Strength and Conditioning For Wrestling
Here are the top 4 strength and conditioning for wrestling rules I’ve put together through my years of experience training wrestlers of all different levels.
1. Focus on developing large muscle groups (legs, glutes, back, chest, shoulders) with multi-joint exercises. What I mean by this is don’t use leg extensions, leg curls, and worse yet, the “butt blaster” machine to strengthen your lower body. Instead do squats, front squats, hack or power squats, lunges, good mornings, and various deadlifts to add solid pounds of muscle and brute strength to your legs and back. Not only is this a more efficient way to do things, it’s also more functional. When competing, the body moves as a coordinated unit, not an isolated one; so doesn’t it make sense to train it as one? When do you ever see a leg extension motion on the wrestling mat? You don’t; but you do see a lot of squatting, lunging, and lifting.
2. Train with reps below 5 for your core lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, chinup) to build unstoppable strength on the mat. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, low reps are not going to put on a lot of muscle on your body. However, regardless of whether your goal is to increase strength or increase size, you should always train the core lifts heavy for low reps. There’s nothing worse than looking like you’re strong but you wrestle like a fish. If you’re looking to increase muscle then increase your volume on your accessory lifts. Do 4-5 sets of 10-15 reps of 4-6 exercises to put more of an emphasis on gaining muscle and 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps of 3-4 exercises to put more of an emphasis on increasing strength.
3. Condition like you compete. When have you ever been involved in a match against a quality opponent where you’ve cruised at the same pace much like you would during a 3-5 mile jog? I’m going to guess never. There are parts of a match where you’re going as hard as you can (battling for a takedown) and there are parts of a match where you’re actively resting (going back to the center after going out of bounds). To condition as functionally as possible for this type of action you want to mimic the time spent going hard and “resting.” How do you do this? Train in intervals. I like the Airdyne bike for conditioning wrestlers as it conditions the whole body. I have my wrestlers sprint for anywhere between 10 and 20 seconds and jog for anywhere between 10 and 40 seconds. Start with a 3:1 rest to work ratio and work down to a 1:1 over the course of a month before a major competition.
4. Prioritize your training. Sit down and honestly assess yourself from a physical standpoint before developing a training program. Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on physical capabilities such as strength, power, conditioning, flexibility, agility, etc. and develop your program around that. What I mean by this is, if 1 is considered the worst on the scale you’re using and you rate yourself a 9 for conditioning and a 5 for strength don’t spend an hour 4 times a week doing various forms of cardio and only 45 minutes once a week strength training. Make sure to place a majority of your focus on developing one or two qualities during a 2 month period then sit down and re-assess yourself to see how you’ve increased/decreased in the different areas.