High School Wrestling: Building a Strong Foundation

I grew up on a farm in the Midwest. I engaged in a large volume of physical labor over the years. I lifted and carried thousands of hay and straw bales. I carried pails of corn and water. I carried bags of lime and feed. I dug fence post holes. I pounded metal fence posts into the ground. I pushed wheel barrows and swung sledgehammers occasionally. I carried rocks and chunks of wood. I pushed brooms and shoveled out bunks. I climbed an 80 foot silo occasionally. I walked all over our property. All of this activity helped me build a strong base of physical fitness. I was never “out of shape.”

When you are in the process of designing your wrestling conditioning program, you should keep the concept of general physical preparedness (GPP) in mind. GPP provides basic all-around conditioning in areas such as endurance, strength, speed, agility, coordination, and flexibility. GPP often involves using compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups. GPP can be weighted or non-weighted. General physical preparedness increases your ability to do more work. Therefore, the concept of work capacity is closely related to GPP.

According to conditioning expert Matt Wiggins, the use of GPP will increase your work capacity. With greater work capacity, one can do a greater volume of conditioning. Having greater work capacity is like having a bigger “gas tank.” If you have great work capacity, then you won’t “gas out” toward the end of a wrestling match.

A wrestler will absolutely benefit from improved work capacity. He will be prepared for intense work and will be able to recover more quickly. For instance, if you are wrestling three matches in one day at a tournament then work capacity and recovery are extremely important.

A wrestler must be prepared to wrestle hard for six to seven minutes. Improving work capacity allows a wrestler to train harder and more often. Remember to build a bigger “gas tank.”

Weighted GPP Examples:

  • Sled Dragging
  • Sandbag Lifting
  • Sledgehammer Swinging
  • Medicine Ball Throws
  • Tire Flipping

Non-Weighted GPP Examples:

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Burpees
  • Push Ups
  • Pull Ups

Athletes and Hard Work

Dan Gable spent summers during high school working for a construction company and a lumber yard. He enjoyed unloading trucks of cement bags and lumber. He lifted cinder blocks at the construction site. He got up at five a.m. so he could run four miles to the job site.

Boxers used to saw wood and split it with an axe as part of their training. They also used to do construction work that involved lifting, digging, sawing, and hammering. Boxing legend Rocky Marciano did all of that and more. He used to stand down in a pit and throw stones up out of it.

Another boxing legend, James J. Braddock, used to walk miles each day looking for work after his boxing career had stalled. Sometimes he would work on the docks unloading railroad ties. Braddock was no stranger to hard manual labor. When he had a chance to box again he went on to become the world heavyweight boxing champion.

Finnish powerlifters are known for their skill in the deadlift. Most of them had a background of hard labor, like lumberjacks, construction workers, farmers or something similar. They carried, lifted and dragged for their living. Similarly, legendary strongman Bill Kazmaier was an oil rigger and a lumberjack in his youth.

What I’m implying here is that hard manual labor is basically a GPP workout. As you can see, many great athletes have a background of hard manual labor. Does this mean that you have to work on a farm or on a construction site? No. Just find a good GPP program and work on building up your work capacity. You can lift sandbags instead of cement bags. You can do sledgehammer training instead of chopping wood with an axe. You can carry around dumbbells instead of pails of corn. Improving your work capacity will allow you to train harder and more often. Spend some time researching GPP and work capacity.

Working on your GPP and work capacity will help you build a strong foundation. As you enter your competitive season, you can start doing training that is more specifically designed for wrestling. Remember that wrestling is primarily an anaerobic (i.e. with oxygen) sport. The anaerobic system is what will primarily need to be worked after your season begins. Your most specific training will simply involve wrestling itself. If you have done a sufficient amount of GPP and built up your work capacity then the training to follow will be that much more effective.