What Is A Nelson? (And When to Use it in Fights?)

One of the most effective moves that a wrestler can pull against their opponent in the ring is the Nelson.

What Is A Nelson?

There are a variety of different types of Nelson Holds that you can perform, but each of them is a powerful technique that helps limit the mobility of your opponent, making them stuck and helpless to you.

But how can you pull off a Nelson Hold yourself? 

You’ll find the answers you need in our handy guide! Below, you’ll find out why Nelson Holds are so effective, as well as what the different types are – and how you can perform them yourself.

On top of that, you’ll find out how to counter them if your opponent pulls the same trick.

Why Do Wrestlers Perform Nelson Holds?

There are a few reasons that a wrestler may choose to perform one of the types of Nelson Hold on their opponent.

One of these is that it allows them to use their opponent’s body against them, creating the leverage that they need so that they can turn the opponent over into a victory pin.

They do this by turning them over from a four quarter position to their back, where they can then be pinned. 

Another reason is control. With a Nelson Hold, you can control your opponent’s head. When you control that part of them, you also control the top of their spine.

On top of that, you will be near their hips, which you can also control. Head and hips are two of the three points of balance that a human has, keeping them upright.

The third is the knees. If you control two out of the three, then you have a lot of control over your opponent. 

A third reason for using a Nelson Hold is simply to punish your opponent. They are a notoriously uncomfortable move, particularly because they focus a lot on the head, which is a painful point to have pressure applied on.

The opponent will thrash and fight to get free, using up their energy, and making a victory more likely for you. 

Types Of Nelson Hold

There are four key types of Nelson Hold.

Full Nelson

This is a powerful and dangerous Nelson Hold. It can harm your opponent’s neck vertebrae, and for that reason it has been banned from every form of amateur and Olympic wrestling. You have been warned.

How To Perform One

The Full Nelson involves you standing behind your opponent and putting your arms beneath their armpits, lifting their arms up into the air. 

While your arms are in place, your hands will naturally rest on the back of your opponent’s neck, one on top of the other.

This will cause pressure to be applied to the back of their neck, which is exactly the reason that Full Nelsons are so commonly banned – because your hands could harm the vertebrae in their neck.

The pressure is increased because your elbows will be brought back, which is what forces the opponent’s arms and shoulders to go back. 

The drawback of using a Full Nelson, besides the dangerous damage you can inflict, is that it works more purely for securing your opponent – it doesn’t really offer you the chance to turn them over and go for a pin. 

Countering One

An effective way to escape a Full Nelson grip is to place the backside of one of your hands on your forehead, then grasp it in an “S” grip with your other hand.

Next, push on your forehead, while pushing your neck back, and bringing the inside of your elbow to your chest in a fly motion. All of these together will give you the leverage to escape the Full Nelson.

Half Nelson

This is a very popular version because it’s very easy to do, allowing you to control your opponent and set up a pin. The difference from the Full Nelson is that it’s less dangerous, and it’s done on the ground. 

How To Perform One

While your opponent is on the ground in the four quarters position, put one of your arms under their armpit and wrap the hand around the back of their head. Then use your other arm to lock their wrist. 

Countering One

A good way to counter a Half Nelson is to raise your head away from your opponent.

Then remove their hand from the back of your head, using the same side hand as them, and securing it held down on the ground. Put your other hand to the mat, pushing your body out of the grip.

Quarter Nelson

This is used to secure a pin.

How To Perform One

Put your hand on the back of your opponent’s neck, then put your other hand under their armpit, reaching it to your first hand and grabbing the wrist. This locks your hands together and locks your opponent’s arm in place. 

Countering One

As your opponent goes for the Quarter Nelson, drive for their legs. If they still get you, do a Half Nelson on yourself by putting pressure on your neck and upwards, while moving your body out at the same time.

Three-Quarter Nelson

How To Perform One

This is like the Half Nelson, except you take the free hand and put it under the opponent on the same side.

That passing hand goes under their neck and and around the far side over to the top of the neck, where it then locks with your other hand at the wrist. 

Countering One

If someone tries to put you in one, tuck your head and spin towards your opponent’s side, moving forward out. If they’ve got you already, hook their elbow and tuck your head between your bodies. 

Final Thoughts

Nelson Holds are very handy wrestling moves, but follow them with care.

Christopher Anderson
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