Why Do Sumo Wrestlers Have To Be So Big?

If you have ever watched Sumo wrestling you will have quickly noticed that Sumo wrestlers do not look like your average athletes. Sumo wrestlers have very high levels of body fat (average body fat percentage, 26.2%) and weigh on average 330 pounds (150kg). Do Sumo wrestlers need to be this big? Or do they just like eating? Lets find out.

Why do Sumo wrestlers have to be so big? Sumo wrestlers have to be big because the high body fat weight lowers the wrestler’s center of gravity making it incredibly difficult for their opponent to move them. A Sumo wrestler’s high muscle mass provides the wrestler with the ability to unleash a tremendous amount of force which is used to shove their opponent out of the ring.

In Sumo wrestling you are attempting to push your opponent out of the small ring or force them to the floor. The heavier an opponent is the harder it is to move them and take them to the ground. Who would you rather wrestle a 50kg man or a 150kg man. The choice is obvious.

Sumo wrestlers start by launching themselves at each other in an attempt to force their opponent to move in a bid to shove them out of the ring. The heavier the opponent the less likely they are to move. Running into a professional Sumo is often described as running into a brick wall. As their sheer size will prevent you from moving them an inch.

To generate enough force to move such huge men Sumo wrestlers need to be incredibly strong. Despite being covered in layers of fat Sumo wrestlers have an astonishing amount of muscle mass. The Fat Free Mass/Height ratio of Sumo wrestlers averaged at 0.61 kg/cm, with the highest being 0.66 kg/cm. The human limit is estimated to be 0.7 kg/cm, showing just how muscular Sumo wrestlers are. Sumo wrestlers use this muscle to generate power that is used to execute pushing and pulling techniques which force their opponents to the ground or out of the ring.

Even though Sumo wrestlers have to be big to be successful there is a limit to how big a Sumo wrestler should be. Sumo wrestlers need to be flexible, agile and fast as they are required to quickly change directions, launch themselves at their opponent and use acrobatic moves to avoid and finish takedowns. Being too heavy can impact those necessary qualities. The ideal Sumo weight appears to be in the 140-160kg range, as this weight allows Sumo wrestlers to be incredibly strong and difficult to maneuver but also maintain high levels of athleticism.

How Do Sumo Wrestlers Get So Big?

How do Sumo wrestlers get so big? Sumo wrestlers get so big through a combination of their strict diet and training regime. Sumo wrestlers eat a huge amount of calories day after day (5000+) and combine this diet by training for 3 hours a day 6 days, performing brutal exercises which develop their bodies and increase their muscle mass.

Here Is An Example Of A Sumo Training Session:

Shiko – ritual stomping, stand in squat position, hands on knees, raise one leg as high as possible and slowly lower it, Shiko helps a Sumo wrestlers improve their stance while developing their leg and hip strength, repeat movement 100-300 times – 30mins

How To Perform Shiko

Teppo – push against wooden pole, perform a push up while at the same time swing their leg forward, first make contact with one arm and then swing the opposite leg as you make contact with second arm before pushing yourself away from the pole, Teppo helps Sumo wrestlers learn how to effectively push their opponents, repeat movement 300 times – 30 mins

How To Perform Teppo

Matawari – forward leg split with stomach touching ground, hold for as long as possible, get partner to push your back, Sumo wrestlers need to be flexible to maintain their balance and avoid their opponent’s attacks, performing regular Matawari will give you gymnastesque flexibility in no time, repeat movement for 15-30mins

How To Perform Matawari

Moshiai – sparring, mock matches where Sumo wrestlers will compete against each other, the most difficult part of training – 60-90mins

How To Perform Moshiai – Watch Champions Asahoryu and Harumafuji Go At It

How Do Sumo Wrestlers Get So Fat?

How do Sumo wrestlers get so fat? Sumo wrestlers get so fat through their diet and lifestyle. A Sumo wrestlers life consists of eating (a lot of eating), training and sleeping. Sumo wrestlers will eat a high amount of calories (5000+) and carbohydrates (many bowls of rice, many glasses of beer) everyday. Following their meals Sumo wrestlers will nap to ensure the food is turned into fat.

