T Nation

Wrestling Program

Guys (and girls), I need some help.

A student of mine is a wrestler. We were talking the other day about the strength program the team is on, and it made me want to cry.

First off, they work out at 6 in the morning. So, being teenagers, none of them eat first.

Second, the program itself…I won’t go into details, but let’s just say the tricep kickbacks are involved.

So…is thee a program outlined by one of the coaches on this site that would be better, or does someone remember a program from their grappling days that I could pass along?

PS In case you think “Well,it can’t be that bad,” there are no deads, but there are two types of curls.


what about this? just throwing something out there

day 1
squat (any of the types) - 10x3
clean/press - 4x6
row variation - 4x6

day 2
power clean/snatch - 10x3
front squat - 4x6
pull ups/chins - 4x6

day 3
deadlift (any of the types) - 10x3
row variation - 4x6
military press - 4x6

This is a brief workout, but highly effective when accompanied with other forms of activity (i.e. it doesn’t take long to recover from this)

Dude, hate to say it, but wrestling is “old school” in the worst of ways - the famous motto by Dan Gable, “outwork your opponent” is all about training longer and longer, nothing about training smarter

Not sure how much you can do to help the program when the Coach ultimately determines what the athletes do.

I think some of the BEST exercises for wrestlers are:

pull ups
power cleans

not all kids are strong enough to do a correct DL or Power Clean though

I help a high school team and 2 clubs in the area - no weight rooms, so we do all bodyweight and partner bodyweight training

here are examples:

  • push ups of all variations, vary hand spacing, plyo push ups,
  • wheel barrow - walk on hands, plyo push ups then walk, etc
  • partner carries: on back, double under hooks w/backwards drag, zercher walk (hold partner with two double unders just like a barbell zercher squat)
  • push ups with your hands on partners hip and head (neck and core work for bottom man), both hands on head facing partner, feet on partners back while partner remains in push up position

** ALL partner work is done making both work at same time - the bottom always has some work to do!

  • double leg squat

  • sprawl, shoot and lift, repeat for reps or team or alternate w/partner

  • v ups and various leg raises for abs and hip flexors

  • partner carry up stairs (partner on back, hand walking up stairs wheel barrow fashion)

  • long jumps, squat jumps, split squat jumps, 1 leg hops and bounds

  • gymnastics moves: cartwheeels, round offs, 1 hand cartwheels, forward, backward and shoulder rolls, mix two together to make them flow

  • squats, forward, side and reverse lunges

  • firemans squats with and with out rotation - with rotation, you squat and bend to side until partners feet touch then squat up again

  • zercher squat with partner for the STRONG KIDS - very advanced

  • handstand hold, handtsand push ups,

  • partner sit ups (interlock ankles)

  • partner leg raises (partner pushed your legs down and you fire them up, you hold his ankles, your head is in between his feet and he throws your legs down or to the sides)

I hope this list is enough :slight_smile:


Here’s my response with some background for my opinion:

  1. The only studies I have ever seen correlating strength with wrestling success demonstrated a correlation with both grip strength and deadlift. It was unclear whether the wrestling succes was in folkstyle or freestyle or Greco.

  2. My feeling is that conditioning, in terms of endurance, is best done by hard wrestling followed by “brief” (10-15 minutes) of intense non -wrestling interval type training 2 - 3 times per week. EXAMPLE: At the end of practice, I will have kids wrestle periods of varying duration (1 minute to 6 minute “rounds” in the early season and 30 second to 2 minute rounds in the late season) with rest intervals of varying duration.

This is more or less interval type training. We will probably do this for 15-30 minutes depending on the stage of the season and day of the week. Especially towards the end of the season, I don’t want any “reps” where their technique deteriorates. (OK, sometimes I will push beyond this level for “mental” training, but it’s an exception.)

I will immediately follow with non-wrestling drills that push them beyond what they mentally think they can do. This is so that crappy technique (they will get pushed so hard that technique breaks down) is done on non-wrestling “moves” rather than having them develop bad habits on wrestling moves.

These non-wrestling drills will include sprints, tire flips, sandbag carries, up-downs, etc. DON’T DO THIS EVERY DAY! Intensity needs to increase and volume decrease as the season progresses. Be sure to back off a week or so before states.

  1. Strength training (MY OPINION): Twice per week. 2-3 lifts max each day. Compound, multi joint exercises. I prefer deadlifts, front squats, standing press, push press, chins (or variation - my favorite is parallel grip chins), barbell rows, and cleans.

