Ironcult » Training » Crossfit v/s Indian Akharas.

Crossfit v/s Indian Akharas.

  • By Vishwanthar on Training

  • January 31, 2011

John Wood, who is well known for his many grip strength accomplishments, and one who sells various hand and grip strength products, and bodybuilding memorabilia draws a comparison between cross fitters and Indian Akharas, which is noteworthy .  He says that at Crossfit, the main idea is to become a more complete athlete by including many different disciplines of training into an overall scheme.  Cross fitters train with kettlebells, barbells (Olympic lifting), dumbbells, bodyweight training, jump, run, and do lot of other things.

At the same-time, Indian wrestlers at Akharas have been training functionally for more than a century. They dig pits, wrestle, rope climb, jump, maneuver different shapes of stones, for we see them , lift and carry, snatch, and bend press various shapes of stones, perform high reps dands (push-ups), and body weight squat.  They also perform standing dand which is similar to a burpee.  Though Olympic lifting  has been the main stay among cross fitters, it cannot be seen among Indian wrestlers who train at Akhara’s, but the underlying scheme of the workouts in Akhara’s apparently seem to be towards the same direction:  It is to develop a functionally strong body.

The comparison drawn here may sound far-fetched, but if you look at it closely the similarities are evident.  Perhaps, Indian Akharas don’t have the backing of science, like the Crossfitters (Westerners) do.  But, Indian wrestlers have been practicing the above mentioned style of training since a very long time, and many still continue to practice wresting in these places and have turned to be champions.  For example, Sushil Kumar, the  bronze medalist at Beijing Olympics and gold medalist at World championship held at Russia practices at Akharas.  In addition, The “Great” Gama also known as “Gama Pahelvan” and “Lion Of The Punjab” remained undefeated in his whole life also trained at Akharas.  He had defeated Stanislaus Zbyszko ( 2 times World champion) twice:  Gama defeated Stanislaus for the first time in 1910 in England and the second time was at Patiala in 1927.

As far as I see, Indian Akhara’s lack in two departments.  Firstly, they have miserably failed to promote physical training for women, and secondly with the backing of science they could have fared better in tweaking their workouts and made it more compatible for the masses instead of catering to a category of people, for Indian Akharas are dying a slow death.

PS:  John Wood can be contacted at and to know more about Crossfit please visit

3 thoughts on “Crossfit v/s Indian Akharas.

  1. I’m a great admirer of Indian phelwans and the Akharars, through them we have created a niche for ourselves in the field of fitness globally. True fitness afficianados very well know the kind of blood and sweat involved in becoming a phelwan.

    What the world calls compound movements now was demonstrated by phelwans centuries before. Squats was the base of all their workouts, they believed that a man’s strength lies mainly in the thighs.Well, I guess the science also has proved that more the compound movements more the harmonal rush.

    Akharas are getting extint mainly because of the lack of support from the government, earlier they were funded by the kingdom.

    If John woods compares crossfit with Akharas, I will boldly draw similarties between Iron cult and Akharas, for we also quest for functionally fit body than the ornamental ones

  2. Anand, the sad part is when we see them dying a slow death. Perhaps, as you have reiterated they are short of funds, but at the same time due to changing times they could have popularized the sport by making it more affordable to the masses. Even now generally it is felt that only the elites in fitness can handle such labor.

  3. It is not fashionable enough to attract masses. Do you think a techie would sacrifice his expensive treadmill, fancy protien shaker bottle, RS 11000k sports shoes to a red sand pit where the pit would have got wet because of the sweat?. (I have read somewhere that akharas have red sand and the phelwans workout till the red sand area get wet due to their sweat ) Never will he do it unless he is a true afficianado.

    I feel things are slightly changing due to Sushil’s popularity. Every akhara is working towards a hope of olympic and other sports event. Now is the time gov should start encouraging this more.

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