Behind The Scenes: What It Takes to Be a Professional Wrestler

By Tarlee

Soccer, Netball, Triathlons, Swimming. All of these sports have their own training regime and behind-the-scenes sacrifices in order to get the best out of the athlete, and allow you to perform to the best of your ability.

Well, so does the world of Pro Wrestling! And let me tell you about it!

Before we get into it, HI! I’m Tarlee (but you probably already knew that), and outside of 23w coaching I’m a Professional Wrestler. I’ve been wrestling for about 8 years now and travelled all over Australia as well as China, America and New Zealand competing. In 2018 I went to America for 3 months to train under the wisdom of WWE Wrestler Seth Rollins (your kids might know him hehe), and in April this year I moved to Melbourne from NSW to continue on my wrestling journey!

I started wrestling when I was 17 and still in high school and knew nothing about fitness or how to train properly for such an intense sport, and it’s taken me a few years to find the right routine that works for me and my schedule.

When people find out about my sport, they have a lot of questions about how, when, where and why! So here’s a quick little rundown!

My Training

My gym training focuses a lot more on strength training and control as lifting people is a big part of wrestling, but also so is basing! A ‘base’ in wrestling is what we refer to when you’re a main component in assistant your opponent in ensuring they are able to perform either their move or your own move safely, and this involves a lot of core stability and general strength to control another human being from point A to Point B. I do my own ‘split block’ on a 4 days a week schedule – Monday: Posterior Chain (Deadlifts and Hip Extensions), Tuesday: Push (Bench press), Thursday: Anterior Chain (Squats) and Friday: Pull (Rows and Pull-Ups).

Wrestling training itself is held weekly, and this is where a lot of my cardio, HIIT and endurance training comes from! So what exactly do we do at training? A HEAP! Rolls and ‘bumps’ are the fundamentals of every wrestler, and although rolling around sounds like it would be a lot of fun, i can assure you it’s a killer! Rolls are required for ‘dodging’ moves, or used as transitions into other moves, so they’re very important to nail!

And then there are bumps! If you ever hear me complain that my ‘neck is stiff’ or I’m unsure how I got a mystery bruise, high chance it’s from a bump. Bumps are what we call falling. You get hit and need to land, you got to bump. You get picked up and need me to slammed back down? You bump. Bumps are THE most essential thing, and by now I do them so regularly I think if I ever fell down in a session I would do a wrestling bump to protect myself.

Avoiding Injury

But of course, this all adds up over time and can affect the body. Neck pain is a main issue for wrestlers because of how we’re taught to bump – tuck the chin so you don’t get whiplash. And when you’re putting that much tension and strain onto the neck, it get’s pretty rock solid. I see an Oesteo about every 2-4 weeks to limit the muscle strain and help me get more movement in my upper body.

Nutrition

Here’s the harsh reality. Wrestling a performance. You have to look the part to play the part. So with that comes a lot of pressure on ourselves to look a certain way to be ‘presentable’. Think John Cena and The Rock! Do you believe they could beat someone up for real? Absolutely!

Nutrition dances a fine line. We need enough calories to be able to maintain such a high intensity sport and training regime, but we also need to not eat too much that we no longer ‘look the part’. Strongmen eat more due to their caloric output, but they don’t have that internal and external pressure to maintain a certain image. You’ll find a lot of us work on a ‘maintenance’ macro cycle majority of the year which gives us the right calories to maintain a healthy lifestyle and body composition. We’ll cut back for when we have more important shows coming up, and increase if we have a small break period.

To be quite honest, I’ve been doing this for years and I still haven’t nailed my nutrition. With this sport, it’s quite challenging.

Think about it: AFL has an off-season where the athletes can rest, recover and reset. Wrestlers? No such luck. This is a 24/7 all year round sport. If you take time off for injury or personal reasons, you risk losing your spot. It’s the harsh reality, unfortunately.

But the other reality?

I have the best time of my life when I’m out there performing. It’s a long day – getting to the venue at 3pm, planning the match, getting dressed and doing makeup, doors open at 7:30pm, go out to compete at 9pm, show finishes at 10:30pm, pack down the ring and drive home, getting into bed at 12am – but it’s so worth it. My music hits and I become a completely different person. After every match I walk backstage and tell myself ‘that was amazing’ and it was. I do this and go through all this training and stress just for 15 minutes once a week to perform and do what I love.

And it’s so worth it.

You can check out my socials here!

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Our founder

Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.

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