23 Strength and Conditioning Tips for Wrestlers

April 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Wrestling, Coaches Corner

This is a guest post by Steve Preston, Wrestling Performance Specialist and author of Ultimate Wrestling Power. Matside Hawaii is an affiliate for Steve’s program.

Hard work beats talent, when talent refuses to work hard!”

“Champions are built in the Off-Season”

These 2 quotes are my favorites… especially when referring to wrestlers!

I’ve always been a firm believer that you can transform yourself as a wrestler by attending Off-Season Camps, Clinics and Club… as well as a sound, year-round approach to your Strength and Conditioning.

With that in mind, here are 23 Strength and Conditioning tips that I wanted you to have:

1.  Divide your Year-Round Training Into 3 Seasons – It’s best to have an Off-Season, Pre-season and In-season training approach for the best results.  Each season has a distinct purpose.  The Offseason helps you build more strength and muscle density.  The Preseason helps you turn that increased strength into more speed and power.  The In-season is meant to help you avoid injuries and hold on to your muscle… especially when you cut weight.

2.  Strength Train 3 Days Per Week in the Offseason – 3 training days is optimal for gaining strength and muscle… especially when you’re a natural athlete.  We’ve found that athletes who insist on strength training 4-6 days per week make less progress than when they reduce their frequency to 3 times per week.

3.  Strength train 3 Days Per Week in the Pre-season – The Pre-season is generally the  2 months prior to the first day of practice.  This is in reference to the scholastic season.  This is when you turn strength into speed.  We accomplish this with a change in exercises and exercise technique… but the training frequency remains the same.  Remember, a stronger muscle is a faster muscle, so you don’t want to overdo it just before the season starts.

4.  Strength Train 1 or 2 Days Per Week in the In-season – During the season your goal is to maintain lean muscle mass… that’s it.  You aren’t concentrating on gaining strength but keeping your muscle on your frame.  Because of the workload from practices and wrestling, reduce the frequency to only 1 or 2 times per week.  I like to have wrestlers train 2 times one week and then only 1 time the following week… totaling 3 full body training sessions every 2 weeks.

5.  Use Closed-Chain Exercises – Any time you perform an exercise where your hands or feet are stationary, you are performing a Closed-Chain exercise.  If your hands or feet are in motion during the exercise, it is an Open Chain exercise.  For ultimate strength and athletic development, I’ve found it best to make sure 2/3 of your exercises are Closed Chain.  Examples are Squats, Deadlifts, Dips, Pushups, Chinups.

6.  Accentuate the Negative – Forget this garbage some guys dish out about Negative Training (slow lowering of the weight) being counter-productive for Athletes.  Slow negative training can do amazing things for your strength gains because it recruits up to 40% more muscle fibers during a set.  That’s why you can lower more weight than you can lift.  Because of the constant pushing against your opponent when you wrestle, negative training becomes very ‘wrestling-specific.’

7.  Use the Rest Pause Technique – Rest Pause is one of my favorite training techniques for wrestlers.  You perform a set to failure, rest 15 seconds, then repeat 2 more times.  This is great for muscular endurance as well as your overall strength development.

8.  Use the Static Hold Technique – When you hold a weight still with your muscles flexed until you can no longer hold it, you are working the muscles in a way that they get forced to work during a wrestling match.  When you are tied up with your opponent and are exerting a lot of energy yet there is no movement, you are in a Static Contraction.  Adding the technique to your strength training can add additional strength fast and prepare you for the season.

9.  Use 4 Week Training Cycles – If you work a training program hard, you should get optimal progress in 4 weeks… and then change it up.  This allows you to get stronger without getting little nagging injuries.

10.  Use Complexes – A cool way to increase your conditioning for wrestling is to occasionally add Barbell or DB Complexes to your training.  This is when you perform an exercise for a certain number of repetitions, followed by another exercise for the same repetitions, and another etc.  I like the Power Clean, Overhead Shoulder Press, Front Squat, Bent Row and Romanian Deadlift… all grouped together.

