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Roman Reigns needs no introduction for pro wrestling fans. The 35-year-old, currently WWE’s Universal Champion (holding the title for the second time), is one of the biggest names in the promotion—and he trains like the world-class athlete he is to stay on top.
Reigns, who played high-level college football at Georgia Tech (along with a brief pro career), says that he considers his prep for the ring no different than when he was training to make tackles on the gridiron. “I train as if i’m in the NFL, the NHL, the MLB, the NBA,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with Men’s Health about his career. “I train with that same intensity, that same focus and dedication and time management as any of the top sports stars in the world. But at the same time, we have to do this with our shirts off.”
As a wrestler, Reigns faces a unique challenge other athletes don’t. Since his contests in the ring are as much about showmanship and nailing the right persona as they are about performance, he can’t only train for his sport-specific needs. He has to look the part too. To do that, Reigns uses an unconventional training plan developed for the world of bodybuilding: Y3T. The regimen, which stands for Yoda 3 Training, was developed by bodybuilding coach Neil ‘Yoda’ Hill, who has worked with seven-time Mr. Olympia champ Flex Lewis and other big-time contest winners.
“Essentially, [Y3T] is a three-week phase of all different types of load—being the amount of weight you lift—and then the rep range,” Reigns said of the program. “The sets and reps changes the volume of each training session. Right now, I’m in week two, which is more of a like a 14- to 18-rep window. Most of the time, each each exercise will be about four working sets, which you’re going to want to push though. Those rep ranges are what should be very close to failure, if not failure. Once you’ve reached that point of no return and failure, you can even try to hit a rest-pause [a short, mid-set rest to keep going] a couple of times to just squeeze out a few more and take that muscle group to extreme exhaustion.”
While the program typically runs for 12 weeks, Reigns likes to double up that second week of the split. “That week two is just such a perfect threshold,” he said. “And then week three sucks so bad that you don’t want to do it too much.” Week three demands trainees to push volume even higher, with sets of up to 20 to 25 reps, beginning to rest-pause as soon as halfway through.
For Reigns, buying into the program was more about buying into Hill as a coach, not just his clients’ successes using his training methods. “I was sold once I was around them,” Reigns said, recounting his introduction to Hill and Lewis after a photo shoot in Boca Raton. “From there, me and Neil started talking and building a program. We’ve really just taken our time. You know, there’s no Olympia or Arnold [Classic]—there’s no one particular stage that we’re working towards all year. It’s a monthly, huge performance with a pay-per-view, and then sprinkle in a Smackdown here and there. So it’s one of those situations where we have to kind of stay ready and be in that zone of being able to capture a very high performance and then also a quality look that we’re looking for.”
Reigns is a pro’s pro, so Y3T might not be the best plan for you to emulate in your own training without plenty of experience and a talk with a coach. If you want to read more about the program—and Reigns’ thoughts about cardio, his diet, and cancer awareness—check out his full interview.
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