High School Wrestling: Tips for Endurance

High School Wrestling: Tips for Endurance

Some synonyms for endurance are determination, fortitude, perseverance, persistence, stamina, staying power, and tenacity. Do you have the fortitude and stamina to keep wrestling hard for an entire six-minute match? Can you go the distance?

Conditioning expert Ross Enamait states in Infinite Intensity, “Conditioning is king inside the ring.” For us wrestlers, I may change his quote slightly to say, “Conditioning is where it’s at when you’re on the mat.” Ross states, “Strength is important, but useless without the endurance to apply it.” Let’s examine endurance more closely and determine how we can attain superior endurance.

Endurance is the ability to sustain physical activity (i.e. perform work) or exert force over a long period of time. Endurance, however, can be a bit confusing. When you think of endurance, you may imagine a marathon runner. But, marathons involve a certain type of endurance. Wrestling also involves certain types of endurance.

Types of Endurance:

  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Power Endurance
  • Speed Endurance
  • Strength Endurance

As you can see, there are many types of endurance. Can you wrestle six minutes without huffing and puffing like a steam locomotive? Do you find yourself “gassed” easily? Can you shoot takedowns repeatedly in a match or is one powerful takedown all you have in you? Can you drill at high speeds for extended periods in practice? Can you execute moves quickly in competition? Are you still powerful in the closing moments of a match?

A wrestling match involves repeated short bursts of activity. You need to be powerful, strong, and quick. However, you need to apply these attributes repeatedly in a match. For instance, power alone is not enough. You need to demonstrate that power repeatedly throughout a match. That is where power endurance comes in. You may want to research the various types of endurance online.

First, let’s discuss the three energy systems. Energy for sports or any activity is derived from one or more of these systems.

Three Energy Systems

  • ATP-PC System – involves activities that last for up to approximately 15 seconds (imagine a football lineman exploding out of his stance or a track athlete sprinting 100 meters)
  • Glycolytic System or Lactic Acid System – involves activities lasting approximately 15 seconds to 2 minutes (imagine sprinting a 400 meter dash)
  • Oxidative or Aerobic System – involves activities lasting approximately 2 minutes up to several hours (imagine a marathon)

Wrestling, like many sports, involves a mix of the three systems. However, wrestling mainly uses the ATP-PC and Glycolytic systems. A wrestling match lasts at least six minutes but the activity is not done at a steady state. As mentioned before, wrestling involves many explosive bursts of activity within a six-minute match. Wrestling is primarily an anaerobic sport. Only about 10% of the energy used in a wrestling match is derived from the aerobic system. Anaerobic means “without air.” Let me repeat: wrestling is primarily an anaerobic sport.

Now, let’s examine aerobic and anaerobic activity a little closer.

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic

As I have stated before, wrestling is primarily anaerobic. Therefore, you must not train like a marathoner or a cross-country skier. You need to train for the demands that the sport of wrestling require. Long runs are out. Lifting light weights for 10-15 reps for many sets is out (you are not a bodybuilder).

Conditioning coach Jamie Hale states, “Developing optimal endurance programs should include anaerobic endurance as well as aerobic endurance. The majority of sports are mainly anaerobic in nature yet coaches have their athletes run 3 miles per day. This affects the athlete’s power production, sprint mechanics, and teaches the neuromuscular system to function slowly.”

Wrestling is not a marathon! Remember that if nothing else.

Lactic Acid

I can remember wrestling in matches in which my legs felt like rubber toward the end. I couldn’t finish shots and had trouble defending takedowns. Lactic acid builds up in your muscles during exertion (e.g. an intense match) and causes fatigue. You need to condition your body to handle (buffer) lactic acid so you don’t fatigue as quickly. Interval training and circuit training are excellent ways to increase one’s lactate threshold. I hope that your coach has you run wind sprints. However, be sure to build up your intensity slowly. You may want to research lactic acid training for wrestlers online.

Ideally, your workouts should be intense. Your conditioning and practice should be demanding so that the actual competition seems easy by comparison. It’s crucial to be as explosive toward the end of the match as you were at the beginning. You don’t want to lose a match because you “gassed” in the closing moments. Here’s a quote for you: “The more you sweat in preparation, the less you will bleed in battle.” Or, “The more you sweatin practice (or training), the less you bleed in battle.” I believe this quote may be attributed to the U.S. Navy SEALs. I don’t actually expect you to bleed. However, make your practices intense. How many takedowns can you drill in one minute? Do you sprint all out or pace yourself? Perhaps you could wrestle four 2-minute periods instead of three. Yes, wrestle an eight-minute match. You get the idea.

Prescription for Endurance

  • Build a strength base by lifting heavy weights for low reps
  • Do somewhat longer runs in the earlier part of the season and then switch to increasingly intense interval training and sprints
  • Practice intense, high speed drilling often to build “mat endurance”
  • Research lactic acid training for wrestlers and anaerobic threshold training
  • Don’t spend energy during the season doing long runs or bodybuilding workouts
  • Research circuit training and dumbbell complexes (e.g. Javorek Complexes) to learn how they can build your conditioning and endurance to very high levels

I hope this article has given you some insight into the importance of endurance and staying power in a wrestling match. Now, get to work on your staying power!