Wrestling is a challenging sport that requires physical strength, technical prowess, anaerobic endurance and mental fortitude. An effective training program for a high school wrestler must expand the limits of these four areas in an individual in a safe and effective manner. In the words of wrestling and coaching icon Dan Gable, “Wrestling has no shortcuts, especially when it comes to practice.”
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According to certified sports trainer Phil Davies, a wrestler’s weight training program needs to focus on building tremendous strength rather than massive muscles. A combination of muscular endurance and explosive power are needed throughout the match and a weight training program shout target both these demands. Davies recommends that wrestlers lift weights at 50 to 70 percent of their one repetition maximum for 15 to 30 repetitions per exercise. Repetitions should bring the athlete to muscle failure each set. Weight training should take place up to three times per week, but ample recovery time must be allowed between sessions for muscle recovery and growth.
The average high school wrestling match lasts a total of six minutes with very little rest between the two minute periods. This means that a wrestler must have a high level of anaerobic conditioning to endure through a full match. According to wrestling trainer Mike Fry, the cardiovascular training of a wrestler should include a regular mix of endurance conditioning and explosive conditioning. Endurance training includes running for 30 minutes or more and explosive conditioning consists of sprints and high intensity interval training. Running should be included in every practice and times continually improved upon to build the kind of endurance needed to excel at the sport.
Concerns are often raised about high school wrestlers cutting weight drastically and subsequently suffering from poor nutrition. A consistently healthy diet can limit the extent of weight cutting needed. Sports nutrition specialist Dr. David Ryan notes that most kids only eat about 25 percent of their daily protein requirement for proper development. Though a wrestler losing weight must be conscientious of diet, young athletes should still be consuming about 1g of protein per pound of body weight each day. The total protein intake should be broken up over four or five small meals throughout the day to promote better absorption.
No wrestling training program is complete without time spent on the mat. Gable recommends a portion of the wrestler’s daily mat time be spent on drills to build muscle memory. Drills should be performed with wrestlers on their feet and each from the top and bottom positions. The drills should always be done with explosive movement and at close to full strength, as if they were a live wrestling situation. After the daily drills are completed, live wrestling matches should be held so wrestlers have a chance to practice their skills.