What Pro Wrestling Taught Me About Fitness

I love professional wrestling.

It has everything you could possible want! You have gigantic athletes ad-libbing most of what they are doing and show combines matches, pyrotechnics, monologues, storylines and emotion ALL IN ONE!!!!  That is talent. Pure talent.

Professional wrestling was one of the driving forces that pushed me into fitness.  I was always drawn to the athleticism and big physiques because when I was growing up it was the land of giants.  Everybody was HUGE.  Many were terrible wrestlers (some may disagree with me but I am right) but man were they some BIG and strong guys.  Seeing 250+ pound guys getting thrown around and moving as seamlessly as they did was amazing to me.  I mean if I could be as big as HHH, as strong as Sexual Chocolate or as athletic as Shawn Michaels, I was going to try.  My goals and exercise routines have changed throughout the years but the motivations remain the same – get bigger or get stronger and a lot of it is because of pro wrestling.

HBK Entrance – Every MAN has done the pose and fancily taken off a jacket.

This is what wrestling has taught me about exercise.

Focus on the basics

In strength and personal training – the best trainers and the best lifters have all mastered the basics.  No need to get fancy with stupid equipment and arbitrary movements.  The tried and true exercises such as lunges, squats, deadlifts and their variations, just work better.  Let’s take a sincere (read: sarcastic) look at wrestling history; outside of Doink and Dink the clown have we ever had a really awesome gimmick wrestler? The classics remain and they are the best technicians and wrestlers.  The best wrestlers rely on their best moves and weaving them seemlessly just as the best strength athletes and trainers rely on sound programming.

“To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man!”

Ric Flair said it best in between his limousine ridin’, jet flyin’, kiss stealin’, wheelin’ and dealin’, “to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man”.  Progressive overload is a foundational principle in strength training and essential for making progress in the gym.  As your body adapts to the exercises and stresses you put it under these stresses must increase in order to continue progress.



Another trick when it comes to beating the man is developing a little bit of competition in the weight room.  You have to continually best yourself in the gym but having a good training partner that you can try to best from time to time can be a great motivator.  This additional push and strive to get better is where true improvement comes.  Holding the belt for 434 days wasn’t enough for CM Punk.  Just as whatever your current goals may be will inevitably not be enough and you can strive for even better by constantly improving.


Balance between size and strength.

When I first started weight training I was all about the bodybuilding style of training and body part splits.  Currently, I base my lifts off of exercises and they are generally total body in nature.  It is a complete 180 from where I started.  All I wanted to do was be as big as possible when I first started working out.  The more I read, learned and the more experience I obtained my mindset shifted to gaining strength as my primary goal.  HHH and John Cena both had a similar revelation in their training.  Both guys trained as body builders and are incredibly large and strong men.  They were truly athletes and competing as such but bodybuilding training was not an ideal scenario for them.  Both guys suffered several injuries and thus changed their training routines to a much more athletic style of training.

Joe DeFranco training HHH for WM29

When organizing your training you need to have a balance of strength, size and mobility.  Strength can be whatever you deem to be strong enough and if you are an athlete certain benchmarks of strength can be obtained to optimize your performance.  When it comes to size if you are an athlete getting too big or being too small can put you at a disadvantage, particularly in sports like basketball and football.  You may also need to stay at a certain weight class in sports like wrestling.  Variables in your training can be manipulated to obtain this goal: if you need to gain some size training volume and reps can be increased.  If the goal is to maintain a certain weight you can rely on lower rep schemes and conditioning to stay there.  The third training factor is mobility.  Mobility is essential for performing full movements and keeping the body balanced and healthy.  Without enough mobility and proper range of motion throughout the body you compensate and injuries can arise.

When you look at the best wrestlers, athletes and strength athletes they contain these 3 factors in varying degrees.  The best wrestler today is CM Punk, he is not the biggest wrestler but he has been relentless his entire career and his balance of mobility and strength on a smaller frame allows him to out perform the majority of the roster night in and night out.  Being a giant like Zeus, Giant Gonzalez or Ryback, while not being able to move efficiently or put on a good match may not be the best decision when it comes to performance.  Size isn’t always the answer.  Look for a good combination of strength, size and mobility to suit your needs.

Wrestling teaches several life lessons every week.  These are just a few fun things I took away from WWE when it comes to fitness.  Hope you enjoy Wrestlemania this week as much as I will!


Had to include Colt in someway on a wrestling blog post.

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