Growing up as an asthmatic kid, I couldn’t do much in terms of physical activities. WWE (WWF at that time) was an escapade, a dreamland where heroes perform amazing moves and always win in the end. And this was much before cable tv in India, my dad used to bring video tapes when I was 6 years old. Like every fan kid, I threw pillows and jumped on them. My mom took a lot of suplexes from me onto the bed (which broke eventually) and I am guilty of dropping a few elbows and pedigrees on my cousins. If you have ever been a fan, I know you can relate to it, we all did stupid stuff. If you haven’t watched wrestling, keep reading as there are a lot of things you can learn from wrestlers directly applicable to your training.
Stating the Obvious
They are wrestlers. They wrestle and practice moves all day. It’s not just punches and kicks. As aptly quoted by Cesaro, one of the top technical guy in WWE: “Wrestling Is Ballet With Violence”. That can take hours of their days and pretty much covers their cardio. This also allows them to eat much more (3500-5000 calories) than a normal person (1500-3000 calories). What they do in the gym is to make them look intimidating and build their capacity to do those jaw dropping maneuvers. With that said, let’s get on with the list:
Although he is not an active superstar now, he is the biggest face of wrestling because of his Hollywood popularity. Based of his videos, Instagram account and featured articles, it is safe to say that he is primarily a bodybuilder. Bodybuilding is a subset of strength training in which you primarily lift weights to gain muscle mass. Since the sole focus is to get huge muscles, “high repetitions, moderate weight” is the way to train. This way, you can increase time under tension which is a key driver for hypertrophy (muscle gain).
Made popular by Arnold and the golden age of bodybuilders in late 70’s and 80’s, this was the way most wrestlers trained in 90’s. Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man, Vince McMahon and many other legends come to mind.
The favorite of kids, Cena although comes from a bodybuilding background yet he is more into Powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting or simply Barbell Training. How it differs from bodybuilding is that in classic barbell training, the goal is to lift heavier weights. As this is typically executed with “low reps, heavier weights” programming, focus here becomes strength and it shows not just in Cena’s physique but his ability to perform inhuman strength moves. Squatting 500 pounds is one thing, executing an AA on Big Show is insane.
At Psi Fitness, strength is a priority and hence you would see in most of our routines, the first few exercises will always be these foundational strength ones like deadlifts, pull-ups and squat.
Undertaker & TripleH
Undertaker is in his 50’s and still steals the show every year at Wrestlemania. TripleH (over 45) too wrestles occasionally now but looks fabulous when he do. Yes, WWE is entertainment but you do take the bumps. I mean even if the other person is holding back, you are still getting kicked in the head and slammed on steel chairs. No matter how good your training is, it makes your body achy after a while. The Dead Man and the Game both are quite accustomed to it and hence refrain from certain exercises. Smart training is what enables them to continue pushing the limits and perform at such a high level.
TripleH has had 2 quad (muscles at front of your thigh) tears and now relies on single leg variations and sled work rather than doing back squats or knee extensions. This is a good example that there is always a way to train even if you are banged up. At Psi Fitness, we assess people for pain/ injuries and modify exercises to continue getting them stronger even in their 50’s. Both are coached at different outlets of @defrancogym , owner of whom, Joe Defranco is a well renowned strength and sports performance coach.
Seth Rollins & Cesaro
As times change, new superstars emerge and with them, wrestling has also become fast paced. No longer are sleeper holds applied for minutes to give time to breath within a match. A modern era wrestler needs to keep going at a high pace to voo an audience with a short attention span. That’s what Rollins and Cesaro do and to do that, just bodybuilding or even powerlifting is not enough.
Rollins chooses Crossfit as his modality to train intensely. Unlike bodybuilding, most exercises are complex lifts (targeting the bigger muscles of the body) like pull-ups, box jumps and front squats. Also, unlike classic barbell training, Crossfit involves doing one exercise after the other to finish it in shortest amount to time which makes your heart rate shoot through your roof.
Cesaro doesn’t label himself as a Crossfit person but does practice high intensity training with complex lifts like squats, snatches and pushups.
Personally, this sort of hybrid style is what we at Psi Fitness try to blend in for our monthly routines. You get the strength and core stability factors in because the lifts are not just targeting one muscle. At the same time, it moves at a pace which pushes the clients to get a stronger cardiovascular system. The only thing you should keep in mind is this style of training requires extremely good technique. After all, gone are the days when people just sat on machines and pushed weight mindlessly.