Circuit Training on the Mat


One of the challenges you’ll face as a coach is how you organize practices for maximum efficiency. In any given training session you want to accomplish as much training as possible in the least amount of time. This article covers the use of matroom circuits that are ideal for this purpose. Circuit work can be adapted to train skills, conditioning, or a mixture of both and provides an optimal method of managing larger groups. The following basic guidelines will make it easy to put together your own workouts.

For these circuits to run smoothly your athletes must already know how to perform the exercises. Select exercises that everyone is familiar with and/or conduct an orientation run on the practice before. Teaching from scratch immediately prior to or during the circuit wastes valuable time and holds up the session.
As a coach you must keep the circuit moving smoothly and eliminate confusion. You want your athletes focusing on the exercises, not trying to figure out where they are supposed to go for the next station. Set up the circuit so that stations are clearly marked and follow a simple linear or circular pattern. Do not expect your athletes to remember that they are supposed to go to the other side of the room for exercise five, particularly when they are tired. Keep it simple.

Work and Rest Intervals

It is better to use time intervals for each station rather than a specific number of repetitions. Each athlete will move at a slightly different pace and those athletes who finish quickly will be standing around waiting on those still working. To avoid this, just instruct everyone to work at a constant pace for the duration of the work interval. During the station switch allot just enough time for everyone to get in position. Typically rest intervals of 10 – 30 seconds work well. Use work intervals of 20 – 60 seconds depending on the fitness level of your athletes. Start low and add 5 – 10 seconds each week.



The keys to choosing exercises are usefulness and simplicity. Elaborate or multi-part drills are best left to other times. The following list provides some training activities that require very little equipment and can easily be performed on the mat. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather to provide some examples to stimulate your creativity.

Conditioning and Solo Skill Work
            Pushups (all types)
            Pullups (all types)
            Band Pulls (all types)
            Squat Thrusts or Burpees
            Bodyweight Squats and Lunges (all types)
            Mountain Climbers
            Step Ups
            All Fours Spins
            Medicine Ball Exercises
            Dumbbell or Kettlebell Exercises
            Sandbag Exercises
            Jumping Jacks
            Jump Rope
            Bounding or Dot Drills
            Agility Ladder Runs
            Cartwheels or other tumbling
            Throwing Dummy

Partner Skill Work
            Pummelling (Cooperative or Competitive)
            Partner Trade Off Throws (Full Throw or Setup Only)
            Live Positional Wrestling (If Space Permits)
            Tug of War
            Partner Medicine Ball Drills 


Exercise Markers


To avoid confusion, use placards at each station to remind the athletes what exercise to perform. An easy and inexpensive method is to print out the names of all the exercises you plan to use in a large font and laminate the page. Lay or hang these placards at each station. The lamination will protect them from any sweat damage. Another slightly more expensive option is to buy several small dry-erase whiteboards and write down the exercises.



Wrestling and grappling coaches will find that conditioning the entire team together will bring everyone’s performance up. Left on their own the athletes might hold back when performing their conditioning work but no one wants to be a quitter in front of the team. You’ll find that the stronger players will encourage the others to keep going. Adding an element of competition to the circuits is also a great idea. On occasion, keep the circuit going until only one person hasn’t dropped out due to fatigue. These circuits also make a great way to reward players for outstanding fitness. Create a ranking chart based on the number of consecutive trips through a reference circuit. Post the results on the wall in the training room. Similar to the lifting poundage charts, this will give your athletes standards to shoot for.

Brian Jones, PhD

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