Conditioning and Isometric Drills for Wrestling and MMA

We begin our season by a strict use of the conditioning drills, coordinated with skill learning achievement (skill learning achievement refers to the teaching of basic wrestling moves). We use the “buddy system,” boys pair off according to size—then we use variations of isometric training, concentrating on the neck, groin, and hands.

Heading: This is moving the head in all four directions, separately—with reverse pressure from a buddy.

Neck Bridge

Leg pressure: (a) Lying flat, the boys raise the legs separately, with their buddy exerting opposite pressure. (b) Having the entire weight of the buddy placed on the foot of the knee bent to the chin, the wrestler lying flat pushes the buddy up and out.

Sit-ups: One buddy goes to the knee and hand position and the other buddy sits on the set wrestler’s shoulders, with each buddy’s legs interlocked. The top buddy proceeds to do sit-ups, by lengthening all the way backward to the mat with the head and coming up again.

NOTE: We stress that the bottom buddy push with his neck and head against the force of the top buddy.

Ball grab: Using a volleyball, we again place buddy pairs opposite each other—with the ball between them in their hands. They then try to pull the ball from their buddy’s hands.

We concentrate on these isometric drills during the better half of the season. We also use many drills that condition the legs, wind, and endurance. The boys run stairs (three flights), sprints of 40 yards, and then jog and sprint laps. This running is done all through the season and has proven to be one of our better drills.

We have won a majority of our matches because our boys have been able to outlast opponents and thus defeat them. Our injuries have been held to a minimum—in three years, we have not had a serious injury. Also, all of our practice sessions end on a “run-in-place, hit-the-mat” sequence of eight minutes—hitting the mat at various timed intervals (emphasis being on hitting the chest and stomach).


A typical early-season practice session consists of the follow- ing:

1. Ten minutes of loosening up, calisthenics, jumping rope, use of a medicine ball, and occasionally a “tug-of-war.”

2. Fifteen minutes of isometrics.

3. Thirty minutes of skill learning and development (actual wrestling and movement drills).

4. Ten minutes of running the stairs.

5. Eight minutes of 40-yard wind sprints.

6. Ten minutes of jogging and sprinting laps.

7. Five minutes of sit-out drills.

8. Five minutes of bear-walking (includes side-rolls and directional movements).

9. Ten minutes of review and application of techniques just learned.

10. Six to eight minutes of running and hitting the mat.


As the season moves along, we become more involved with the skill drills, which include both conditioning and skill development, but we never exclude the running drills. Some of our typical drills which involve conditioning and skill development follow.

Spin drill: Buddy system with same-size boys. One buddy in hands and knees position, the other buddy spins on top placing his weight over the shoulders of the bottom man. On the whistle the top man spins around, reversing directions and keeping well balanced. On the second whistle, the bottom buddy will sit-out and wrestle regardless of the top man’s position. Intervals run 10 to 15 seconds.

Pinning drill: With one buddy flat on his back, the other buddy applies a pinning combination, and on a given whistle each tries to apply either the pin or the escape. Intervals are done at 20 seconds.

Rotation: By placing four pairs of wrestlers in our four corner areas of the mat, we begin in the referee’s position and wrestle from a whistle for 45 seconds. Then the buddy at the disadvantage position moves clockwise on the next whistle and begins from the down position, with the next wrestler who won the advantage position. Our time limit for the drill is four minutes.

Group four: Wrestlers group themselves in four’s according to size. One wrestler begins in the down position, as each of the other three wrestlers works for 30 seconds from the top position, separately. After the wrestler who started on the bottom has been worked by the other three wrestlers in his group, another wrestler takes his turn.


The drills listed here are our main conditioning and skill achievement drills, which we supplement with other short drills and techniques. Throughout our drills, we discourage anything “fancy” and try to stick to good, sound, basic wrestling practice.

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