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WWE’s most recognizable twins have continued elevating the women’s division in sports entertainment with their actions in and out of the ring. Here’s a look at what these sister-preneurs have in store and how they’re training to keep up.
For decades many of the women in various sports-entertainment companies—Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young notwithstanding— were relegated to supporting roles that included barely there outfits and action that made most diehard fans grimace. WWE continues to change that depiction. In addition to WWE Hall of Famers Lita, Trish Stratus, and Jacqueline revising perceptions, Stephanie McMahon, the company’s Chief Brand Officer, was also mixing it up in the ring and leading by example.
Fast-forward to April 2016 at WrestleMania 32, which was another evolution in sports entertainment. A new generation of highly capable, hyperathletic women—led by entertaining duo Brie and Nikki Bella—gave WWE the perfect excuse to do away with the categorization of a “Divas” championship and introduce a more appropriate “Women’s” title, lending even more (and certainly well-deserved) credibility to a growing division.
The Bella Twins, 32, have become the standard bearers of this rebranding, and for good reason. The two have been featured on all five seasons of Total Divas on E! and were selected for a spin-off, Total Bellas, which debuts in October. Brie was WWE Divas champ in 2011, and Nikki—who is 16 minutes older than her twin—is a two-time titleholder; Nikki’s second reign (301 days) was the longest on record.
“The evolution of the WWE women’s division has come so far,” Brie says. “Not only our generation of women, but so many before us have worked so hard for what happened at WrestleMania 32. Nikki and I got to be a part of the Divas revolution and helped pave the road for history being made for women in WWE. It is such a surreal feeling and an incredible honor.”
Since the Bella Twins are more than just a couple of pretty faces, M&F sat down—and worked out—with them to find out what it takes to survive and thrive in one of the most physical professions in the world.
M&F: You are both very athletic and could have pursued many different things. Why did you think WWE ended up being a specialty?
Nikki: I truly feel it was our calling. We’ve been athletes our whole life and we always wanted to stay athletic, but we were also drawn to entertainment. Since we were little girls, we have loved to perform and act, but we never forgot the first time we saw the female competitors in WWE and we thought it was the coolest thing. We knew it was love at first sight and exactly what we were meant to be.
Brie: It was crazy that Nikki and I were searching to find ourselves, and when we saw WWE everything clicked. That is how we truly knew it was meant to be.
You’re a team, so you work together a lot, but how competitive are you with each other?
Brie: It’s funny, because we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders but are so competitive! As a competitive athlete you always want to come out on top and give your best work. So whether it’s my sister or any other opponent, I’m competitive.
Nikki: I’m competitive, but with my sister I feel like what-ever she gets, I get, and I get to enjoy the ride. But don’t get me wrong—if it’s playing beach volleyball or a pick-up game of soccer, no matter who it is, I’m competitive. I always want to win, which can be good or bad, but I look at it as good.
How demanding is being a WWE Superstar?
Nikki: Being a WWE Superstar can be very demanding. We travel almost 300 days a year and we want to look good and feel strong, but this is how it is for anyone who is in the competition world and wants to be the best. We train, but we also focus on taking care of ourselves at the same time.
How much pressure is there to look the part?
Brie: As WWE Superstars we want to have confidence and stand strong in the ring. We are tomboys. So for us, it was always about physical strength and mental strength. Standing up there with courage is what is important and that is how we want to be portrayed.
Tell us how you maximize recovery? What are the most important factors for you?
Brie: We definitely try to get as much sleep as possible, but it is hard when you are so busy. We do cryotherapy, acupuncture, A.R.T. (active release techniques), and hot yoga.
Do your genes keep you naturally lean or are you just superstrict in the kitchen?
Brie: For Nicole and me, our biggest thing is “everything in moderation.” We keep a very healthy lifestyle—veggies, fruits, Nikki with her lean protein. We never want to deprive ourselves, and we think that is the way to be in shape. Allow yourself to have cheat meals, but keep everything in moderation. We aren’t big on diets. If you create a healthy lifestyle, then you aren’t sacrificing anything.
Nikki: If I want to have a glass of wine at night, then I know there is no dessert. We stay active, so drinking a lot of water and making those modifications and staying active is what keeps us in shape.
What’s your favorite cheat meal? How often do you indulge in those foods?
Nikki: My favorite cheat meal is anything that has carbs and sweets. I love sushi, I love pizza, I love pasta, and I am obsessed with doughnuts and dessert. My ultimate cheat meal would be a doughnut with a glass of champagne, pizza or pasta, then some sort of dessert.
Brie: Every Wednesday night my husband and I indulge in chips and salsa and gluten-free pizza. That is my every Wednesday night, and I look forward to it. It’s my favorite thing ever.
Do you follow a different diet when a big event is approaching?
Nikki: When we know something is coming up or really anything we want to prep for, I try not to have any carbs, just because I want to look my best. I retain water and am naturally a curvy girl. I work hard to get to my goal weight for that special event, but I can’t live that way. So when it is over I get back to how God made me.
Brie: I cut out alcohol and sweets. Otherwise, I have a healthy palate and just watch my sugar intake.
