Alexander Karelin

“I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs.”

Justin is still out at the barbell cert, and we don’t have AC’s video yet. So we’re going to take a little time to consider the merits of weight class athletes in the world of 70’s Big.

Moving the iron is all well and good, but I personally cannot think of a more useful application of strength and power than tossing another human around. And nobody tossed humans around better than today’s subject.

Alexander Karelin is one of the greatest wrestlers of his generation athletes of all time. Karelin was a superheavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler that represented the old Soviet Union and, later, Russia. The Russian Bear went undefeated for 13 years in international competition, including a six-year stint where he didn’t give up a single point. Over this period he won 12 European Championships, nine world championships, three Olympic golds, and one Olympic silver (his last match was a loss in the finals). And lest we forget, at 6’3 290, he was definitely 70’s Big.

Greco-Roman differs from other forms of wrestling because all the action happens above the waist. Grabbing, hooking, or tripping the legs is forbidden. As a result, the throws are often quite dramatic. Body slams and suplexes are commonplace in Greco-Roman.

You can get a feel for the setups by watching Karelin in this video:

Karelin wrestled at 130 kg, but he was impossibly fast and athletic. The big guys couldn”t keep up with him. No other wrestler matched his strength, either. Opponents were so scared of being slammed that many sprawled onto the mat (giving up dominant position and possibly points!) hoping to avoid being thrown for big points. Karelin countered this by applying his signature reverse body lift, which was a gutwrench suplex off the mat! This move affectionately became known as the Karelin Lift.

To put this into perspective, try to clean a 300 pound resisting object from the floor. Do this multiple times over three two-minute periods, and you get the idea. Still not clear? Here you go:

As is customary with dominant athletes, Karelin was accused of using performance enhancing drugs like HGH and steroids. Many referred to him as “The Experiment, “a not so-subtle dig at the U.S.S.R.’s tendency to dispense testosterone like it was candy. However, Karelin never failed a drug test his entire career (and Olympic drug tests actually have some teeth). When asked about these rumors, Karelin shrugged and said, “People cannot believe I am natural because I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs.”

Read more about Karelin here.

Edit: If anybody has any factual training info on Karelin, please send it in. Most of the information on him is in Russian, and my Russian is quite poor. I have read claims of him doing a 420 pound clean and press. Supposedly Pavel remarked that Karelin did 440 pound Zercher deadlifts for a set of 10. That would be applicable to the Karelin lift, as you need your arms underneath your opponent (Karelin was blessed with very long arms). I have also seen a training clip of him running through waist-deep snow with a log on his back and rowing for hours. You know, stuff from Rocky IV.

28 thoughts on “Alexander Karelin

  1. “Of course, I am grateful for my strength. It makes me self-sufficient. When I bought a refrigerator, I carried it myself up the stairs to my apartment on the eighth floor.”

  2. great article gant. karelin was and still is the man, regardless of one ugly match with gardner. between rulon and karelin, i go with karelin on my side in a zombie invasion, no question.

  3. Python, he will always be the man.

    When I was a kid, I had a Karelin poster on my wall. It had the picture up at the top with the training quote.

    The match against Rulon Gardner was one of the few times I”ve cheered for a Soviet athlete instead of ours.

  4. His match with Rulon was sad, losing by a point on the clinch is no way for Karelin to lose. Such is life with FILA making horrible rules. I don”t think we will see another athlete/wrestler so dominate for so long in this lifetime.

  5. While I know we”re all trying to get huge here, and this might sound like heresy, Karelin is fucking ripped in that black & white picture.

    But his conditioning isn”t from walking on a treadmill at 3.5 miles per hour with a slight incline twice a day. It”s from long wrestling practices and the aforementioned rowing and hefting logs through snow. You know, guy stuff.

    I”m continually surprised by what good conditioning big men are able to get into. Heavyweight athletes and strongmen provide many good examples.

    Here”s a video of Svend Karlsen”s Back Workout. In it he deadlifts over 800 for a few reps. But at the very end of a long, heavy workout he does 3 500 meter sprint rows on a C2 Rowing Machine. His best 500 time that day was a 1:18. If you don”t have a frame of reference for how fast that is, let me put it this way: it”s real damn fast.

  6. Now that”s what I”m fucking talkin about! Talking about eating a horse stuffed in a cow stuffed in an elephant that is deep fried in lard is all well and good, but I enjoy seeing the application of training more than anything. I”m guessing that star athletes didn”t have to wait in breadlines in the old Mother Russia.

  7. Just wanted to say what a brilliant website this is. Its nice to have an insight at what happens at WFAC. Also if it weren”t for Justin”s, A.C”s and other videos I would probably still be on other crap intermediate programs still making little to no progress, thinking I wasn”t a novice.

  8. I”m pretty sure that Tommy Kono once clean-and-pressed 285# in one of the last olympics where the C&P was conested, so for The Python to clean and press 440# seems a little on the high side. But i totally believe the 400+# Z-squat.

    in a face-dominating contest, AK wins every time.

  9. Glad to see some love for the grapplers. There is a hell of a lot of stuff we can do with practical application, demos, video, whiteboard.

    70s Big isn””t about getting fat. It””s about getting strong and building useful muscle, and most guys aren””t eating enough to do that.

    I usually walk around at 13-14% BF (not right now, though) and drop to 11-12% for competition. Justin””s probably that right now.

  10. Simply Amazing. He picks those guys up like they are children.

    I swear to god I”m going to tattoo that on my chest too: “I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs.”


  11. I heard this anecdote during the 2004 Olympics: Karelin once carried a new refrigerator into his apartment. He lived on the seventh floor. And there was no elevator in the building.

  12. Upon further exploration of this site, i have figured out that clicking on AC”s name leads to his video account. AC is too strong…almost a 1500 total..However, according to ACs asian friend, he cannot smooth talk a girl. Luckily, he has his 500+ back squat to help him out.

  13. This man just became a new candidate for my fitness hero. As a 275+ lifter in a profession that says I am 62 lbs. over the reccomended height weight ratio, I admire Comrade Karelin. This man is a stud, and we should all wish to be like him.

    On another note, the Zercher deadlift. Holy Mother of God, that is evil. Evil.

  14. Pingback: CROSSFIT BIG ISLAND » 04/28/10

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