I started lifting weights after almost literally walking into Trish Stratus at the grand opening of WWE Niagara Falls. She was one of three Superstars brought in to christen the briefly successful retail store and ride on Clifton Hill. I was a scrawny and physically awkward 20 year old music journalist/wrestling fan who had somehow scored an invite to the media launch. As I walked away from her, having narrowly avoided calamity, I remember having two distinct and very pressing thoughts:
One: “I am in love with her.”
Two: “She’s not that much taller than me. I could have muscles!”
I was under no impression that I could be as physically gifted as she was, in either performance or aesthetics. But before that moment, she, like most of the extremely fit and athletic wrestlers I watched on TV, hadn’t even felt human to me. Trying to be anything like her had felt like a useless pursuit. So I didn’t attempt it at all. Something about seeing her tower only a few inches above me in the flesh, though, made fitness feel accessible to me in a way it never had before. Just possible enough to make me consider going to a gym.
So I did. And I liked it. Then I got really into the theory behind weight training, which led to me studying it more formally. I didn’t transform into a pro wrestler/ fitness model or look like Trish, but I did become a personal trainer/ Pilates instructor/ Spinning instructor with pretty sweet delts and some damned fine transverse abdominis/ pelvic floor awareness.
More Pro Wrestling:
- The Best Way to Watch WWE is Through Fan-Made Music Videos
- ‘My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler’ Made Me Cry For Real
- A Pilgrimage to Scott Steiner’s Shoney’s
I drifted out of wrestling fandom a few years later. I crashed out of fitness—as a job and as a personal pursuit—a few more after that. But when I started watching the former again in 2018, my love of the latter started creeping back, as well.
Once you’ve been a raging gym nerd, though, once you know what exercises are best suited to what goals, and once you know how to safely and effectively execute them, pro wrestlers become pretty convoluted role models. They’re clearly good at attaining certain looks. Most can demonstrate at least some components of physical fitness in their wrestling. But if you care enough about exercise to start seeking out their workout tips and videos, you’ll quickly realize that many of them are doing some questionable stuff. Often with suboptimal, if not outright dangerous, form. (I’m also not a fan of supplements stronger than protein powder, either, but that’s another issue.)
Not all wrestlers. I’ve become a huge fan of the occasional workout clips that Sendai Girls’ Chihiro Hashimoto posts on her Instagram page. Her sissy squats are particularly beautiful. Taiji Ishimori has the best deadlifts I’ve ever seen from a CrossFit enthusiast. (Look at that core engagement! He keeps his spine so neutral!) SANADA does some decent enough functional training in that infamous workout video on New Japan World, if you can get past the the foam roller grinding. Which, while not without its charms for some fans, is not necessarily the best self myofascial release work. The Kota Ibushi workout clips buried deep in the streaming service’s archives look bonkers, but often make a lot of sense as sports-specific training once he explains them. It’s just that the specific sport he’s training for is Being Kota Ibushi. But for every moment of promise, there’s ten more clips of momentum abuse and contraindicated exercises.
It was in this state of borderline pedantic exasperation that I was first introduced to Sheamus’s Celtic Warrior Workouts. A friend started sending me random videos from the series and asking me to evaluate the guests’ form. I’m still not sure whether he was trying to seek my honest opinion, wind me up a bit, or both. I’m just glad that he got me to watch. There’s a bit too much CrossFit for my tastes, but there’s some really good content in the mix, too. I thoroughly enjoy watching Asuka be as good at kettlebell swings as she is at everything else, or Heavy Machinery wax earnest about the hazards of a tight subscapularis. But what I love most of all about Celtic Warrior Workouts the philosophy behind it and the way Sheamus each new idea.
In a brief introductory video, Sheamus describes a very relatable burn out in his workouts. “I found myself struggling to get back to the gym. I was in a rut, I’d hit a plateau and I’ll be honest, I was doing the same boring workout over and over again,” he explains.
When he started talking to some new trainers and trying new things, though, his perspective started to shift. He began enjoying himself again. Now he seeks out his fellow WWE wrestlers, talks to them about their training philosophies, and attempts their workouts with a Socratic open mind and a refreshing lack of ego. And, more often than not, he suffers through those workouts.
It’s the suffering that I appreciate the most. Not out of any masochistic leanings on my part, but because it’s so relatable and so human. They way Sheamus struggles through challenging new moves reminds me a lot of how UFC GOAT Georges St-Pierre charmingly drags himself through his RushFit workout DVDs. There is something so motivating about watching an athlete at their peak have to work the same way we do. To be reminded that, in some small way, they’re not that far out of reach. And that while not everything they do might be possible — or even wise — for the average person, not everything they do is impossible, either.
Much like standing next to an only slightly taller legend-in-the-making, watching Celtic Warrior Workouts can feel like the difference between “I could never” and “I could try.”