The best form of training is wrestling/drilling hard

Updated: November 3, 2023

By Zach Even-Esh

I have a saying when athletes or coaches ask me about certain exercises they come across on the internet, especially social media: “It looks cool on Instagram.”

That’s as effective as some of these exercises are. For example, if you’re training a high school wrestling team, what will be more effective?

• An endurance circuit with a plate workout (most plates will be 25 pounds) that lasts maybe 10 minutes?

• Or a short strength and power workout with pull ups, farmer walks and trap-bar deadlifts? 

Ryan Acquisto, a senior from Point Boro High School in Point Pleasant, N.J., demonstrates how to do a “Farmer Walk” with 186 pounds in each hand.

Here’s where it will all make sense (hopefully). If you wrestle hard and drill hard, that is the best form of conditioning and muscular endurance training.

If you are already wrestling hard and the “bucket” of muscular endurance is already full, why would I continue to overfill that bucket? Also, if you focus on light weight and high reps, you will not boost a wrestler’s strength and power. 

On the flip side, when a wrestler gains strength, this quality will increase the wrestler’s power and muscular endurance. Strength is the tide that lifts all ships. 

If you’re a coach or dad who wants to help a boy or girl win more, then the more intelligent approach is to fill the bucket that needs to be filled. Sure, you saw a top collegiate wrestler, team or individual going into the pain cave pushing a 25- or 45-pound plate. But, if you’re looking to gain strength and power while the competition is training the wrong way, then you want to get one or two short strength sessions a week. 

These sessions can last 25 minutes, including a warm-up. 

Here’s a sample workout including the warm-up if you lift before wrestling practice:

Warm-Up x 2 Rounds:

• 1 Arm-Rack Walk Kettlebell Carry x 50 feet each arm 

• Kettlebell Goblet Squat x 10

• Recline Row x 10

Workout 1:

• Trap-Bar Deadlift 4 x 4 (2 warm-ups, 2 working sets) 

• Frog Jumps 4 x 4

• DB or BB Bench Press 4 x 6 

• Pull-Ups x MAX reps or DB Row 4 x 6

• 1 or 2 fast sets of Clapping Push-Ups x 5 reps + any Curls x 10 reps 

Workout 2:

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• Zercher Squat with Barbell or Sandbag 4 x 5 (2 warm-ups, 2 hard sets);

• Hurdle Jumps 4 x 4; 

• Incline DB Bench 3 x 6 – 8; 

• Sandbag or KB Carry (Any Position) 3 x 100 feet; 

• Alternate DB High Pull 2 x 5 / 5 each arm; 

• Double Kettlebell Row 2 x 10;  

If time allows, I always finish with some pump-up work because the athletes like it and it boosts their confidence. These workouts can be completed in 25 minutes or less. If time is an issue, then choose two exercises and go five rounds back and forth. 

Examples are:

Option 1:

• Hang Power Clean or Trap-Bar Deadlift 5 x 3-5 reps;

• Pull-Ups or Recline Row 5 x 6-8 reps 

Option 2:

• Sandbag Shouldering 4 x 3 / 3 each side 

• Barbell or Dumbbell Floor Press 4 x 6 

The above workouts can be completed fast and they focus on strength and power. Remember, hard wrestling is the best form of conditioning. When I hear wrestlers telling me that all they do is run for the first week or two of practice because coach said “We gotta get in shape,” I am disappointed. 

Hard wrestling is what “gets you in shape.” Learning better wrestling technique allows you to better use your strength. Distance running is for the cross-country team, not the wrestling team. 

Fill the correct “buckets” and do what works best for the wrestlers, not what looks better on Instagram. See you at the top of the podium!  

(Zach Even-Esh is the founder of The Underground Strength Gym in New Jersey (EST 2002). Even-Esh is an author, a consultant and a coach for athletes, teams and organizations seeking elite performance. For more information, go to and n