Dan Gable Boxing in his Rocky Gym

Dan Gable Wrestling

If you have followed this blog for any amount of time, you have probably seen me reference Dan Gable. Not only was Gable one of the greatest wrestlers ever, he was equally successful as a coach. It is not often that such a dominant athlete can mirror his own success while coaching. Many great athletes have natural abilities so they struggle to teach others who do not possess the same raw talent. Gable was unique in this regard. As the head wrestling coach at the University of Iowa, he led teams to 15 NCAA titles and 21 straight Big Ten titles. In other words, Gable knows a few things about training and athletic development. When he speaks, it is a good idea to listen.

Dan Gable’s Training Style

Unfortunately, Dan Gable’s message does not receive nearly as much attention as it deserves. For instance, the 2012 video below has only received a fraction of the views that many of today’s popular online trainers receive in matter of hours. It’s mind boggling to think that a so-called guru (who never trained anyone) is getting more attention than one of the most dominant athletes and coaches in recent history.

As for the video itself, it is always nice to see athletes from other sports who benefit from the heavy bag. Perhaps I am biased as a former fighter and current boxing trainer, but I have always felt that heavy bag training was useful for athletes in many sports.

Punching the bag will improve coordination, power, hand speed, and more. Such attributes can be useful for all. You certainly do not need to be a fighter to benefit from heavy bag training. And it goes without saying that heavy bag training does not require a state of the art facility. For example, I have shown how an old stack of tires can be used as an effective punching bag (see here).

Final Thoughts

In summary, Dan Gable signifies one of the greatest examples of low-tech, high-effect training. Gable never relied on anything fancy to prepare himself for the mat. The difference between Gable and everyone else wasn’t the tools that he used, but rather the relentless effort and drive that he displayed continuously year after year.

Plain and simple, Gable outworked everyone around him. He was as relentless with his training as he was on the mat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If there was ever an athlete or coach to study and learn from, Dan Gable’s name certainly deserves a spot towards the top of the list.

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“I was going to work at it every day, so hard that I would be the toughest guy in the world. By the end of practice, I wanted to be physically tired, to know that I’d been through a workout. If I wasn’t tired, I must have cheated somehow, so I stayed longer.” – Dan Gable


  1. Gable boxes like a wrestler. teehee. I heard Gable used to run between his classes while at college, and it seemed he was always training. Was some guy that was the son of Mass. governor back in Marciano’s day named Peter Fuller who boxed and wrestled, and it was said he boxed like a wrestler and wrestled like a boxer. A former standout wrestler in the late 50’s named Danny Hodge tried his hand at boxing professionally. I believe Hodge ended up with a 7-1-1 record or something like that. Anyhow, Hodge lost one bout to an outstanding huge heavyweight(at least he was huge back then) named Nino Valdez. Valdez was a top contender back in the day. Hodge had a grip so strong he could bend a pair of pliers. I believe he still has a video on Youtube where as an elderly man he’s seen crushing an apple with that iron grip.

  2. Remembered reading an article about then heavyweight champ Leon Spinks(shows you how old I am)where part of Neon Leon’s training was to bear hug a heavy bag and walk around the ring for X-number of 3 minute rds. Have no idea how much the heavybag weighed.

  3. Right on Ross. Love Dan Gable “if its worth doing do it everyday” I agree he doesnt get the recognition he deserves by many in the younger generation.

    Thanks for posting.

  4. i could not agree more with everything gable said. all the advice on training is golden but falls on deaf ears to all the universe of looking good, beach muscle pumpers! i was pushed into ‘rocky’ style training before ‘rocky’ but none other than gable ..who was featured in an olympic short documentary during the games about his training and motivation. in judo training it was very basic body weight style moves heavy on the functional aspect.. when i wrestled pro for a couple of years with ‘luchadors’ all their in and outside ring workouts were bodyweight,tumbling,ring rope to rope sprints etc. as an old timer the outside or any space on the floor is great for a workout!! kettlebells ,ropes, bands,tires,sledgehammers etc . all work well in this environment. i concur with gable on where are the major networks as far as wrestling goes! endless auto races, basketball games and other so called sports are ignored for the original olympic sporting contest that tests all manner of atributes in the participants!! bravo dan gable and ross for bringing this to the masses!!

  5. It’s true the comment you made about heavy bag training being useful for other sports. A mate of mine is a good cricketer and swears training on the heavy bag helped him hit boundary shots with greater ease, teaching him to be more explosive with a shorter swing etc…

  6. A bit off topic, but Gable is an inspiration to all for his intense training methods and relentless wrestling style. However, Gable took his training to such extremes that it completely broke his body down. He’s had multiple hip surgeries and spent years walking with a cane. I think there needs to be a balance of intensity, rigorous training, while also listening to your body and knowing when to rest.

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