For a man of his strength and stature, Jinder Mahal greeted me with a very soft handshake and a gentle smile. Dressed in a black suit, he had an extremely shiny WWE Championship belt accompanying him. After a couple of questions about how he was preparing for WWE’s tour of India (he had just announced that Kevin Owens would be his opponent), I asked the 108 kg, 6 foot 5 inch man about how he manages to stay in shape.

How many times do you train in a week, and for how long?

I work out six days a week. The first thing I do when I wake up, whether I am at home or at a hotel when I am travelling, is to do some cardio on an elliptical trainer, just to keep my metabolism running. Then, after breakfast, I go to the gym and lift weights for about an hour and 15 minutes. After that, I stretch for about 20-25 minutes. So in total, I train for a little over two hours.

Do you keep changing your routine, in order to shock your body?

Yes, absolutely, it is one of the things that you have to do. The body is great at adapting, and once it does, it hits a plateau. So if you do the same workout, week after week, your body is not being challenged. So sometimes I train heavier, and take longer breaks. Sometimes I start doing supersets, where I do two or three exercises in a row without taking a break. Then, I’ll lift lighter weights and do more reps. I also enjoy outdoor activities. Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym. For instance, I’ll go hiking, or biking or paddle boarding.

You’ve spoken about how you’re into functional training. Can you tell us more about that?

I post a lot of these workouts on Instagram. I am a huge fan of functional training, because not only do I have to look good for WWE, I also have to perform at a very, very elite level. WWE athletes are truly world class athletes. You have guys like Randy Orton, John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura, who are all world renowned athletes. And to be on the same level as them, my training has to be at par. And if I want to be a champion, I have to be out-training them.

(Functional training refers to training that is useful for Jinder to perform the kind of moves he does while he is in the ring. For example, a video on his Instagram handle shows him lifting a rubber body, doing some behind-theneck shoulder presses with it and finally flipping it on the ground.)

Can you tell us about some exercises that people should do for each body part?

Yes, for chest and triceps, focus mainly on bench presses – flat, incline and decline. And for triceps, you should do close grip bench presses. I also do a lot of bodyweight exercises like push-ups, which I think everyone should definitely do, since you don’t need any equipment. If you can’t do proper push-ups, then you should start with your knees on the ground and build enough body strength to do push-ups properly. For back and biceps, you should do lat pull downs, and if you don’t have access to the machine, you should do pull-ups. You should do bicep curls too, which are very easy. I do a lot of core training, because a strong mid-section and a strong back are very crucial, as we are always lifting each other. So planks and sit-ups are good for that. You have to train your legs too; you can’t be off balance. And training your legs doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you have to go the gym. You can go hiking, you can go cycling, you can go for a jog, you can go running, you can do free squats.

What do you do to avoid injuries since it’s an impact sport, and a lot of WWE wrestlers do get injured?

Injury prevention is huge for me. Every week I get a massage, I do cryotherapy and I stretch every day. Most importantly, I rest. I get to my hotel room as soon as I can, and I rest because that is as important as the training part. I sleep for at least 8 hours every day, sometimes it’s tough with all the travelling, but I try.

What is the kind of diet that you follow?

I follow a very strict diet, and eat the same food all through the day, every day. Bananas, oatmeal, white rice, brown rice, sweet potato, chicken, turkey, fish – foods that contain lean protein and healthy carbohydrates. I also try and eat every two hours.

Do you ever have cheat meals?

For some time now, I have a cheat meal every two weeks. But for a long time, I did not have any cheat meals. You can see from my transformation, it was dramatic. That was through lots of hard work and motivation. I wanted to be the WWE champion, but now I want to be the greatest WWE champion of all time, so I am even more motivated.

You’ve quit alcohol completely. How has that helped?

Quitting alcohol was a big change, not just for my health but for my mind too. I think better, I feel better, I sleep better. It was the first step I took after I got released from WWE. I quit drinking, focussed on my diet and trained really hard. And two months later, WWE called me and asked me to come back.

Do you have any gym buddies from WWE?

Drew McIntyre, Sheamus and Fandango. Fandango is my workout partner.

Do you like listening to music while working out? What kind of music do you listen to?

I like listening to Punjabi music. I listen to Bhangra. Artists like Diljeet, Jazzy B and Gippy Grewal.

WWE is coming to India on December 8th and 9th, at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi.