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Original Research

Comparison of Physical and Physiological Profiles in Elite and Amateur Young Wrestlers

Demirkan, Erkan1; Koz, Mitat2; Kutlu, Mehmet3; Favre, Mike4

Author Information
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: July 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 7 - p 1876-1883
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000833
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Abstract

Introduction

Wrestling, as a sport, is extremely dynamic in nature being characterized by sudden explosive attacks and counterattacks that are executed repeatedly at a high intensity and alternated with submaximal work for duration of up to 6 minutes (8,14). Because of the nature of this activity, wrestling demands several specific characteristics, including maximal strength, aerobic endurance, and anaerobic capabilities to achieve success in competition (20). The anaerobic power of the lower and upper body is also of great importance for success in wrestling by contributing to the attack and lifting of the opponent during offensive maneuvers along with resisting attacks by the opponent. Anaerobic power has also been suggested as a measure to aid in the differentiation between successful and less successful wrestlers (6). The current scoring system promotes a quick explosive action style as well (8). The anaerobic system provides the short quick bursts of maximal power during the match, whereas the aerobic system contributes to the wrestler's ability to sustain effort for the duration of the match (2,10).

One of the challenges confronting the coaches and sport scientists is to understand the physical and physiological factors contributing to successful wrestling (13,14). Few studies have examined fitness profiles for wrestlers at different competitive levels to identify physical and physiological differences that may contribute to success (3,6,15–17). The primary purpose of this study is to determine the value of specific and long-term training in comparison with the physical and physiological profiles of wrestlers in all classifications (competitive levels and weight categories). Examination of physical and physiological profiles in these subjects may contribute to talent selection and could be of enormous importance for optimizing conditioning programs to improve wrestling performance. It was hypothesized that elite wrestlers would have more favorably higher physical and physiological characteristics compared with amateur wrestlers because elite wrestlers may elevate their abilities to the more high-level championships (i.e., World and European) and have higher level training experiences than amateur wrestlers. Based on this, we suggest that elite wrestlers may have higher physical and physiological profiles than amateur wrestlers. If the differences appear, it may indicate the importance of these to take part in elite group. The second aim of this study was to establish baseline physical and physiological data on Turkish young elite and amateur wrestlers for the development of a wrestling training program. Additionally, a goal of this study is to present the physical and physiological normative data of elite and amateur young Turkish wrestlers.

Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

The study was performed in June during a national training camp held before the World and European Championships in 2011. Before participating, the athletes were instructed not to participate in any daily training program within 24 hours before testing. None of these 126 wrestlers were involved in a weight-cutting approach or under restricted water or food intake. All the subjects followed the same dietary plans during the wrestling camp. Testing was completed for all wrestlers in the same laboratory and field facilities on 3 consecutive days. In addition, all participants completed a personal information form that included their age (day/month/year) and training background, and medals obtained during the 2011 World and/or European Wrestling Championships were recorded after the championships. After the national team camp, the wrestlers (N = 38) who were categorized as elite participated in the 2011 European and/or World Championships. Furthermore, 13 of them (top elite wrestlers) obtained medals (gold, silver, and bronze) during the championships. The other wrestlers (N = 88) who were categorized as amateur did not participate in the European and/or World Championships. All the wrestlers were assigned to 6 groups according to their body mass (light, middle, and heavy weight) and their competitive level (elite and amateur) as follows: light weight (body mass ranged between 42 and 54 kg) in elite (LWE, n = 15) and amateur (LWA, n = 31) level; middle weight (body mass ranged between 58 and 69 kg) in elite (MWE, n = 12) and amateur (MWA, n = 32) level; and heavy weight (body mass ranged between 76 and 100 kg) in elite (HWE, n = 11) and amateur (HWA, n = 25) level.

Subjects

One hundred twenty-six young male wrestlers (age = 16.5 ± 0.7 years, range = 15–17 years; height = 170.2 ± 8.0 cm, range = 152–190 cm; body weight = 67.7 ± 15.2 kg, range = 44.8–107.0 kg) volunteered as subjects (56 Greco-Roman wrestlers and 70 freestyle wrestlers) in this study. The subjects and coaches were informed in detail about the experimental procedures and the possible risks and benefits of the project, and written informed consent was obtained from both the subjects and their parents before testing. The study, complied with the Declaration of Helsinki, was approved by the Bioethics Commission of the University of Ankara.

Procedures

Measurements of Height and Body Weight

Body height and weight measurements were made using the scale in bare feet and wearing only shorts. Height was measured to the nearest 0.1 cm, and body mass was measured to the nearest 0.1 kg using a calibrated scale (Seca 714, Hamburg, Germany).

Assessment of Body Composition

Body composition analysis was determined by measurement of skinfold thickness and was measured at 3 sites (subscapular, triceps, and abdominal) with a skinfold caliper (Holtain Ltd., Crosswell, Crymych, Pembs, United Kingdom, accurate to 0.2 mm). Body density and percent body fat were predicted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association method from the formula developed by Lohman (12). Fat-free mass (FFM) was calculated by subtracting the fat tissue mass (in kilograms) from the total body mass.

Anaerobic Test

The Wingate (WAnT) tests were used for the arms and legs during separate tests (9). The leg Wingate test consisted of 30 seconds of maximal cycling against a resistance load. Each test was performed on a Monark cycle ergometer (Model 894-E), and the load was calculated as 0.075 kg·kg−1 body mass for each participant. During leg cycling, peak power was computed from the highest power output registered during a 0.01-second interval (8).

The subjects performed an arm-crank Wingate test on an adjustable Monark cycle ergometer (Model 894-E) that was specifically modified for standing arm-cranking. The arm Wingate test was performed at standing body posture using ergometer. A resistance of 0.055 kp·kg−1 body mass was used for the athletes. The trials were 30 seconds in duration, and the wrestlers were informed to crank as fast as possible throughout the trial and not to adopt any pacing strategy. During arm cycling, peak power was computed from the highest power output registered during a 0.01-second interval (8).

Sprint Running Test

After a standardized 15-minute warm-up period (low-intensity running, several acceleration runs, and stretching exercises), the subjects undertook a sprint running test consisting of 2 maximal sprints of 30 m, with a 3-minute rest period between each sprint. Each 10-m segment was also measured during the 30-m sprint running test. The better of 2 measurements were recorded. The running speeds of the wrestlers were evaluated using dual-beam electronic timing gates (Sport Expert MPS 501 Model, TÜMER Ltd. Ankara, TR). Speed was measured to the nearest 0.01 seconds.

Maximal Isometric Handgrip and Back Strength Tests

Handgrip strength was measured for right and left hands with a dynamometer (Takei A5001 Hand Grip Dynamometer, Tokyo, Japan). The subjects were placed sitting with 0° of shoulder flexion, 90° of elbow flexion, and the forearm in neutral. Maximal back strength and leg strength were measured using a back and leg muscle dynamometer (Takei A5002 Back and Leg Dynamometer, Tokyo, Japan). The length of the handle chain was adjusted to fit each subject, so that the angle of the subjects' knees was at 45°. Two trials were performed in each exercise. The best score of 2 measurements was recorded.

Flexibility Test

Flexibility of the trunk was determined from a sit-and-reach test using a standard sit-and-reach box. The subjects sat in front of a sit-and-reach testing box, where the feet meet the testing box. The subjects were informed to reach forward, with palms down and one hand on top of the other along the measuring scale of the testing box. The recorded score for this test was the average of 2 trials.

Agility Test

An Illinois test (4) was used to determine the agility. The length of the course is 10 m and the width (distance between the start and finish points) is 5 m. Four cones are used to mark the start, finish, and the 2 turning points. Another 4 cones are placed down the center, an equal distance apart. Each cone in the center is spaced 3.3 m apart. Subjects should lie on their front (head to the start line) and hands by their shoulders. The athlete gets up as quickly as possible and runs around the course in the direction indicated, without knocking the cones over, to the finish line, at which the timing is stopped and the score was recorded in seconds.

Aerobic Endurance Test

Aerobic endurance was determined by a shuttle run multistage (20 m) test. Using the equation of Léger and Gadoury (11), a prediction of V[Combining Dot Above]O2max was made. The initial speed was 8.0 km·h−1, which got progressively faster (0.5 km·h−1 every minute), in accordance with a pace dictated by a sound signal on an audiotape. The wrestlers were instructed to keep pace with the signal for as long as possible. When the subjects could no longer follow the pace, the last stage recorded was used to predict maximal oxygen uptake (V[Combining Dot Above]O2max). A predicted V[Combining Dot Above]O2max was obtained using the equation of Léger and Gadoury (11).

Statistical Analyses

Data are presented as mean ± SD. All statistical analyses were computed using SPSS version 19 software. Before analysis, normality and equality of variance of the variables were assessed using a Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. The differences between top elite, elite, and amateur groups and between the 3 elite and amateur groups (LWE-LWA, MWE-MWA, and HWE-HWA) were determined using the one-way analysis of variance and were presented as mean values and SD. Post hoc comparisons were made using T in the Tukey's procedure. Additionally, a binomial logistic regression analysis was performed to assess the effect of various physical and physiological variables most accurately predicted wrestling success. The level of significance for all statistics was set at p ≤ 0.05.

Results

Based on competitive levels, some of the physical and physiological profiles and training experiences are shown in Table 1. Based on weight categories, the physical characteristics and training experience of elite and amateur wrestlers in 3 weight classes are presented in Table 2. The performance measures of anaerobic power and capacity are presented in Tables 3 and 4, which contains testing results for maximal oxygen uptake, maximal handgrip and back-leg strengths, flexibility, agility, and running speed. Binomial logistic regression analyses of variables for elite and amateur wrestlers are shown in Tables 5 and 6.

Table 1
Table 1:
Comparison of physical, physiological profiles, and training experiences in top elite, elite, and amateur young wrestlers.*†
Table 2
Table 2:
Characteristic of elite and amateur wrestlers in the 3 weight classes.*
Table 3
Table 3:
Leg and arm anaerobic values obtained in the 30-second Wingate test for elite and amateur wrestlers in the 3 weight classes.*†
Table 4
Table 4:
Comparison of aerobic endurance, handgrip strength, leg and back strength, sprint running time (10–30 m), agility, and flexibility for elite and amateur wrestlers in the three weight classes.*†‡
Table 5
Table 5:
A binomial logistic regression analysis of variables for elite and amateur wrestlers.
Table 6
Table 6:
Classification of prediction for elite and amateur wrestlers.

Physical and Physiological Profiles and Training Experiences

Some of the physical and physiological profiles and training experiences for all competitive groups are shown in Table 1.

Top elite and elite wrestlers had significantly (p ≤ 0.05) more training experience and maximal oxygen uptake level compared with the amateur wrestlers. No significant differences were detected for other variables among groups (top elite, elite, and amateur) (p > 0.05) (Table 1).

Physical Characteristics and Training Experience

The physical characteristics and training experience of elite and amateur wrestlers in 3 weight classes are presented in Table 2.

Light- and middle-weight elite wrestlers had significantly (p ≤ 0.05) more training experience compared with the LWA and MWA wrestlers. No significant differences were detected between elite and amateur groups (light-, middle-, and heavy-weight wrestlers) for age, body mass, height, body mass index (BMI), and body fat (p > 0.05), with the exception of height for heavy-weight wrestlers (Table 2).

Anaerobic Power and Capacity (Leg and Arm-Crank Wingate)

The comparison of arms and legs anaerobic power and capacity of elite and amateur wrestlers in 3 weight classes is presented in Table 3.

Leg average and peak power values (in watts and watts per kilogram) in MWE were higher than MWA (6.5 and 13%, p ≤ 0.05). Relative leg average power value in HWE (in watts per kilogram) was higher than HWA (9.6%, p ≤ 0.05). No significant differences were detected between elite and amateur groups (light-, middle-, and heavy-weight wrestlers) for arm peak power, relative arm peak power, arm average power, or relative arm average power (p > 0.05). No significant differences were detected between elite and amateur light-weight wrestlers for leg peak power, relative leg peak power, leg average power, relative leg average power, arm peak power, relative arm peak power, arm average power, or relative arm average power (p > 0.05) (Table 3).

Aerobic Performance, Maximal Handgrip and Back Strength Tests, Sprint Running, Agility, and Flexibility

The comparison of aerobic endurance, strength, speed, agility, and flexibility of elite and amateur wrestlers in 3 weight classes is presented in Table 4.

It was observed that elite wrestlers in MWE and HWE possessed a statistically higher V[Combining Dot Above]O2max (12.5 and 11.4%, respectively) than amateur middle- and heavy-weight wrestlers (p ≤ 0.05). In addition to this, elite middle-weight wrestlers were statistically faster (10–30 m speed test) (4.6 and 5.1%, respectively) and more agile (5.3%) than amateur middle-weight wrestlers (p ≤ 0.05) (Table4).

Binary Logistic Regression Analyses

The binary logistic regression analyses determined that 5 of the 29 studied variables predict the 84.8% of the probability of being in the elite wrestler group (Table 5). Training experience (odds ratio, exp(b) = 0.465, p ≤ 0.05), anaerobic average power (Wingate power) and anaerobic average power (in watts per kilogram) values (odds ratio, exp(b) = 0.854 and 0.810, respectively, p ≤ 0.05), V[Combining Dot Above]O2max (odds ratio, exp(b) = 0.829, p ≤ 0.05), and flexibility (odds ratio, exp(b) = 0.879, p ≤ 0.05) made significant contributions to the wrestlers placed in the elite group (Table 6). This model correctly classified 26 of the 38 subjects for elite wrestlers and 81 of the 88 subjects for amateur wrestlers for an overall prediction accuracy of 84.8%.

Discussion

Based on competitive levels (top elite, elite, and amateur), the primary findings of this investigation indicate that the top elite wrestlers and the elite wrestlers had similar training experiences. However, amateur wrestlers had less training experience than both high elite and elite wrestlers. The largest mean differences between the top elite wrestlers and amateur sample were 25% for training experiences (6.5 ± 1.1 − 5.2 ± 1.5, respectively) (Table 1). Elite and amateur level wrestlers are characterized by similar age, height, weight, BMI, body fat%, and FFM in all competitive levels and weight groups, with the exception of height for heavy-weight wrestlers (Tables 1 and 2). However, when the groups were also separated into weight categories, LWE, MWE, and HWE had more training experience (7–20%) compared with the amateur groups (Table 2). The literature studies have shown that elite and amateur wrestlers have similar characteristics, including age, height, BMI, and body fat ratio values, but there is only significant difference in the years of training experience between elite wrestlers and amateur ones (3,10,15,16,18). On examination of the literature, these results may suggest that years of training experience is one of the most critical factors for achieving success in wrestling. The results of this study indicate that young elite wrestlers on one hand had no effect on the increase of body mass, FFM, and body height, which were related to training background, but on the other hand, training background may improve the features such as the level of wrestling skills, technical, tactical, and self-confidence. This gives elite wrestlers a clear advantage during wrestling championships compared with amateurs.

Power is needed by wrestlers to perform the maneuvers that lead to control of the opponent (20). The findings of this investigation related to the leg and arm anaerobic peak and average power values indicate that there were no significant differences among groups (top elite, elite, and amateurs) (Table 1). However, leg peak power, relative leg peak power, leg average power, relative leg average power, arm peak power, relative arm peak power, arm average power, and relative arm average power were similar between LWE and LWA groups (Table 3). However, leg peak power, relative leg peak power, leg average power, and relative leg average power were statistically higher in the MWE group (6.5–13%) compared with the MWA group. In addition to these results, arm peak power, relative arm peak power, arm average power, and relative arm average power in the MWE group were relatively higher (9.1–11%) compared with the MWA group (Table 3). When the HWE is compared with the HWA, relative leg average power was statistically higher (9.6%) in the HWE group. In their 1993 study, Roemmich and Frappier (17) demonstrated that the relative anaerobic power of the elite wrestlers was significantly greater than that of the amateur ones. Horswill et al. (7) reported that anaerobic power may help to differentiate between successful and less successful male wrestlers. They found that the average elite juniors had 376 ± 20 W for arm power and 540 ± 25 W for leg power. The nonelite group had 331 ± 22 W and 467 ± 29 W for arm and leg power, respectively. Pallares et al. (15) identified that elite wrestlers had a greater corresponding anaerobic power (781 ± 154 − 643 ± 140 W, respectively). Demirkan et al. (3) demonstrated that statistically significant differences existed between elite junior wrestlers and nonelite junior wrestlers who had leg average power of 611 ± 144 − 518 ± 135 W and relative arm average power of 4.9 ± 0.6 − 4.4 ± 0.7 W·kg−1, respectively. In another study, Abellán et al. (1) put forward that there are meaningful differences between elite wrestlers and amateur wrestlers concerning their arm anaerobic power values (maximum power: elite: 781 ± 154 W − amateur: 643 ± 140 W; average capacity: elite: 523 ± 83 − amateur: 433 ± 78 W) and claim that higher body anaerobic power and capacity are important factors for success in wrestling. Literature studies confirm the importance of anaerobic performance for wrestling success (1,3,7,15,17). In agreement with previous researches (1,3,7,15,17), our results also reveal greater anaerobic performance and power output in elite versus amateur wrestlers and confirm the importance of anaerobic performance.