How Long Do Sumo Wrestlers Nap?

Sumo wrestlers will typically nap for between 1-4 hours following their first meal. If a Sumo wrestler needs to gain a lot of weight they will nap for a longer period of time. Napping aids in weight gain by slowing down the metabolism of the wrestlers while also reducing the amount of calories the athletes burn.

Do Sumo Wrestlers Eat Junk Food?

Do Sumo wrestlers eat junk food? No, Sumo wrestlers do not eat junk food. Surprisingly, Sumo wrestlers eat a very healthy diet consisting of fish, rice, chicken, noodles and the famous Sumo soup known as Chanko. Chanko typically consists of vegetables, fish, chicken and tofu. It is protein rich and calorie dense, especially when combined with rice.

If you dream of becoming a professional Sumo wrestler so you can get paid to eat McDonalds and KFC all day then think again. Sumo wrestlers follow strict diets. They typically eat two meals a day, one at noon and one in the evening. During these two meals they consume Chanko (soup with vegetables, tofu, chicken, fish) with rice, noodles and beer. Sumo wrestlers are encouraged to eat as many bowls of rice as possible. Following their meals Sumo wrestlers will typically nap or lay down to increase the conversion of the calories they just consumed to fat.

Do Sumo Wrestlers Drink Alcohol?

Do Sumo wrestlers drink alcohol? Yes, Sumo wrestlers do drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol is usually not for pleasure but rather it is apart of their weight gain diets. To increase their calorie intake Sumo wrestlers will drink large glasses of beer with their meals. These empty and easy to digest calories help them develop their large stomachs.

Drinking alcohol for entertainment is looked down upon in the Sumo community. Wrestlers are expected to live a pure and spartan life, dedicated wholly to the art of Sumo. However, Sumo wrestlers have been known to the flout the rules and drink excessively.

In January 2010, Asashōryū (Yokozuna, highest level of Sumo) punched a waiter after a wild drunken night out in the party district of Nishiazabu. The waiter did not file a police report after he was paid off by Asashōryū.

Despite Asashōryū reaching a settlement with the man, on 4 February 2010, he retired, after being forced to leave the sport by the Japanese Sumo Association. Asashōryū said “I feel heavy responsibility as a Yokozuna that I have caused trouble to so many people. I am the only person who can put an end to it all. I think it’s my destiny that I retire like this.”

Some senior Sumo wrestlers do secretly go out on wild drinking escapades but as long as they avoid causing a scene and it does not effect their performance they usually avoid punishment from their stable master and the governing body.

Is The Sumo Diet Unhealthy?

Yes, the Sumo diet is unhealthy. Even though Sumo wrestlers typically eat healthy foods, the vast quantities they consume has negative effects on their stomachs, intestines and colons. The sheer weight of Sumo wrestlers has terrible effects on their joints, ligaments and organs such as the heart and lungs. The copious amount of beer Sumo wrestlers drink doesn’t help either with many ageing wrestlers suffering from liver problems.

The Sumo diet is unhealthy and results in wrestlers on average living to 60 – 65 years old a full 10 years less than the average Japanese man. The diet and the well established link between obesity and premature death has to be playing a role in the early deaths of Sumo wrestlers.


Sumo wrestlers have to be big to perform their sport effectively. Having a high body fat percentage increases a Sumo wrestler’s balance and makes it very difficult to move them as it lowers their center of gravity. Sumo wrestlers have to have an impressive amount of muscle to generate enough force to move their monstrous opponents.

To achieve this incredible size Sumo wrestlers adhere to a strict diet where they will often consume 5000+ calories daily consisting largely of soup made up of tofu, vegetables, chicken and fish. They will add beer and rice to their meals to up their calorie and carb intake. They combine their diet with tough daily training lasting 3 hours which increases their muscle mass.

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