Russian Wrestling Training

Based on the popularity of the Russian boxing entry, I believe many viewers will enjoy the following video as well. As with the previous example, the video was filmed during the 1980s. It includes over 15 minutes of training footage from several former Soviet wrestlers.

Simple, Yet Effective

To no surprise, the athletes can be seen working through a variety of exercises and drills that have once again become popular in today’s era. A few examples include rope climbing, kettlebell training, Olympic lifts, hill running, partner drills, and several bodyweight movements such as muscle-ups, pushups, and pull-ups. The wrestlers also rely heavily on their actual sport. Wrestling itself is a physically demanding activity. Often times, the best way to get in shape for a combat sport is by performing the sport. A wrestler must wrestle. A boxer must box.

Supplemental strength and conditioning exercise must not interfere with the more critical sport training. The physical demands of wrestling and sparring must be appreciated and considered when prescribing supplemental work to athletes. Strength and conditioning does not need to be complex or elaborate to be effective. Simple additions often prove to be the most effective.

Alexander Karelin

As for Soviet examples, Alexander Karelin is the greatest of all. He was a 9 time world champion and 3 time Olympic gold medalist. His first Olympic championship was in the 1988 games in Seoul, Korea. The video above was filmed in 1987. The timing is impeccable, yet certainly not surprising.

Karelin was a beast long before beast mode became a popular phrase. Many years ago I recall seeing footage of him running in waist high snow. He was my original motivation to go out and run in the snow. As for the rest of his training, Karelin worked as hard as any athlete alive. He pushed himself to the extreme. The methods that he used were relatively straightforward however. He too relied heavily on the sport, lifted free weights, and worked with calisthenics. The methods were simple but the training was not.

Some brief highlights can be seen below.

Final Thoughts

In summary, today’s gurus need to stop acting like they have invented effective exercise techniques. The bulk of what is popular today has been around longer than we have all been alive. Athletes improve by practicing their sport regularly, and then supplementing the sport training with simple, yet intense exercise. There are no secret exercises or programs. Those who suggest otherwise are almost always those who do not actually train anyone.

Keep it simple, keep it intense, and don’t be fooled by the hype.


“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein


  1. What a great find. My son wrestled for several years, and know the demands it takes. I am inspired by the old school monkey bars, hands-only rope climbs, and muscle ups. Like you said, this is another case of what was old, is new again.

  2. funny…i coud not imaging, some videos on my own language on this site..its soviet guide for training

    ps Sorry for my english

    1. Those are Zercher deadlifts. They were popularised by the Russians, along with Zercher squats. Great for using a greater range of motion. I used them in preparing for strongman comps to help with the atlas stones.

  3. Gav- they’re known as Zercher deadlifts, and appear to be making a slight comeback in recent months.

    Very cool videos. Loving some of the work being done there. In fact, off to the gym I go!

  4. I used to do Greco-Roman (Classical) wrestling in Ukraine around that time and this video brought back the memories. Thanks for posting. When I go back to visit I show excercises I learned in the USA; and I get quite a few surprised looks. I would do burpees or hold plank – some of my favorites.

  5. Excellent – love the bridge / kettlebell exercise. I also like the quick side jump over the line (guessing). Thanks!

  6. Thanks for sharing these videos Ross.

    I’ve been looking for strength and conditioning exercises for wrestling and boxing.

    Your two latest posts match my requirements spot on, so thanks a lot and keep up the great work!

    Best wishes from the UK!

  7. What are your thoughts on the rounded back lifting such as the zercher deadliest and the round back kettle bell lifts.

    Acceptable with light loads or an injury waiting to happen?

  8. Karelin was indeed a REAL beast. Never seen someone perform barbell curls with a mixed grip before, interesting vid.

  9. Great finds. Even while I don’t understand Russian the first video seems to describe the transfer of training effect. E.g. one should train physique sports specifically to enable benefits to transfer from physique training to the sport itself. There were many good examples of the most common wrestling situations vs sports specific physique training movements.

  10. There is a vid on YouTube featuring Polish weightlifters and their training program. It’ s broken down into 10 x 10 min. segments and features the weightlifters performing gymnastics, sprints, hill runs, bodyweight calisthenics, and even volleyball and basketball pickup games, as well as the weights. Nice accompying vid to the boxer and wrestler vid, looks to be about same time period.

  11. That video of Alexander Karelin is just pure awesome. That is a true athlete. He displays amazing strength and power. I would say he is probably one of the most powerful athletes ever. He throws people around like they’re a medicine ball.

  12. very interesting article. thanks for sharing this info. sports science is about proving what actually works. yes lots of the techniques have been around for a long time. some are great, some are not so good. sports science tells us which are the best. science is the reason athletes have longer and longer careers, and in all the measurable sports (eg. track and field) – we keep beating records. we are getting better at everything, and science; both sport and medical science (including research into nutrition) is the primary reason. ‘champions leave clues’ the saying goes. but clues are not quite enough – science finds the facts.

      1. thats an interesting angle, and something I’ll examine further, thanks. a 45 year old george foreman winning the world title was what made me think yesterdays athletes were good. however even big george trained differently with the new information given to him. sports science is still the measurement by which we find out which exercises past and present are most effective don’t you think? otherwise we just have opinions and confirmation bias. evidence based thinking is always best

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