Wrestler’s 3-Point Conditioning Program

We divide our physical conditioning program for wrestlers into three distinct periods: 1) preliminary conditioning (isometrics, weights, running and calisthenics); 2) pre-season conditioning (isometrics, running, calisthenics and wrestling drills); 3) regular season conditioning (drills, correcting match mistakes, and advanced techniques).

COMBINATION: To save time, we teach skills in the form of drills. This way, the boys learn how to wrestle while they are getting stronger. For example, we seldom drill just for conditioning (running in place, hit the mat, and so on). Instead, we use a drill like the following: Takedown drill—drop and spin in position on one hand outside opponent’s knee—return to start—repeat drill to opposite side. These combined “skill-drills” take up 75% of our program.


Here is what we do at each of the three stages of our program.

Preliminary conditioning: This part of our program starts on or about October first and lasts for one month. It consists of isometrics, weight training, running and calisthenics. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are taken up with running and isometrics while Tuesdays and Thursdays are devoted to weights and calisthenics.

I believe that light enough weights should be used so that the lifter can accomplish rapid repetitions (6 to 8 per exercise). The principle involved here is to strive for speed using the overloading theory.

Many isometric exercises are used today and they can be obtained from a variety of sources. Listed below are several exercises that we use which incorporate most of the principles of isometrics.

Crushing exercise: The wrestler’s arms should be head high. He should then pull the dummy against his shoulder in a crushing or hugging movement. This exercise will develop the muscles on the front of the arms and chest.

Shin press (foot flexor): Partner holds the upper surface of the feet in his hands and prevents the athlete from flexing his foot. This exercise will strengthen the muscles in front of the leg and will reduce the incidents of shin splints, sprained ankles, and foot arch trouble.

Leg curl: This is a special exercise used to insure development of the hamstrings. The athlete lies on the ground, face down, as shown in the diagram. He then pushes up with his foot against pressure.

The emphasis in all weight and isometric exercises should be on the development of the arms and legs.

RUNNING: We feel that running is an extremely important part of conditioning. It is an excellent leg-builder, develops endurance, increases lung capacity and is vital for giving wrestlers that “second wind” which is often the difference between winning and losing. A bonus value: many wrestlers find that running is the secret to weight reduction.

All October running should be done outside either on the cross-country course or on the track. During the first week, one mile of running combined with some sprinting and jogging is adequate. For the second week, the wrestlers should run two miles with some sprinting and jogging. By the third week of the month, the team should be worked up to a three-mile run and some sprinting and jogging each day. We have found that running tends to become boring for the boys. In order to decrease the boredom, we add some spice to the running part of our program by having the boys run for time against the watch, having them run with different teammates and by occasionally running the lettermen against the freshmen.

NOTE: Daily “preliminary conditioning” should not exceed 45 minutes. The squad should learn to run through isometrics and weights precisely and briskly and do their running quickly. There must be no loafing during workout sessions.

Pre-season conditioning: We start pre-season conditioning around November 1 (this is usually four weeks prior to our first meet). It consists of running, isometrics, calisthenics, and drills. Here is a time breakdown of each:

Isometrics-15 minutes three days each week. Calisthenics-10 minutes of strenuous exercises each day.

Demonstrations-5 minutes each day. Drills-60 minutes each day.

Since drills take up the majority of the wrestler’s practice time, it is easily understood why skills must be incorporated into them. The skills should be selected carefully to fit in with the philosophy of the coach. By this I mean that if a coach believes (as I do) in teaching 90% offense and 10% defense, he should choose drills that incorporate offensive skills almost entirely.

NOTE: As in our preliminary conditioning program, the boys run three miles each day. The three miles are also run daily in our regular season program.

Regular season conditioning: Once the season begins (usually on or about December 1), we continue with our isometrics and running. Less time, however, is devoted to these parts of the program and we concentrate mainly on perfecting skills, developing speed and learning advanced techniques. Some time is also spent learning special moves in preparation for our next opponents. The procedure for teaching new moves is as follows. Once the maneuver is introduced to the squad and learned by them, it is repeated as fast as possible without sacrificing correct execution. This type of speed drilling teaches a learned skill or reaction which is conducive to lightning type reflexes that are necessary to outmaneuver an opponent.

Supplementary neck conditioners: Because I believe that proper neck development is absolutely essential for the wrestler, we use the two following “buddy” drills throughout the season. Of course, we also use the “standard” exercises (plain bridge, and so on).

Drill 1: Wrestler No. 1 jumps astride his buddy, scissoring his legs around buddy’s waist and clasping his hands around his neck as illustrated in Diagram 4. Wrestler No. 2 (the “buddy”) bends forward and straightens up alternately. No. 1 moves his hands higher on No. 2’s neck with each repetition. We like to have the boys work up to 20 repetitions by the end of the season.

Drill 2: Wrestler No. 1 is in a back bridge and No. 2 stands facing him at arm’s length. No. 1 pulls himself into a head stand by holding on to No. 2’s ankles for support. He then lets himself down to the original bridge position. The sequence is repeated 8 to 10 times.

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