Training Professional Wrestlers for their Sport
The Energy of Wrestling
Say what you will about the world of professional wrestling, those entertainers are athletes. The demands that they face in the ring and on their bodies make them some of the most complex athletes to program for, being a coach. The biggest problem I see with most wrestlers is that they don’t treat their training as if they are training for a sport. Bodybuilding training just won’t cut it in the long run as a wrestler.
Compared to Pro Wrestling, other sports are very easy to program and train athletes for. You ask where the athlete is in their current yearlong periodization program and where they are at in the season of their sport. Based off of those two questions you can figure out what to focus on over their next block of training to fully optimize their sport performance. This is where programing gets tricky for wrestlers because they technically have no offseason. They are working shows as much as they possibly can, all year long. Whether that is on the independent scene or the larger corporate scene. So, how do we program for wrestlers?
First thing we have to consider when programming for a professional wrestler are the 3 energy systems of the body. The energy systems are; the oxidative, glycolytic, and ATP phosphocreatine systems. Instead of going into depth on each energy system in scientific terms I’ll break them down by their importance in the wrestling world.
1. Oxidative Energy System à Not Blowing Up (exhaustion)
2. Glycolytic System à Getting the Hot Tag
3. ATP-PC System à Power Bomb
Hopefully from those easy examples you can figure out why each energy system is so important to wrestlers. Each system needs to be optimized to guarantee a 5 star match.
The oxidative system arguably may be the most important of the 3 systems, because it not only is overall endurance but also contributes to recovery rates. I tend to think of the oxidative system as having two properties. One it is the gas tank (overall aerobic capacity) and two it is the rate at which you burn said gas (aerobic power). Now in wrestling there is a commonly thrown around term “blowing up”. This is something everyone fears happening during a match. When I talked to one of my wrestling clients she said about the experience “It was like dying. I couldn’t breathe or move. I literally felt like I was going to die in the ring.” I can assure you when this phenomena occurs mid match it is extremely dangerous not only to the person that is blowing up but also the other athlete who is relying on the other person to make sure they are capable of putting up their side of the match.
Now imagine being in a tag team match. Your partner is just absolutely getting destroyed. The opposing team has them in their corner just kicking a mud hole and stomping it dry! But what’s this? Your partner suddenly dodges a kick and with one giant leap he’s flying across the ring and he slaps your hand! You jump through the ropes at full speed and hit the opposing legal man with a clothesline from hell! You turn around and his partner has entered the ring, you bounce off the ropes and hit him with a clothesline. He jumps out of the ring. You turn around and the legal man is back up. He tries to throw a punch, you duck and bounce off the opposing ropes! You’re about to hit him with your finish! Until… You end up face first on the canvas because you hit the wall! In those 30 to 45 seconds of that hot tag, you reached your glycolytic threshold. Your muscles tighten up and you can barely move. Now not only is the finish of the match botched, but you have completely blown any credibility you have as an athlete. That’s the importance of the glycolytic system. All out for 30 seconds to up wards of 1 minute 30 seconds.
If you’re a wrestler, or you’ve ever watched any amount of professional wrestling you know how important a finisher is. The final maneuver one athlete performs on another to typically end the match. The climax of the event! Let’s think of some of the best finishers out there; Stone Cold’s Stunner, a power bomb variation, a super kick. These moves all have something in common. They happen extremely quickly, maximum of 8 to 10 seconds and usually less. What if Batista had successfully power cleaned someone to the top position of the power bomb but just didn’t have enough energy left to successfully drop down to the canvas. What if the Undertaker couldn’t safely hold onto someone in the tombstone position safely for long enough to drop without him or her crowning? The ATP-PC energy system is so crucial to the athlete successfully and safely completing their finishing maneuver, or really any explosive maneuver for that matter including catches and safely handling your opponent.
Dealing with athletes of all kinds, I’ve come to find that each athlete is different. Everyone comes to a coach with a different set of developed skills and energy systems. In the end it comes down to really communicating and working well with your coach to uncover where you should be at in your yearlong training cycle. Discovering and working your weaknesses is the only way we can continue to develop you as an athlete and a person.
In part 1 of this series of articles we discussed the importance of the energy systems in professional wrestling. Look for Part 2 to cover how we train the energy systems, and Part 3 to cover the sport specific movements wrestlers should be doing and how to program them to also accomplish aesthetic goals.
Written By: Drew Shoemaker, Owner and Coach