"Can you pretend to struggle with the weight?" our photographer asks Batista as he takes position in front of the World Wrestling Entertainment superstar. The three-time World Heavyweight Champion quickly obliges and contorts his face as if he's about to bench a Brink's truck.
The reason for the charade is that Batista presses four plates as easily as most people press an elevator button - and nobody on set feels like going to get more weight. When we get the photo we want, he leans back and relaxes. His breathing remains steady, as if he has been sitting there watching Braveheart (one of his favorite movies) instead of lifting what amounts to an average-size man with each arm almost a dozen times. In fact, he's downright calm for a guy known to his fans as "The Animal."
"My wrestling style is to basically give a brutal beatdown to my opponent," Batista says. "It's very animalistic, which is where the name comes from. From there, it took on a life of its own." And that life, the life of the 6'6", 290-pound Animal, must seem surreal to those who knew Batista as a kid growing up in southeast Washington, D.C., because back then, The Animal was just Dave.
And Dave was skinny. Dave had asthma. Dave even tried out for the swim team. "I was tall when I was in high school, and I kind of had a swimmer's physique," he explains. "The coach begged me to come out, but I went to one practice at 5 a.m. and that was it. Too early for me."
Click To Enlarge.
As A Longtime Reader Of MUSCLE & FITNESS, Batista Knows
The Benefits Of Getting A Complete Workout.
Then the football coach came calling. "I played tight end and defensive end, but my father wasn't a big sports fan so I didn't really know the game. I was a horrible football player." As he says this, he's peeling plates off the Hammer Strength machine like he's picking up quarters off the ground, and the idea that a man of his size and speed would've been a bad football player seems almost impossible. This is what it must be like when Michael Jordan tells you in person that he got cut from his sophomore hoops team.
Click To Enlarge.
Batista Warms Up His Shoulders For A Workout That Enables Him
To Lift 300-Pound Men Over His Head And Throw Them Like Rag Dolls.
"It's true," Batista explains. "But remember, I was only about 180-200 pounds back then."
That's about 100 pounds lighter than he is now - and almost 200 pounds lighter than the days when he tried to be a professional bodybuilder. "I used to look up to guys like Lee Haney, Dorian Yates and Shawn Ray," he says. "I got myself close to 370 at my peak."