What have you learned about feeding your body as an athlete that you wish you had known earlier?
Nikki: Counting calories. I never knew to do that, and once I started and I realized that I should do that, I would say to myself, “Wow, I was consuming that much?”
Brie: Mine would be the protein shake and meal replacement. It was something that was so foreign to me until I joined WWE and saw everyone with their shaker cups. When you are always on the go and you are very active, having a protein shake or a protein bar keeps your energy going and keeps your body going, and it’s incredibly healthy. That is something I never knew.
You guys are incredibly busy. What are you currently working on?
Nikki: We are coming out with an app that will feature workouts. It will be an in-depth look at what we do, and you will be able to see us doing the actual workouts.
Brie: We’ve been documenting this on our social media, but we are excited to share with our fans our new venture, Birdie Bee. Birdie Bee is a pay-it-forward brand that represents feminine health, women’s empowerment, and the strength from within. Our goal date is to launch later this year, and we can’t wait to share this!
Just because they’re twins doesn’t mean their workouts mirror each other. This smattering of training tips help keep Brie and Nikki in Superstar shape year-round.
Barre Class: Squats have their place, but the specialized benefits of barre training—popularized by ballet dancers and now all the rage on the fitness scene—also come in handy. “I love barre class, specifically pliés, because you are working not only your thighs but also your posture and shoulders. It’s really a full-body workout.” Brie routinely performs three sets of 15 plié squats with a 20-to 30-pound kettlebell.
Focus on Abs: “Abs are always looked at, whether you are inside the ring, in your bikini at the beach, or in the gym working out. It’s a spot that everyone is drawn to.” Brie likes the results she sees from reverse crunches and lying leg raises, usually aiming for three sets of 20.
Pushups: Think pushups are overrated? Brie begs to differ. “I do three sets of 20. These are old-school but they always work, as long as my pelvic bone is tucked under and I am working core, shoulders, chest, and triceps.”
Band Play: Brie has a favorite use for resistance bands that emphasizes strength and mobility. “Put the band around your ankles, put two heels together as if you are in a plié, then bend one leg and lift the other—you are lengthening your muscles and ligaments. I always have to work extra hard on my legs, so this helps. I will do three sets of 20, 10 for each leg.”
Dumbbell Raises: How do you end up with those perfectly capped delts? Dumbbell lateral raises, of course. Brie rocks a set of five-to 10-pound dumbbells and performs three sets of 15 to really etch that waist- slimming detail into her delts. “I’m all about my shoulders.”
Agility: Nikki doesn’t just head into the gym and start ripping out reps. “I do 45 minutes of dynamic warmups that help with agility. I do a combination of shuffles, high knees, stretching, and Frankensteins.”
Heavy Squats: You don’t get legs like this just from aerobics. “For strength and appearance, I squat with weights. My max has been 185 pounds, but during my recovery I’ve been doing 160. I do three sets of 3–5 reps at my heavy weight (160), or if I want to do medium weight I’ll do three sets of 12.”
Complexes: The value of complex training isn’t lost on Nikki. She uses these same-weight barbell circuits often to help keep her body ring-ready. “This helps with my strength from head to toe.”
Push Presses: “This helps with having to lift people in our business and helps with upper-body strength. I usually do three sets of 12, and the weights depend on the day. If I am doing it heavy, I’ll do three sets of six.”
Core Work: “This is not just for appearance but for anything I do in my profession. I have to have a strong core to keep me healthy and protect me.” Nikki likes Russian twists, barbell twists, and planks to keep the muscles near her spine strong while also keeping her waistline lean and tone.
The Bellas are back, and this time the spotlight is on them, their relationships, and their family.
Reality TV is a good thing, even if it sometimes elevates the wrong people into the public consciousness. But for the millions of the WWE Universe with a remote control at the ready, Total Divas on E! gave them a chance to get to know the women behind the smack talk. Headlining that cast, Nikki and Brie Bella will now take their brand of sister drama to Total Bellas, which will air in six, one-hour episodes on E!, beginning Oct. 5. How exactly will this show carve itself out as a separate narrative for fans of the Bella Twins?
“Viewers can expect a closer and more in-depth look into our relationships with John [Cena], Daniel [Bryan], and our family,” Nikki says. “You saw it on Total Divas, but on Total Bellas you have all of us living under one roof.
Our family hasn’t been under one roof in 14 years! So you will see more into our relationships with our men and also our relationships with our family.”
SEE ALSO: Hot Women Of WWE: The Bella Twins
Unlike Total Divas, where house feuds are often dished up as red meat, Total Bellas will follow deeper narratives specific to the Twins.
“Viewers are also going to see some monumental things, including Nikki’s neck surgery and Daniel retiring from WWE,” Brie says. “Fans will get to see the ups and downs from both of those journeys.”
But, Brie adds, it is ultimately a show about the complexities of family life and the hurt and humor that come along with it.
“What I love, too, is that you actually get to hear from Daniel’s perspective,” she says. “In Total Divas, our men are our garnish. In Total Bellas, you finally get them in the interview chair and you get to hear their perspective on the events going on. Fans will get to hear their point of view.”