Is it real, or is it professional wrestling? Well... The professional wrestlers you see in the ring are actually doing their own stunts, which is more than you can say for most of the actors seen on the big screen. In fact, Hollywood has hired many a wrestler turned stunt man. What no one doubts is that those gorillas in the squared circle weave a weird and sometimes wonderful ballet with their athleticism.
As we contemplate digging out after the next Arctic blast, we can learn a thing or two from those wrestlers, beyond the camel clutch or pile driver. Having worked with a number of wrestlers and traveling strongmen over the years, I'm going to give you a few tips about their reality. For starters, the old side shows rarely featured their star masked wrestler on the same stage as the strongman, because they were one in the same. Strangely, Clark Kent was never seen with Superman.
So the double duty wrestling strongman had a basic barbell set that the side show troop hauled between cities. He also helped with manual labor, like moving and erecting the sideshow operation. They didn't have a room full of machines with weight stacks. They also didn't have treadmills or stationary bikes. When you examine what the pro-wrestlers, that “only” wrestled, did for fitness, it was even more basic. Before the modern days of Pay-Per View wrestling, many of those guys earned very little money per show. In fact, three or four of those guys might share a car, driving between gigs, just to save money. They certainly didn't have thousands of pounds of weights in the trunk.
“Without equipment,” you ask, “how did they train? They had to stay in shape.” Obviously, they would have gone to commercial gyms, or used the hotel gym. If they had the time, I know they would have done that, if those facilities had existed. The modern guys certainly do that. The old time guys trained in their hotel rooms and around the wrestling ring. They did a lot of working out using their own bodies as the weight, or doing what used to be called calisthenics.
They did a lot of push-ups and dips, especially with a couple of chairs. The secret move was a squat, probably learned from a wrestler who hailed from India, named the Great Gama. Wrestling over a hundred years ago, and coming from a traditional style that was not the fake stuff seen on TV, he was known for his feats of strength, like thousands of dands and baithaks per day. “Baithak” is the Hindu name for the wrestler's bodyweight squat and “dands” are their push-up. If you have ever taken a yoga class, then you did dands as part of your “Sun Salutation” sequence, sometimes called the namaskur. These movements are nothing new, even here in the USA. In fact, Bob Hoffman, the founder of the York Barbell Company, prominently promoted the namaskur as the centerpiece of his York Abdominal Course, written in 1937.
Of course, the wrestler's work in the ring is also extremely hard. It is essentially gymnastics, not unlike some of the floor work we see pint sized girls doing in the Olympics. They also do a lot of stretching, many of them turning a portion of their exercise into yoga influenced routines morphed with physical therapy, as injuries in the ring are common. Basically, these guys are doing some form of exercise every day, not unlike a construction worker, but they are supplementing their work with a rehabilitative exercise.
As you sit at your desk and contemplate trudging through the snow, driving to your gym and then making the trek back to your house, consider what those wrestlers did. Look up the dands, baithaks and namaskur on the internet. Pull out those instructional sheets the physical therapist or chiropractor last gave you. Maybe even take a yoga class featuring the basics. There is no reason you can't do your own twenty minute home based routine after some snow shoveling abuse. Like those professional wrestlers, your body will thank you before tackling the next morning's snow fall.
All the best,
"Today is a good day to lift."