Before the London 2012 Games, Jordan Burroughs was an unknown. Now he is an Olympic Champion, winning Gold in the men’s 75kg Freestyle Wrestling. Jordan won Gold at the age of 24, beating Iran’s Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi. Jordan’s nickname is Air Jordan because he spends so much of the time in the air when wrestling – not being throw, but constantly moving around and over his opponent to get the upper hand. As for his success, he puts that down to nothing but hard work.
“It’s easy to be confident when you put the hard work in that I do” ~ Jordan Burroughs.
U.S. freestyle coach Zeke Jones believes that Jordan Burroughs can become “one of the greatest wrestlers ever” and should be the face of America freestyle wrestling. As well as being the Olympic champ he is also a 2 time NCAA champion and won the 2011 freestyle wrestling world championships.
So, how did he manage to reach the top of his game at just 24 years of age?
For any athlete, diet is vital to improving fitness, strength and performance. In a feature by Team USA Jordan talked about his diet.
“Wings is my favorite food. Wings and pizzas. And milkshakes”
His diet is not all healthy. Although Team USA are quick to point out that these are rare treats and not his staple diet during training. He says that the pizzas, wings and milkshakes are the treats he gives himself after a hard week of training – that will be 7 days of training for up to 8 hours a day. He deserves it – we may not!
When working on his fitness he keeps his diet very lean. He eats 3 times a day, each meal is large. He eats a lot of pasta, rice, spaghetti for carbohydrates and for protein lots of meat, usually chicken, beef, turkey.
He is a big fan of soup. It is full of energy, fibre and nutrients. It is also high in sodium and water, which is lost when training hard all day. He also eats a lot of chicken and enjoys sugar drinks too. When he does not have to “make weight” he can eat as much as he needs to train hard – and this can be a lot!
Chicken and Egg Omelets
Eggs are an excellent source of slow release protein. Bodybuilders consume a lot of eggs for breakfast for this very reason – they keep the muscles supplied with fresh protein / amino-acids throughout the day. Chicken is also a great source of protein as it is low in fat – much leaner than beef.
Dietician Emily Todhunter explained on her website that at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs Jordan enjoyed their chicken omelets. These consisted of 3 eggs, diced chicken, mushrooms and hot peppers.
Losing Weight for Wrestlers
As with all combat sports, it is best to be fighting at the top of your weight category. This often means losing weight (losing fat) to bring your bodyweight down. If you do not meet your max weight you will have to fight in the next weight group up, and this could mean fighting people much larger than yourself.
Jordan stays around 12 pounds “overweight” when training. This is because he is taking in a lot of nutrition to allow him to train for long hours and to build and repair his muscles. One month before a competition he cuts out all junk food and makes portions smaller. Then he cuts out water weight, which simple means hardly drinking before the weight-in. As soon as he has weighed in he rehydrates and gets ready for the match.
Jordan does not have to follow a specific diet, he knows what works for him.
Weight Loss Is Not Easy
Just because Jordan is a super-athlete it does not make losing weight any easier. On 20th July 2012 he updated his Twitter page to say; “Starting to diet for the Olympics. It’s so hard. Just had a large Icee at the movies“. The temptations to have treats affects him the same way as it affects us!
When Jordan entered the Olympic Village in London he tweeted “Biggest cafe ever in the village. With free McDonalds! I don’t know what heaven is like but this has to be close!“. But he was already cutting his weight, so could only enjoy a “strawberry banana smoothie and a couple oatmeal cookies“.
Jordan’s upper-body strength is awesome, and he attribute much of this to his “gruesome” pull up routine. If an athlete describes a workout as gruesome you can be sure that it is intensive, incredibly demanding, but effective.
Just lifting his own weight is no longer enough. He performs multiple sets of weighted pull-ups, first attaching 50 pounds to his belt and then performing as many pull-ups as possible. He then halves the weight to 25 pounds and repeats, and then does a final set without any extra weight. His personal best with 50 pounds is 35 rep without stopping.
Pull-up are not the only workout though, he also performs a wide range of bodyweight and weight training exercises. Another he likes to do for the upper body are rope climbs. An old school gym exercise, but very effective all the same. Jordan can climb to the top of a rope in the Olympic training gym in around 6 seconds using just his arms. Fast and powerful.
As well as these two upper-body conditioning exercises, he performs a wide range of weight training and cardio to improve total fitness and strength. Wrestling provides an excellent cardiovascular workout and the constant grappling and throwing builds functional strength. Cardio training will be geared to increasing VO2 fitness levels, with sprint intervals as well as endurance training. Weight training will be designed to build on power – squats, deadlifts, and bench press making up the core exercises.
Jordan Burroughs has hinted that he is considering a future in MMA, after defending his gold medal in the Rio 2016 Games. MMA can pay very well for the top earners, and freestyle wrestling is an excellent platform to start on. If he can learn to box and kick then he could make a formidable MMA fighter in his weight category.
Jordan won more than just an Olympic gold medal, he also won $250,000, a prize set by the Living the Dream Medal Fund, which was set up to support American Freestyle wrestling. This is considered by some to be further proof that investing in sport can reap great rewards. If an athlete is funded well, so that they can train full-time, receive the best coaching and nutrition advice, have the best facilities and some lucrative financial incentives thrown in, then they are more likely to succeed.