Wrestling: Needs Analysis – 1

Abstract: Wrestling is a combative sport played since ancient times. Given its long history, the amount of data available on the needs of wrestling is less and not reliable. The purpose of this review was to identify key papers in the literature and present a comprehensive need analysis also recommending performance improvement measures to an already established system of training.

Meghan Belsare


  • Background
    1. Rules of the game
    2. Point Breakdown
  • Needs analysis
    1. Biomechanical analysis
      1. Body composition
      2. Movement analysis
      3. Effect of dehydration on movements & performance
    2. Physiological analysis
      1. Aerobic analysis (Pulmonary and cardiac capacity)
      2. Anaerobic analysis: Power, Movement speed, Blood lactate levels
      3. Strength analysis: Maximal dynamic & Isometric, Strength endurance
    3. Psychological profile
    4. Nutritional profile


Wrestling is one of the oldest combat sports dating back 15,000 years to Babylonian era and Egyptian cave paintings. There testimonial references to wrestling across the Indian Vedas, the bible and Greek poem Iliad displays the traditional roots grounded in different cultures across the world. It involves grappling techniques such as clinch-fighting, throws, takedowns, joint locks, holds and pins. A person competing in a wrestling bout attempts to usurp the dominant position in any hold and maintain it.

Rules of the game

Rules of the game

Biomechanical analysis

1. Body composition

Wrestlers have been from the ancient times, characterized as a people of broad body structure rembling the perfect mesomorphic form with long arm and short legs, having more lean mass and less bodyfat (Horswill, 1998; Mirzaei et al., 2011). This body composition is still suitable in the modern rules due to nature of the sport. Average bodyfat of elite wrestlers is around 7.2% (Horswill, 1998), Callan (2000) found american wrestlers to lie between 5-10% bodyfat (Fig 1).(Yoon, 2002) reported that elite wrestlers had more percentage of lean body mass (5-9%) compared to their sub-elite peers (>10%) resulting in higher strength and better muscle morphology. Muscle biopsies were taken in 1984 by Shaarat et al., finding 52% of fast twitch fibres present in the vastus lateralis. Thus demonstrating more fast twitch muscle activation during the old rules, the composition has increased since the new rules as more anaerobic demands are placed on the body (Shaarat et al., 1984).

Fig 1: Displays anthropometric characteristics reviewed by (Cohen et al., 2014)

2. Movement analysis

Wrestling is performed in a challenging environment and requires repetitive bouts of high intensity alternated by submaximal low intensity pauses (Chaabene et al., 2017), It is important to understand the movements performed by the wrestler joint-wise to aid the training.

Very few movement analysis studies were done on wrestlers as a real-time motion analysis is not possible during competitive matches, the most common way to interpret which movements are frequent is perceived exertion post a match. Nilsson et al., (2002) adopted this strategy for Greco-roman wrestlers in WC 1998, over half (53.3%) felt the strain to be maximum on the forearms, followed by deltoids and biceps. The other major muscle groups were relatively low on exertion.

In order to combine both maximum stability and the ability to move, the wrestler has to crouch in order to lower his center of gravity and extends his base of support while placing his feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart in a square stance or by taking a staggered stance with the same way but placing one foot in front of the other (Mcginnis, 2005)

3. Effect of dehydration on biomechanics

There is a very important aspect of weigh-in’s in any type of combat sports, wrestling is no different, hence to achieve a lower weight than their optimal range is a path often taken. The thought process, to increase the chances of winning, however is ironical due to the literature suggesting otherwise

Mohgadammi et al., (2016) reported pre-dehydration single leg takedown kinematic analysis and compared the values with post-dehydration and a third measure was taken post 18hrs of rehydration. His investigation gave a detailed analysis of biomechanics of the wrestlers in their” normal” condition.

The results, given in fig 3 (a- pre-test, b- post-dehydration, c- rehydration), clearly display a decrease in shoulder velocity post dehydration and still unable to completely recover in 18-hr post rehydration. Apart from just shoulder velocity, the following variables were significantly affected: R & L trunk angular velocity, pelvis velocity, knee velocity and thigh angular velocity all were decreased significantly.

An overview of this article suggests that the very things that wrestlers think will improve their chances of winning a title can damage their chances of performing better. A better approach to this should be the focus of upcoming literature.

Physiological Analysis

1. Aerobic demands

It has been suggested throughout the literature that a good aerobic system correlates to the recovery periods between 2 bouts in a wrestling match(Chaabene et al., 2017). Nilsson (2002) also stated considering the duration of the match, demands on aerobic system will be moderate to high.

It is important to state that elite international wrestlers have been reported to have 52-68 ml.kg-1.min-1 of VO2max values and this may constitute the difference between successful and unsuccessful wrestlers (Horswill 1992). Nikooie, Cheraghi and Mohamadipour, (2017) suggested that elites definitely have more VO2max values than their sub-elite peers, confirming this statement is the review In 2010 by podlivaev stating that top level wrestlers have a VO2max of over 60 ml.kg-1.min-1.

