How To Maximize Your Conditioning

A picture of Richard Simmons waving his hands over his head in his traditional workout attire.

…Fact- I was actually a “bodyguard” for Richard Simmons with some other wrestlers when he came to Ithaca College.

Anyway, maximizing your conditioning for wrestling is of the utmost importance. This is especially important as you reach the end of the year.

If you are anything like me those last couple months consisted of extra runs, lots of jumping rope, and riding a stationary bike (usually in front of a heater of some kind). It was all steady state, long duration cardio. I primarily did it to keep my weight in check.

That type of cardio is good for building a solid aerobic base. However, the last couple months of the season is really time to focus on training that is going to help you develop the gas you need to win. Specifically, the gas you need to win pivotal scrambles.

However, with so much information out there, this can get confusing.

There are “hardcore” CrossFit workouts.

There are various circuits and other workout “finishers.”

There are programs that have you perform bodyweight exercises for 6 straight minutes.

Listen, I’m not here to say those things are bad.

But I think there is a need to separate “what’s hard” with “what’s effective.”

Too often coaches and wrestlers think getting in shape is all about just pushing harder and harder each day. To a certain extent, I buy into this philosophy.

It builds rugged, durable wrestlers.

However, sometimes I feel like following a scientifically proven system oftentimes gets thrown to the wayside in favor of this philosophy.

Now, I’m no science geek or Ph.D candidate, but I do think there’s value in knowing what the research suggests. You can then determine if the conclusions/methodologies will fit into your program.

So, I’d like to introduce 2 of the methods I’m currently using with the wrestlers I train. These 2 methods are specifically designed to help them peak their conditioning for the end of the season.

Both of these methods are covered in much greater detail in Joel Jamieson’s book, Ultimate MMA Conditioning. For the average person, his book is a little heavy on the science side of things. However, in my opinion, it’s the best book I’ve found on how to maximize your conditioning.

By the way, I am not receiving any compensation for promoting and/or linking to Joel’s blog. I’ve never even spoken to or met Joel. But I do read his blog regularly and buy his products.

1. Lactic Power Intervals

This method is used to increase how much power your lactic system can produce.

Why is this important?

Joel states in his book that the more power you can generate from your lactic system, the harder you’ll be able to go in high intensity scramble situations. Additionally, the greater capacity enables you to maintain lactic energy production for longer periods before getting fatigued.

Specifically, the LPI method stimulates an increase in the enzymes involved in anaerobic glycolysis. In addition, this method promotes the shift of your metabolism to rely more on anerobic energy production.

As with any other training method used to develop power, a maximal effort is required on each set to realize the full benefits.

He recommends each rep lasting somewhere between 20-40 seconds.

3 reps should be performed per set. Each rep should be followed by a rest period that is determined by a drop in heart rate. You should look to be between 110-130 beats per minute before starting your next rep.

You should then take a break of 8-15 minutes to perform light exercise- jogging, jumping rope, light bodyweight exercises, etc.

From there repeat 1 to 3 more times for a total of 2 to 4 sets of 3 reps.

These should be performed once or twice a week.

My Implementation:

This is how I’m using this method with the wrestlers I work with…

A picture of a woman in a blue shirt on a Concept 2 rower.

I have them use rowing machines.

Here’s a sample 4 week progression:

Week 1:

2 sets of 3 reps. Each rep consists of a 20-second bursts with a 35-second break. I only have one heart rate monitor, so to keep it fair, I just control the rest period with a stop watch.

If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, there’s a way to see how you’re recovering. Monitor the distance covered with each 20-second burst. If there’s a sharp decrease (>5%) between the first and third, it means you need more recovery time.

If you are able to produce the same distance covered in each of the 20-second bursts, you’re ready for the next progression (Week 2).

Week 2:

2 days worth of the “prescription” above.

Oh, by the way, I usually leave between 8-10 minutes between sets for a break. I have the guys rotate through a bodyweight circuit of 3 exercises.

One sample circuit would be chinups for 6-8 reps, dips for 6-8 reps, and spread eagle situps for 12 reps.

The guys who I train who are in solid shape can get through 4-5 rounds in 8-10 minutes. I start the “rest” clock as soon as the last row is done. The ones who are not in as good of shape usually get through about 3 rounds.

