Mike Ross reveals the biggest gym beasts in Ireland's rugby squad
One man dominates most of the charts.
Mike Ross is currently enjoying his four weeks of down-time before he returns to Ireland and plunges into an intense pre-season that will, hopefully, take him into the World Cup in prime shape and form.
We dragged the Leinster prop from some online research [about parts for a games console he could pick up in the US] to chat about his battle to retain the Irish No.3 jersey, Leinster's difficult season, and the insane gym record he created in the past 12 months.
Rugby players used to have summer breaks akin to primary school teachers. When are you back on the training pitch?
We are due back in on June 29 but most players will get back a couple of weeks before that, to ensure they can hit the ground running. That will include two or three sessions a week, that may involve bike rides or specific work-out routines.
As a tight-head prop, do you undergo specific training drills with your front row colleagues?
Yeah, it's called Fat Club [joke].
We would do extra conditioning work and strengthening exercises. Front-rowers will do a lot of box squats with an extra 40 kilos, or so, on the bar.
Do you hold any gym records with the Irish squad?
The only record I have is that I can hold a 15 kilo weight, strapped to my head, for five minutes. It is an exercises used to strengthen neck muscles. It has only been introduced as a regular exercise in the past year.
Who are the other record holders in the squad?
Cian Healy is such a powerful athlete. He holds most of the records. He holds the bench press record and can squat 300 kilos. Marty Moore is not far behind.
Peter O'Mahony has the best vertical jump [CMJ - counter-movement jump]. He can reach about 63 centimetres from a standing start. That is what makes him such a great line-out jumper. My best vertical jump is 49cm.
You have played under Joe Schmidt for five years. Have you gotten used to his infamous video reviews [when player flaws are highlighted in front of teammates] yet?
The sessions are often harsh but he will never wail on you without reason, or cause. He will lean on you if you are not delivering the levels of performances he finds acceptable. He will never lift you out of it but you'll be chastised by the end of it.
You can get paranoid about Joe and his demands. Sometimes when you are out on the pitch, you can feel Joe sitting on your shoulder, telling you what you should do. He has been responsible for improving us, hugely, because of his sky high standards.
Was it tough for you, earlier in the season, when you found yourself behind Marty Moore and Tadhg Furlong in Leinster's pecking order?
There were definitely tough moments. Every player, unless you are Brian O'Driscoll, will go through a period in their career when they are under pressure. There are always good, young players coming up and it is a matter of holding them off for as long as possible.
Joe kept faith in me for the Six Nations and it was critical that I rewarded him. That Wolfhounds game [against England, in January] was a big game for me. I did well and carried some form into the championship. That's Joe. He will give you a bit of leeway, and show faith, but if you don't deliver, it will be 'Next!'
As part of your awareness campaign for Ainm Cara, you opened up about your brother's suicide [in 1997]. What has the reaction been?
I found speaking about my brother, Andrew, cathartic in a way. Losing him had a huge affect on myself and my family but [his death] is not something, I found, you could just bring up in casual conversation. I have had good feedback from speaking about it and I am indebted to everyone at Leinster for being so supportive and helping to raise awareness about Ainm Cara and the great work it does.
*Mike Ross is fronting the #daddyandme awareness campaign for Anam Cara, a national voluntary support organisation set up by bereaved parents to support newly bereaved parents throughout Ireland.