It is worth noting that no test done to measure VO2max is wrestling specific and there still is a paucity of data in VO2max values across wrestling. The test used by most investigators is Incremental treadmill test with expired gas analysis and blood lactate measurement (Curby 2010)

2. Anaerobic demands

Anaerobic level is arguably the most important factor in determining the winner in wrestling as the crucial explosive and powerful moments in deciding a match are provided by the anaerobic energy system. The following table gives a brief overview of anaerobic system

  • Energy System


  • Components:

    Power & Speed

  • Power:

    Upper and lower


    Reaction time & agility

a. Power:

Chaabene (2016) reviewed multiple papers and reported that wingate test was most commonly used to express anaerobic power. Lower limb power output and maximum power was measured to be around 10 to 17 W.kg-1 and 7 to 9 W.kg-1 respectively in males. For females the same parameters were around 7-9 and 4-7 W.kg-1 respectively. For upper body wingate test, the values for Power output were 7-11 and for maximum power were between 4 to 7 W.kg-1, However this data is only for male wrestlers and there is a lack of data for female wrestlers.

Nikooie et al., (2017) and Horswill (1998) both stated that elite wrestlers seem to have more power output when compared to the other wrestlers. Nikooie et al., (2017) also stated that Greco-roman wrestlers have higher power output than freestyle wrestlers in upper limb due to the demands of the sport, although this finding cannot be generalized as García-Pallarés et al., (2011)performed a similar review and the difference between the two styles was deemed insignificant.

b. Movement speed:

Movement speed is significant deciding ability of quick change in direction, takedowns and throws. Podlivaev in 2010 gave a review of the movement speed timings in wrestlers (Table 2)

30m Sprint (s)4.534.594.63
60m Sprint (s)7.97.797.8
100m sprint (s)12.9812.8713.27
800m Sprint (min)2.472.513.20
8km cross (min)28.3429.1836.31
Podlivaev et al.,2010

Very few researchers have published on reaction speed and linear movement and agility in wrestlers, Mirzaei 2009 tested 40-yd sprint and 4x9m shuttle run. The data displayed a sprint time of 5.14 sec and shuttle time of 7.6 sec on average. Although researchers have unanimously agreed that a reduced reaction time will benefit the wrestlers in locks and hold position (Chaabene et al., 2017)

3. Strength demands


a. Maximal dynamic strength

MDS is often said to correlate with 1RM values and Peak torque attained during exercises. Horswill (1992) stated that increased strength differentiated successful from the unsuccessful. Podlivaev (2010) gave a normative value of 1RM and also presented a unique approach in measuring the timing of the lift (Speed strength). The values are given below:

Garcia-pallares (2011) stated that a difference of 8-25% strength exists between elites and amateurs. Moran-Navarro (2015) added to that finding when he stated elite bench press 20% more than sub-elite and squat 22% more.

b. Isometric strength

Holds, locks and pins are a critical component of wrestling, Handgrip strength, lower back and leg strength together are measured as critical determinants of performance. Chaabene et al., (2016) stated a required handgrip strength of 33-63 kg in males and 27-35 kg in females. Lower back and leg strength were measured as posterior chain variable and resulted in values of 114-213kgs in junior and 168- 272kgs in senior elite.

Cervical strength isometrically measured is also a major component as they are strongly involved in all the positions (Chaabene et al., 2017). Tsuyama et al., (2001)measured the cervical strength and found it to be around 72% more stronger than non-athletes.

c. Strength endurance

Performing the movement once is strength but in a match it needs to be repeated for finite time period, thus involving the factor of strength endurance. The ways to measure strength endurance are counting the repetitions in 1 min with body weight, a given normative data states that pushups (54-70) and pull- ups (15-50) are required at an elite level (Chaabene et al., 2017)

Its also stated that training age (>9 years) had impact on performance than other relatively less training age groups (7-9 and <6 years). Recently, Nikooie et al., (2017) stated that successful junior wrestlers have 29% more strength endurance than unsuccessful peers.

Psychological profile

Psychology is extremely significant in all sports. Psychological profile is calculated on the basis of different attributes in wrestlers. The most important characteristics perceived by wrestlers were –

  1. Mental toughness
  2. Positive Attitude
  3. Motivation
  4. Attention-concentration span

Gould et al., (1987) is attributed with this study, he also stated that an improved self-confidence and increased focus before the match should be held more accountable.Barbas(2011)., Popov (1994)., highlen and binnet., (1979) all stated similar attributes for determining a good psychological profile of the wrestlers.Eklund (1994) did a season long intervention in college wrestlers and found out that therapy and anxiety related interventions positively affected the wrestlers improving their performance over the season.

Nutritional profile

Considered to be the make or break of the weigh-in’s and a critical determinant of the performance, nutritional profile is all but underrated in different combat sports. Tipton and tcheng., (1970) observed that wrestlers loose around 5% of their weight over a course of 17-day period before weighed in. They observed dangerous and inappropriate practices like exercising in sauna, rubber suits, laxatives and vomiting etc. Adding to this study, steen and brownell., (1990) observed that wrestlers’ loose weight around 15 times/ Season and experienced weekly weight fluctuations between 5-9kgs. 270kcal/kg to 56.0kcal/kg was the reduction in dietary intake over a season

Rawson (2015) in his book, nutrition for elite athletes, gave dietary intake with energy determinants for wrestlers.

  • Carbohydrate intake = 1.0-5.6 g/kg of BW (40-61% of energy)
  • Protein intake = 0.9 to 3.4 g/kg of BW (12-21% of energy)
  • Fat intake = 19% – 39% of energy intakeThe above research indicates a need for weight loss in order to compete in lower weight categories increasing the chances of winning, it also indicates the malpractices and reduced dietary intake of athletes which reversely affects their performance. There is a need to develop a novel nutritional approach for athletes to regulate the weight and perform at their optimal level.

Continue to part 2…