Week 3:

1-2 days worth (depending on my use of the next method) of 2 sets of 3 reps. Use 23-second bursts with a 32ish second break. Basically I try to increase the difficulty by 5-7 seconds. I either add time to the effort portion, subtract time from the rest portion, or use a combination of the two.

Again, measure the distance being covered with each effort to ensure that there is adequate recovery. If you’re not rowing, find some way to measure your output. That’s ultimately how you’re going to measure adaptation to the method and know when it’s time to progress the difficulty.

Week 4:

Same type of progression as week 3.

If the output is consistent in week 3, look to adjust the difficulty by 5-7 seconds.

Again, 1-2 days worth depending on how you decide to implement the next method.

2. Lactic Explosive Repeat

This method is used to train your ability to maintain a high level of repeated explosiveness. This is a must for ensuring you’re explosive in the second and third periods.

Ultimately what occurs at a physiological level is an increase in enzymes involved in lactic ATP production. Additionally, your body improves buffering mechanisms which improve lactic capacity.

Joel recommends 1-2 sessions a week, 6-10 sets per series, and 1-3 series per workout. Additionally, he suggests taking 8-10 minutes of active rest between each series.

My Implementation

This is where the Battling Ropes come into play. For those who don’t have access to these he suggests various jumps, sprints, explosive pushups or other bodyweight exercises.

A picture of a woman using battling ropes. There are a number of white power racks in the background. The rope is white and she has on a pick tank top and black spandex shorts.

Anyway, just like in the first method, I look to progress a wrestler by adding work time, subtracting rest time, and/or increasing the total sets done per series.

Here’s a sample 4 week progression:

Week 1:

2 series of 6 sets Battling Ropes.

12-seconds on with 30-seconds off.

Count the reps performed during the first 12-second round. Aim to reproduce the same number of reps (within 3 or so) on each subsequent set.

If I remember correctly, a 5% decrease is considered statistically significant. So, if you find that your reps are down by more than 5% from the first set to the last, then add more rest time, subtract from the work time, or shave off a couple sets.

Or if you don’t want to worry about percentages just count or listen. You’ll hear/see the ropes decreasing in speed pretty abruptly. If this happens, back off a little, or just repeat the same workout the next time you’re scheduled to use this method.

Week 2:

2 series of 6 sets for 2 days.

12-seconds on with 30-seconds off.

Again count the reps to ensure power output remains consistent, or at least doesn’t take a nose dive.

Similar circuits like the one I detailed above are great to do in between. Jogging, riding a stationary bike, and jumping rope work well too. However, I prefer to get in some moderate strength training.

Week 3:

2 series of 6 sets for 2 days.

13-14 seconds on with 25ish seconds off.

Week 4:

2 series of 8 sets for 2 days.

14-seconds on with 25-seconds off.

**Remember, before you progress to the next week, make sure that you show adaptation at the previous stage. Specifically, be sure your reps are consistent from set to set and series to series and there isn’t a noticeable dip in your power output.

Conclusion

I’m not trying steer you away from following and implementing hard workouts.

What I am trying to do is give you some tools to help you better measure and progress. Ultimately, this will help ensure that you’re as optimally prepared as you can be for the end of the season.

Getting beat on while you’re sucking wind is not how you want to finish up, right?

Well, then take the info I covered and put together a solid program to help peak your conditioning. It’s probably a better plan than going onto a random website and selecting something that looks like it’ll be a challenging workout for the day.

Related Posts:

Easy To Implement Conditioning

Best Way To Get In Shape For Wrestling?

Interval Training For Wrestling

Maintain Your Stance! Core Conditioning You Need

A picture of Kyle Dake and Dickie White.
Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

-Kyle Dake, 4X NCAA Division 1 National Champion
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Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.

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Want to learn more about Dickie? Check out my About page.

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Want to get started on a program today? Read this post and download your free program- 12 Week Training Program For Wrestlers.

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8 Comments. Leave new

  • Great article. I have Joel’s book and use it for my conditioning regularly. It’s a great read. Keep it up brutha.

    Reply
    • Hey Franco. Yeah, I definitely agree that Joel’s book is one of the best resources when it comes to conditioning. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment and i’m glad you liked the post.

      Reply
  • Hey Dickie love your blog! I just have a few questions. Do you suggest implementing this type of workout into our training year around? Or is it more just for peaking at the end of the year? Also just curious on the reasoning behind your response. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hey Tony, thanks for leaving a comment and glad to hear you enjoy my blog so much. I have a nice, middle of the road answer for you (just what you wanted, right?!).

