If you're a fan of pro wrestling then you might have been checking out All Elite Wrestling lately. Her weekly show Dynamite features both rising stars and legends who have been performing for many years - including Billy Gunn.
At 58, Billy Gunn, best known as one half of the New Age Outlaws with tag team partner Jesse James during the '90s D-Generation X heyday, is as formidable an athlete as any of the much younger cast members , including his two sons Austin and Colton. Being a part of the Gunn Club is something Billy enjoys just as much now as he did when he was at his peak during the Monday Night Wars era in the '90s.
"It's wonderful. I literally train them all the time," Gunn said. "It's fun because I'm as passionate now as I ever was. They wanted to do it, but our deal was they had to graduate from college first. Doing what I do at my level and doing it with them is so good. It's also still fun that people still want to see me. I don't want to let them down."
Gunn, who is 6ft 5 inches tall and weighs around 270 pounds, can be seen performing the same movements with the same intensity and energy as in the early days of his career. He was also passionate about working out, so no matter what city he was in, he always had to work out with the weights before performing. His approach just wasn't as structured in his early years as it was in his final years.
“That was typical training back then. Go to the gym and lift heavy weights," Gunn said. "Back then it was all about getting off the plane, getting in a rental car, getting something to eat, then going to the gym and killing yourself because you didn't know when you could start exercising again."
Considering that athletes back then were in the "body" business rather than the bodybuilding business, Gunn wasn't on a big diet either.
"I didn't really have a diet plan. There is a difference between good and healthy nutrition. I've eaten well, but being on the road makes it very difficult. To be honest, not much thought was given to it.”
Whatever Billy Gunn was doing back then was obviously working, as he says one of his training feats was hitting a 700-pound squat. That was before the back, neck, and several other parts of the body began to feel the physical strain of the road and the ring. Aside from neck surgery in 1995, he injured his left shoulder while pushing fellow Hall of Famer Bubba Ray Dudley through a table with his finisher, the fameasser.
"I caught the table and it threw me sideways. I landed on my elbow and it blew my entire shoulder off," he recalled. He eventually returned to the ring, but injured the same shoulder again six months later.
"I think my shoulder injury was worse than my neck," he said. He would eventually undergo surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, AL. While he would return to the ring and gym, it was clear that if he was to stay healthy, he needed to have more structure in his fitness schedule.
"As wrestlers, we want people to see how hard we work in the gym. So let's work on the big muscles. Unfortunately, we don't pay enough attention to the small muscles,” said Gunn. "DR. Andrews said that if we don't work on the small muscles that lie underneath the larger ones, it causes problems. So I started working on the smaller connective muscles, because even though we don't see them, we still need them exercise to keep them strong and keep the joints healthy.”
Since then, Billy Gunn has paid more attention to the smaller muscles he was talking about, as well as tendons and ligaments. He also pays more attention to his mobility. The main focus going forward has been his shoulder, and he commits to putting in a few minutes of band work when it comes time to focus on the deltas.
"I use the bands, which are a little lighter, and do a lot of movements for my shoulders and rotator cuffs. I just want to make everything burn.”
Moves that can be performed include pulls and single bracelet presses or side raises. Another exercise he likes to do is bend over with a small weight in his hand and make arm circles with the weight in each direction while bending over. This helps him prepare the entire body for the work that may lie ahead.
“I don't just go in and start jacking. Little things like that make a difference because it lets your body know you're about to work.”
Gunn also uses a similar strategy for the hips and legs, which allow him to continue with squats and deadlifts. As he nears 60, he still believes the big moves work and he doesn't want to give up the hard stuff in the gym.
"When you stop doing things like that, it gives people more excuses for not doing it, and I'm not like that," Gunn said emphatically. He also sought the help of friend and multiple M&F cover model Mike O'Hearn.
"He's amazing. He's so knowledgeable and that's why I have him here," he admitted. "He helped me learn how to warm up, focus on mobility and get things moving so the body is ready when it's time to lift the heavier weight. I may not know much about bodybuilding, but I have a friend who's one of the best around, so I use that to my advantage."
Recreation outside of the gym is also important, and Billy Gunn has put a lot of emphasis on this aspect as well. He gets regular massage sessions and stretching time before going on TV every week. It's actually something he prioritizes a lot so he can train the way he wants to.
"I have a busy schedule, but I'm finding a way to fit it because it makes me feel better. When my mind says I'm better, then I know I'm fine," he said. "I don't get massages to be cuddled, I go so I know I'm ready when the need arises."
Last but not least, the diet. Gunn said his nutrition plan is now on point and he makes sure he has everything he needs at home or before hitting the road. He will take prepackaged meals with him when he travels to the next TV taping or pay-per-view event.
"I didn't realize the importance of nutrition until a few years ago because I had good genetics. Genetics aren't everything, but they help," he admitted. "As Mike told me, gains don't start at the gym, they start with what you eat. Everything your body does is based on what you put into it.”
He's also added supplements to his plan and even has his own pre-workout thanks to BPI Sports. "Gunn Powder" is an energy-based pre-workout that will help him prepare for the next practice or match.
"Obviously, pre-workouts are the big thing, and I'm a big pre-workout guy," he admitted. "So, having a preworkout with my own picture and name on it is a dream come true." He's proud to have Gunn Powder at his disposal, but wanted to make sure it worked for the customers as much as it did for his fans when he's in the ring.
"It might sound cliche, but it had to be something that she and I were passionate about. It had to be done right,” said the Gunn Club leader. "It's made exactly how I want it, it's what I actually use, and it has a bit more stimulus because I'm a stim guy myself. People who need extra energy before a workout will love it.” Gunn Powder is available at www.bpisports.com.