Olympic and collegiate wrestlers have amazing physiques.
They’re big, powerful, and carved from granite.
Their muscles aren’t for show — they’re specifically designed for maximum effectiveness in a certain brand of combat.
For a lot of men, the wrestler is the ultimate in physique goals.
So how can you get a body like a wrestler?
To get a wrestler’s body, you need to pack on strength and muscle in the right areas, while building exceptional conditioning and grip strength. You’ll do some unique (and fun!) kinds of training, and while you won’t want to carry too much body fat, wrestlers don’t need to be completely shredded either.
It’s not easy to look as tough as wrestlers do, but it’s achievable.
It’ll take hard work, and years of it, but eventually anyone can look like a wrestler—and you never have to step into the ring.
What Are the Hallmarks of the Wrestler Physique?
Wrestlers have an interesting physique, because it can vary a lot depending on the wrestling style, weight class, gender, and more.
Wrestlers in lighter weight classes, for example, are extremely lean, toned, and nimble.
Heavyweight wrestlers pack more power and usually carry a bit more body fat.
And there are female wrestlers too, in collegiate programs across the country. They’re usually a lot more powerful and muscle-bound than other female athletes like soccer players or ballerinas.
In general, most wrestlers have a few things in common:
- Solid muscle mass and lots of power in their lower bodies
- Thick, muscular necks
- Powerful forearms and grip strength
- Thick back muscles
- Rock solid core
James de Lacy, a professional strength and conditioning coach, says, “Elite level wrestlers display greater grip strength, back, and leg strength compared to non-elite wrestlers.”
James isn’t just speaking from observation—there’s a study on elite vs non-elite wrestlers that back this up.
A second study goes on to show that elite wrestlers can do more situps and pull-ups than their non-elite counterparts.
Wrestlers are also in incredible shape, cardio-wise. If you’ve never tried it, combat sports like wrestling and boxing are absolutely EXHAUSTING and can fry even top-notch athletes in a matter of minutes.
Two and three-minute wrestling rounds require outstanding stamina.
So, regardless of the overall appearance, the wrestler’s physique is a winner in every measure of strength and endurance.
5 Training Tips for a Wrestler Body
If you’re ready to hit the gym and build your own wrestler’s physique, here are a few tips from real trainers that can get you started on the right path.
#1. Eat Smart to Build or Reveal Muscle
Wrestlers have one advantage over many other athletes: you can have a higher body fat percentage and still have a wrester body.
It’s a tricky balance for wrestlers at the highest levels, balancing performance and strength with the need to make weight for a certain weight class.
But most of us don’t need to worry about this if we’re just after the body type.
If you’re starting out on the “thicker” side and want to cut down to reveal more muscle tone like a wrestler, you’ll have to clean up your diet.
But don’t worry. Again, you won’t need to get completely shredded to look like a wrestler.
Start by limiting the foods that don’t benefit you in the gym—this includes processed food, alcohol, sugary treats, and doughy carbs.
You’re shooting for a deficit of a couple hundred calories per day, which is ideal for losing around 1-2 pounds of fat per week (considered safe and reasonable by most doctors).
For the wrestler’s physique, you’ll be working out a ton — just avoid overeating and undoing the calorie burn and you should slim down quite quickly!
If you’re already fairly lean or skinny and want to pack on some muscle to look like an Olympic wrestler, you need to build a daily calorie surplus.
Bulking, as it’s called, is a lot more fun than cutting (or losing fat) — but you should still focus on high-quality foods without too much junk.
The key element here, besides the calorie surplus, is getting plenty of protein.
It’s a critical component in muscle growth.
When you strength train (which you’ll be doing a lot!) you create micro-tears in your muscles. Protein helps repair the tears, and as the micro-tears heal, your muscles grow.
That’s why you see lots of athletes and gym-rats drinking protein shakes. Protein bars are also a common find amongst gym-goers; they’re great for replenishing energy after a workout.
Fill the rest of your diet with a solid balance of carbs and fat — both are crucial for your energy levels and overall health while training.
#2. Strengthen Your Grip
Grip is vital in wrestling.
So much of the sport revolves around “wrist control,” or jostling for a good grip on the opponent’s wrists so you can take them down.
That requires exceptional forearm strength and grip power.
Two key exercises can help you obtain a strong grip.
Dumbells can be tricky to grip, so dumbbell deadlifts can be beneficial for building the forearms and hand strength.
However, if you want to push yourself further in your grip training, try some barbell deadlifts with the highest weight that you can handle.
There’s a lot of pressure exerted on your grip here, even though it’s your upper body that’s doing the most work while lifting.
In fact, your grip is likely to give out far before your major muscles do — which is why a lot of lifters eventually move to a switch grip or use straps.
