Cardiovascular Training For Wrestlers: Part 2

In part 2 of our series on cardiovascular training we have made a change to our program so we can take a deeper look at cardiovascular training by going inside the different types of endurance that we as wrestlers use ...

The whistle has blown marking the end of the first period of your match. Your heart is racing and you can hardly breathe. You have been running 2 miles everyday just like your coach and dad told you to.

So why are you tired after only 2 minutes? Running long distance conditioning works the body's aerobic energy system to use energy over a long period of time, where with wrestling we are required to sustain high levels of energy very quickly and recover in a short period of time.

As much as a wrestler needs to have heart on the mat to win, they also need to condition the heart long before the match begins. A strong, well-conditioned cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) will enable the body to receive more oxygen and a higher volume of blood with every pump of the heart.

It will also allow the wrestler to sustain a high level of exertion for a long time. Obviously, such cardiovascular conditioning will enhance both the youngster's health and their wrestling performance. In part 1 of our series on cardiovascular training we learned how the body is affected during exercise.

We learned how our body uses ATP for energy and how aerobic training helps us to recover from anaerobic bouts of exercise. When we talk about training we are not trying to take any thing away from what coaches are doing during practice only explaining how training affects the body.

In part 2 of our series on cardiovascular training we have made a change to our program so we can take a deeper look at cardiovascular training by going inside the different types of endurance that we as wrestlers use.

The Objective Of Endurance Training For Wrestlers

In a sport that many spectators characterize as sudden, explosive attacks and counterattacks that are executed on a repeated basis for duration up to 6 minutes or until an opponent has been pinned, the need for endurance training is simple, to develop the energy production system(s) to meet the demands of a wrestling match.

It has been documented that the average wrestling match has an explosive attack executed approximately every 6-10 seconds. For top level athletes endurance training is just as important as training for technique. When it comes to a wrestling match, weekend tournament wrestlers who lack good muscular endurance and aerobic/anaerobic conditioning will start to tire as they wrestle in the later rounds.

What Types Of Endurance Are There?

Endurance is the ability of your body to maintain a high quality of work in the face of fatigue.

There are 4 major types of endurance:

  • Aerobic endurance
  • Anaerobic endurance
  • Speed endurance and
  • Strength and power endurance

All 4 require a good sound aerobic conditioning level to maintain them.

Aerobic Endurance

Aerobic means "With Oxygen." During aerobic exercise the body is working at a level that the demands for oxygen and fuel can be met by the body's intake.

Physiological adaptations to aerobic exercise involve some of the following:

Respiratory System:

  • Enhanced Oxygen exchange in the lungs
  • Improved blood flow throughout the lungs
  • Decreased submaximal respiratory rate
  • Decreased submaximal pulmonary ventilation

Cardiovascular System:

  • Increased cardiac output
  • Increased blood volume, red blood cell number, and hemoglobin concentration Decreased resting heart rate

The basis for almost any sports conditioning program is good aerobic capacity. As we mentioned before a good solid post-season and off-season aerobic conditioning program will be the foundation for the upcoming season.

So what does all this mean to a wrestler? Having a good solid aerobic conditioning level will ensure that your heart beats slower but stronger, moves greater volumes of oxygenated blood (which is important for your muscles), and you breath slower.

Anaerobic Endurance

Anaerobic means "Without Oxygen." During anaerobic exercise at maximum effort, the body is working so hard that the demands for oxygen and fuel exceed the rate of supply and the muscles rely on stored reserves of fuel.

Few sports display the anaerobic stress that wrestling does. The majority of the body's musculature is subject to prolonged, short bursts of high intensity efforts during the course of a match.

To ensure that wrestlers have the anaerobic capacity to compete, let's look at what anaerobic endurance is and how it affects the body. Anaerobic endurance (capacity) refers to the maximal amount of energy that can be produced during the first 15-90 seconds of all out effort.

The major limitation on anaerobic capacity is the build up of lactic acid in the working muscles, a by-product of metabolism when the demand for oxygen in the working muscles is not met. Lactic acid causes the muscles to fatigue by disrupting biochemical reactions that produce energy for muscle contraction (The feeling you get in your forearms and lower back during and after a match).

The effect of training for anaerobic endurance is to increase the muscles tolerance to lactic acid so that there is a corresponding resistance to fatigue.

Speed Endurance

Speed-endurance training improves your ability to tolerate increased amounts of lactic acid in your system and lessens your feelings of fatigue as you wrestle at high intensity.

High speed drilling is a good way to develop speed endurance and when incorporated with chain matches or grind matches, will also help develop high levels of anaerobic conditioning. Running, swimming, bicycle riding at high speeds or for a given distance or time will also help increase your tolerance for lactic acid buildup.

Strength Endurance/Power Endurance

Strength endurance is the specific form of strength displayed in activities which require a relatively long duration of muscle tension with minimal decrease in efficiency.

There are two types of strength endurance:

  • Dynamic strength-endurance, and
  • Static strength-endurance.

Dynamic strength-endurance: is best known for movement during swimming, running, or rowing, where there is a repetitive motion executed in short rest intervals.

Static strength-endurance: is associated with activities where it is necessary to exert isometric tension of varying magnitude and duration.

An example of when strength endurance for wrestling matters most is late in the 3rd period. You shoot a single leg takedown and your opponent sprawls down hard on your back.

Pulling the leg into your body and being able to stand up with it to finish your move when your tired requires endurance. You will see many wrestlers slowly start to flatten out and not have enough static strength-endurance to hold the leg and keep their body upright.

Power endurance is another specific form of strength training that involves the recruitment of fast twitch fibers over a prolonged period of time.

As mentioned above, anaerobic conditioning improves resistance to fatigue in a time frame of 15-90 seconds of all out effort; in the same way power endurance training can shorten the recovery time needed to produce explosive movements over a prolonged period.

An example of power endurance in wrestling is the ability to take that last second shot with extreme explosiveness to win the match and avoid going into overtime even though you are dog tired. Another example, outside of wrestling and inside the weight room, is when a person is doing box jumps.

If you have an athlete perform 40 continuous box jumps, by about 10 or so (depending on the height of the box) that athlete will start to slow down (the extreme opposite of what we are trying to accomplish with box jumps) and probably have cut his shin on the edge of the box because of the inability to produce power past a certain point.

Instead of doing 40 continuous jumps we would rather prescribe 10 sets of 4 or 8 sets of 5 jumps, hardly ever needing to go over reps of 5 unless utilizing a kettlebell, with rest in-between. You could say it's kind of like interval training but with explosive and/or ballistic movements (kettlebell swings, Olympic lifts, plyometrics, etc.)


Cardiovascular training for wrestlers is more that just running 2 miles or riding your bike around the block. As you are starting to see, wrestling is about anaerobic conditioning.

Aerobic conditioning plays a major role in providing a good solid foundation for cardiovascular training but it's the anaerobic weight training and conditioning that will carry you to the top of the podium.

In part 3 of our series we will take what we have learned about the body and endurance and use it for designing your own wrestling workouts to help you become the best conditioned wrestler on the mat.

[ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ]