How The Undertaker Trained For His Best Physique

How The Undertaker Trained For His Best Physique


Few things in life are perfect.

The obvious exceptions here being Jon Bon Jovi’s hair, and women who can use power tools.

And if I can add one more thing to the list above, it would be The Undertaker in 2009.

Seriously, go back and look.

He’s chiseled. He’s conditioned. He’s ROCK F**KING SOLID.

It’s no coincidence that The Undertaker was enjoying the brightest years of his WWE career at this time, so in today’s article I’m going to walk you through exactly how the “Deadman” got into the shape of his life when, at 42 years old, most people are starting to head in the opposite direction!

After we’ve done that, I’ll show you how he trains nowadays. It’s very different!


The Undertaker workout revealed

How The Undetaker Trained To Get Into The Shape Of His Life At 42

Before we look at an actual training routine, I need to tell you ahout the THREE CRUCIAL COMPONENTS which made this possible.

The first thing is that The Undertaker was never in bad shape.

Sure, he gained a bit of weight in the early 2000s (see above) when he changed his wrestling gimmick from the one we know and love to the biker character, which we also know and love but not quite as much.

However, he was never “out of shape”. He had big arms, he had decent size, and he was strong as f**k (and still is, as you’ll see later) because it was his job to pick up 350lb giants and throw them around.

This meant he was starting from a very good base, but let’s not understate the transformation – it’s crazy to think that ‘Taker entered his 40s with most of his now classic Wrestlemania matches (Edge, Shawn Michaels, AJ Styles) still ahead of him.

the undertaker wwe workout

Crucial component #2 is his ex-wife Sara (above).

He’s made no secret of the fact that Sara was the driving force in helping him clean up his diet in the mid-2000s as he transitioned out of his biker character and back to the classic Deadman. By the time they divorced in 2007, the foundations and nutritional strategies which allowed The Undertaker to have a “second coming” were already in place.

Which brings us to the third and final component…

the undertaker workout

Batista.

Batista happened.

Many folks reading this will know Dave Bautista (real name) from his roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but if you were a WWE fan back in 2007 you know him as the 290lbs ripped motherf**ker who powerbombed his way to the top of the WWE.

From a marketing perspective, Batista was perfect – he had the looks, the attitude, and the work ethic. Alongside the always reliable John Cena, he was considered the WWE’s “golden boy”, and he arrived on the scene at precisely the right moment for The Undertaker.

You see, by the mid-2000s ‘Taker was in a bit of a slump. Despite showing signs of a career resurgence (and certainly a physical one), he was the victim of poor booking by those in control, and often found himself thrust into meaningless feuds with bigger ‘monster’ opponents for no other reason than “Well, he’s The Undertaker.”

For the first time in his career, the Phenom looked bored as f**k…

…and then Batista arrived.

WWE workout routine

In Batista he had real competition, and he knew it.

Here’s a guy who was on the way up… a guy who was hungry… a guy who wanted to become the #1 attraction on the show.

Almost overnight, ‘Taker looked interested again.

While the early theme of their rivalry was about Undertaker trying not to be out-done by the young gun, it quickly became clear that we were NOT witnessing a “passing of the torch” as such – instead, we were seeing a re-birth.

The Undertaker was f**king thriving.

He was jumping the top ropes, cutting some of his best promos, and taking risks we’d not seen him take for years.

It was wonderful.

The pair struck up an off-screen friendship while working together, and Batista’s mission to carve the perfect body in the gym seemed to rub off on ‘Taker. Suddenly the Deadman was rocking a Hollywood tan (!), and viewers got to witness both men appearing more muscular and more chiseled week on week. The excellent on-screen chemistry of the combo even helped them achieve the remarkable feat of guiding Smackdown (WWE’s so-called “B” show) to higher ratings than Monday Night RAW.

When the rivalry ended after almost a year of back-and-forth battles, this new super-jacked version of The Undertaker continued to dominate the WWE, and stole the show at every pay-per-view he appeared.

Simply put; The Undertaker was back to his best and then some!

