If you are training at a club where you use mostly machines and you do not have the ability to do the basic heavy lifts properly, you are fooling yourself and you need to leave and find a place to lift!

A Gym where you Would Find Iron Will

At one point in history not too long ago, believe it or not, students all across America in all grades attended gym class. You would change into your gym shorts and head outdoors or to the gymnasium. The definition of which is a building that houses equipment for gymnastics and sports. We ran, jumped, climbed ropes and did some stunts on the Pummel Horse and Rings. We played many different sports and games including, dare I say…Dodge Ball.

I don’t remember anyone getting killed, most had fun and we actually built up a good sweat. I don’t know what in heck was wrong with us. We must have been crazy! Little John got picked last when we chose up teams. Fred got beamed in his big ugly head in Dodge Ball, and Becky couldn’t make it to the top of the rope. Man! Like life was this unfair.

In our infinite wisdom, gym became Physical Education, Health, Recreation and Dance (no, I’m not kidding). Take each one separate and none of these things are bad, but what exactly one has to do with the other, I’m not too sure. For example, I have been known to dance a little. If you have been to a wedding with me, it is possible that you may have seen me on the dance floor. The point I’m trying to make is, there are many types of dance. The one that always seems to be associated with gym class is Square Dancing.

I am certainly not the smartest man in the world and Square Dancing may be the greatest thing since sliced bread. But is it Physical Education though? Or are we trying to reinvent the wheel? Changing something that many of us loved and excelled at because others didn’t enjoy it as much and didn’t fair as well.

If that is the case, I want some changes to subjects I didn’t quite like and sucked at. What about little Willie’s feelings, self esteem and GPA? For example, I was about the worst foreign language student of all time. This should come as no surprise, as I have so much trouble with basic English. So let’s make it Foreign Language, Eating Food, Fun and Arcade Games. This would be great! I really am good at the last three.

OK Ellinger… so what does this have to do with anything? Well, let me tell you. Back in the day, men (literally there were no women allowed) went to GYMS! They trained hard on basic equipment doing the big exercises. This may not be news to you. What might surprise you though is even with your multi-million dollar health club, armed with Mr. Galaxies greatest super program and all the latest scientific movements and supplements, they where much stronger than you!

You may not believe me, but you need to look no further than the top of this website’s home page. There you will see an advertisement for Cornell Wrestling Camps. Please look at the scrolling photo of their weight training facility. What do you see? Now check other major colleges and professional sports teams with NEW facilities. That is right, the upgraded gyms have removed most of the machines. It kind of looks like what you may have seen many years ago, doesn’t it?  I wonder why?

There are some pretty smart people up at Cornell, so maybe they are on to something? Why the dramatic change from machines to free weight? Well, the machines did not live up to the hype. You should take a look and try to understand more recent history. If you look sometime around the late 60’s early 70’s you would see the introduction of the Universal Gym. I think every high school I have ever been in has one.

you do not want to train here

The idea was pretty revolutionary and simple. You reduce many of the ‘problems’ associated with lifting free weights. By having weight stacks riding on tracks it all but eliminates things like balance, learning the proper technique, dropping a weight on your toes etc. I believe it served a purpose and was far better than having nothing in our lawyer-ed up, hope not to get sued, society.

Arthur Jones, the creator of Nautilus, one up-ed this concept with the invention of his machines. There were many factors that effected his overall development of his machines. He had his concept of how a workout should be done for example. The cam(which resemble the shape of a nautilus shell hence the name) that changed the leverage to go alone with the ‘natural’ strength curve for another. But the true brilliance of it (at least from a money stand point) was that of circuit training for the masses.

The gyms with free weights started dropping like flies as these huge clubs sprang up like weeds. No longer did anyone actually need to really know anything about lifting. Now a bunch of highly skilled trainers would teach you how to adjust the seat so you were comfy, and away you went.

The untold millions that Nautilus was making didn’t go unnoticed and soon there were countless machines on the market. This was the wave of the future. Everywhere you went, there were tons of machines and maybe if you were lucky, a little corner where you could find some free weight to actually do some lifting.

This may all serve a purpose for the average person. For the true athletes of the world and certainly the wrestler, the clubs have gone from bad to much worse. Here on Long Island it is hard to find a few rare places to train. I have had people from certain towns deemed too far away from my gym ask me to recommend a place to train. Most times I could not give them one. NOTE: If you know of a GYM where one can truly lift in, contact me and I will post it.

