They’re a team with an 87 per cent record and have a win against every side they’ve ever come across – the only international men’s team across all sports to have one. Sometimes you wonder if the New Zealand rugby team, better known as the All Blacks even know how to lose. Famed for their pre-match war cry known as the haka, they romped to victory in the past two Rugby World Cups, and while they might not have gone into the 2019 Rugby World Cup ranked number one, you wouldn’t bet against them making it a third. As part of the side’s partnership with luxury watchmaker Tudor, joined four of the team’s current players – second row Scott Barrett, flanker Dalton Papalii, fly-half Richie Mo’unga and two-time rugby world player of the year Beauden Barrett – for a training session to figure how to think, train and win like the legendary side.
How To Think Like An All Black
The four players perfectly embody the much-talked-about mindset of the All Blacks, which is partly what makes them so successful. One of the number one rules within the team is ‘no dickheads allowed’, as implemented by the team’s mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka. The idea is that to make the team, the individual egos of each player needs to be removed.
“A dickhead makes everything about them,” he told Gameplan A magazine. “They are people who put themselves ahead of the team…often teams put up with it because a player has so much talent.
“We look for early warning signs and wean the big egos out pretty quickly. Our motto is, ‘if you can’t change the people, change the people’. The management might not spot these counterproductive behaviours. The players and leaders themselves should call others out for their inflated egos.”
Another well-reported mental technique used by the side is ‘Red to Blue’. In the concept, a ‘red head’ is the feeling of being tight and anxious, whereas blue is associated with calm, clear and accurate thinking. During points in a match, a player’s attention will often get diverted and he may descend into red thinking. The players are taught to recognise these moments before enacting a cue for concentration to move them to the blue. Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw would stamp his feet as his cue, while you can spot the current skipper, Kieran Read, looking around the stadium.
How To Train Like An All Black
On the field, not all rugby players are created equal. The training and nutritional regimes for a fly-half will be different than a prop providing grunt in the pack.
“All Blacks range in size from 78kg to 130kg and 170cm to 205cm, so the caloric intake of each player is very different,” says Nicholas Gill, strength and conditioning coach for the New Zealand rugby team. “Their roles on the field are very different with some running up to 10km in a game, and some needing to be able to squat 250kg. “Essentially, each player fuels their body for performance each day, and due to the nature of the sport and the collisions that occur, recovery nutrition is also very important.”
Taking this into account, we asked Gill for two general workouts that he would do with the team. Just like the All Blacks players, you may want to adjust the regimes depending on your goals. But one thing’s for certain, if you want to mix it with the world-beaters, you’re going to feel it in the morning.
The All Blacks Workout
Workout One: Building Strength
Designed for strength and injury prevention when playing, much of this workout revolves around three supersets that will push every part of your body to the limit.
Superset 1: Back Squat/Sled Push/Box Jump
You’ll want to be moving between exercises as quickly as you can here – no rest until the end. Do three to four of these supersets in total. After each full round, rest for two to three minutes before jumping back into the next set.
For the back squat, you want to be doing ‘heavy triples’ – three repetitions at the heaviest weight you can lift.
Set the squat rack height at shoulder levelStand close to the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apartPlace your hands an equal distance apart from the centre of the barPull yourself under the barbell and squeeze your shoulder blades togetherPull the barbell down into your upper backGive yourself three steps to get into position, then step back with your lead leg, matching it with your other legAs you start the movement, keep your back straight, push your hips backwards and bend your knees to squat downPause for a moment, keeping your upper body braced with tension in your legsPush through with both legs to return to the start position.
You’ll need a 15m track with the sled as loaded up as heavy as you can push for this. It’s tricky to judge at first, but you’ll know if you’ve loaded the sled up too much.
Start in a low position against the sled pushing either with straight or bent armsThe lower you get your back, the easier it will be to pushBrace your core and drive through with your forefoot keeping your feet hip-width apart.
Stand in front of a 60cm high box with your feet shoulder-width apartBend into a quarter squat, swinging your arms back, then swinging them forward to explode up off the groundLand on the box as softly as possible, mimicking the take-off position with your feet flat and knees slightly bentJump back down or step down slowly one leg at a time. This will further work the glutes and safeguard your jointsJump four times for each set.
Superset 2: Bench Press/Neck Bridge/Nordic Hamstring Drop
Complete three to four sets with two to three minutes rest at the end of each complete round.
For this bench press, you’re going to go down one repetition with each set, starting at six and ending up at three.
Lay flat with your back on a benchGrip the bar just wider than shoulder-width apartWhen at the bottom of your move, your hands should be directly above your elbows which will help you generate as much power as possibleBring the bar slowly down to your chest as you breathe in then push up as you breathe out, gripping the bar hardKeep your eye on a spot on the ceiling rather than the bar, which will help make sure you with the consistency.
