Train like a strong wrestler, not a beach bodybuilder

Updated: June 6, 2024

Photo: Try doing push-ups with a heavy chain.

By Zach Even-Esh

There is a great quote by the late Louie Simmons, founder of Westside Barbell: “It is of no use to be strong in the wrong exercises.” 

What does this mean? 

To break it down, many wrestlers and athletes in general will opt to train at a local commercial gym. They will break up their training into a bodybuilder split; Chest and arms one day, legs another day, back and biceps another day, etc. 

They will sit down on machines, lay down on benches and every exercise avoids what we call ground-based lifts, where you are standing up and engaging your entire body as a unit. 

The wrestler training like a bodybuilder has a big chest and big arms, and often times muscular abs. But he is missing the most crucial muscles: powerful legs and hips, a strong back and well-developed traps.

Their muscles have been built for the beach; all show and NO GO. A strong and powerful wrestler is one you can spot from across the mat. His neck and traps are thick. His legs are stretching through his singlet. He looks like he has grown up on a farm and done years of manual labor. 

In high school, the wrestler should do about 80 percent functional and then have the freedom to do machines and pump-up work during the final 20 percent of their workout. For example, one training day might look like this after a thorough warm-up:

1A) Zercher Squat 5 x 5;

1B) Hurdle Jump + Sprint (3 Hurdles + 50-foot sprint);

2A) 1 Arm Kettlebell Clean & Press 3 x 6 / 6;

2B) Kettlebell Lateral Lunge 3 x 6 / 6;

3A) Sandbag Carry 3 x 100 feet; 

3B) Band Triceps Pushdowns 3 x 25; 

3C) Sled Push / Drag 3 x 100 feet

If you train at a school that has some machines, you can add lat pulldowns or cable rows into your warm-up for 3 x 15. Or train in the above fashion two or three times a week, then one day it can be an all-out bodybuilding, pump up day. 

Anthony White, a state champ in high school and a Rutgers wrestler recently spoke at my high school and trained with our wrestlers. He told the wrestlers they will get infinitely more out of this style of training then going to your local bodybuilding gym. 

We were doing squats, broad jumps, dumbbell benching and rowing. We finished with sleds and carries, then ran the field with a medicine ball followed by squat jumps. This training is what builds you for wrestling, not the fancy stuff you see on social media. 

Training for performance will also build your physique. But if you only train for appearance, you will not obtain the performance muscles needed to win at wrestling! 

(Zach Even-Esh is the owner of The Underground Strength Gym in New Jersey. Zach serves as a consultant for Div. I wrestling coaches and teams, special-ops military and serious athletes. For more information, visit and