The New Zealand All Blacks will face off against the U.S. national team, the Eagles, in a test match at Chicago's Soldier Field on November 1. For the world's number-one ranked team, it's the first trip to the United States since 1980. The Eagles, however, have their work cut out for them, as the U.S. men rank 18th internationally.
Nevertheless, the All Blacks and Eagles should put on an impressive display of athleticism and endurance. While the Bears at Soldier field provide fans with an average 11 minutes of action over a three-hour NFL game, rugby sees at least three times that over the 80-minute matches with unbroken play lasting three to four minutes. What's more, rugby doesn't change sides and provides little rest. Athletes play offense and defense, while substitutions are limited and permanent.
Ahead of the match, Men's Journal talked with one of the All Blacks' fittest players, flanker Victor Vito. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Wellington native looks the part of a football tight end or linebacker and, Vito admits, he'd love to see how he stacks up at the combine.
In Vito's flanker position, a typical match will see him running the ball, regaining it from a downed teammate, lifting players to catch inbound balls, and then tackling and pushing the scrum. It's one of the most versatile roles on the rugby pitch, requiring speed, strength, agility, and endurance — Vito runs more than four miles each game.
"Just because you're big, doesn't mean you can be a prop," says Vito. "If you're powerful but can only go for 10 minutes, you're no good."
Vito says his training focuses on sprint intervals with short recovery and strength circuits, both high-intensity sessions that also boost overall fitness. He shared a favorite workout that hits strength, speed, power, and, because of the total amount of workout time, endurance too.
Vito performs this entire circuit four times, resting one minute before starting a new round. But the rest of us should start with two or three rounds, and gradually build up.
Treadmill Sprints and Push-Ups
Set a treadmill at a five-percent incline. Sprint for 30 seconds. Step off and take 30 seconds to perform eight push-ups, using the remaining time as rest. Repeat three times.
Perform three sets of pull-ups with 15 seconds of rest between each set; six reps, then four reps, and finally two.
Plank to Side Plank
Hold the plank position for one minute with your forearms down, back flat, hips raised, and butt, abs, and legs tight. Without resting (if possible) rotate to support your weight on your right forearm for a side plank. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch to your left side for 30 seconds.
Do four one-minute sprint intervals with equal rest between each.