Winning takes a lot of work; daily push-ups are a start

Updated: February 23, 2023

By Zach Even-Esh

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a wrestling event in New Jersey which is called “The Tri County” Tournament. It is the culmination of wrestlers who have won their tournaments against the two surrounding county champs and they finalize the tournament to see who the best wrestler in three counties in New Jersey is. 

The finalists I saw were all seventh and eighth graders and I could tell that they were well prepared from all aspects: wrestling skills, strength and conditioning and all-around confidence. The wrestlers were well built, tough and I could tell they were doing much more than just wrestling in the winter.

On the flip side, at the high school level, I am often seeing wrestlers who are lacking muscle, lacking wrestling skills and not being prepared at all for this tough sport. This is when wrestling becomes dangerous. 

When a wrestler chooses not to train all-year round, he is now a liability and at risk of serious injury. This message might need to be shared with some of your wrestlers. When I was about to enter high school and my older brother convinced me to join the wrestling team, I immediately began training. This was the summer of 1989 and we didn’t know much or have much information but we were doing some form of training every day:

• Wrestling in the living room or in the backyard on the grass;

• Push-ups throughout the day, every day;

• 100 reps a day was normal activity;

• Running. We would run at the park, run the stairs, run hills, run around the block and sprint up and down our stairs. 

My brother had some very basic weights in his room and we copied bodybuilding workouts from the magazines because that’s all the information we could find. Today, there is more information than ever before, more easily accessible than ever before and I am seeing high school wrestlers who cannot do five push-ups. 

This is a serious problem which needs some aggressive intervention. Other things that helped me was the fact that I mowed lawns from third grade through high school. Kids today are missing any form of manual labor, which is a form of strength training. If you’re a coach and your kids are not showing up physically fit, then this article is for them. If you’re a wrestler and getting overpowered by the competition, then this article is also for you. 

The following are what wrestlers need to do year-round. The details are not as important as getting after it and doing the work:

• Wrestle and/or add Judo for at least four months of the off-season;

• Compete in another sport at least through grades 9 and 10 in high school;

• Strength train with weights at least twice a week; 

• Jump rope and do push-ups, pull-ups and squat jumps at least three time a week;

• Eat wholesome foods like eggs, meats (steak, chicken), fruits and veggies. Never skip breakfast and pack your own lunch to school. Drink whole milk. If you can get to a farm for farm-raised meats, eggs and raw milk, you will accelerate your strength gains tremendously. Minimize and try to avoid processed junk;

• Make everyone around you better. To be a great wrestler, you need great training partners/teammates;

• Lead through your actions, not your words. Everyone says they’re going to do the work, but far and few between do people follow through. Dare to be different and you will find that by doing the work, your confidence will skyrocket. 

To all the wrestlers out there, if you want to be a wrestler then you must be in training all-year round. There are no other options. For the parents of wrestlers, your kids need your support to help them be the best prepared athlete they can possibly be. This means living a lifestyle different than the norm. As Alabama football coach Nick Saban said, “It takes what it takes”. 

(Zach Even-Esh is a strength and performance coach located in New Jersey. Zach is the owner of the Underground Strength Gym in Manasquan, N.J., an author and a consultant for teams and organizations seeking elite performance. To connect with Zach, go to, and