Many of the most effective “Spartan” methods of callisthenics have been forgotten about – mainly due to people relying on stupid machines in gyms. Re-learn some of the techniques used for thousands of years by all types of warriors and combat athletes.
One of the biggest problems in conducting a wrestling practice is giving everyone enough of a workout. This is especially true when you have a large squad in a limited area. Few will disagree that the best conditioning for a wrestler is an actual full-speed wrestling match. But when you end up with about 50 boys (after cutting the squad), you don’t have the time or space to allow actual wrestling for each and every boy.
OUR OBJECTIVE: With this in mind, we designed our calisthenics to serve not only as a warm-up for the individual—but also as a test to weed out the weaker boys and the ones not willing to give the effort necessary to become a proficient wrestler.
Our wrestling calisthenics are divided into five general areas: (1) stretching exercise; (2) one-man exercises; (3) two-man isometrics; (4) two-man exercises; and (5) running. If we limit the running to 1 mile, all of our calisthenics can be completed in about 30 minutes—and it’s time well spent.
Before practice: As each boy enters the wrestling room, he will strip down, weigh himself and enter his weight on a master wall chart. At the end of each practice, each wrestler repeats the same procedure. The weight chart becomes a valuable gauge to judge such things as—the severeness of a workout, whether a boy is following a proper diet, whether he is working as hard as he should, or whether a boy may be losing too much weight.
Practice then begins with calisthenics. The team lines up facing the coach or captain in order of their respective weights. The first man in each column is varsity, the second is junior varsity, and so on down to the last man in each division. This is also a simple way for the coach to take roll.
NOTE: We have a wall ladder board laid out in the same manner. If there are any changes in weights or position, the coach can change the wall board before or after practice and the wrestlers will take their positions as the board dictates.
Stretching exercise: Our first exercise is always stretching. It helps us start off with the right mental attitude, if we can get rid of the aches and stiffness that generally accompany the high school wrestler before entering into vigorous exercises.
EXECUTION: We begin by placing the hands on the hips and rotating the neck. We continue down the body, stretching or rotating each major part of the body until we finish up with the ankles. All this can be completed in about 2 minutes.
One-man exercises: The side straddle hop follows our stretching drills. We do 100 at quick time each regular practice. We then begin the push-up. We start the season with 20 and add 1 a day until we reach 40. Next, the wrestlers sit through to a sit-up position, knees up and hands behind the head. We begin with 50 and add 2 a day until we reach 100. From the sit-up, we go to leg lifts. The wrestlers lay flat on their backs with their hands behind their heads. On the command “up” they raise their legs 6 inches. On the command “apart” they spread their legs about 24 inches. The commands are repeated at various heights for about 60 seconds. Last of the one-man exercises are the neck bridges. Two minutes are allowed for bridging and spinning on the neck. As the neck strengthens, team members will pair off and each boy will bridge with his partner across his chest.
Two-man isometrics: Since the wrestlers are already lined up by weight, it is an easy matter to pair off in equal size for two-man isometrics.
NOTE: After the wrestlers have assumed the proper position, the coach will start the exercise with a whistle, time 10 seconds with a stop watch, and stop the drill with a whistle. The wrestlers are then told to move to the next position.
Arm wrestle: Both wrestlers take a prone position facing each other and grasp right hands in Indian wrestling fashion (10 seconds). They then follow the same procedure using the left hand (10 seconds).
Pushing: The wrestlers, still facing each other, come to a kneeling position and interlace the fingers of both hands (10 seconds).
Pulling: The wrestlers now assume a sitting position, place their feet against their partners with the knees up, and grasp wrists (10 seconds).
Leg lifts: One wrestler will lie on his back while his partner, kneeling, will grasp his ankles and anchor them to the floor. The bottom man will fight this resistance in an attempt to lift his legs off the mat (10 seconds).
Leg spreads: From the same position, the bottom man will attempt to spread his legs (10 seconds).
Legs together: This exercise is performed from almost the same position as the leg spread exercise. But instead of the legs being together, the wrestler spreads them about 18 inches and attempts to bring them together against the resistance of his partner (10 seconds).
Two-man exercises: After isometrics, the wrestlers stay with their partners for 3 additional exercises designed primarily to strengthen the neck and stomach.
Bridge head stand: From a bridging position (stomach up), the wrestler reaches over his head and grasps the ankles of his partner who is standing 12 inches from his head. The bridging wrestler then kicks hard, arches his back, and pulls with his arms until he reaches a headstand position. The legs are then opened to: (a) straddle the standing partner; (b) both legs to the right side of the standing partner; (c) both legs to the left side of the standing partner.
NOTE: All during the exercise, the hands remain holding onto the standing partner’s ankles and the weight of the exercising wrestler is on his neck. The exercise is completed by returning to the original position of the neck bridge.
Two-man sit-ups: In the two-man sit-ups, the wrestler’s partner takes an all-fours referee’s position on the mat. The wrestler performing the exercise straddles his partner, placing his toes under the hands of his partner. The top man then leans back until his head touches the mat. He then returns to the original position, using his stomach muscles to pull himself up.
NOTE: After completing the desired number of sit-ups, the wrestler reverses his position on top so that he is straddling his partner and now is facing his partner’s feet. The top man then hooks his feet inside of his partner’s thighs. He bends back to touch his head to the mat and returns to the starting position to complete his sit-up.
Body stand: For the body stand exercise, the bottom man again takes the down referee’s position. The top man moves to a position perpendicular to him. The top man then hooks one arm around his partner’s arm and the other under his partner’s stomach. He then pulls and kicks high to a body stand. The top man continues to arch until his feet touch the mat on the opposite side of his partner. By pulling back, he can return himself to the body stand and then continue back to his original position.
Running: Weather permitting, we next take a one- or two-mile run over our cross-country course. The wrestlers are asked to bring running shoes to school so as not to damage their wrestling shoes. Time can be kept for the run and a standard set. Sometimes, we set a minimum time for the one-mile run, say 6:45, and anyone who fails to make that time or under must run another mile.
RUN IN-PLACE: When the weather doesn’t permit outside running, we run in-place inside the wrestling room. We line up as in calisthenics and on command begin running in-place. The knees are kept waist high. We continue this for 50 seconds and then sprint an additional 10 seconds. This 60-second exercise can be repeated as often as you wish.
All of our calisthenics can be completed in about 30 minutes, if we limit running to one mile. Some may believe that this takes too much time from other aspects of your wrestling program—but we feel that it’s time well spent. Since beginning this type of program, we have had very few injuries or lost practice time due to illness. Our wrestlers take a great pride in doing their calisthenics, especially when we periodically increase the number or repetitions. They feel that because they work harder and are in better shape than their opponents, they have a better chance of winning.