How to Train Year Round for Wrestling
The wrestling season ends and people are content with how the season went. For the most part, improvement throughout the season occurred. However, the top of the podium wasn’t achieved. The state title wasn’t achieved. Happy with the season, but wanting more. Watching wrestling upon a screen and seeing the wrestler’s hand raised for the national title.
Wanting to be the best, wanting to get to the top point in the sport, and wanting that medal on the chest as continually making progress. Athletes and coaches that want to get there need to think about the yearly plan to make that happen. Immediately, we need to think about the elements of wrestling. Wrestlers need to have absolute or relative strength depending upon their weight class. Wrestlers also have to have dynamic reactiveness to set up the shot, react to their opponents, and scramble with purpose. Grip strength is also a must and a key to being a dominant wrestler. Finally, wrestlers need to have really good strength endurance to close out the ending period.
Taking these elements, we need to break them down into periods of the year.
NCAA championships, state championships, and the highest levels of competition require wrestlers to be at their best in this time frame. Wrestlers need to be in their best shape relative to all elements--absolute/relative strength is as good as it can be in relation to dynamic reactiveness, grip strength, and relative to the athlete’s strength endurance.
The athlete needs to have the elements of reactive strength and strength endurance during this peak period while in a slight deficit is weight is being cut for the tournaments. During this block, the focus needs to be on technical precision. Wrestlers need to have really good reactiveness while in the best endurance shape for competition. We don’t want the athletes to be beaten up during this time. We don’t want them feeling like crap. We want them to feel strong and confident. Good sleep, solid nutrition (possibly in a deficit), and recovering well from each training session.
Block 1: April/May
This is a really good time to build the base. From a nutritional perspective, up the protein and up the carbs. Don’t worry about the weight class for next season. Focus on effort. Focus on training. Focus on getting in the room and getting stronger in the weight room. Just don’t get sloppy fat--focus on the lean gains.
In the weight room utilize bodybuilding movements to build back up. In addition, begin the process of focusing on absolute strength to lead into the next block.
Block 2: May/June
The focus is now on absolute strength. Get strong, strong. The other element to focus on depends on the athlete--either look at dynamic reactiveness or developing relative strength through plyometrics for increased explosiveness. During this time wrestlers should increase the weight on their cleans, squats, and benches, showcasing the strength they are gaining.
Again with nutrition, high carbs, and high protein, don’t get sloppy, but don’t worry about the weight class for next season. Keep the eyes on gaining lean muscle mass, increasing strength, and fueling the body with the proper nutrition to get strong, recover, and prepare for the next season on the mat.
Block 3: July/August
The season is getting closer. It is summer now. Maybe the wrestler is participating in summer tournaments. Don’t worry about the results in the summer tournaments. We understand that wrestlers need to get on the mat, focus on the technical aspects of the sport as well as practice some freestyle and Greco-roman style of wrestling. Just don’t put so much weight on it yet. Instead, put weight on strength work, plyometric work, mental capability, recovery, and nutrition, noting how certain foods impact training in the positive or negative.
Once again, zero in on absolute strength and reactiveness. With nutrition, high protein, and high carbs again. When gaining strength and getting larger muscles, greater growth in the muscles, athletes can put out more force. But it needs to be trained that way. The nervous system needs to learn how to coordinate very rapidly. This means that even with a focus on building strength, but to hone in on the reactiveness.
Block 4: Sept/Oct
The season is fast approaching. As the season gets closer, we need to bring in some light endurance, but reactiveness is key. Now when we say light endurance, we mean a nice thirty minutes of an easy ride on the assault bike; it doesn’t need to be crazy. Steady-state is what we want. In addition, go into the sauna. The sauna will not only help recovery but will also improve strength endurance through heat-shock-protein-70.
At this point, athletes need to start to maintain their caloric intake nutritionally. No need to be super high anymore. Athletes need to see where their body weight goes during this time. Wrestlers are not cutting weight yet, but they’re gearing up for the season to come.
Block 5: Nov/Dec
Serious wrestling is starting now. A lot of high-volume work is occurring on the mat. Recognize that strength is not going to increase during this period. Instead, the goal is to maintain the strength gained in the previous blocks. Wrestlers want to be really reactive while building the endurance engine.
Lighter wrestlers may be in a slight deficit, heavier weights probably don’t have to worry about that with nutrition. The idea is to maintain all the gains and honing in on the weaknesses. It is an experimental part. Getting into a lot of volume with the mat work. Training in the weight room is being cut back: we recommend three days with some light bodybuilding in there.
Block 6: Jan/Feb
This is the block that brings everything together to create the peak for the Feb/March block. When we talk about a peak, we are speaking about getting on the mat, knowing confidently that the opponent across the mat is going to get smashed because of all the work that has been put in to enhancing absolute strength, putting on lean muscle mass, and becoming reactive as possible.
Block 6 is the transitional block. The focus needs to be on each individual wrestler and what they need the most. If they need to be more explosiveness, build that explosiveness. If they need endurance work, get them in the sauna and make sure there is more steady-state work, backing off the weights a little and do some high-intensity interval training. On the flip, if they have great endurance but are really weak, hit the weights a little more.
Then we circle back around into the peak.
Periodizing every step throughout the full year of training for each and every step is necessary to be that champion. Creating elements of focus for parts of the year is a prerequisite to developing the skills, strength, reactiveness, explosiveness, and endurance required to end up on the podium. Lay out the blueprint and execute the plan. From there, reap the rewards of the work and look on out from on top of the podium.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.