One of the major findings in this study was that of maximal oxygen uptake. It was 11.4–12.5% higher in MWE and HWE (57.6 ± 2.0 − 52.7 ± 5.9 ml·kg·min−1, respectively) compared with the MWA and HWA (50.4 ± 5.4 − 46.7 ± 5.0 ml·kg·min−1, respectively) (Table 4). According to their level of competition, elite wrestlers had higher level maximal oxygen uptake than amateur wrestlers (54.4 ± 5 − 48.9 ± 5.3 ml·kg·min−1) (Table 1). However, the top elite wrestlers and the elite wrestlers had similar maximal oxygen uptake levels (53.3 ± 5.9 − 54.4 ± 5 ml·kg·min−1, respectively). Unfortunately, a small number of researchers (2,7,14) have examined aerobic performance in exercises closely related to specific skills in wrestling. Mirzaei et al. (14) found that the mean maximum oxygen uptake values of 70 wrestlers were 50.56 ± 4.7 ml·kg−1·min−1. Horswill et al. (7) and Callan et al. (2) reported that the mean maximum oxygen uptake values were 52.6 ml·kg−1·min−1 and 54.66 ± 2.0 ml·kg−1·min−1, which are close values to that reported by our study results respectively (Table 4). Yoon (19) stated that a higher aerobic capacity should allow athletes to maintain higher intensity activity during the match, delay the accumulation of metabolites associated with fatigue processes, and improve the recovery process during the rest period between 2 consecutive matches. He stated that aerobic metabolism is important as a basic requirement for elite wrestlers to achieve good performance. In agreement with the studies (2,7,14), our study results also suggest that it may be a major determinant of success in all weight classes between elite and amateur wrestlers. When we compared the MWE with the MWA, sprint running time (10–30 m) and agility was statistically higher (4.6–5.1% and 5.3%, respectively) in the MWE group. In contrast to this result, Pallarés et al. (16) demonstrated that no difference in sprint running was observed between elite and amateur wrestlers. This situation may partially be explained by comparing the testing protocol used in this study.

Only a few previous studies (15–17) have reported that logistic regression and discriminant function analysis are the most critical predictors of wrestling success. Roemmich and Frappier (17) used discriminate function analysis to determine which collection of variables most accurately predicted wrestling success. They found that grip strength of the left hand, flexibility of the low back and hamstrings, push-ups, strength of the right quadriceps, and total distance covered during the 12-minute run were of importance in predicting wrestling success. In another study, Pallares et al. (15) used the binary logistic regression analyses to predict the probability of being in the elite wrestler group. They identified that training experience, FFM, one repetition maximum (1RM) strength and muscle power in bench press and fully squat exercises, and Wingate peak power. Pallarés et al. (16) also found that based on the logistic regression analyses, FFM and 1RM strength were the most important factors of successful female wrestling performance. Gierczuk et al. (5) stated that wrestling requires several essential elements including high levels of dynamic and isometric strength, anaerobic and aerobic conditioning, quickness, flexibility, and power. Based on the binary logistic regression analyses, our study reported that 5 of the 29 identified studied variables, including training experience, anaerobic average power (Wingate power) and anaerobic average power (W·kg−1), and maximal oxygen uptake and flexibility, made significant contributions to the wrestlers placed in the elite group (Table 5). This model correctly classified 26 of the 38 subjects for elite wrestlers and 81 of the 88 subjects for amateur wrestlers for an overall prediction accuracy of 84.8% (Table 6). Similar to previous studies (5,15–17), the present results also demonstrate the importance of greater training experience, anaerobic power, aerobic capacity, and flexibility in elite versus amateur wrestlers.

Practical Applications

This study can enable coaches in the evaluation of performance abilities and for the objective selection of athletes. We suggest that years of training experience, maximal oxygen uptake, anaerobic capacity, and flexibility are indicators of the ability to achieve success in wrestling. The knowledge of the physical profiles of elite wrestlers at different weight categories can be important for coaches and sport scientists to plan the training program accordingly and also to identify talent selection for wrestling. However, a training program should not be based solely on enhancing the variables selected by these studies, as other factors can also influence wrestling success, such as the level of wrestling skills, technical, tactical, and psychological factors. The data presented here can help to determine normative values based on competitive levels and weight categories and design training programs that will support wrestling success. In addition, coaches and researchers can compare baseline physical and physiological data with international age divisions from world powers in the sport. Furthermore, based on weight class in sports like wrestling, comparing only groups, including all weight classes, may not be sensitive enough to reveal the differences. Instead of such an application, separating groups based on weight classification (light, middle, and heavy) may be a more sensitive and accurate approach to find out more details about these differences.

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Keywords:

wrestling; aerobic; anaerobic; body composition; strength

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