I have a rather unusual request… I want to get into professional wrestling. So I need to bulk up, ideally putting another 50lbs on (I weigh a mere 200).
What’s the best and fastest way to pack on the pounds?
Up until the mid-90’s, professional wrestling was almost exclusively a big man’s game. Certainly some territories were known as the land of the giants: Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation was the best known stomping ground of big men. Vince himself has a bodybuilding obsession, so it’s a natural extension of his likings. In fact, it was once said that Vince was reluctant to hire anyone shorter than 6’2” and 250 muscular pounds, so your concerns are somewhat based on reality. However, not everything remained so simple.
Wrestling in Mid 90s
In the mid 90’s there was a war or sorts going on between Vince’s WWF and Ted Turner’s WCW – the Monday Night Wars. WCW had started airing a show on Monday’s called Monday Nitro, vs. McMahon’s show airing at the same time, Monday Night RAW. Nitro was coming on strong, at one point beating McMahon in the ratings 80 plus weeks in a row.
They did so by airing a more exciting product with great wrestling, due largely to the new cruiserweight division and the infusion of Mexican luchadores. Vince had nothing like it, and the fans were treated to incredible displays of athleticism, acrobatics and all at a pace unseen before or since. It was interesting to watch, because WCW was pulling big names and they often appeared live, with several wrestlers not even giving McMahon notice. The ratings skyrocketed.
Vince ultimately won that war and bought WCW, but not before smaller physiques made a name for themselves. As part of the acquisition, Vince featured the cruiser weights too and fans became accustomed to the newer, higher flying and higher risk style. Obviously, that style favored smaller physiques.
Today, WWE champions feature announced 217lb weights (Seth Rollins), a situation that would have been unheard of in the late 1980s. And that’s his billed weight, so the real figure is likely even smaller. So bottom line for you: Work on your in ring and mic skills, as work rate and talking people into buying tickets is really where its at today in pro-wrestling.
If you think about it, this parallels many of the mass market dynamics of today’s bodybuilding. Kids today don’t want to get as big as possible, as fast as possible. A greater emphasis is put on conditioning and having abs vs. huge, muscular arms and thighs. That coincidently brings us to bodyweight training, at least for a healthy portion of your training.
As I’ve put forth earlier on this show, I think you bodyweight work should mirror your age in %. Meaning if you’re 25 years old, 25% of your training should be bodyweight training. Pushups, pullups, dips and single legged bodyweight work and bridging for example. That leaves 75% of your gym visits to be performed with weights. And it’s such an incremental adjustment: Just 1% more bodyweight work per year that ticks by.
Finally, your diet obviously matters and matters a lot. Specifically, learning to eat on the road. It’s not as bad as in years past, when wrestlers literally worked 320 plus days a year. Ric Flair, the NWA world champion traveled the globe and main evented for years working every day of the week and twice on Saturday’s and Sundays. He’d work a main event in Charlotte, NC in the afternoon and fly to Atlanta same day, to main event the night show. Literally kept that schedule up for years. Making your food mobile then, is important. Make friends with the blender, the thermos and Tupperware to keep perishable food from spoiling.
It won’t be easy. In fact, it’ll be one of the hardest things you ever do. You’ll be on TV every week, probably working a Pay Per View every month if not more frequently. Finding and getting to a real gym in every city isn’t easy. That’s another reason why bodyweight work will serve you well – you can do it anywhere, including your hotel room. I wish you luck, because its anything conducive to a top shelf physique and being home for your family. Wrestlers need to love the business to keep that schedule, and keep it up long enough to make a decent living.