Get On Board: How Adam Copeland Got In The Best Shape Of His Life & Returned To Be A Champion In AEW

Copeland co-founded Pure Plank with Jay Reso

Hard as it is to imagine, there was a time when Adam Copeland did not have an immaculately sculpted physique.

Before the pandemic hit–and well in advance of his return to the ring–Copeland was a retired professional wrestler. In his mid-40s at the time, he was not as precise about his diet or workout regimen.

“I was starting to rock a dad bod,” said Copeland. “I’m not afraid to admit it.”

But the moment that was too much for the former WrestleMania main eventer occurred when he was at home carrying his two daughters up the stairs. Copeland felt an odd sensation, a feeling that was particularly unusual for him, especially in that environment.

He was winded.

Adam Copeland with his Pure Plank board; and in AEW with the TNT championship
Adam Copeland with his Pure Plank board; and in AEW with the TNT championship / Courtesy AEW

“I wasn’t completely out of shape, but I was carrying too much at the front of my belly,” said Copeland. “My lower back was sore, too, and that’s when I knew it was time to get more serious about getting back in shape.”

Copeland needed to strengthen his body, but he wanted to take it one step at a time. So he started planking.

“Planking is good for your core, so that’s where I started,” said Copeland. “Two minutes of planking and you’re going to feel it. And it was working–I was getting stronger, but I was aching from the amount of time I was on the ground planking.”

Planking rejuvenated Adam Copeland
Planking rejuvenated Adam Copeland / Courtesy Pure Plank

This marked a stretch in Copeland’s life when was no longer involved in pro wrestling. A master storyteller, ideas for matches and intricate feuds were part of his past. But the powder keg in his mind continued to give off sparks.

As Copeland ached on the cold floor while planking, his creative mind was still working at a feverish rate. There had to be a way, he thought, to make planking more comfortable.

So Copeland did exactly what he has been doing since the sixth grade–he turned to his best friend, Jay Reso. Best known as Christian in wrestling, Copeland sought out advice.

“Jay had wanted to know how I got my abs back, and when I told him it was through planking, he wouldn’t believe me,” said Copeland. “Then he started doing it religiously. The two of us, we became acolytes for planking.”

Copeland’s early Pure Plank design, which he initially called Perfect Plank
Copeland’s early Pure Plank design, which he initially called Perfect Plank / Courtesy Adam Copeland
Copeland drew the design with Reso’s insight
Copeland drew the design with Reso’s insight / Courtesy Adam Copeland

Soon after, Copeland returned to WWE in January of 2020. He was staying intermittently at Reso’s house during his trips to Orlando when he would film new segments at their Performance Center, and that is when the former tag team champions came up with the Pure Plank design.

“We started thinking of a mechanism that would make planking more friendly,” said Copeland. “Jay can’t draw, so I put a marker to paper–and I drew this idea. We started playing with it, fine-tuning it, and we created something we both believe will help people.

“This isn’t designed for pro wrestlers. It’s to help people. To help mothers that just had a C-section. Or a guy who works all day on the line. Or me, strengthening my core. That’s what excites me most.”

Adam Copeland planking
Adam Copeland planking / Courtesy Pure Plank

As co-founders of Pure Plank, Copeland and Reso went to work, transforming the diagram into an actual product.

“We found partners, and all of a sudden, we had this product,” said Copeland. “It’s my first time being involved from the ground floor. Designing the board and making it exactly the way we wanted–with handles for stability and flexibility on the board to engage your body from the neck down–we got to make it exactly how we wanted. It’s built specifically to help people. That’s why we’re so passionate about it.”

Even though Copeland believes wholeheartedly in Pure Plank, an unexpected obstacle emerged before he could promote it. Once he signed with AEW last fall and reconnected with Reso, the best friends turned into bitter rivals.

As Christian Cage, Reso evolved into one of the industry’s most detested villains. For the past five months, he was embroiled in a high-stakes, intense feud with Copeland. So the timing was not opportune to co-promote the new product they created together.

Copeland and Reso just put the finishing touches on their feud in AEW, with Copeland finally overcoming Christian in an epic battle on AEW’s flagship show Dynamite. Their battle took place in Toronto, only miles from where they trained to become pro wrestlers. It was an incredibly compelling bout that even included a brawl in the venue’s penalty box–where Copeland donned a jersey from his beloved Maple Leafs, as well as forced Christian to wear a Boston Bruins sweater, which was nearly sacrilege for him.

Copeland won the match, seizing hold of the TNT Championship in the process. Keeping the veil of magic around their work, Reso was unwilling to provide a comment on Pure Plank.

“He’s still upset I have better abs than him,” said Copeland. “And that he had to wear a Bruins jersey on national television.”

Adam Copeland’s idea has become a reality in Pure Plank
Adam Copeland’s idea has become a reality in Pure Plank / Courtesy Pure Plank

Copeland is back in action on Dynamite tomorrow in a mixed tag with Willow Nightingale against Brody King and Julia Hart. He wrestled an outstanding bout last week, defeating Penta El Zero Miedo in a match that was appointment-viewing. Copeland, 50, embraced the lucha style, and it was remarkable to watch him deliver a flying head scissors.

“I’m dipping into some stuff I haven’t done in a while,” said Copeland. “I hadn’t cracked out any kind of head scissors at all in years, let alone a flying head scissors a la Brad Armstrong, albeit without his finesse. We traded styles throughout the match, and I loved that. The opportunity to wrestle matches like that, I love that, too. It’s a big part of the reason why I came to AEW.

“With this small window left in my career, I wanted to challenge myself. Since we started the Cope Open challenge, I’ve wrestled Minoru Suzuki, Lee Moriarty, Dante Martin, Griff Garrison, Matt Cardona, Daniel Garcia, and now Penta. Line up all of that talent side-by-side, and they’re all so different. That is really fun, especially at this stage in my career.”

Dating back to before the pandemic, Copeland’s return to wrestling initially began with planking. Now he wants to share that joy–and perspiration–to improve the lives of others.

“We created something that can truly help people,” said Copeland. “It’s not a huge time commitment. Five minutes a day, this is your core workout. Hamstrings, glutes, quads, this hits it all.

Adam Copeland and Tony Schiavone
Adam Copeland and Tony Schiavone / Courtesy AEW

“And the reviews we’ve got so far, especially from mothers, have all been so positive. I watched my wife Beth on the board, too. She wanted her body back, she committed to this, and she got it.”

As Copeland introduces Pure Plank to the world, his goal is clear: help people improve their quality of life.

“I want to throw more positivity into the world,” said Copeland. “It sounds too simple to work, and that’s the crazy part of it. If you couple this with watching you eat, you’re going to see a difference.

“For me, it was the jumping-off point to come back to wrestling. A lot else happened, but this was the starting point. I hope this makes a positive impact in people’s lives, too.”

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Justin Barrasso


Justin Barrasso has been writing for Sports Illustrated since 2014. While his primary focus is pro wrestling and MMA, he has also covered MLB, NBA, and the NFL. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.