A Few Thoughts on Effective Programming for Wrestlers
Using bodybuilding type training splits
Bodybuilders train to be aesthetically symmetrical statues. Wrestlers train to wrestle (or should). The SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands) applies here. If you are going to be standing on a stage in your underwear, oiled up and judged on how aesthetically pleasing your physique is, train for that. If you are going to be shooting, grabbing, pulling, pushing and moving explosively for six minutes train for that.
Placing too much emphasis on conditioning
I have said this before but it bears repeating. Wrestling is the most specific conditioning for wrestling. Time spent in the weight room should be spent getting stronger and more athletic (think jump, throw and lift weights). I am not saying that no conditioning should be done, but 90% of the training program should not be a conditioning stimulus. Don’t train to get tired, train to get better.
Majoring in the minors
A common question from high school kids is, “What is the best exercise to work on (insert upper chest, lower chest, bicep peak, etc)? Novice trainees do not need much in the way of variety. These young athletes should learn and get strong at the basic lifts. By basic lifts, I mean squat, deadlift, bench press, standing press, and pull ups. As coaches, I think it is important to convey this message to parents and kids. We are not entertaining, we are training. Most of the strength development can be done with a barbell and a squat rack. Most of the other stuff is bells and whistles that are nice to have but not must haves.
Training with respect to weight classes
Increases in max strength and power are neural responses. This means that over time athletes will get more efficient at the lifts and recruit more motor units per effort. This also means that it is possible for wrestlers to stay in their respective weight classes while continuing to get stronger and more powerful, as long as mother nature does not have other plans.
Core training for wrestlers
Core training has become a buzz word in the strength and conditioning world. I know many coaches tend to favor standing core exercises because, according to them, they are more “functional”. I try not to be an all or nothing coach. In the case of wrestlers, they must be strong both in the neutral position as well as on the mat and training programs must reflect this.