Neck Bridge, Front and Back
Kneel on all fours on a well-cushioned mat with your head on the mat in the middle of your handsRise up and straighten your knees, with your hands folded behind your lower backRoll back onto your forehead until your nose touches the mat, continuing forward onto the top of your head until your chin touches your upper chestContinue rolling back and forth for 30 secondsTurn over onto your back with your feet close to your hipsRaise your bum and lower back slightly off of the floor and fold your hands over your stomachExtend your hips and knees while pushing your head back into the floor Roll back on your head while arching your spine high off of the floorHyperextend the neck back in an attempt to bring your forehead toward the matReturn your body close to the mat until the back of your head and shoulders make contact with the matContinue this movement for 30 seconds.
Nordic Hamstring Drop
Kneel on the ground with a mat underneath youSecure your feet either with a training partner holding them down or by tucking them under a benchLower your torso to the ground as slowly as possibleWhen your hamstrings can no longer support your weight and you find yourself falling to the ground, catch yourself in a push-up positionThe descent should be as slow and controlled as you can manageComplete six repetitions of this exercise.
Superset 3: Weighted Chin-Up/Dumbbell Shoulder Press/Bent-Over Fly
Complete three to four sets with two to three minutes rest at the end of each complete round.
Use a belt which you can attach a strong chain onto and then thread weight plates through. If you have a thick link chain, you can just rope it around your waist. The shorter the chain, the better, as it stops the plates swinging around.
Grab the pull-up bar with an underhand grip and your hands shoulder-width apartKeeping your body straight, contract your biceps and lats to pull yourself up as high as you can, driving your elbows down as you do so. Then release. This is one repStart with six reps for the first set, going down by one rep for each set until you only do three reps.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
For this exercise, do eight repetitions for one set. Pick up your dumbbells from a standing position. Don’t go overboard on the weight here (you almost want to feel like you’ve picked too light), this is an exercise that suddenly feels very tough halfway through a set.
Hold the dumbbells by your shoulders, with your palms facing forwards and your elbows out to the sides and bent at a 90-tdegree angleWithout leaning back, extend through your elbows to press the weights above your headSlowly return to the starting position.
For this exercise, do eight repetitions for one set.
Stand with your feet apart, and bend over at 90 degreesHold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing each otherHang your arms horizontal to the ground with your elbows slightly bentEngage your rear delts to raise the dumbbells laterally, tilting your hand forward. Keep your elbows fixed and your shoulders contractedVisualise moving your entire arm and the dumbbell as a wholeTo finish the rep, lower the dumbbells back down slowly.
Workout Two: Building Power And Speed
This second workout is designed to enhance a player’s power and speed. The amount of repetitions are low so that you can concentrate on lifting heavier weights and ultimately building more mass as a result.
The Power Clean Plus 5m Acceleration
Start with the bar on the floor next to your shinsStand hip-width apart, bend down and grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width gripSit your bottom down and stick your chest upYour elbows should be rotated out to the sides with your arms completely straightLooking forward pull the bar off the floor by extending your legs, keeping your back flat and your chest upOnce the bar is above your knees, move your torso to a vertical position and re-bend your knees slightlyMove into the second pull by jumping straight up, fully extending your hips, knees and ankles while shrugging the bar with your shoulders. Keep the bar as close to your body as possibleQuickly drop into a quarter squat position with your back straight and your knees slightly bentDrive your elbows forward to rotate them around in the bar and catch the bar across the front of your shoulders with your fingertips under the barNow stand up. From this position, drop the bar.
This is one rep. Complete three repetitions, four times. As soon as you have completed three reps for a set, move straight into a 5m accelerated sprint off of a standing start.
Superset 1: Bench Press/Assisted Chin-Up
Follow the instructions from the second superset. Do three repetitions for one set over four.
Use an assisted pull-up machine or attach a heavy-duty band to a pull-up station, putting it around just one knee. The tension should be taut enough to pull that lower leg up. You might be strong enough to do this movement without the need for assistance, but the machine will help ensure you keep your form and all while preventing the risk of injury.
Grab the bar with an underhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apartKeeping your body straight, contract your biceps and lats to pull yourself up as high as you can, driving your elbows down as you doRelease and repeat four times.
Superset 2: Jump Squat/Box Jumps
The jump squat is exactly the same as the back squat from before, but at the end of the movement you want to engage your core and jump up explosively.
Follow instructions for the back squatAs you land, lower your body back into the squat position to complete one repUse control to land as quietly as possibleRepeat four times, for three sets.
Combining the box jump from earlier with a jump squat will help build your practical strength and speed. This is a great idea if you’re looking to improve your performance outside the gym, such as on the sports field.
Heavy Quarter Squats
A variation on the traditional back squat, the quarter squat serves as a good segue for those who have only done bodyweight squats before, into a full-on weighted squat.
Skipping is great for helping improve your co-ordination and footwork, while really working your core hard as your abs will need to tense to stabilise yourself as you jump.
A stable core is essential for endurance, speed and preventing injury during a fast-paced rugby game. As well as strengthening key muscles, the benefit of a plank is that you can do it just about anywhere.