NOTE: I usually pick 2 or 3 exercises from this list NOT every exercise every workout and I change do different exercises on the 2 days each week and change exercises and set/rep patterns every 2-3 weeks. Since these workouts focus on maintaining strength (that was hopefully built up during the off-season) I work low reps (5 or less).

Since they are already getting a great deal of total body workout volume from the wrestling, I also keep sets low, usually 2-3 work sets, but sometimes during the early season I’ll use 5 sets working up as we go (in the style off Bill Starr’s “Big Three” program) and I’ll usually throw in days where we just warm up then do singles especially on things like DL, Cleans, Push Press and Squat.

Mentally, the kids seem to enjoy this and it seems we recover easier than days withe sets of 5 reps. As far as the days of the week, we don’t like to lift the day of or the day before a hard match (although one kid may have a hard match and another an easy match, so we look at this on a team basis especially if it will be a critical match in terms of conference placing.

I don’t mind an individual kid having a harder than normal match because we lifted that day if it fits in with our goals for the season, ie winning state as a team and an individual). If a kid is already warmed up from wrestling a 6 minute match at home, I have no problem with having an asst coach in the weight room and having the kid get in a few sets of DL and presses after a brief rest.

This makes more sense to me than having him lift the next day and then having less time to recover before a critical match. Rememeber to taper a week or two before states or regionals. The last week or two is not when you want to fry everyone’s CNS!

[quote]ZEvenEsh wrote:
Dude, hate to say it, but wrestling is “old school” in the worst of ways - the famous motto by Dan Gable, “outwork your opponent” is all about training longer and longer, nothing about training smarter[/quote]

Zack - I agree with most of what you said, but not your remarks regarding Gable. First, outwork your opponent is not always about training longer, but often about training harder.

Second, from a physiological and physical point “beating your wrestlers to death” can have negative effects, but there are certain positive mental results that can come from pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do and KNOWING during a tough match that you CAN suck it up versus just THINKING that you MAY be able to do it (ie having some doubt there about your ability to outlast your opponent).

This component of training for wrestling (and other martial arts) is well recognized not only by Dan Gable, but by respected trainers in the mixed martial arts field as well, eg Martin Rooney specifically addresses this aspect of conditioning when he speaks on the sublect and at his facility. Also, Gable does believe in outworking your opponent, but he also believes in recovery.

His training philosophy is “We work very, very hard in practice and then we work very, very hard at recovering (nutrition, sauna, massage, sleep, etc.) so that we can work very, very hard at wrestling again.” The man is extremely knowledgable at recovery methods.

On the other hand, I do agree with you that there are many “wrestling” coaches (usually at the middle school and high school level) that have no clue about training or recovery. Unfortunately, wrestling coaches don’t have a monopoly on this fund of misinformation, other sports are guilty as well. I’m sure you’ve witnessed the “when I was in high school, my coach had us do it this way” syndrome.

Sadly, rather than educating themselves about the advances that have been made in this area, many sport coaches take the lazy way out and do it like they did it “when they were in school”.

Big Dog - good stuff brother.

I agree with 2 or 3 lifts, I love the fast paced drilling.

Most people don’t realize that wrestling (drilling and live) is strength work in of itself! All the lifting, pushing, pulling, rotational work constitutes strength and power and endurance and a lot of other traits mixed in.

My guys train 2 , sometimes only once per week with me b/c of this reason, in addition to wanting them to be in positive mental and physical states where as most wrestlers just feel like crap, especially at the end of the season when it counts most.

I don’t know about the studies testing exercises in relation to improvements in wrestling, I look at hands on results - get these kids strong as hell, and the motivated kids drill hard as hell and this serves as awesome conditioning.

The Russians spent MOST of their time drilling, not wrestling. But, to the onlooker, the drilling looked like LIVE wrestling b/c of the intensity.

Both times I attended a John Smith intensive camp, he brought TWO training partners w/him b/c he drilled so intensely he needed 2 guys to keep up. His drilling was so intense and fierce I ALWAYS get goose bumps thinking about it!

Some wrestlers have matches 3 x week so it’s hard to find an optimal time / day to schedule the strength training. I prefer the day after a match (good if they only have 2 matches per week).

It’s not uncommon to have a workout last 20 minutes only during in season, and through experience the kids who stick to a solid program have a BIG advantage over their competition who stops all strength training when the season begins.


