In this series leading up to the London 2012 Olympics, STACK will feature exclusive interviews with Olympic athletes and their trainers. Focused on training, nutrition, skills and other aspects of preparation, the interviews will help you improve your own strength, speed, conditioning and skills—regardless of what sport you play. Today, we highlight Henry Cejudo, Olympic gold medalist in wrestling.
The American Dream is the promise that, with hard work and persistence, one can achieve success—regardless of his or her race, gender, religion or circumstance. Skeptics believe the American Dream can no longer be realized, that it has become a myth. But nonbelievers need look no further than 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo to see that the American Dream is alive and well.
STACK sat down with Cejudo after one of his workouts at the Ohio Regional Training Center in Columbus, where the 24-year-old wrestler gave us an in-depth look at his preparation for the 2012 Olympics in London—and revealed what's driving him to reach for gold again.
STACK: How did your childhood experiences motivate you to excel in athletics, specifically wrestling?
Henry Cejudo: My parents came to this country over 30 years ago to live the American Dream. It was tough. My father was an alcoholic. My mom was a courageous, dedicated woman who raised seven kids. We probably lived in the worst conditions you can think of—from trailers to crack houses to junkyards to rundown apartments. But I used that aggression and put it on the mat. I used my childhood as a motivator to get out of the ghetto and to become the best wrestler that I can.
STACK: What drives you in your current training sessions?
HC: Right now, it’s just to compete as much as I can—win, lose or draw. I just have to be able to get in that competition mode again. At the end of the tunnel, the only thing I really see is the London Olympics, and that’s it.
STACK: What is your workout regimen?
HC: I have a 6 a.m. run, then at night around 5 p.m. I do strength and conditioning—a lot of stretching and plyometrics—to really shed my weight down. I train three times a day, six hours a day.
I always work on my core. I do about 45 minutes of core exercises every day. It’s about 12 different ab exercises. It’s everything from Side-to-Sides, Up-Downs, Suitcases. And I do Partner Sit-Ups.
At the session we attended, Cejudo and his fellow wrestlers did 30 minutes of active warm-ups [jogging and partner drills], followed by 60 minutes of matches [with several water breaks to ensure they stay hydrated], and ending with some muscular endurance work.
Cejudo's coach, Lou Rosselli of Ohio State Wrestling, says he likes to get every last drop out of his athletes at the end of practice. On the day we attended, that meant having Cejudo perform 100 Pull-Ups and Push-Ups. On other days, it might mean sprints. Whatever way the workouts end, the goal is the same: test Cejudo's limits in order to prepare him for the end of matches, when he's exhausted but must push on to win.
Henry Cejudo's Olympic Training
It's no secret that to be the best, you have to train like the best. That's why Cejudo has embedded training into his lifestyle. Below is a breakdown of what he does to stay in shape, maintain a powerful core and improve his skills on the mat.
Anyone who's ever hit the mat knows the importance of endurance for competing in this extremely physical sport. To ensure he remains an elite physical specimen, Cejudo runs four days a week for 40 minutes at a time, totaling 24 miles a week. His dedication to enhancing his cardio capacity has helped him outlast many of his opponents on the mat.
In wrestling, a powerful core is absolutely essential. If an athlete lacks the ability to transition power from his lower body to upper body when performing takedowns, he'll soon find himself looking up at the ceiling. That's why Cejudo dedicates a large part of his training to developing a rock-solid core.
Cejudo performs four core exercises in his routine, challenging himself from a variety of angles. This workout consists of Suitcases, Side-to-Sides, Crunch-to-Sit-Ups and Hanging Sit-Ups. Cejudo performs six sets of 40 reps each. No wonder his gold medal match opponent at the 2008 Olympics couldn't get a hold on him.
You don't get to the top Olympic wrestling podium by taking it easy on the mat. So it's no surprise that Cejudo hits the mat six days a week for three and a half hours a day—21 hours per week.
Here, Cejudo details how to perform an essential wrestling move, one which, when performed quickly and correctly, is very difficult to defend: the Low Level Single-Leg Takedown.
"First of all, you're in your stance ... you level change [and] you penetrate. You look for the ankle and shoot through the leg as opposed to at the leg. Once you hit, you can either come around, cut the corner or come up, which I usually sort of come up." From there, Cejudo usually goes into a Leg Lift or a Gut Wrench to finish off an opponent. "I'm always thinking not just one move, but two or even three moves at a time," he says.