It has gotten so bad that the things that I would consider basic, like a good Power Rack, the ability to use chalk on your hands and lift weight from the floor, I basically gave up on. Now I am just looking for a place to recommend where one could actually lift hard without getting thrown out. Believe it or not, I had someone tell me of a gym they went to where there was no “grunting.”

Like you, I was confused too. ” What do you mean?”, I asked. He explained it to me like this, “You know sometimes when you are lifting a heavy weight and really pushing hard and straining. Sometimes you let out a yell or grunting type sound. This is not allowed.” I could not imagine why at first? So I asked and then it made perfect sense. You could intimidate the other club members!

So to make a long story short, if you are training at a club, where you use mostly machines and you do not have the ability to do the basic heavy lifts properly, you are fooling yourself and you need to leave and find a place to lift! Now you may want to be careful because there are many self proclaimed experts out there who want you to be a customer at their training studio.

If you have read what I have written and then done your homework, you will be armed with the truth and won’t waste your time and money. If you don’t want to spend some time and exert some effort and get the facts, then the ‘guru’ and his studio are probably a good place for you.

Let’s start with the gurus themselves. They are experts because??? Oh yea, they took a course that might have even lasted a whole weekend. Then they answered some questions, passed a test and got certified. Is that enough knowledge and experience for you? Is that who you want to put your trust in? Do they even look like they ever trained?

Now I’m not saying that you have to look like Arnold, but as my nutrition teacher once said, “If I stand up here in front of the class weighing 400lbs., smoking a cigarette and eating donuts, you may not want to listen to what I have to say about health.” In other words have they “put their time in” to learn the game? Or did they just decide they knew it all?

This is not to even say that they had to be a great athlete or lifter themselves. Two of the very best high school wrestling coaches I know of Sprig Gardner and Ted Petersen are reported to have never wrestled themselves. My current understanding is that both men put in many hours to become as great as they were. They became ‘students of the game.’ They didn’t just show up and declare that they knew it all.

Let’s take a look at the gurus ‘studio'(please do not call it a gym). Usually a small little shoe box shaped place. The floors tend to be very nice, many times carpeted. A group of nice shiny machines around the outside mirrored walls. The latest fad stuff is a must. Some stretch bands, an ab roller and some Kettle Bells may be some examples. Over in a corner there could be a cheap weight set looking new and collecting dust.

The ‘training session’ lasts a specific period of time (usually about 30-40min. then the next sucker er I mean customer comes in) and consists mainly of garbage machine movements and exercises designed to tire you out to show ‘intensity’. Most certain you will do no real Squats, heavy Deadlifts, or any kind of rowing. Forget about dragging a sled, chin ups or heavy military press. Your program is a meaningless mess with no true teaching, no learning/ conditioning phase, and no destination.

This may all sound too familiar to you and the results are predictable, there aren’t any! You might as well have banged your head on a wall at least it would not have cost you good money. I think I have made my point. It is my feeling that if I can help one more wrestler, and I have to make some enemies to do it, it is worth it to me. Now let me add a few more things.

You, who have no business teaching real athletes, who depend on their training to help them succeed, stick to what it is you do best. Go BS the stamp collectors, matheletes and tennis players of the world. For those of you who have the will to train, compare the work you do during wrestling season to the work you do during the off-season. Does one equal the other? It should!

The information here is presented to you in the hope that it will help you become a better athlete. Also, it may save you from wasting time and money. Many like myself have been preaching about the great results a real work out program can bring. I hope all of you will dedicate yourself to one. Questions, comments and concerns are always welcome.

Coach Ellinger

20 thoughts on “MYTHS, 1/2 TRUTHS AND LIES (Part III)”

  1. Those who use this info wisely will benifit greatly. I am hearing you have something new in the brew? What gives?

  2. Thanks Dawg. reaper, I am putting something together that should be of interest to LI Wrestlers. When I finalize it, I will let everyone know right here at LIGHTHOUSE!

  3. This is great Will. At the weight room where I work we have a bunch of bars,dumbells and weights. We had some machines donated and the girl’s class uses them. The lazy boys in my class sometimes sit on them as well. Since the season ended a few weeks ago we have been doing bench or dumbell bench on Mondays, Parrallel Squatting on Tuesdays, Militaries on Thursdays and Trap Bar Deadlifting on Fridays. We are going to change our lifting up in a week or two. What would you suggest that we alter in an effort to continue to get stronger. We like to change it up every 3 to 4 weeks.