As a fan it was fantastic to see the Deadman rise once again, finally cementing his legacy in a storytelling masterclass against Shawn Michaels which is widely considered to be the best Wrestlemania bout of all time.

Nuts for a guy who was supposedly “finished” just 5 years earlier, huh?!

the undertaker workout routine


The Undertaker bodybuilding

The Undetaker Workout Routine (2009)

The Undertaker followed a bodybuilding-style training program to build the chiseled physique we saw on screen in 2009.

Interestingly, he decided he did NOT want the sheer size he displayed in the late 90s, nor the ‘steroid look’ owned by many of his contemporaries. Instead his goal was to look lean and ripped, in his own words “a big man who can move”.

Given that he was always so large, this would require quite the body recomp and his diet was the key to making that happen. He began dialing down his calories and structuring his workouts for pure muscle growth.

Upon arriving in a new location ‘Taker would quickly find a local “spit & sawdust” gym and go there every day to perform early morning fasted cardio. He would hit the weights later in the day, using a traditional “bro split” which saw him training five days per week and working each main muscle group once per week.

Sticking mainly to low-to-mid rep ranges (8-12 reps per set), he relied on the classic principles of progressive overload (heavy weight = build muscle) and metabolic stress via dropsets (fight through the burn = build even more muscle) to carve the awesome body we saw on screen.

The full workout plan is below.

the undertaker gym
“Somebody better change the title belt from an XXL to L!”

Day 1: Chest & Abs

PUSH UPS x100
(Warm-up using as many sets as needed)

DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS x8-12
(4 sets)

INCLINE DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS x8-12
(4 sets)

PEC DECK x8-12
(3 sets)
(Dropset to failure after final set)

HIGH-TO-LOW CABLE CROSSOVER x8-12
(3 sets)
(Dropset to failure after final set)

CRUNCHES x200
(As many sets as needed)

Day 2: Back, Abs & Cardio

BODYWEIGHT INVERTED ROW x50
(Warm-up using as many sets as needed)

BARBELL DEADLIFT x8-12
(4 sets)

WEIGHTED PULL UPS x8-12
(3 sets)

SEATED CABLE ROW x8-12
(3 sets)
(Dropset to failure after final set)

LYING LEG RAISES x100
(As many sets as needed)

*** Undertaker also performs an hour of cardio first thing in the morning.

Day 3: Shoulders, Abs & Cardio

AROUND THE WORLD x50
(Warm up using as many sets as needed)

BARBELL PUSH PRESS x8-12
(4 sets)

SEATED DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESS x8-12
(3 sets)
(Dropset to failure after final set)

DUMBBELL LATERAL RAISE x12 >> DUMBBELL FRONT RAISE x12 >> HEAVY DUMBBELL SHRUGS x12
(3 sets)

CRUNCHES x200
(As many sets as needed)

*** Undertaker also performs an hour of cardio first thing in the morning.

Day 4: Legs & Cardio

BODYWEIGHT SQUAT x100
(Warm-up using as many sets as needed)

BARBELL SQUAT x8-12
(4 sets)

BARBELL STIFF LEG DEADLIFT x8-12
(4 sets)

LEG PRESS x8-12
(3 sets)
(Dropset to failure after final set)

LEG EXTENSION x8-12
(3 sets)
(Dropset to failure after final set)

LEG CURL x8-12
(3 sets)
(Dropset to failure after final set)

*** Undertaker also performs an hour of cardio first thing in the morning.

Day 5: Biceps, Triceps & Abs

UNDERHAND-GRIP INVERTED ROW x50
(Warm-up using as many sets as needed)

CLOSE-GRIP PUSH UPS x50
(Warm-up using as many sets as needed)

SEATED DUMBBELL HAMMER CURL x8-12
(4 sets)

BARBELL CLOSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS x8-12
(4 sets)

HEAVY BARBELL CURL x8-12
(3 sets)
(Dropset to failure after final set)

WEIGHTED TRICEPS DIPS x8-12
(3 sets)
(Dropset to failure after final set)

LYING LEG RAISES x100
(As many sets as needed)



the undertaker workout 2020

Why Does He Train Differently Nowadays?

