By Scott Goodpaster
Wrestling is one of the most physically demanding sports. Traditionally, wrestlers have engaged in long hours of “road work”, running to somewhere between three and six miles to develop wrestling stamina.
Although this approach is effective for cutting weight, it does very little to develop the type of conditioning needed for wrestling. Wrestlers need to go all out for six minutes in high school, and seven minutes in college, not with less than max effort over longer periods.
If you go out and run long distances at a slow steady pace, you are training your cardiovascular system to produce small amounts of energy at a slow steady pace. Therefore, the slow energy production of a standard three-to-six mile jog will not train the body for the high intermittent demands of wrestling.
Running miles is very popular in many wrestling programs across the country. Did you know that there are an estimated one thousand steps per leg in a one-mile jog?
This is extremely demanding on the joints, especially for the heavyweights. These long runs can cause many orthopedic problems such as patellar tendonitis and shin splints or other related injuries. There is a more optimal approach to getting rid of excessive body fat. A sound nutritional eating program will do a much better and safer job.
When conditioning your wrestlers, you should ask yourself a few questions:
1. Who are you running from in a match?
2. How is running long-slow-distance (LSD) going to help with a scramble?
3. When wrestlers have to go for a single, how does that muscular contraction feel?
The sport of wrestling is about controlling your weight with your opponent attached to you.
Wrestling requires high-energy production using power, pulling and pushing movements, holding your opponent, shooting and high levels of isometric and grip strength.
Some programs use LSD for mental toughness. Ask the question, how am I going to instill mental toughness in my wrestlers by having them jog miles? There are many effective exercises one could choose.
For example, “buddy carries” up stadium stairs are a great exercise to build will-power in your wrestler. Buddy carries will help develop will-power, strength and cardiovascular conditioning, all which are more important to the sport of wrestling than lengthy LSD training.
From my experience, mental toughness lies within how much motivation a wrestler has. If your wrestler is passionate about wrestling and self-motivated to push past his limits he will have more will-power than a wrestler that is not motivated.
We, as coaches, want our wrestlers to be resilient. Can a coach instill mental toughness? I would say yes. If a coach believes in his athletes and is constantly giving positive reinforcement to his wrestler, that wrestler will want to work hard to achieve his goals.
To be mentally tough is to never quit, to have world-class focus and to be passionate about wrestling and achieving your goals. It is also important to have a coach who truly cares about making you better. Let me say this: Programs are a piece of paper. Programs can’t motivate or push you past your limits and change lives, but coaches can.
At Cincinnati Functional Fitness, we have found some of the best ways to condition our wrestlers. We use several tools to do the job.
Let’s start with sprinting, which builds muscle, fires up fast-twitch fibers and burns fat. We love to use our versa climber, airdyne bikes, incline trainer that goes up to a 50 percent incline so it’s like sprinting up a steep hill, prowler sprints, tire drags and running 300-yard shuttles.
These conditioning tools help develop wrestling stamina. The general adaptations you create through LSD running will not translate to the constant bout necessary when you have to hold on for dear life.
We have created wrestling circuits to fit the specific cardiovascular demands of the sport of wrestling, which are, by far, the best to condition our wrestlers.
These wrestling circuits incorporate high heart rate, fast explosive movements, upper-body holding strength, core, and high levels of clinching and grip strength when tired and are designed to be six-to-seven minutes of intense work. This is the type of cardio a wrestler needs to develop and this cardio is not developed through the traditional needs of LSD running. We do not measure heart rate; we train the mechanism because it is the nature of wrestling.
These wrestling circuits will feel harder than a match.
To conclude, LSD is for runners, not wrestlers. If you take a marathon runner and have him run up and down a basketball court a couple of times, despite his VO2 max or how conditioned he is to run a marathon, that intermittent work will trash him.
The same thing is true with a wrestler running miles at a slow steady pace. As soon as your opponent takes you into deep waters, you will crumble.
Next time you attempt to have your wrestlers go out and jog three-to-six miles for conditioning or mental will-power, ask this question; how is LSD running going to help my wrestlers increase their ride time, set up pins, maintain wrist control from every position, enhance hand fighting, scrambles, double leg takedowns etc… and give them the edge in wrestling competition.
When developing conditioning, more consideration should be placed on sprinting and specific wrestling circuits for a wrestler from a cardiovascular and power endurance perspective.