    1. Gardner, I would not change much as you are getting the most out of the time you have. Some things I would do. On your BENCH day I would have kids rotate in incline dumbbells. Try to squeeze in some ROWING exercise. If your more advanced kids are still on the box when SQUATTING, take away the box. Get some back in with Military Press, pull or chin ups. You could do some straight bar deads to mix it up on that day. One other thing is start to manipulate the sets and reps to develop maximum power! GOOD LUCK.

  4. Coach Ellinger,

    I certainly agree with the premise of this article and I believe you are genuine in your desire to deliver quality training to athletes. I also think you spend a lot of time putting down a lot of training methodologies and training professionals without offering a real solution to your readers. Personally, I agree with a lot of it, but I would like to see you back that up with more concrete explanations and examples of how to train correctly for a sport like wrestling. The unique mix of strength, power, reactive quickness and high energy demands makes training wrestlers a rather challenging task. Heavy strength lifts are not the answer and in many cases, if performed exclusively, will create serious muscle imbalances and breed out athleticism and coordination from an athlete.
    I would love to see a follow up article that addresses a sound training regimen for the wrestler to perform that will truly enhance the physical attributes as it pertains to wrestling performance. I would be happy to write it up for you or contribute content for that article.

    All the best,
    Craig Galloway
    Cornell Wrestling Alum ’91
    Owner – CATZ Sports Performance – Wilmington, MA

    1. Craig

      I believe if you read all of the articles that coach Ellinger has written you will find that he has given lots of great info on how to train..And I know there will be more. He also offers help to anyone who writes to him with info and programs.I don’t Know how much heavy strength training you did when you were at Cornell but I’m willing to bet the ranch that they do a whole lot more now..Why do you think that is. The Fact is heavy lifting is part of the answer I don’t believe coach Ellinger says its the whole answer.As far as breeding out athleticism you are ALL wrong there..look at the way they train at Iowa..I also visited your web site I dont believe they offer any FREE info do they also your so called sport specific programs does not include wrestling I wonder why..I’ll tell you because you cannot train a wrestler like a volleyball tennis soccer golf basketball baseball or any other player. You being a WRESTLER should no like a wrestler at the top level is not Dynamic and FUN…

      1. I love that you are passionate about your coach and your sport. Obviously the information in my comment is incomplete, and coach Will has graciously offered to review a more thorough response on my training methodologies and recommendations for wrestlers, which I hope to submit to him soon. My goal is to help you and anyone else who is interested to get the most possible out of their bodies as it relates to performance in wrestling. I am very successful at doing that in my facility and with the wrestlers I work with, so I hope to be able to share that with a broader audience. No growth or advancements can occur without the spirited exchange of passionate individuals. It is good to challenge each other and share knowledge and successful practices. Thanks for adding to the exchange.


  5. Craig, I am glad you “agree with a lot” of what I have written. I must ask though; Have you read ALL my articles? You stated that I “didn’t back it up.” If you read TRAIN and THE PROGRAM this is CONCRETE explanations and examples of how to weight train for wrestling AND ALL sports. Please remember, this is strength training! I am not sure what you mean by “heavy strength lifts are not the answer?” If you are saying that the ‘big’ mutli-joint lifts shouldn’t be done, than I must tell you, you are wrong! If you are trying to say a Wrestler shouldn’t train on an Elite Powerlifters personal program, I would agree and have stated so in my articles. You then say ” Done exclusively will create serious muscle imbalances and breed out athleticism and coordination.” Now I don’t exclusively do only one type of exercise. Still this statement would be incorrect. Here I say, “did you read what Paul Anderson had to say about this?” It is in the article. I would have to say, he was pretty well balanced, coordinated and not a bad athlete to boot! I believe that I have made it know that athletes must work on different aspects of their sports. For example a wrestler must work on conditioning, technique, balance to name a few. We address all of this at the gym. But as I have said, “the most important thing a wrestler can do is lift weights and become stronger!” I don’t think this is debatable as it has been proven over and over again. it kind of reminds me of the baseball players and steroid debates I use to have. EVERYONE would tell me, “steroids would not help the baseball player.” The argument was always, “it can’t make them hit the ball.” You are welcome to try though, this website always welcomes new contributes. So I will be happy to accept your offer and have you write a follow up article with good sound training as you would do it. I would also like to extend back to you your graciousness. I will read your article and offer feedback. Plus I am willing to go to one of your CATZ places and observe your sports performance workouts. You or one of your partners are welcome to come to my gym and view are workouts. We then can compare notes. Thank you for the feedback. I look forward to your article and hearing from you again. Will