      As for using it year round- I don’t think using these principles year round is necessarily a bad idea. Why? First, while they are demanding on the body, they don’t seem to wear me or the guys that I train out as say deadlifting heavy or running a bunch of max 200 meter sprints. Additionally, because there’s a lot more to a wrestling season than simply the last few tournaments of the year, there’s an argument to be made that you need to be in shape throughout the season, and these two methods will certainly do that.

      However, there’s also an argument to be made in favor of using these for peaking. The first being that utilizing additional methods like those detailed above regularly throughout the year may lead to a fatigued wrestler by the time the season starts to wind down. Not only will they be physically fatigued, but they could just be mentally burned out as well. Obviously, this is less than ideal for the end of the year. Additionally, from a confidence standpoint, I think it really boosts a wrestlers overall attitude and excitement to know that they are in the best shape that they’ve been in right when it matters most. That additional boost of confidence can come in handy in a situation where they’re set to wrestle someone who they had a 1-2 point match with earlier in the year (when they weren’t in as good of shape).

      With that said though, I think the biggest thing that needs to be kept in mind here is that I work with wrestlers after practice throughout the season. So this is after all of the drilling, live, and conditioning. So oftentimes my job is to control the workload so that they can recover as needed. But if I had the full say in what they did for conditioning and had unlimited resources, I’d definitely look to implement these methods throughout the season and build them up over time simply because the last thing you want to do is lose a match because of conditioning, especially now (at least in NYS) where there are points and wildcards that factor in to whether or not you make the state tournament.

      So, in a long winded nutshell, while I don’t think these two methods would lead to an over-fatigued wrestler when simply done as part of the conditioning within a normal practice, I tend to favor implementing them within the last 5-6 weeks of the season, which allows me to help keep them as fresh as possible throughout the year, and focus more on strength maintenance and increasing power before switching over to peaking conditioning while maintaining the other 2 qualities.

      …Side note- here’s the actual progression I used with the wrestlers who come in consistently 3 times or so a week during the season:

      Jan 6- Ropes 6x :12on :35off Rower 3x :20on :30off

      Jan 11- Ropes 6x :12on :35off Rower 3x :20on :30off Rower 2x: 20on :30off

      Jan 17- 2x Ropes 6x :12on :30off Rower 3x :20on :27off

      Jan 20- 3x Ropes 6x :12on :28off

      Jan 24- Rower 3x :23on :27off 2x Ropes 8x :13on :28off

      Jan 27- 3x Ropes 8x :13on :28off

      Jan 29- 2x Ropes 9x :14on :28off

      Jan 31- 3x Rower :20 and rested until HR dropped below 130 (approx :45)

      Feb 3- 2x Ropes 10x :14on :28off HR for guys in best shape was dropping a beat or more per second during rest period (which to me is a pretty good sign these guys are in great shape, even though they give me verbal feedback that they feel like they are)

      Tonight is the last night of training before the state qualifying tournament (sectionals here in NY) so I’ll have them on the rower, which I tend to favor a couple days before a tournament because the total volume is lower (3 rower pulls versus 10 :14 second bursts on the ropes).

      Anyway, hope this helps, thanks again for the comment, and let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply
  • Another great article! I appreciate the research that you do.

    Reply
    • Thanks! If you have anything you’d like me to blog on in the future, let me know and I’ll be sure to get to it.

      Reply
  • Hey Dickie, I’d like to build on this and don’t forget to train the aerobic energy system as this system recharges both the lactic and alactic systems.
    Consistent “road work” keeping your heart rate around 130-140 bpm a couple times a week will aid in conditioning as well as promote recovery and prevent peaking.
    By incorporating aerobic capacity training one could keep a high level of conditioning all season without burn out.

    Reply
    • You’re right on man. I can’t remember the specific number that Joel recommends, but he says before you worry about any of these types of conditioning methods that you would be much better served by using steady state cardio to bring your resting heart rate down to at least below 70 beats per minute (as far as I remember that’s the number). I personally have used regular steady state work to bring my heart rate down to 49-51 beats per minute before one of my fights. That is by far the best conditioned I have ever been, as far as I can remember.

      Reply

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