Back in 2013, The Undertaker made a move which prolonged his WWE career by another 7 years.

He stopped training like a bodybuilder and started training like a professional wrestler.

That might sound silly, but WWE is a looks-based business where muscles put butts in seats, so the vast majority of talent focus on appearance over everything else. Unfortunately this does not help them in the long-term (as demonstrated by the vast majority of the old 1980s guys who used traditional bodybuilding workouts only to wind up stiff and riddled with injuries by the time they hit their forties) because their training isn’t supporting their performance.

This should come as no surprise.

If we think about it, most traditional bodybuilding exercises take place in the sagittal plane (up and down), but a wrestler’s job takes place in the transverse plane (think catching, twisting, throwing, quick side-to-side movements).

This became Undertaker’s main focus in the gym as he entered the twilight of his career, and it was a very smart move.

After all, he wanted to be “a big man who can move”, so it made sense to focus on exercises which were designed to improve his fitness and replicate the stuff he was doing in the ring.

My only wish is that he had done it sooner… then again, I don’t wanna pick too many faults, he’s the f**king Undertaker!

So, in his own words:

“I was too stubborn to change my training routine from what I knew. Making that change was hard for me, because it was venturing into the unknown. But once I did, and I saw the benefits, I got it.”

What exactly did his new routine involve, then?

Well, there’s still plenty of heavy lifting!

When your job is to literally pick up massive people and throw them, you cannot escape the need to lift heavy weights in the gym. But nowadays it’s one with more purpose, focusing on movements which are actually useful to his job (like heavy rack pulls, rowing machine circuits to build cardiovascular fitness, etc) as opposed to exercises to help him look great on a billboard.

In the photograph below, you can see him hitting a 500lbs below-the-knee rack pull. The specificity of this movement pattern is off the chart, so it’s no wonder this has a become a staple exercise of his new training program.

(Also, this is an insane lift for a guy who’s 6″8 and 60 years old!)

the undertaker workout routine

Barbell squats are another useful tool for a wrestler, but they bring with them a host of safety issues for a man whose knees have been ravaged from 30 years in a wrestling ring, so adaptations needed to be made in order to reap the strength benefits without aggravating any old injuries.

This was done by switching to barbell box squats, because the greater force transfer makes them a safer exercise while still providing some impressive strength benefits.

Cutting out the so-called “fluff” and focusing on things like this made a massive difference for ‘Take…

… but it gets even better:

Yes, that’s a 60 year old Undertaker hitting a 40″ box jump!

A lot of his wrestling counterparts wouldn’t have dared incorporate such movements into their training plans back in the day, but it shows the lengths he has gone to in order to prolong his in-ring career. Plus, this is mighy impressive agility from a guy who’s had so many wrestling-related injuries people were talking about him possibly needing to retire in 1999!

This combination of basic strength training and an ENTIRE F**K-TONNE of brutal conditioning work (usually on a trusty Concept 2 rowing machine, some of these workouts were shown in the docuseries Undertaker: The Last Ride) was essentially how he trained from 2013 onwards, as he tried his best to defy injuries and keep up with guys half his age.

I guess the sad thing is that if these changes were made earlier in his career it may well have produced another 5 years of what we’d call “prime” Undertaker.

However, the fact that he made this move AT ALL is great. It allowed him to keep doing what only he can do for a few years longer. About year after ‘Taker switched things up, we saw John Cena make a similar move, and nowadays there are many more WWE guys train this way. Hopefully, this should usher in a whole generation of wrestlers who live longer and healthier lives when they leave the squared circle.

That’s a great thing!

As for The Undertaker, well, he reached the end of the road after a show-stealing performance with AJ Styles at Wrestlemania 36 (below) and he is now happily retired – and still strong as f**k!

Well played, Undertaker, you truly are a phenom.

If you’ve enjoyed reading my breakdown of The Undertaker’s workout routine, you’ll probably also enjoy my in-depth look at how Sylvester Stallone trains for movie roles or how John Cena built his WWE body. Go read them!

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