A wrestler’s success with their sport depends largely on the hours of practice they put in over the years of their wrestling career. It doesn’t matter what kind of wrestling style you practice, as much as how often you practice, that matters.
A wrestler needs incredible athletic ability combined with clear decision making skills under pressure to be able to achieve success in competition. This can only come as a result of hours spent in training and the quality of the result is proportionate to the work put in, output equals input. Period.
Looking at what makes a successful high school and collegiate wrestler, we can define 4 areas, or dynamics, that make up their training programs. Each dynamic is interdependent on the other, meaning that if one area is lacking, then that area should be addressed before progression can continue.
Drills are the first and foremost important part of wrestling. This is where the rubber meets the road and the technique is drilled, drilled and drilled again until it becomes second nature to the wrestler. The hours spent in practice drilling applications of techniques makes the difference at the end of the day and separates the champions from the average.
This article won’t discuss the types of drills and techniques, but the important thing to emphasize is not the mechanics of the drills and sparring, but the time spent doing it and practicing over and over again. Granted, the wrestler should have an excellent coach to correct form, technique and offer critique, however, it is the wrestlers desire to work in a sport they love that is the cornerstone.
Wrestlers train for a specific purpose, that is, six to nine minutes in a competitive match-up. While many people think that 9 minutes of physical exertion may not be too hard to train for, think again. A wrestling match is explosive and competitive, meaning that it creates an adrenal response in the endocrine system of the athlete, inducing a fight-or-flight response. This reaction creates a huge need for the bodies energy source, ATP. This ATP is rapidly depleted and that is why most wrestlers look like they have been through a war and then jumped in a pool, after they have finished a match, sweating and breathing heavily.
To train the cardiovascular system to a point where it can survive and perform optimally, a good training program should include steady-state cardio, that is; road work like running or treadmills, stair-climbers etc. This establishes a cardio baseline that provides endurance and stamina.
High intensity cardio training is also needed to provide explosive power. This is done by means of hill-sprints, interval training techniques, sled work and other high-intensity exercises that require maximum effort over short periods of time. This improves the power the athlete needs to execute techniques in competition.
Every high-school athlete and above, should be in the weight room at least 3 to four times a week. The time with the iron creates strength. Cardio gives you the gas to execute the movement, but your strength determines if you have the ability to make it happen.
Weight training has long been a hot topic of conversation for youth athletes, with many people believing the urban myth that is ‘fuses’ growth plates, stunted athletes growth. This is complete nonsense and modern sports science has proven, beyond a doubt, that young athletes can benefit greatly from time with the iron.
Where wrestling training differs from traditional bodybuilding programs, is in the design and execution of the program itself. A wrestler is not concerned about building size, they are only interested in being as strong and as light as they can be. Thus, the style of training needs to be sports specific, focusing on explosive power and muscular strength.
Focus on exercises to build explosive power, such as box squats in the rack, heavy sled drags and dead-lifting. Structure the program to include speed days, where light weight is used for higher reps. And power days where heavy weight is used for lower reps.
The final piece of the puzzle that strangely enough, doesn’t get the limelight it deserves. A wrestlers time in the kitchen is as important as time in the gym. At high school level, it’s time for the athlete to take responsibility of everything that passes their neck. IF you want to be a high-performance athlete, then you had better have a high-performance diet.
The foods we eat are what produce our energy and if you put rubbish gasoline inside a performance engine, you can be sure that things are not going to run properly or efficiently. Making the right food choices can be tough at times but the reward is well worth it. All we can say is, thank goodness for cheat days.
These 4 dynamics of the sport of wrestling, when orchestrated correctly and monitored for weaknesses that can be turned to strengths, provide the framework for progression in the sport and the success of the wrestler. Sure, along the way, wrestlers will lose, no matter how tight there training and nutrition may be, but those losses bring other benefits to the mental game, that training and nutrition can’t provide.
A well rounded wrestler is a rare athlete and those that are, sit on top of the pile in the sport. See you on the mats!