By Matt Berglund
Few sports contain the mental and physical grind of wrestling. Combining intense workouts with strict diets and constant physical demands on the body can make the wrestling season a true grind for many of today’s high school athletes.
Strength and conditioning workouts are vital to a wrestler’s success because they build endurance, power and durability, but simply doing sprints or long runs often adds to the grind that can create stagnation. Likewise, doing too much heavy weightlifting during the season may be counterproductive as well because it often results in muscle fatigue and soreness. So, wrestling coaches need to be creative to achieve fitness goals, and at the same time avoid the monotony and grind.
Among the more creative strength and conditioning workouts for high school wrestling teams is one called “Noah’s Ark.” The name is derived from the visual appearance of the wrestlers working with a partner for a series of exercises like “animals going two by two.”
Noah’s Ark begins with wrestlers jogging in a large circle and then eventually jogging next to a partner of similar size and strength. One end of the wrestling room is designated as the starting point while the opposite end is the drop-off point. The body carry series begins at the starting end and, after the drop off at the opposite side, the wrestlers peel off to the outside and jog back to the starting point to avoid other groups coming down the center of the mat.
Here is the sequence and description of exercises in the Noah’s Ark series.
The Body Carries
- The Double Leg – This carry involves having a partner face you and then lifting him up by his upper legs and then draping him over a shoulder. He is then carried to the opposite end and set down on his feet again. Then after jogging back to the starting point, he does the same thing to you. This is the case for each of the five total body carries.
- The Fireman’s Carry – This carry is also very specific to wrestlers because it involves the technique of a popular wrestling move, the fireman’s carry. One wrestler grips his partner’s tricep and then puts his partner on his back while putting his other arm through the partner’s legs so that partner can hang behind the carrier’s neck on his upper back.
- The Piggy Back Ride – This carry simply involves having one wrestler hop on the back of the other. The rider can lock his hands loosely around the carrier’s neck while the carriers can reach back and hold his legs.
- The Bridal Carry – This carry is a reference to a groom carrying a bride over the threshold. The rider locks his hands behind the carrier’s neck and then hops in his arms.
- The Wheelbarrow – Another classic carry where one wrestler holds his partner’s legs at the knees while the other uses his hands to “walk” to the other end.
(Note: Some partners may finish their body carries sooner than others. If they do finish earlier, they should jog around the outside until everyone has finished their body carries. At that point, every set of partners is told to find some open space anywhere on the mat to start the body lifts.)
The Body Lifts
- Plank, Dead Lift and Pull-ups – One of the partners lies flat in. The other partner startles him at the shoulders with his feet under his partner’s armpits facing toward his partner’s head. The standing partner reaches down and grips his partner’s forearms and pulls him off the ground past his own knees 10 times. Then the partner lying down pulls himself up 10 times. The key is for the partner lying down to remain in “plank or pike” position, like he is as stiff as a board. After those two sets, the partners switch positions and do the same cycle.
- Curls – One partner stands; the other knees in front of him. The standing partner extends his arms out in a bicep curl position while the kneeling partner interlocks his fingers with him. The standing partner then curls upward with the kneeling partner providing mild resistance. Each partner does a set of 10.
- Handstand Push-ups – One partner stands; the other does a handstand in front of him with his face facing the opposite direction of his partner. When one wrestler does the handstand, the other should catch his legs at the knees to help him balance. The wrestler in the handstand then does 10 push-ups, trying to get full extension with his arms without bouncing his head off the ground.
- Shoot Through/Leap Frogs – One wrestler stands with his legs spread while his partner stands about five feet in front of him. That wrestler then “shoots through” his partner’s legs by sliding on his knees. Then the standing partner bends over with his head down, so his partner can hop over his back and shoot through again. Then the cycle is repeated 10 times.
- Back Builder Sit-ups – One partner kneels on all fours; the other partner sits on his back and hooks his feet inside his thighs. The partner on the back then extends himself backwards (ideally until the back of his head touches the mat), and then sits up again. It is imperative that the partner maintains a solid base and does not collapse. Each wrestler does a set of 10.
- Gut Grip Flips – In a continuation of maintaining a solid base, one wrestler again is on all fours and the partner gets to one side of him, reaching his arms under his body, along his stomach and grips his flank. Then the wrestler flips his entire body over his partner’s back while still hanging on to his stomach. He should land on his feet, upside down, and then spring back to his starting position. This drill is easier if the flipper is in constant motion and not pausing. Five reps are usually the maximum most wrestlers can do on this drill.
- Double Leg Squats – The final exercise is very similar to the first body carry as one partner holds his partner in double leg position over his shoulder and squats down until that partner’s feet touch the ground, then he fully extends up again. Good squat form is very important as the lifter should have his head up, and his back and neck straight.
(Note: Some of the body lifts, in particular the handstand push-ups, back builder sit-ups, and gut grip sit-ups, may be too difficult for some of the wrestlers to do, so one of the other drills can be repeated, or push-ups and/or sit-ups can be used as a substitute.)
As was the case with the body carries, some groups may finish the body lifts sooner than others, in which case they can jog around the outside until everyone is done, or if they really want to challenge themselves, they can do wall sits. This involves sitting against a wall in a chair position with legs bent at 90 degrees for an extended period of time.
Noah’s Ark is just one of the many varied strength and conditioning drills that can break the monotony and lessen the grind of the wrestling season, but it also can be productive and beneficial for a team’s fitness goals and, who knows, maybe more prepared for a flood.
About the Author: Matt Berglund is an English teacher and the head wrestling coach at Grand Forks Central High School in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Matt also is the yearbook and newspaper adviser at GFC and a member of the NFHS Coaches Publications Committee.