Wrestlers at all levels require strength and muscular endurance when they step onto the mat. A wrestler needs to have an effective weightlifting program both during training and in the off-season. The design of the program should promote functional strength that improves a wrestler’s ability to grapple and throw his opponent.
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Wrestling coach and owner of Grappler’s Gym, Mike Fry, states that many young wrestlers get the wrong idea about weightlifting from bodybuilding magazines. These magazines outline training programs that build muscle mass, but do relatively little to improve strength endurance in the entire body. This is because these programs often incorporate weight-training machines that isolate muscles. Fry advocates using free weights such as barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells for a wrestling weightlifting program because they require the wrestler to use many different muscle groups for balance and strength rather than just the main groups he is training.
During the off-season, a wrestler should focus on building power through essential lifting exercises such as the bench press, squats and deadlift. These exercises are the best available for building power in the upper body, legs and lower back, respectively. Each weight training session the wrestler undertakes should revolve around one of these exercises and then use supporting lifts such the dumbbell press, lunges or kettlebell cleans to round out the program.
Resistance and Repetitions
The goal of a wrestler’s weightlifting program is to build power endurance, which sports physiologist Phil Davies defines as the ability to exert near maximal force contractions of a muscle repeatedly over a sustained period of time. To achieve this kind of result, a wrestler loads an exercise with 50 percent to 70 percent of his maximum lifting capacity and then must perform between 15 and 30 repetitions. Each weightlifting session should be composed of two to four different exercises, which are performed for up to four sets each.
Once the wrestling season is under way, a wrestler changes his training focus from the weight room to wrestling drills and cardiovascular endurance. However, these exercises will not maintain the muscular power that was built in the off-season. Fry states that during the season, the wrestler should not weight-train more than four times a week, otherwise he risks over-training. Therefore, weightlifting sessions during the season should be lighter and focus on training specific movements. Exercises that use dumbbells or kettlebells are easier to adapt to this kind of training than barbells.