The athletic demands of a WWE superstar are so complex and varied as to border on the ridiculous. Strength and power are obvious, but wrestlers also need balance, speed, agility, stability and coordination — not to mention abs. They have to have abs.
Josh Gallegos and Mike Vaccarella, both full-time coaches at DogTown CrossFit in Southern California, create the workouts for Seth Rollins. Instead of getting bogged down in the long and specific list of physical challenges their client faces, they program in the classic CrossFit style, confident that the broad, general and inclusive design will cover anything that Rollins might face in the squared circle.
“Seth does so many CrossFit elements in the ring,” Gallegos says. “He’s lifting large loads very quickly or he’s running the ropes or doing backflips or a moonsault. Those are some of the main elements of CrossFit: gymnastics, endurance, lifting, running. So he’s a step ahead of other athletes who are going to Gold’s Gym and doing biceps curls and bench presses.”
Rollins’ program, which is kept on a Google document that the three men share and update several times a day, looks like the regimen of a high-level Regionals competitor. It starts with a long warm-up and a healthy dose of mobilization. The workouts tend to skew heavily toward gymnastics skills and the Olympic lifts, and they always finish with a met-con. The hard part is working around Rollins’ travel and performance schedule, a trick Gallegos refers to as “controlled chaos.”
“Managing his work and his working out is the hard part,” Vaccarella says. “Seth has such a visible job, the last thing we want to do is tire him out so he looks sluggish. To be honest, his Olympic lifting is based on a nine-week program, but it can take him 15 weeks to get through it because he might have to fly to Malaysia. He’s a pro wrestler, not a pro CrossFitter.”
Although Gallegos and Vaccarella claim they train Rollins just like any other client, the fact that the WWE superstar is a multimillion-dollar commodity who has sold tickets and filmed promos months in advance of his appearances significantly raises the stakes when it comes to managing injuries. If Rollins has to sit on the sidelines because he pulled a muscle trying to hit a new snatch PR, the ramifications would be costly in both dollars and marketing efforts.
“It makes you a bit nervous because if something happens to him, it’s our ass,” Gallegos says. “I don’t necessarily program on the safer side. We’re not programming crazy long chippers, but Seth is so good at dissecting a workout and letting us know if something is too much or too little or if he can’t do something on a day he has a match. The sign of a good coach and a good client relationship is communication. We talk three to four times a day, and we are constantly making notes and adjustments.”