Any article on WWE superstar Roman Reigns (real name: Leati Joseph Anoa'i) invariably makes reference to his genetic legacy – his dad was one half of storied tag team Wild Samoans, and his cousins include The Rock, Rikishi and the Usos, etc. But a few years into his wrestling career, Reigns has more than distinguished himself, bursting onto the scene in 2012 alongside current World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as part of heel faction The Shield; garnering tag gold with Ambrose during that time; going solo fan-favorite and winning this past January’s Royal Rumble gauntlet; and headlining WrestleMania against then-champ and formidable force Brock Lesnar. Most impressively, he's weathered considerable backlash from fans that doubted whether his ability and screen presence measured up to that of his forebears.
This Sunday, he and Ambrose do battle with shared nemeses Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper at signature WWE Network/pay-per-view event SummerSlam in what's going to be a particularly physical collision. While gearing up for Raw in Minneapolis six days prior, Reigns talked with us about getting his mind and body right for a fight, and keeping that up when the last bell has rung.
1. Go Straight to the Gym
It's really just mental fortitude. Once you get in [the gym] and start moving around and sweating, it's like, "Oh, thank god I did this. I feel so much better." Just getting from the airport straight to the gym is gonna be your best bet to knock off that rust and wake yourself up and get that blood flowing. You sit in a car or a plane cramped up, you lose a lot of blood flow and get that swelling in your legs. There are all kinds of dangers in sitting still too long.
2. Embrace Lots of Cardio
Mass has not ever really been a problem. It's a little bit easier for me to do that than to burn fat and stay lean just due to my genetics. I love doing a lot of cardio. It's not so much for the way I look. It's for how I perform. If I get in the ring with a 215-pounder, I wanna be able to keep up with him agility-wise. I take that back to my football days of being a large athlete that could move.
3. Always Mix Up Your Workouts
I like to look at myself as an individual. I like CrossFit. I agree with a lot of their coaching tips and the foundation of functional movements and hard work. They embody all that stuff. But I also think there’s a bit of a cult following within the CrossFit community, a bit of a fraternity, which obviously creates a bias and a little bit of a tunnel vision. There is no one right way. The Tae-Bo guy has a good body on him. I believe in evolution as far as lifting and training and building muscle. I was doing functional movement before CrossFit was ever a thing. I was playing football, doing platform lifts, all kinds of wacky kettle-bell stuff before kettle bells were kettle bells. I CrossFit with Seth [Rollins] and have done that type of lifting as well. I’ve walked on an incline treadmill for an hour and a half. I've done wide-receive drills with Megatron [Calvin Johnson]. But it's on the individual to know what's right and change things up. Your body’s a machine and adapt to whatever you’re doing. Stick to one thing doesn't sound right to me.
4. And CrossTrain with the Family
I'm a father. I wanna play with my daughter. If she wants to throw a baseball or softball, I wanna do it with her. If she wants to go on a hike, I wanna do it with her. If she wants me to go on a beach in a canoe, I'll do it. I want to be active. I want to live for a long time. I'm a married man, so on the other end, I wanna look good if I have to take my clothes off. If I have to work hard to keep her happy and give her something decent to look at, then that’s what I'll do. Fighting for your health and working every day toward a long life, whether you're a family man or not, it's important.
5. Don't Forget the Static Work
I come from the south. My body was taught to sweat immediately, because it's so humid down there. And that's all sweat is – your body's cooling itself. It's an achievement in my book. I hate sweating when I don't wanna sweat, but when you sweat, it's the best feeling in the world. But there are all different types of workouts. I've seen stretching workouts and isolated stuff, more core work and those static movements. You can do beneficial things without sweating. And if you're really serious, sometimes a workout is the recover day.
6. Stretching Too
Typically, I would go after a workout, but my routine's a bit different. That's just my first workout. I'm gonna wrestle later on, so that'll be my second workout. So I would stretch before my match, but I would stretch after my workout. I would probably do low-intensity cardio for more of a warm-up, and then depending on how my body's feeling, focus in and do a stretch routine here and there. But once you get that blood moving, it's good to start moving some weight.
7. Recovery Is Key
It's tough, but there are few different things you can do. We have all types of compression underwear and tights you can wear to help with swelling to get your legs back under you. We're in a business where we're always trying to build something up, but you have to have that recovery time. If you do it properly with time management, because we have so much down time, it's usually needed. The hardest part is being cramped up.