I am often asked how to help prepare a wrestling team for the season ahead once the school year starts. September rolls around and we’ve got about 12 weeks until Thanksgiving, the “opening day” of high school wrestling season.
It’s awesome to see motivated, open-minded wrestling coaches searching for ways to improve their team. This attitude alone will contribute to success, especially when compared to the coach who refuses any outside help due to ego issues.
The benefits of a proper preseason wrestling program are numerous, and here are a few on the top of my list:
- When the wrestling season comes, the Coach can now focus on the most important thing: Wrestling. If the wrestlers are out of shape it will negatively affect their ability to learn proper technique and drill at high intensity. Having a team of physically conditioned and mentally tough athletes will allow improvements to come much faster and easier.
- The wrestlers who are physically AND mentally strong are less likely to get hurt. Notice I did not say they will “NEVER get hurt.” But, being strong and in top physical condition reduces the likelihood of injuries as well as minimizing the likelihood of psychological burn out, a critical factor in wrestling.
- The wrestlers will have improved mental toughness. Wrestling has countless aspects contributing to what makes one a great wrestler, being mentally tough is one of the critical factors. I’ve watched highly skilled wrestlers lose to lesser skilled wrestlers who were simply more driven and more physical than they were.
The culmination of being technically sound, mentally tough and physically strong are three critical factors in helping a wrestler get the edge over his competition.
The preseason wrestling workouts do NOT need to be long, grueling, vomit-inducing workouts. The workouts need to slowly progress in intensity and overall volume. When I speak of volume, I am describing the following:
- more reps
- more sets
- more work in less time
- more intensity
The workout should get the job done and be over and done with. Tacking on endless sets of countless exercises will overtrain the wrestler. As the wrestlers begin improving their physical fitness, their intensity will improve and their sets may not need to be as many.
The ultimate goal is to show up for the season in shape and ready to go, excited for the wrestling season. Train too much, too hard and with poor rest and poor nutrition and you will peak too early in the season and burn out before it REALLY counts. When does it REALLY count? When it’s time to qualify for the states. If you’re mentally and physically burnt out at this time, you’re going to be less driven to achieve your goals.
Let’s check out a few preseason workouts that can be performed two times a week. If at all possible, the wrestlers should engage in two more workouts preseason of either Wrestling or Judo. This totals four workouts per week with three days of rest.
** NOTE** Prior to each workout the wrestler should perform a full body warm up along with soft tissue work to mentally and physically prepare him for the intense work ahead. The workout should conclude with more soft tissue work.
The below workouts will last for four weeks. Weeks one and two will be repeated. On week two, the goal is to break records on as many exercises as possible by getting an extra rep or two or by adding weight to the loaded exercise. Weeks three and four will be the same with the same method for progression.
Weeks 1 & 2
- Dumbbell/Kettlebell Farmer Walk: 1 light set, 1 medium set, 3 heavy sets x 150 feet
- Pull Ups (Under or Overhand grip) 4 x 90% effort (leave 1 rep in the tank on each set)
- Feet Elevated Push Ups 4 x 90% effort (leave 1 rep in the tank on each set)
- Jump Rope Sprint 6 x 30 seconds (mixed footwork on jump rope)
- Alternate Ab & Grip Exercises (this will total 3 sets for grip and ab work)
- Partner Wheel Barrow 4 x 50’
- Squat Jumps 4 x 10
- 1 Arm Dumbbell Clean & Press 4 x 5 reps (1 medium set, 3 heavy sets)
- Recline Rows (use ropes, towels, rings, blast straps or barbell) 4 x 90 % effort
- Stadium Stair Sprints (sprint up / jog or walk down): perform 2 minutes non stop, rest 1 minute, Repeat 4 times
- Dip bar or hanging leg raises x 25 reps total (break reps up as needed)
Weeks 3 & 4
- 1 Arm Dumbbell Snatch: 5 x 5 ( 1 light set, 1 medium set, 3 heavy sets)
- Bodyweight Challenge (Video Below): Complete as fast as possible
- Sled Drags/Prowler Pushing (If No sled/prowler is available perform partner resisted sprints by looping a band or rope around partner) 4 x 200 feet
* Note: If wrestler can not perform squat or lunge jumps properly, use squats and lunges without the jump and perform 10 reps EVERY set. If the push ups can be performed with chest slap, perform 10 reps of full range push ups EVERY set.
- Trap Bar Deadlift 5 x 5 reps (1 warm up, 1 medium, 3 heavy sets: 3 heavy sets should leave be at 85-90% effort / leave 1 or 2 reps in tank) * Note: If wrestler is too weak to properly perform the trap bar deadlift, regress to goblet squats holding a Kettlebell or Dumbbell
- Walking Dumbbell Lunges 3 x 10 reps each leg
- Mixed Grip Pull Ups 3 x Max Reps
- Mixed Hand Position Push Ups 3 x Max Reps
- 1/2 Mile
Please realize that these workouts may NOT be for all wrestlers. If a wrestler is too weak to begin using external resistance from barbells or dumbbells then each workout should be focused on developing strength and skill in the basic, result producing bodyweight drills such as:
- rope climbing
- push ups
- hand stand push-ups
- leg raises
Every exercise must be executed with perfect technique, if not, go lighter, rest more to ensure proper recovery or, if necessary, revert back to bodyweight training.
Good luck this season and prepare to WIN!