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Weight Training for Wrestling

Improve Strength and Muscle with Weight Training


Updated June 07, 2012

Lateral Raises

Lateral Raises

(c) Paul Rogers

Successful wrestling as a sport requires a combination of power and strength -- and speed is certainly an advantage at times. If you wrestle under a weight division, which is how most competitive wrestling is conducted, you need to worry less about size and bulk as long as you maximize your weight for your division.

Weight training or resistance training can enhance these athletic characteristics. Because all athletes have individual needs, the best program for you will be modified for style of wrestling, age, goals, and facilities available. However, here's a weights program, starting out, that you can use to set yourself up for wrestling competition. This applies to all forms of wrestling including College, Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and professional wrestling of various types, although professional wrestling often has its own bizarre requirements.

General Preparation

The general preparation phase should provide all-round muscle and strength conditioning. If you prepare on a seasonal basis, this would occur in the pre-season. If your sport does not have seasons, then just progress through the training phases below in sequence.

As a general rule, and for all the following workouts, don't do strength training prior to a mat training session. Do gym sessions later in the day after your skills work, or well before, or on a separate day if possible. Nothing you do should limit your ability to practice the actual technical skills in your sport, in the environment in which you would normally compete.

Frequency - 2 to 3 sessions per week for 8 to 10 weeks
Type - general conditioning
Exercises - 9 exercises, 3 sets of 10 to 12, plus warm-up and cool-down in the Basic Strength and Muscle program. (I favor the Romanian type deadlift rather than full deadlift in this program.)
Rest between sets - 30-90 seconds

Specific Preparation

In this training phase, you will focus more on the development of strength and power. This is the period, late pre-season, leading up to the start of competition.

Frequency - 2 to 3 session per week, 4 to 6 weeks
Type - strength and power
Exercises - 5 sets of 6: Romanian deadlift, incline bench press, hang power clean, pullups, squats -- plus combo crunches at 3 sets of 10 to 12
Rest between sets - 3-5 minutes, crunches, 1-2 minutes

Competition Phase

The aim of the competition phase is the maintenance of strength and power. Skills training and competition should dominate. Prior to the start of competition, take 7 days break from heavy weights work at the end of Specific Preparation while maintaining your skills work. Weight training in the competition phase should play essentially a maintenance role.

Frequency - 1 to 2 sessions per week
Type - power; lighter loads and faster execution than in the specific preparation phase
Exercises - 3 sets of 10, rapid concentric movement, 40% to 60% of 1RM. Squats, hang clean, Romanian deadlift. Crunches.
Rest between sets - 1-2 minutes

Summary of Weight Training for Wrestling

  • Be sure to warm up and cool down prior to strength training.
  • Don't train through serious injuries, acute or chronic.
  • Don't sacrifice a skills session for a weights session -- unless you're treating or recovering from an injury with weights work.
  • If you have a knowledgeable coach, be guided by him or her regarding the details of your program.
  • Take at least a few weeks off at the end of the season to recover after a hard season of training and competing.
  • If you're new to weight training, read up on the fundamentals before you start.

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