The Full Nelson: A Complete Guide to This Effective Wrestling Technique

The Full Nelson

The full nelson is a universally known wrestling technique that you’ve either probably done or been put in. It’s a move that gained popularity due to pro wrestling, but is a legitimate technique in amateur wrestling.

Here’s a complete guide to the full nelson wrestling hold. Read below to learn everything about the hold from how to lock it in and if it’s actually effective.

What is the Full Nelson

The full nelson is a wrestling hold that was developed within amateur wrestling and then popularized in pro wrestling. This hold involves hooking someone’s arms behind their back and locking your hands together.

The purpose of this hold is to control your opponent while putting pressure on their neck. Outside of forms of wrestling and grappling, kids play the full nelson game, where they try to escape the hold.

The History of the Full Nelson 

The Full Nelson History

Nelson techniques are controlling holds that have been performed within forms of amateur wrestling for centuries. The name “Full Nelson” was popularized during the early nineteenth century. 

This hold was named after a famous English wrestler named George William Full Nelson, who used the wrestling move. Despite not inventing the wrestling technique, the hold became synonymous with George William Nelson.

Over a century later, the wrestling move is still internationally known as ‘the full nelson’.

Pro Wrestling

Where many people know the full nelson hold from is its use within professional wrestling. The technique is widely used within pro wrestling due to its looks of being effective and powerful.

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Many generations of pro wrestlers used the full nelson within their move sets. Some of the most notable users of the hold include:

  • Bobby Lashley
  • The Miz
  • Superstar Billy Graham
  • Billy Jack Haynes
  • Angelo Mosca
  • Chris Masters
  • The Warlord
  • Ken Patera
  • Hans Mortier
  • Hercules Hernandez

The Full Nelson Game

The popularity of the full nelson within pro wrestling created a game out of the technique. Within the full nelson game, the goal is to escape the hold.

One person locks on a full nelson, while the person in the hold has to try and escape it. It’s a game that has been played by kids and teens for decades.

The Legality

The legality of the full nelson varies depending on the form of grappling or combat sport you’re practicing. Of course in wrestling, the technique is legal, as long as you’re not using it as a neck crank.

This is also the rule in most BJJ competitions, except within the ADCC rule-set where full nelsons are legal. They are also permitted within MMA.

The Danger

Many untrained people in the world have been seriously injured by the full nelson. It looks like a fun game, but it’s a legitimate hold that can break your neck if enough force is applied. That is why it’s important to be careful and never let anyone play around with this wrestling hold.

How to do a Full Nelson 

The Full Nelson

Everyone thinks they know how a full nelson is locked on, but don’t know how to effectively lock it in. Here is how you can effectively lock on a legitimate full nelson hold.

The hold, of course, starts with you having control of your opponent’s back. You’re going to lace your arms through both of your opponent’s arms.

When you hook your opponent’s arms, make sure that you flare your elbows up. Doing this puts pressure on their shoulders.

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The other most important aspect of the full nelson hold is your grip. In pro wrestling, a wrestler will interlock their fingers, but that is a big no-no in grappling.

A person trained in any form of wrestling wil grab and break your fingers if you interlock them. Instead, use a hand-on-hand grip to lock on the nelson.

Another important tip to remember if you try using this hold is to stay tight on your opponent. If there’s space between you and them, they can escape the hold easier.

The Use of the Full Nelson in MMA and BJJ 

In MMA and BJJ, the full nelson isn’t used as much as half nelson techniques. Half nelson techniques have been proven to be quite effective in these forms of combat sports.

Within BJJ,  the half nelson is used in a variety of techniques to either control an opponent, take their back. Setting up a variety of submissions, like arm locks and strangling techniques.

In MMA, the half nelson is used for the same purpose, as well as controlling an opponent to set up strikes.

How to Defend a Full Nelson

Knowing that the full nelson can seriously injure you if you’re put in the hold, you need to know the escapes. Here are some effective ways that you can get out of the full nelson hold.

If you get put into a nelson, the first thing you must do is lock your hands against your head. This is done to keep your opponent from lifting your arms up and putting pressure on your neck and shoulders.

The other purpose of putting your hands on your head is to push your neck and head back. Preventing your opponent from putting pressure on you.

One big mistake you must avoid when defending a full nelson is attempting to slide out of the hold. If you attempt this escape, you will damage your own neck.

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Is The Full Nelson Effective?

One question that many who watch pro wrestling may wonder and have asked, is whether the full nelson effective. Against an untrained grappler, you could probably control someone with it, but a trained person can easily escape the position.

Also, the hold will likely not work on a person who is either very tall, strong, or both.

Other controlling techniques like a bodylock provide far more control over a full nelson. However, half nelsons are very effective and techniques that you should consider using.


The Full Nelson

A full nelson isn’t the best hold to use, but if you’re going to use it, you must use it correctly. Here are some important tips to remember for using a full nelson and how to escape the hold.

  • Lifts Opponent’s Arms: When you lace your arms through your opponent’s arms, make sure to lift them upward. This will put pressure on their neck and shoulders.
  • Don’t Interlace Fingers: Never interlace your fingers when locking on any type of hold. If your opponent is trained, they will break your fingers.
  • Stay Tight: Stay tight on your opponent to close space and lessen their opportunity to escape.
  • Be Careful: If you’re going to use the full nelson hold, please be careful. You can seriously injure your opponent or partner.

Tips For Escaping The Full Nelson:

  • Never Slide Out: Never try to slide out of a locked on full nelson. You will injure yourself attempting this escape.
  • Arms In:  Keep your arms in and never lift them up. Lifting your arms up will enable your opponent to put pressure on you.
  • Connect Hands on Head: Keep your hands connected on your head. Doing this will prevent your opponent from putting pressure on your neck and shoulders.