  6. Having known Coach Will personally for about 35 years I can say you will find NO other Coach/Trainer (or whatever title you want) as dedicated to the importance of strength training. At times he may come off as a little off the wall, but thats what makes Will who he is today.If you think Will sounds a little crazy, you should meet Mr. Ellinger. The pear doesnt fall far from the tree. I should have listened to both of them back in the 80’s. It would have been the difference from being a good wrestler and a great wrestler in my opinion. Will enjoys nothing more than passing on his great knowledge of strength training. I read all his articles and have a life time worth of Will stories, including living under the same roof at SCSU and wrestling together on the same teams from Junior High, High School, and 3 years of College. He is always offering his knowledge/training at super affordable fees (When compared to what a HEALTH CLUB charges these days). Back in the 80’s when EVERYBODY was sucking insane amounts of weight (before all the health concerns and body fat testing) Will was preaching strength training. He would never suck an ounce of weight. Instead he was fueling the machine and strength training. I never saw Will in a rubber suit. Everyday he was in practice in shorts and a T-Shirt preaching at those (including me) for de-hydrating ourselves and starving ourselves. He loves training (properly) and coaching. He truly wants to EDUCATE. Now, all that being said, its not all about the strength training (My opinion). There is a lot more to it. Some of it being luck, good genes, mental toughness, God given athletic ability, nutrition, family support, great coaching, great programs (Youth Programs) and dedication to name just a few. Now, coming from a guy who had many of these qualities (again my own opinion), the one I was deficient in was PROPER STRENGTH TRAINING. I’ll never know if it would have made a difference but in my heart I believe it would. Here is my endorsement. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. Give the guy a shot. It will not be easy. He will work you and motivate you. Wrestlers are a different breed. I have never met a wrestler that had any type of success who was not slightly off the wall. Thats what makes us members of one of the GREATEST Fraternities. Sure the guy sounds a little off the wall at times, but are not we all.

  7. Gee Roy,
    That must have been exciting being on the same teams as Will back in the 80s.

    When there are two wrestlers going at it who have the same skill set and the same mental toughness, in all likelihood the stronger one is going to win the match.

    Physical strength is huge in the sport of wrestling. I can vouch for this as a coach. My wrestlers all lift with great intensity throughout the spring, summer and fall.

    When you are strong you are able to fight through your moves and techniques better than if you did not lift properly.

    Roy, losing a few pounds to get down to weight is not a big deal. It is this sacrifice that molds and mentally toughens the wrestler.

    1. few pounds yes, Im talking about the excessive weight pulling. I know a little about it because I lived it.

  8. What’s great about Willie Ellinger’s articles is that they are chock full of valuable content. Testament to this is the amount of comments these articles get…the most commented on artciles on lighthouse. Always look forwrad to reading this stuff. Thanks Willie.

  9. Pete, thank you again! I try to write straight forward articles that are honest and give info that I wish I had when I was competing. The best thing about it is seeing the results. Like a 145lb. state finalist who wrestles for my friend. He now weighs 167 and benched 275 as a sophomore! Or a freshmen training with me who wrestled 125 and just squatted 205lbs. for 5 reps. We even have a 12 year old Baseball Player who just got back from a big tournament where he cracked one out of the park! I love this stuff!!!

  10. Mc D ,HA HA ,yea I know. The guy said he would add his wisdom. Like I said- I welcome it! From him or anyone else. I guess we have to keep waiting and see? In the mean time, keep doing what we do.

  11. ohyeah, Good job; if this is what your saying please keep saying it! We need the truth to be told and to keep helping the athletes.

  12. I have to add this link to an article that I found at EFS- During the cause of writing, MYTHS 1/2 TRUTHS AND LIES; some felt that I was being to critical.

    You will even see now more than ever that some “trainers” who want to steal your money, are proving the facts of this article to be correct. Please take a good look at where you train and the lifts that you perform.

    As always you are welcome to come down to the IRON EMPIRE from your current gym and compare. I will take this one step further. If you are training with another trainer or on your own right now. I will guarantee significant strength gains in all your lifts in 12 weeks or your money back! Coach Ellinger

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