At 27 years old, Rob Gronkowski is on top of world. He’s considered one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL. He has a Super Bowl ring. He’s on the cover of Madden 2017. And of course, he knows how to have fun.
It’s easy to imagine Bill Belichick’s reaction when he sees video of his star tight end dancing shirtless in a club or posing nude for GQ. But for Gronk, his off-the-field activities haven’t been a problem. He doesn’t get in trouble; he simply likes to have fun.
In fact, Gronk believes having fun is important for staying mentally balanced.
“I won’t lie, it gets a little old to work out non-stop,” he says. “I work hard, get everything done and feel good about yourself that you did everything you needed to do for your body and got your body right and you can have a little playtime, too.”
You could say he’s the poster boy for the slogan, “Work Hard, Play Hard.”
And that he does. He wouldn’t be able to maintain his chiseled frame if he went overboard with the fun and didn’t put in mucho time in the weight room. He would not have earned the trust of Tom Brady if he were not putting in the work both on and off the field.
“It’s a privilege to play with him. He’s phenomenal,” Brady told WEEI, a radio station in Boston.
Behind his larger-than-life personality and his immense play on the field, Gronk is one of five brothers in a tightly knit family. STACK got to see all of the brothers come together for a rare group workout at a training facility outside of Toronto—a short drive from their hometown of Buffalo.
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Five Gronks, One House
“Growing up was wildness, a blast, a great time.”
This sums up what one can imagine was absolute mayhem with brothers Gordie Jr., Dan, Chris, Rob and Glenn under one roof.
They fondly recall playing mini-sticks—which if you’re not familiar is an indoor game played with small hockey sticks and a ball—getting into trouble for aggravating their neighbors, and a few other things that are inappropriate to mention in this article.
And of course, there was a scuffle or two. Chris describes them as “royal rumbles.”
The brothers unanimously agree that Rob took the biggest beatings as a kid, which is hard to picture given that he’s now 6-foot-6, 265 pounds and regularly obliterates NFL defenders with his strength and size.
“Rob was dumb enough to go versus Dan who was four years older than him like an idiot. Dan was like 6-foot-6 in high school and Rob . . . four years younger, was like 5-foot. So those were always good battles,” Chris recalled sarcastically. “He never stopped until he got knocked out.”
“Rob definitely took the biggest beatings growing up and that was because he really deserved it,” Dan says. “He would cause so many problems and he liked getting beat up. It was weird.”
Rob agrees with this assessment with a smile on his face, but he believes he is a better athlete because of the abuse he took from his brothers.
“I definitely took the biggest beatings. I started all of the brawls. I kept them going. I always jumped in them when I wasn’t in them. My older brothers gave me the biggest beatings every time,” he says. “The shots I take now in football are nothing because the shots I’ve taken as a kid . . . my body is just used to it. All of the charleyhorses I used to get to the legs, it definitely put a base on me as a kid to help me grow into the player I am now and be able to handle hits and be able to have a toughness to myself.”
Despite the beatdowns, healthy competition pushed Rob to play on teams with older kids, which helped him progress quickly as an athlete.
“The competition was always A+ in the house, especially for me. Being the younger brother, I was always competing with my older brothers,” he says. “I never played in a sporting group with my age growing up.”
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Learning to Work Out
Gordie Senior has been involved in the fitness industry for almost two decades as owner of G&G Fitness, an equipment distributor with locations in western New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
So fitness is engrained in the Gronkowski family culture.
He introduced each of his sons to weight training when they reached eighth grade. They started slowly, mastering technique using light weight. When training became more serious in high school, they already had a foundation of strength and technique to build off rather than having to start from scratch.
“When we started working out, it was just an introduction to lifting,” Rob says. “Just getting your body used to it and getting a little base on you starting in eighth and ninth grade.”
Clearly this strategy was a success. The family produced five large men, each of whom played professional sports—Rob, Dan, Chris and Glenn have played in the NFL and Gordie Jr. played minor league baseball.
“I honestly think that without starting lifting in eighth, ninth and 10th grade and having these guys push you as well, I can’t say all five of us play professional sports,” says Gordie Jr. “It helped us get to where we are today. Not just in sports; in fitness as well.”
Now, the brothers are launching their own fitness product brand, appropriately named Gronk Fitness. They plan to sell the same tried-and-true equipment they used growing up and still use in their workouts to this day.
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Gronk Circuit Workout
Rob and his brothers made the same mistake as every other young athlete: They did too much Bench Pressing and Curls because like most teenage boys, they wanted to get huge.
However, as they learned more about training and how it affects their sports performance, their workouts evolved to focus on improving sports performance, not just lifting massive amounts of weight and developing chiseled pecs and huge biceps.
“It’s about functioning. It’s about flexibility. It’s about football movements, being an athlete,” Rob says. “It’s about just being an athlete overall, not about how much weight you can lift. You want to be strong in athletic motions.”
Now, their preferred style of training includes circuit workouts with strength exercises along with moves that develop explosiveness, core stability and mobility. This type of training allows Rob to maintain his muscle, gain strength and have the explosion and conditioning for each and every play.
On the morning of our video shoot, Rob had already lifted with the Patriots, so he wasn’t able to participate in the workout. However, he became “Coach Rob,” taking his brothers through the workout with instruction and a little brotherly encouragement.
Perform the exercises one after another in a circuit. Do each exercise for 20 seconds and repeat the full circuit for 2-3 sets, resting only as needed. Rest for 1-2 minutes between circuits.
Clean and Press
- Use a light weight since this is a circuit format.
- Explosively extend your hips, knees and ankles.
- Keep the bar close to your body.
- Drop under the bar and catch it across your shoulders.
Med Ball Slams
- Rise up onto your toes as you bring the med ball overhead.
- Don’t arch your lower back.
- Explosively throw the med ball to the ground.
- Catch it off the bounce and repeat.
- Lean forward at a 45-degree angle.
- Drive your legs backwards to push the sled.
- Keep your core tight and back flat.
Suspended Inverted Row
- Keep your core tight and body in a straight line.
- Pull your shoulders back to initiate the row.
- Extend your arms in control.
- Drive with your legs and pull your arms back to initiate the row.
- Row as quickly as possible with good form.
- Perform Sprints if you don’t have access to a rower.
Landmine Core Rotations
- Hold the collar of the barbell with both hands.
- Lower into a quarter squat.
- Keep your core tight as you rotate the bar from side to side.
- Drive the bar overhead.
- Keep your abs tight and don’t arch your lower back.
- Explosively extend your hips, knees and ankles to jump up onto the box.
- Swing your arms to generate momentum.
- Land softly to reduce impact.
- Assume a quarter squat stance.
- Keep your core tight and back flat.
- Swing forcefully against the ground or in an alternating wave pattern.
- Pull your shoulders down and back to initiate the movement.
- Fully extend your arms on each rep.
- Bend at your waist as your bring the kettlebell between your legs.
- Drive your hips forward to propel the kettlebell.
- Do not use your arms to raise the kettlebell.
Plate Front Raises
- Keep your core tight and back flat.
- Raise the plate in front to shoulder height.
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For more information on Gronk Fitness products, check out GronkFitnessProducts.com.