If you've ever laid eyes on Dwayne Johnson, aka "The Rock," you've probably wondered what exactly the 6-foot-5, 260-pound mega star does in the gym to stay that fit. Well, you have your answer with "The Titan Games" on NBC.
Johnson, the host and executive producer, describes the 10-episode game series, airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, as "the most epic and insane athletic competition ever devised." He says that every athletic challenge the contestants will face has been inspired by the workouts that have fueled him, the struggles he has experienced, and the disciplines he believes in.
The TV show's replicas of medieval tasks may not be exactly what Johnson does during his gym sessions, but the creativity and grit required are definite similarities. It is produced by the same group behind "American Ninja Warrior," so you won't be surprised to see competitors busting concrete balls with a sledgehammer, manipulating giant battering rams, and climbing massive chain-link spider webs in a darkened arena lit by strobe lights and pyrotechnics. And would you expect anything less from this jacked action-movie king?
Johnson's vision for the series was to create a platform for everyday people, who are still exceptional athletes, to shine. Over 100,000 fitness fanatics answered his call during two rounds of applications last spring, and only 64 were chosen. Two of them, 32-year-old Ben Afuvai of Tacoma, Washington, and 29-year-old Kelsey Horton of Rapid City, South Dakota, are Bodybuilding.com ambassadors.
Afuvai is a former high school football player who didn't begin training seriously until returning from a two-year mission trip to the Philippines six years ago. He recalls hearing about the first round of auditions last February and it was too late to apply. Afuvai, who is Samoan by birth and considers The Rock a role model, was devastated. But then, Johnson issued a second call via his Instagram account.
"My wife told me when I came home from work that night," says Afuvai. "She said, 'You got a second chance.' So, I applied, sharing my whole story, and I got the call."
You can see just how excited he is in the trailer video.
At 5 feet, 11 inches tall and 195 pounds, Afuvai focused on speed, endurance, and strength in the weeks leading up to the show. He used workouts created by his wife and fellow Bodybuilding.com ambassador, Sami Mose, whom he calls the real beast in the relationship. His main source of motivation? To show his 6-year-old daughter, Naiah, that anything is possible.
Found on the Gram
Horton, on the other hand, was invited to apply for "The Titan Games" by a casting director who reached out to her via her 58,000-follower Instagram account. Her platform, which showcases her impressive abs and quads, "aims to inspire maybe just one person to challenge their own status quo," as Horton puts it. This nurse and mother had never heard of or seen the show advertised before since she doesn't have cable at home.
"Initially I was hesitant, because stuff like this is really outside of my comfort zone," Horton says. "But the more I thought about it, about how it's The Rock and a competition like nothing I've ever seen, it was a chance that might not come up in my lifetime again."
Horton played many sports in high school and ran one year of college track but didn't start lifting until seven years ago after giving birth to her daughter.
"I was pretty overweight and decided to try something different, so I started lifting," she says.
Now, Horton works out five days a week, adding WODs for increased cardio, and competes in powerlifting events 3-4 times a year.
Applicants were notified over the summer that they would be participating in "The Titan Games," and episodes were filmed in September. There was precious little time to prepare, so Horton stuck with her usual programming.
"I didn't change a darn thing," she says. "We had no knowledge of what we were going to be doing anyway, so I thought, 'I don't have enough time to really learn and master any new skills, so the best I can do now is to continue to train as hard as I have and hope that it's enough.'"
Taking a Chance
As devoted parents, both Afuvai and Horton were nervous about leaving their kids for a lengthy period of time to film before the premiere on NBC. But The Rock's fame and being on TV made the whole situation much easier to explain.
"I told them I was going to go work out with Maui from Moana," Horton says. "It clicked a lot better for them that way."
While 5-foot-4-inch Horton says being taller and bigger would have been a huge advantage on "The Titan Games," she too has the itch to see what else is possible.
"You look at what you're doing as a day-to-day routine and you don't think it's anything special," she says. "But then you get put to the test and you think, maybe I'm selling myself short over here. Maybe I can do more."
For Afuvai, the experience on the show was everything he expected and more, even though he was defeated in the show's first episode. While he had never participated in any type of athletic competition before, he now has the bug.
"I never did any weightlifting or bodybuilding competitions," he says. "This was the first fitness-related competition I have ever done, and it was a good surprise for me how much I enjoyed it. It made me want to compete more."
Want to know what it took for these two Bodybuilding.com ambassadors to get ready for what The Rock had in store? Give their workouts a go and see if you too are game ready.
WOD from Workout 1:
- Cash In: 400m
- Box jumps
- Hand release push-ups
- KB swings
- Cash out: 400m
WOD from Workout 2:
- Cash In: 50 single-unders
- 400m run
- 5 Curtis P's (Power clean, one Lunge each leg, Push press)
- 15 ab-mat sit ups
- Cash Out: 50 single-unders