Up close, Ed Jenkins looks every inch the model he once was. Good luck finding a squarer jaw in a Hollywood Western.
Alas, trying to pursue dual careers in modelling and international rugby wasn’t working. Even if Jenkins happened to be in town on the day of a shoot, there was every chance he’d show up wearing some mark of battle – like the shiner he’s sporting today.
You may be wondering: how battered can a man get playing glorified touch football? If that’s how you think of Sevens, Jenkins counters, then you couldn’t have watched a game this century.
“When Fiji were dominating 20 years ago playing nice, attacking rugby, maybe you could have argued that,” says Jenkins, who’s savouring a post-training coffee and sandwich at the Sydney Academy of Sport, HQ for the Australian Sevens squad that’s a medal chance in Rio.
“Defence wasn’t crucial back then,” he explains. “Now, if you’re shying away from contact and not making your tackles, you’re going to be a liability to your team.” The hits, he adds, are as ferocious as those in the 15-a-side game.
The takeout for you is that as Sevens has evolved, so have the body shapes and athletic profiles of its combatants. Players nowadays need to be the whole package: quick and brutishly strong with big engines. Incorporate some of the key planks of their training into your own regimen to unleash the gun competitor and imposing physical specimen you always knew was in you.
Don't forget to download the Olympics on 7 app!
Get it for Android - rio.seven/googleplay
Get it for iOS - rio.seven/apps
Jenkins may be pretty but he’s also a beast. He can deadlift 240kg and squat 210
Find Your Calling
Life has a way of steering you to the place you’re meant to be.
As a schoolboy on Sydney’s north shore and into early adulthood, Jenkins was a fine rugby winger who might have made it to the top but wasn’t single-minded about doing so. When his Sydney University coach Bill Millard (who at the time was also Australian Sevens coach) suggested he try the abridged game, Jenkins was up for it. He’s now Australia’s most-capped player.
As Jenkins’ star has risen, so has Sevens’ professionalism. When he first made the national side almost a decade ago, preparations for a tournament went little beyond learning your teammates’ names and running some moves. Now the guys live in one another’s pockets and lean on a diverse support staff.
Champions of traditional rugby and other codes who fancy they’d carve it up in Sevens can get a shock when they try. Ask the twinkle-toed Quade Cooper. And dream-chaser Jarryd Hayne.
No Weak Link
Remember as a kid kicking a ball around at the park on your own or with a mate? When you’re light on numbers, the rugby pitch becomes colossal. This is both the appeal and challenge of Sevens, as open space means equal parts opportunity and lung-busting toil.
The imperative for Jenkins is to build top-notch endurance and agility while keeping on enough beef for the physical contest.
“We don’t have the luxury of splitting strength and conditioning days,” he says. “We’re here six days a week and the days are full.”
He rattles off his day so far. It’s a logjam of weights and contact sessions butted up against pool recovery and a team talk.
“A lot of the conditioning is game-scenario minus the contact,” Jenkins says of sessions in which he’ll cover up to 10 kilometres. And you can’t coast. Live GPS data exposes those who don’t clock up enough so-called high-speed metres. “The strength and conditioning coach will give you a tap on the shoulder if you miss those targets, and then you’re on the sideline doing shuttles.”
Jenkins may be pretty but he’s also a beast. Watching him in the gym, you notice the rope-like veins protruding from his biceps (see “Call to Arms” for your guns workout) and calves. In his right hand he’s holding a 45-kilogram dumbbell that most guys couldn’t row. Jenkins snatches it from waist height to his shoulder before hoisting it overhead. He can deadlift 240kg and squat 210.
And the man can move: he does 100 metres in 11.5 seconds; 400 in 49 seconds; 800 in 1:56 and 2km in 6:30.
Now 30, he feels as fit as ever. “A few years ago the Olympics were being tossed up and I was wondering if I was going to be in good enough shape to get to them,” he says. “But it’s actually getting easier in some ways. The first thing that goes is your speed. [Keeping mine] will probably dictate whether I can play the game for a few more years or not.”
First Among Equals
Not a bad gig, Sevens. The circuit sweeps you through London, Paris and Las Vegas. And while you can revel in the prestige of playing footy for your country, no one outside the team set-up really cares very much if you win or not.
Jenkins concedes the Wallabies face more external pressure than the Sevens guys. “But we put high standards on ourselves,” he says. “We have the drive and motivation to play for one another every tournament.”
Jenkins carries the extra responsibility of leadership. It’s something he neither sought nor chose. “I don’t think you’re born a leader,” says Jenkins, who admits he’s had to work at developing his captaincy skills. “Work quite hard, to be honest. It’s not something I feel natural with.”
Doubting your right to reign? Simply lead by example, Jenkins advises. “That’s the one motto I try to practise. If you can go out there and show the way with your actions, guys will try to follow suit. Show them you’re going to do the hard yards and dig in when it gets tough. Guys will look at that and want to follow you in.”
Call To Arms
This workout exploits the tried-and-tested principle of time under tension to trigger sleeve-stretching hypertrophy. On every rep, take six seconds to perform the eccentric (downward) phase of the movement.
Do 10 reps with the heaviest weight you can manage. Then immediately remove 10kg or thereabouts from the bar and do 10 more reps. Then drop another 10kg and do another 10 reps. That’s one set. Perform three sets of each exercise, resting for 90 seconds between sets. Do all curls – a total of 90 reps – before moving on to the skull-crushers.
1 BICEPS CURL
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell with an underhand grip, arms hanging in front of you. Lock your core and curl the bar up to your shoulders, keeping your elbows in tight to your sides throughout the movement. Take those six seconds to lower the bar to the start position.
Lie on a flat bench, a loaded barbell held at arm’s length above your face in a neutral grip. Keeping your arms fixed, hinge at the elbows so the weight is lowered (slowly) to just behind your head. Squeeze your triceps, lock your core and return the weight to the start position.