Wrestling Strength and Conditioning: Key Elements of an Off-Season Program
By Carmen Bott
It is a known fact that stronger, more conditioned wrestlers are more successful at the elite high school and college level.
But getting in shape and peaking for a season is more than just grinding everyday
Like the sport, the off-mat program should be approached tactically. And good technique on drills and exercises make the difference between gaining power and just improving strength, or improving your distance running or your sparring pace.
It is important to be specific and targeted, otherwise you are wasting valuable time.
Let’s begin with the Off-Season Phase
Now that your season is over and you have had some rest, you might be wondering where to begin.
- Do you need to build a base first?
- Do you have enough knowledge in the weight room to perform exercises correctly?
- Do you know what order to train in?
All of these elements matter.
Comprehensive programming considers everything you need as a wrestler.
The approach must be streamlined.
YOU are one of the physically dominant athletes on the planet, so train accordingly.
In the weight-room, 3 strength sessions per week is enough.
It is important to always do a full body lift.
You are an athlete, not a bodybuilder, so improving coordination can even happen in the gym.
Don’t waste your time on silly exercises.
4 Pillars of an Off Season Workout for Wrestlers
1. Explosive Exercise
Each workout must begin with an explosive exercise such as a jump.
It is key these are done first.
2. Variation of an Olympic Lift.
Yes, they take practice, but there is no better way to improve your power than these lifts (or modifications of them).
Power against high resistance is what a wrestler needs.
3. 'GRIND' Lifts
After your sets of Olympic Lifts, you should perform 2 ‘grind’ lifts such as squats or deadlifts or military pressing.
These lifts are meant to build a raw base of maximal strength.
4. Specialized Lifts
Following the strength work, specialized assistance lifts, unique to wrestlers should be performed.
These include trunk (core), neck, back and shoulder exercises to protect these joints and improve the strength of the connective tissue.
There is quite a bit of volume in the off-season program so be prepared to spend some time lifting. Volume is necessary to prepare the body for the higher intensities that come later in the phase. The order of exercises, the precise loads and the rest periods are all part of the critical off-season formula.
BONUS: Conditioning for Wrestlers
Training zones in a conditioning plan should be individualized and based on your heart rate during exercise, this way you can ensure your intensity is exactly where it needs to be.
Without this, you are GUESSING...
It’s a roll of the dice.
Using intervals is the most effective way to build the aerobic system so you have the endurance you need for long practices and tournaments.
And a ‘tactical’ off-season conditioning program includes very specific work to rest ratios. It also has suggestions on ‘how’ to rest.
Continuous work isn’t as targeted, so it is not recommended unless you need a recovery day or have very low initial fitness.
Details are what separates a good program from a great one.
Hard work is what you bring to it, but science is what makes it effective.