Now that wrestling season is over for most, we thought it would be great to give some great information to the wrestlers out there. This past year has been a mess, but hopefully, you got a chance to get some matches in or at least some sort of season. For those of you that were on strict lockdown, check out our #bamfw home training program.
We are in the process of coming out with a #bamfw2 for the wrestling community after receiving such a great response from the original ebook #bamfw.
For this article, we wanted to share a few exercises, nutrition, and lifestyle tips for the wrestlers out there.
Nutrition Tips for Wrestlers
Have a Plan
My most important tip would be to have a plan. Whether you are on weight or cutting, make sure to have a game plan and follow it. The old days of the starvation method are gone. There are so many ways to educate yourself on the dangers of this. Don’t resort to water pills, saunas, or wearing plastics as your game plan. Having a great diet consisting of carbohydrates, protein, and fat is a must. If you are having trouble with this, reach out to a licensed nutritionist for help.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
The next important tip is to make sure to get a lot of fluids. This is a tough one for wrestlers, especially when they are cutting. As stated above, HAVE A PLAN. Water is a must, but too much water only can lead to hyponatremia. This occurs when your sodium in your blood gets really low. Electrolytes are crucial for normal function. My best recommendation would be taking GRIT to help get your electrolytes refueled and your body rehydrated.
Supplement with Creatine
My last recommendation is to supplement creatine. Creatine supplementing can have great benefits when followed correctly. Years ago, this supplement was thought to have been dangerous, especially for sports where cutting weight is in the cards. The studies over the past couple of years have shown this to be mainly false. Our body naturally produces creatine and if you can replenish this, you can perform better, especially during that anaerobic bursts wrestling demands.
Post-workout/practice recovery shakes with a 1:1 to 1:3 protein to fast-acting carb is crucial for recovery. The ratio depends on the athlete's weight class. If you can't make weight by adding a post-practice shake, you're either trying to go too low for a weight class or not consistent with your nutrition. If you can't recover from your grueling training, you can't perform to your best and are leaving yourself out there to get hurt, overtrained, and sick. Try winning a state title with pneumonia or after losing 40 percent of your off-season strength gains. NOT HAPPENING!
Don't celebrate binge by going to taco bell with your team after a big win and pounding a 12-pack of tacos. It's the worst thing you can do for your body. I understand celebrating and rewarding yourself but it has to be in moderation. If you have to go to a fast-food restaurant or eat something that you typically wouldn't eat while making weight, remember portion control! Eating one taco with your team is a much better option.
Eating at the same time, even if in different portion sizes helps your body regulate and makes it easier when dropping a few pounds here and there for tournaments.
Most Valuable Exercises for Wrestling
Overall, I really like the Zercher squat. This squat variation originated from Ed Zercher, who was a strongman and powerlifter in the 1930s. For wrestlers, it is a great compound/main movement. I like to think of this lift somewhere in that gray area between a front squat and a deadlift. Here is the setup: load up a barbell (the fatter the bar, the better) and set it in the seam below your bicep while flexing your arms to around a 90-degree angle or tad higher. The reason a fatter bar is better is this lift tends to be rough on the tendon. You can use something to reduce this pain, such as some rags, a towel, etc. Treat this as your main lift while doing the rep scheme you would do for your max effort/heavy day.
For my second valuable exercise for wrestlers, I will go old school with Rope Climbs. Don’t let Garth's quote from Wayne’s World fool you. THESE ARE TOUGH. They challenge your grip strength, back strength, and overall upper body strength. There is a huge amount of stabilization involved as well. I remember in high school, we would do these almost every practice for time. I like to do these more as an accessory movement or finisher. Rope climbing also strengthens the upper back musculature and lats.
My third exercise would be sort of new school and “outside the box.” The crazy band/chaos push-ups. As we all know, push-ups, when done properly, are one of the best local muscular exercises one can do. Unlike a regular push-up for this variation, you will need some bands to do this. The setup is pretty simple. Place the band around some pegs in a squat rack, grasp the band, and hang on like hell while doing the push-up. These will challenge your trunk and shoulder stability and blow your chest up. Make sure to control the band while doing the repetitions. Don’t rush these. Time under tension is huge here. I like to have wrestlers do this as a burnout or as an accessory movement.
RFE Split Squats
RFE Split Squats (rear foot elevated) is a great unilateral exercise. It is extremely effective while reducing the spine and lower lumbar load by more than 50 percent compared to barbell squats. This exercise really carries over to wrestling if you think about the positions and angles wrestlers are in when they need to drive through a blast double or get up from the bottom. I like using a knee-high bench or a bit lower to support the rear foot. Use a shoulder-width stance, then place the top of your foot on the bench behind you. Keep your front foot in a good vertical shin position while your rear knee is in the down position. It should be gently touching the floor posterior to your hip. Drive through your heel on that front foot looking to stay vertical as possible. I like using a goblet hold for the dumbells or farmer's walk style in each hand. A great benefit to this exercise is the stretch in the anterior hip area.
Supermans with Punches
Supermans with punches are my favorite exercise to strengthen the lower back and upper back, simultaneously giving the athlete a real bang for their buck exercise. Lying face down, extend your arms straight out fully extended, and keep your legs straight with knees and chest slightly off the floor. It'll look like a bow from a bow and arrow. Keep your head looking downwards and retract your elbows towards your ribs, really squeezing shoulder blades to get those elbows to your ribs. Then extend your arms all the way out to full extension. Try keeping your hands ear level throughout the motion. Hands dipping down to the floor is a sign you are using too much weight. Typically two to five pounds is more than enough, even for our strongest athletes, to perform 12-15 reps correctly.
Sled pushes, especially in season triple extension, produce no eccentric load to help manage soreness and fatigue. Pushes and drags have great carry-over for the athletes. You can really load these up and not worry about lower backs and or bad form as much.
Top-3 Lifestyle Tips for Wrestlers
My first lifestyle tip, and probably the most important for everyone, is to get enough sleep. Shoot for eight hours per night. To get into that deep sleep, keep all electronics off and out of hands reach. Try to have your room as dark as possible. As far a recovery, this is also probably the most important one. Brain function decreases with lack of sleep. Also, try to set aside time throughout the day to take a nap, even if it is for 10-20 minutes.
Treat Every Match As If It's Your Last
My next tip is to treat every match as if it’s your last. Nobody knows what the future holds. Your next match could be the last one you have. Never have regret wishing you could or should have done more to be the best you can.
Surround Yourself with the Right People
My last tip for life is to surround yourself with quality and like-minded people. My old coach used to quote, “If you hang out with cows, you'll eventually smell like cow shit." Don’t let others drag you down. Set lofty goals and get out and attain them. Have the mindset of a champion at all times. There are no shortcuts in wrestling or life. Work hard ALL OF THE TIME.
Header image credit: Michael Turner © 123rf.com
As a top-ranked super-heavyweight, Chris Janek earned the nickname “Tank.” As a two-time all-state wrestler as well as an all-state, third team all-American football player he received multiple full-ride scholarship offers, choosing to play football for the University of Wisconsin. During his collegiate football career, Janek was a four-year letter winner as well as a two-year starter. He was part of four Bowl Games (two Rose Bowls, in which they won). After college, he furthered his football career with a tryout with the Cleveland Browns and an eight-year career in the now-defunct Arena Football League. He is the owner of Tanks Training Facility in Granite City, Illinois and has devoted himself to multi-ply powerlifting. In 2010, Janek totaled 2660 to win best lifter at the GPC Worlds (in Prague). In 2014, he won first place and best lifter overall at the XPC Finals with a 2725 total.