Wrestling: a sport where to be elite you have to possess four qualities. First and foremost, you need to be strong. Second, you need speed and explosiveness. Third, you need to be conditioned. And finally, you need to be more mentally tough than your opponent.

Now, of course you need to have a high level of skill in your sport to be elite, but that goes without saying. You need to have a love for the game and become a technician. But this article is about training that, when combined with superior skill, will create the most well-balanced, strong, ripped, explosive wrestling FREAK you can be.

So with that said, let’s run down the list of these four essential qualities and how to address them in your training program and include some must have exercises if you want to take your game to the next level.


Let’s break down the word strength into two categories. The first is relative strength. Relative strength is referring to your strength in comparison to your body weight. A great gauge for relative strength is the chin-up. If you can’t do more than six good chin-ups, it’s pretty safe to say you’re too weak, too fat, or both. Test yourself now and again in eight weeks. A good goal is to do at least 12 quality chin-ups.

With that said, almost ALL bodyweight exercises are important for wrestlers. They will help you build balance, core stability, strength, muscle and teach you to control your own bodyweight. So utilize push-up variations, different pull-up and chin-up variations, horizontal rows and exercises alike.

RELATED Should Athletes Powerlift in the Off-Season?

Now let’s talk about absolute strength. This is the maximum amount of force exerted regardless of body weight.  Here is a list of my must-have exercises to develop absolute strength for wrestlers:

1. The Deadlift: One of my favorite exercises. Many people will say this is a “back” or “hamstring” exercises. In reality, the deadlift trains the hands, forearms, traps, lats, abdominals, hips, low back, glutes, hamstrings and even feet. A good goal is to deadlift two times your bodyweight.

2. The Back Squat: This should really be listed as 1A and 1B with the deadlift. These two movements are critical for any athletes, wrestler or human being. The strength and muscle that is developed through these two movements alone is incredible and they are an absolute must. Like the deadlift, the back squat trains the entire body, not just your legs as some may think. A goal here should be to squat two times your bodyweight.

3. The Standing Military Press: One of the best measures of absolute upper body strength is the military press. Any time you are standing on two feet and pressing weight overhead, you are making progress. Do them with a fat bar or Fat Gripz, and you’ll be even better off. These are essential for developing balance throughout the body, and putting on slabs of muscle.


4. Bench Press Variation: I use the word variation because the traditional bench press can beat up your shoulders if done too often. That doesn’t mean you should never do it, but don’t do it all the time. Instead use dumbbell presses, floor presses, incline presses, or change the grip by using a football bar. It’s extremely important to protect the shoulders for obvious reasons. That’s why at my facility, we typically use a neutral grip on our dumbbell presses. This will help develop triceps strength more than a pronated grip and will help keep the shoulders safe.

5. Rows: To be dominant on the mat, you need great pulling strength. Thus, row variations are essential. Change it up between barbell rows, single arm rows, cable rows, face-pulls and so on. The point is, you need to train your upper back. Training the upper back is also crucial for keeping the shoulders healthy.

Obviously there are more exercises out there to take advantage of, but focus on building your strength on these five exercise variations and you will be well on your way to dominating the mat this season.

Speed and Explosiveness

Now let’s move on to speed and explosiveness. I put strength first because without strength, you cannot develop explosive power. Once you develop your base of strength, however, you need to start training to be fast and explosive.

Now let me touch on the fact that Olympic lifts are incredible for developing power. However if you do not have a coach to teach you how to do these movements properly, I feel that the risk is not worth the reward. Therefore, I like to implement different jumps and throws to emphasize explosive power. The broad jump, vertical jump, box jump and jump squat are among my favorites. For throws, I incorporate med ball slams, med ball soccer throws, med ball overhead throw, med ball side throw, keg tosses and many others. Just use them and you will be sure to develop more athleticism and dominating power!

Now with that said, one of the most explosive exercises you can do is the sprint. Sprinting will get you faster, stronger, conditioned and more athletic. USE THEM! Sprints are an absolute must, for any goal.


Next on our list, is conditioning. It’s obvious that you need to be in great cardiovascular shape to compete in this sport. But do the old school methods of jogging miles on miles really do the trick? My answer is hell no! Let me explain why.

Jogging works the aerobic energy system, which basically means "with oxygen." Wrestling is a mixed energy system sport, which means it involves the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. The anaerobic systems produces energy without oxygen. An example of an anaerobic activity is the sprint. So, let’s take a look at the two.

Aerobic activity will produce high levels of the body’s natural stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol will eat away at muscle tissue, leading you to a weaker, slower and smaller you. On the other side of the coin, anaerobic activity is highly anabolic. Which means it can actually build muscle and strength. In addition, when you work on developing your anaerobic capacity, you will simultaneously increase your aerobic threshold. But the opposite is not true.

So to condition for a mixed energy system sport, I recommend sprinting and using short, intense circuits to develop your conditioning opposed to going for a jog. Just keep in mind that the best way to condition for your sport is to actually play or practice your sport. Nothing else will compare, but adding sprints to your program are certainly a good supplementation.


Mental Toughness

The final, and perhaps most pivotal component of training for wrestling is building mental toughness. This is a component of training in general that has disappeared across the nation in most gyms. This should NEVER be overlooked and can kill the success of the most talented wrestler on the planet.

Being mentally tough is something that can propel you to success in any realm of life. If you do not train for that edge you can lose it and be a weak minded, undisciplined, average schmuck like most of society. If you are going to be successful in anything, you need it and you need to train for it. How do you do that, you might ask?

Let’s start with being all business when you walk into the weight room. You’re not there to chat, pick up chicks, take selfies, update your social media status or participate in any other nonsense. You are there to train. To get better. To get stronger. To reach new goals. Don’t waste time being like every other goon in a public gym. It’s time to dial in and focus on getting the very best out of yourself and your training partners.

Second, push yourself beyond what you believe your limits are. It is too common to see someone hit an easy set of dumbbell presses while making kissy faces in the mirror. You have to train pissed off. You have to train with rage and violence, especially on your big heavy sets. You have to have the attitude that you would rather die than quit. It is something that you need to be successful on the mat and in life. If you give up when you train, you will sure as hell give up in a match. Do a heavy set of 20 rep squats and you will immediately know what I am talking about.

Finally, find a training partner that wants to succeed more than you do. They will always push themselves and if you want to be great, you will sure as hell want to keep up and beat them as well. A good partner or team will make the best better. It’s a necessity. But it is important to note that you don’t want to train with just anyone. If they are not going to push themselves or you, then you’re better off training alone until you find the person who will.

These are the variables that I find to be imperative to building a successful wrestler. Put yourself to the test and start following these principles. I can guarantee you will take your game to the next level.

If you liked this article and want to check out more of our stuff head over to tutelatraining.com and subscribe to our blog.

Thanks for reading.

Good luck out there!

Chris Tutela is a strength and conditioning coach in Clark, NJ. He is tue owner and Operator of Tutela Training Systems, LLC where he trains mainly athletes and some regular clients. He was also the head strength coach for a big high school program here in NJ for 2 seasons. Tutela has been a strength coach for almost 10 years and wanted to get some good content out there for wrestlers. His site, blog and more information can be found at tutelatraining.com.