Training Professional Wrestlers for Their Sport Pt.2

Training the Energy Systems

(Written by: Drew Shoemaker, owner of Perform Daily Fitness) 

            In the previous article we discussed the 3 energy systems, and the role they play in professional wrestling. A quick recap, we have the oxidative system that deals mostly with the long term endurance, the glycolytic system that handles anything quick that lasts up to about a minute and a half, and finally the ATP-PC system that is extremely explosive movements lasting up to 10 seconds.  Now we must determine how we properly develop those systems so that they are optimally developed throughout the year.

            Professional wrestling is the trickiest sport to program energy system development for, because there is no offseason. There is really no specific time to develop each system. So, we have to start from scratch with each athlete. Even once you optimize one system, how do we ensure that it stays optimized? That is the biggest challenge we face.

            Using the Block Periodization model we can ensure that we fully develop each energy system, and keep it optimized through out the scheduled year.


Developing The Oxidative System

            When it comes to developing the oxidative system there are two main components that we are concerned with. The rate of energy production (oxidative power), and the efficiency of energy usage (oxidative capacity), both make up the total potential energy production. 

            To be optimal in both of these components we must train them individually. These training methods can all be implemented in the same training block, if done so correctly.

            First, let’s address the oxidative power. In order to train this component we program slow/steady state light-impact (typical cardiovascular) activity. Modalities like running, biking, and swimming. The only caveat being that heart rate must remain in the 130-150 BPM. These sessions can range anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on your training experience and can be performed 1-3 times per week. This method ensures eccentric cardiovascular hypertrophy, which leads to an increase in left ventricular cavity volume (your heart can take in and pump out more blood per stroke), which leads to a more efficient heart.

            Second, to develop oxidative power we take a similar approach. This method is known as the HICT (high intensity continuous training). It involves long duration, low speed, high resistance, and cardiovascular exercises. We use modalities like spin bikes, assault bikes, and weighted step-ups. The sessions are anywhere from 20-40 minutes that include 1-2 sets of 10-20 minute bouts. An example of this would be 2 sets of 10 minute, non-stop weighted step-ups. The weight is optional and adds additional resistance to the movement, further increasing the intensity. This method ensures greater oxygen utilization and an increased endurance of the type-2 (the fast twitch) muscle fibers.


Developing The Glycolytic System

            This is most likely the energy system that a wrestler has been developing since they first stepped into a ring. As soon as they start their venture into professional wrestling, what is the first thing they do? They run the ropes! Not leisurely, that’s for sure! Those days when your trainer has you running the ropes 10-15-20 times! That’s all contributing to your glycolytic efficiency, however it may not be what is optimal.

            Optimally training the glycolytic system, much like the oxidative system, breaks down into two components: lactic power and lactic capacity. Lactic power is the most commonly trained system, because most male athletes are attempting to increase muscle size. Lactic power most resembles this because it is built off of the amount of glycolytic muscle tissue (i.e. muscle mass) and naturally going along with that, the amount of glycolytic enzymes. Now without digging even deeper into the physiology textbook, this essentially means the greater the muscle surface area and density the better your muscle’s potential lactic power. On the other hand, lactic capacity (which replenishes the glycolytic system) is built off your muscle’s ability to utilize glycogen (stored energy in muscle tissue) efficiently and the muscle’s ability to buffer pH in the muscle as it builds lactic acid. So in summary, the larger the muscle the greater its potential lactic power and the more it is anaerobically conditioned, the better the muscle can buffer and transport lactic acid out of the system and regenerate the anaerobic lactic power of the muscle.

            How do we train those two systems? This is actually the most simple energy system, because most people have been training this and not even known it. Training for lactic power is most commonly done through basic strength training. Heavy weights and lower reps, anywhere from 5-8 repetitions, this in turn increases muscle density and surface area. Training the lactic capacity is also most commonly done through circuit training. Circuit training is taking 3-5 exercises and performing them in a loop for multiple rounds. The rounds should take no longer than 1 minute and 30 seconds and have rest intervals of no more than one minute. This will cause an adaptation of a faster buffering of pH in the muscle tissue, i.e. shuffling out the lactic acid.


Developing the ATP-PC system

            The ATP-PC system is the most simple of all three systems to develop, you can think of it as go or no. This system acts extremely quickly with exercises that last no more than 7-10 seconds. Once again we break it down into two components: alactic power and capacity. One component has to do with output potential while the other is output efficiency.

            Developing the alactic power optimally can be done a couple of ways, depending on where you are in your yearlong (periodized) training. One way is through explosive bodyweight movements. Performing the plyometric exercise for 3-5 repetitions for 3-5 sets will appear very similar to explosive bouts that are found in wrestling matches. Another method is the max effort method. This is more familiar to most gym goers, anywhere from 1-3 repetitions of a compound movement (bench, squat, row, deadlift).  The final method is the speed work method. This method utilizes the same compound movements and rep schemes, however it is anywhere from 30-50% your one repetition maximum and the load is moved as quickly and explosively as possible. These methods are great because they all cause physiological adaptations that in turn increase alactic power output, and also result in some significant muscle density increases.

            The most optimal way to improve and develop the alactic capacity is through explosive bodyweight interval training. Very similar to the previous bodyweight regimen for alactic power, however, we turn it into a circuit method. We take 3-5 explosive bodyweight movements, MMA drills, bag drills, and combine them into a circuit. Interval timing is crucial here. We look for work intervals of 7-10 seconds for each exercise and a total of 30 seconds per round of the circuit. As well, as a timed rest of somewhere between 20-90 seconds in between rounds of the circuit. This will insure that the maximum capacity of the alactic system through increasing the body’s natural stores of phosphocreatine (yes, like the creatine supplement).


            Now, this all may be really science based, but hopefully it helps you realize how necessary it is to have an educated coach. These are all criteria that your coach/trainer should be taking into consideration when programming for you and your sport. If you have any questions regarding this feel free to email me at

Andrew ShoemakerComment