11.  Sprinting 2/3 of the Time, Jogging 1/3 of the Time – However you set up a Conditioning program, you will get into better wrestling condition and keep your muscle if you limit jogging to only 1/3 of your running program.  Remember, wrestling is an anaerobic sport while jogging is aerobic.  The energy systems are different.

12.  Hill Sprints or Stairs – Nothing beats a big hill to rump up and then walk down… repeating for 8-10 times.  There’s a big hill near my house that is perfect for this.  It gets your stamina up very quickly.

13.  Do the Above With a Mouthful of Water – Before you run up the hill, fill your mouth with water.  You will have to dig deep to run up the hill… where you can spit it out.  Take a swig of water at that point, walk down and repeat :)

14.  7 Exercises is the Magic Number – In order to be thorough with your training, get the most strength, and not overtrain, perform no more than 7 exercises for your Off-season and Pre-season workouts.

15.  6 Exercises During the Season – During your wrestling season you want to reduce the frequency as well as the volume of training.  If your normal training volume is 7 exercises during the Off-season and Pre-season, you would reduce the volume to 6 exercises during the In-season.  This slight reduction will reduce the chance of overtraining.

16.  Split Routines In the Off-Season and Pre-Season – Due to exercise volume as well as intensity, I like to split Off-Season and Pre-Season workouts into an A and B workout.  This way you train half the body at one time… allowing for more overall strength.

17.  Full Body Routines During the In-season – While your season is under way, you should not only reduce your training volume but now train the entire body in one workout.  This allows for more recuperation and recovery in between training sessions since there is no muscular overlap with successive workouts.

18.  Static Stretching Every Day for High School and Up – By the time you are in High School and your long bones have rapidly grown, you may have increased muscular inflexibility.  A daily stretching regimen may be warranted.

19.  NO Static Stretching for Youth Wrestlers – I hate watching youth wrestlers trying to get deep stretches where they hold them.  There just isn’t enough stability in their joints for this.  Far better at this age to have them do dynamic stretching ie.  Animal stretches that require movement patterns to loosen up.

20.  Train the Rotator Cuff – Because shoulder injuries are so frequent in wrestling,  I’d recommend that you get tubing or elastic bands, or a cable to perform internal and external rotations for the Rotator Cuff.  This group of 4 muscles gets neglected with traditional training.  With consistent training you will find more overall strength and less trauma in the Shoulder region.

21.  Keep the Knee Safe – By adding one leg exercises such as Step Ups, One Leg Pistol Squats, and Lunges, you can help with the development of the Quadriceps along with support muscles.  The result will be less problems with the knees.  You still want to perform the Closed Chain exercises such as Squat and Deadlifts, but in combination with One Leg exercises you have the perfect leg training workout for wrestling.

22.  Keep the Ankle Safe – Be sure to get your calves strong with a combination of Seated Calf Raises and any form of Calf Raise where your leg remains straight.  This will address both big calf muscles… the “gastroc” and “soleus.”  Also… be sure to pay attention to the Tibialis Anterior which is the muscle in front where your shins are.  Use tubing around the top of your foot and pull your foot up against the resistance to work this muscle.

23.  Keep the Ankle Safe Part 2 – I recommend that any wrestler at any age perform the “Scramble to Balance” exercise.  (Look for it on this blog… I have a video).  Basically, you lie face down on the mat in a Superman position.  Have someone blow the whistle… at which point you will get up to standing on one foot as soon as possible.  Do this with your eyes closed for about 5-8 times on each leg.  This works wonders for the ankles stability, Knee stability, balance, auditory awareness and concentration.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

About Steve Preston
Steve’s keen interest in Anatomy and Physiology, Kinesiology and Exercise Physiology led to years of research and development of training and nutrition tactics to take his athletes to new levels of athletic performance.  This resulted in exclusive training of wrestlers who were seeking gains in their mat performance. He is the creator of Ultimate Wrestling Power.


One Response to “23 Strength and Conditioning Tips for Wrestlers”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow this is an excellent tip guide!

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