnoli, but most wrestling fans were first introduced to the 230-pound grappler in 2011 via his WWE-appointed alter-ego, Antonio Cesaro (prior to that, he’d performed under his given name on the independent circuit for more than a decade). These days, the superstar goes by solamente Cesaro, and is one-half of the former WWE Tag Team Champions alongside partner Tyson Kidd, padding a resume that also includes a lengthy run as United States Champion and victory in the first-ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at 2014’s WrestleMania.
But for those who regularly tune in to the company’s flagship primetime shows, Monday Night Raw and Thursday night’s SmackDown, Cesaro has also been affectionately dubbed as the Swiss Superman, thanks to Herculean feats like deadlift suplexes and his famed “Cesaro Swing.”
While taking a breather at his Orlando home before he and Kidd fight to regain their tag titles at this Sunday’s WWE Network-exclusive event, Elimination Chamber, the man whom Raw commentator Michael Cole frequently hails as wrestling’s most impressive pound-for-pound physical specimen shared some of his insights into getting strong the smart way, even when on the road 360 days a year. The 15-year vet and renowned strongman offered us a slew of training tips and workout advice, and, as a bonus, exactly how he swings 400-pound men around like a human merry-go-round.
1. Have Friends with Gym Hookups
“I’ve been traveling with Seth Rollins a lot lately, and he’s a big CrossFit guy and has the hookup to all the CrossFit gyms and now I do as well,” says Cesaro. “So that’s how I train when I’m on the road.” He has his go-to gyms and a log in his head of all the gyms in all the cities they visit — from Miami to London.
2. The Deck of Cards Workout
To keep it new, he has a few tricks, like this one with a deck of cards: “One of my favorite workouts is with a deck of cards. You just design an exercise to each suit, and then face cards are 10 [reps], aces are 20, and then the rest, the numbers are on there. So you do pushups, squats, sit-ups and whatever else you want and do it on the deck of cards.”
3. Find the Fun
“When people ask me for advice on how to get in better shape, it’s find something that’s fun for you. If fun for you is going to the CrossFit class, do that. If fun for you is going to the gym and doing some bench press and squats, do that. If fun for you is going outside and playing tennis, do that. Once you find what you will like to do, you will automatically try to do more and get in better shape. But if you dread going to the gym, you will not stick with it,” he says.
4. Do Your Own Thing
“I get the question a lot: What do you do? That doesn’t really matter, because you need to find out what works for you. Seth Rollins and John Cena and Tyson Kidd all have very different workout styles. John Cena’s very heavy on the Olympic weightlifting, Seth Rollins is a student of CrossFit and you see the shape he’s in. I myself am kind of a mix. You need to find what works for your body and what keeps you healthy.”
5. Make the Gym Your Meditative Space
Since he’s on the road for over 300 days a year, he needs to find time to get away from it all — and he conveniently finds that at the gym. “When I’m at the gym, that’s my time to myself to do what I like, listen to my music and do something fun,” says Cesaro. “You just try and clear your mind and focus on your workout, and that contributes to your mental health. When I’m done, I feel accomplished. That makes people want to be healthier, because they want to sustain that feeling. It will have a ripple effect on your life.”
6. Keep It Competitive
“It pushes you when you see somebody like Seth Rollins or John Cena or Tyson Kidd work out. You can’t just lollygag around. You want to do your best and keep up. When we go to those gyms and everybody’s sweating and going about their way, it motivates you and you’re like, ‘I wanna do the best workout I can.’ There’s that accountability that someone’s watching.”
7. And Learn to Laugh
“When I first came to the United States, people said I don’t understand what sarcasm is, but European sarcasm is way more dry, so they just didn’t understand mine,” says Cesaro. “But I think it’s very important to have a sense of humor in our profession. There’s a certain proportion of seriousness you have to bring to the table, but there’s a certain amount of humor. I don’t mind making fun of myself.”
8. Listen to Your Pain
“You’re always kind of banged up. I want to follow a regimented workout, and all of a sudden you get a tweak in the elbow or in the knee and you need to take I easy for a week or two, which is hard for me. “It’s very important to listen to your body. If your body tells you, ‘Hey, I’m hurt,’ then you take a break. Then you find something else you can do in the meantime. Work on your flexibility or something like that.”
9. Choose Trainers Wisely
Cesaro knows the ropes when it comes to fitness, but he does lean on trainers and other wrestlers — who travel with him — to keep him in line and mix it up.”Get a friend who’s really good at working out or in good shape or in the shape you want to be. It sounds kind of harsh, but if somebody gives me advice on working out, he should at least be better at working out than me. I understand if somebody’s studied it, but they need to also be able to apply that.”
10. Keep Learning
“I get tips and tricks all the time from people, but that’s all part of growing. There’s constantly new ways to work out. There’s constantly new theories and studies, and anybody who wants to get better at anything will realize you never stop learning. The moment you think you know everything, you should probably quit.”
Bonus Tip: How to Execute the Cesaro Swing (Ed. Note: Don’t Try This at Home)
“It’s full-body, because to be honest, my legs get tired before I get really dizzy. So that’s where the endurance part comes in. You need to hold your opponent’s legs in place, which you need your arms for. And you obviously need your legs when you’re spinning, but you also need your back, especially your lower back, to keep your balance. The secret is repetition, like with most exercises. And, of course, being in good shape and health.”