Stick with regular, overhand grip and work on building your grip strength and endurance.
Pull-ups take a monumental amount of upper body strength, especially if you’re particularly heavy, which wrestlers tend to be.
It also takes wrist and grip strength to perform the movement well.
You need a firm, stable grip on your pull-up bar, and that’s all in the fingers, wrists, and forearms.
The smaller the bar, the easier it is to grip. If you want a real challenge, make the bar thicker.
You can purchase something like Fat Gripz on Amazon, which make any bar substantially thicker for more grip strength training, but you can also head down to the park and look at a soccer goal post.
The bar that runs across the top of that is thick, and the post is sturdy so it can take your weight.
This is an excellent makeshift pull-up bar that’ll really challenge your grip.
Another way to challenge your grip during pull-ups is to hold an irregularly shaped object.
Hook a towel over your pull-up bar, and grab one side of the towel in each hand instead of using the actual bar.
Finally, add weight! Use a weighted dip or pull-up belt to add to your own bodyweight for insane grip training.
#3. Work With Odd Objects
Working with “odd objects” is one of trainer James de Lacy’s top tips for building a wrestler’s body.
He says you should train like a strongman, and they train by lifting all kinds of strange objects.
If it’s awkward to carry, it not only challenges your overall strength, but your grip too.
You learn to maneuver your body, improve balance, and develop strength at strange joint angles.
Humans aren’t exactly a great shape to pick up and tackle either, so real wrestlers can greatly benefit from training with odd objects.
James recommends training with the following items:
- Logs of wood
Here are some workouts you can try with these odd and heavy objects.
- Bearhug carries: 2-4 sets of 20-40m. Or carry until you drop.
- Zercher carries: 2-4 sets of 20-40m. Or carry until you drop
- Sandbag deadlifts: 2-4 sets of 1-4 reps.
- Log bicep curls: 2-4 sets of 6-10 reps.
In the carries, any oddly-shaped object will suffice.
This is real-world, functional strength training that translates better to the sport than a lot of traditional weightlifting moves.
It also builds an insanely powerful physique!
#4. Train High-Resistance Conditioning
James says, “Conditioning is an important part of wrestler’s training regime and should be incorporated into your training plan.
Wrestlers naturally have a lot of endurance, so building that up with conditioning should be one of your priorities when building a wrestler-like physique.
Think bursts of high-intensity activity, not long steady runs.
“High resistance conditioning like prowler (sled) sprints and hill sprints are great,” according to James.
Your gym might even have battle ropes, which are sure to crush your in no time!
If you don’t have access to any special equipment, try regular sprints outside or HIIT workouts at home — they’re time efficient and great at building your capacity for intense activity.
#5. Target Specific Areas—Legs, Back, and Arms
Alongside your grip, your legs and back are two of the most important areas to train when trying to get a body like a wrestler.
You shouldn’t neglect your arms either, though.
Hit the gym and do major, compound exercises along with regular isolation work of key wrestling muscles.
Train for a blend of power and muscle, somewhere around 2-4 sets of 6-10 reps per exercise.
Here are some ideas for your legs, back, and arms.
- Romanian deadlifts
- Barbell back squats
- Standing calf raises
- Weighted pull-ups
- Rowing machine
- Lat pulldown machine
- Rear delt fly machine
- Resistance band pull apart
- Wide dumbbell rows
- Single-arm dumbbell rows
For your biceps:
- Barbell curls
- Hammer curls—great for your forearms, too
- Incline dumbbell curls
- Cable curls
- Reverse-grip bent-over rows
For your triceps:
- Tricep dips
- Bench dips
- One-arm overhead extensions
- Pushups of any kind
- Cable rope tricep pushdown
- Close-grip bench press
For your forearms and grip:
- Zottman curl
- Farmer’s walk
- Pull-up bar hang—great for your grip, too
- Reverse curl
- Dumbell wrist extension
- Dumbell wrist flexion
To complete the look, incorporate some weighted neck curls and neck extensions to build a thick neck and traps area — just like a wrestler.
Training for a wrestler’s physique is hard work, but it should be fun!
Unlike some other athletic physiques, you don’t need a brutal diet to get to single digit body fat.
Your goal is to pack on strength and power while developing excellent high-intensity conditioning.
If you follow the plan above, you’ll have a blast doing odd exercises like bear hug carries, sled sprints, and different kinds grip strength training.
It’ll take some time to pack on the necessary bulk to look like a wrestler, but the look will be well worth it!
Before you go, check out:
- How to get a rower’s body
- How to get a sprinter’s body
- How to get a distance runner’s body
- How to get a volleyball body
Hope this helps!