Big Dog - not all coaches understand the “science” behind outworking your opponent, so please don’t be mislead by statement interpreting it for knocking hard work - I emphasize smart AND hard work, and I like your in season approach as I do very similar w/my guys

tapering before end of season, short in season work outs, etc.

Gable’s guys were extremely mentally tough, and I have wrestlers of varying mental and physical capabilities. I can see how some would thrive in his style and methods while others would not yet could still be top ranked in the country.

For example, one of my wrestlers is ranked in the state, yet he does not respond well to the high intensity, tough ass workouts on a consistent basis.

Compared to a few other of my kids (ranked nationally) they thrive on these intense workouts, PLUS do more on their own - they do more through their own will and desire, not what I encourage them to do.

One kid on his off days does 50 pull ups minimum plus 100 push ups and dips. He LOVES training and does it willingly and thirves from it.

The art of coaching is something I learn more of each day and each workout.

So if I applied the work harder approach dumb foundedly I’d be screwed in the instance with some athletes, beneficial for others. With your experience you undertsand it thoroughly, many coaches do not.

And so this is where / why I stated how the saying “Outwork your opponents” is wrong. It doesn’t always work if acted as such - still, for some, working harder they believe to = working longer.

I have kids going through 3 hour practices 6 days a week, then attending club practices for the live sessions, not the drill sessions - they go to the live b/c this is what their coaches and parents think is best.

Just backing up my statements (a little too much) ha ha.



I think you might like a quote by Joe Defranco, “Any idiot can make somebody tired, but it takes a real coach to make an athlete better.”

Zach - Agree with your stuff. Hope this is discourse helps the guy that wrote the original post. I’d like to add a few more things and hope you can comment with your perspective.

  1. You mentioned that some of the guys you work with are training 3 hours 6 days per week in the wrestling room. I would suggest that (if this is mainly drilling and/or live wrestling) this is too much (I realize you aren’t the one putting them thru these long sessions). I firmly believe in high intensity workouts of shorter duration. I can understand longer sessions early in the season or where a lot of time is spent teaching if there are new kids, but for experienced kids and as the season progresses, intensity should increase and volume decrease. (I think we both feel strongly about this and hope to convey the point to the original poster).

I agree with individualized approach to each wrestler. A good coach learns quick which kids needs to be pushed and how each kid responds to different types of work and rest.

We also do a lot of rope climbs in and out of season. This is an aside, but since you mentioned the Russians, I learned from a former Soviet Union coach at a clinic hosted by Bobby Douglas that in the “off-season” (I sometimes wonder if there is one) they used to climb rope and play basketball. I thought he was kidding about the basketball, but when he pointed out the stance and movement similarities, it made a great deal of sense, especially as a change of pace to give kids a mental break while still training some of the same physical abilities.

One other thing I have tried to do is reduce the number of matches during the week and schedule more Saturday tournaments. When we do wrestle during the week, instead of wrestling one dual on Tuesday and another on Friday, if I can get the other coaches to agree, I try to combine things and wrestle a tri or quad on one of the days. I find this gives us more time to drill and more days where we can work intensely without kids haveing to worry about cutting weight or conserving energy for the next days match. We also like the idea of getting more matches in in a tournament situation because that is what our kids will be facing at the end of the season as we make a run for titles at the state tournament and in the off season at Fargo, etc.

If the guy doing the original post gets 1/10 as much out of this as I have gotten out of T nation over the past few years, I’ll be happy.

Zach - glad you were out there to add to the discussion. No doubt, martial arts, because of the number of physical qualities that are important, demands the most not only from the athletes but from a strength and conditioning coach as well. I am grateful to all those in the S&C community who have eagerly helped me to help others.

Big Dog - lucky for your kids to have a solid guy like yourself coaching and coaching the strength & conditioning aspect

w/regards to their 3 hr practices I wish I could talk to their coaches, they don’t wanna hear it. It’s tough to come from the outside w/advice, it just plain offends them although my intention is to help them and their athletes, I try to be as non threatening as possible.

I like your idea of tri meets to get extra practices in.

I also heard of the soviets playing basketball and soccer. Louie Simmons told me he also had spoken to russian coaches and they said the same thing - he said they often played 30 minutes of full court ball BEFORE wrestling practice like they were “pre exhausting” before wrestling. This way the wreslting didn’t feel as difficult when actual matches occurred.

But, then again, they had luxury of training several times a day as well, so they had the daily naps and meals, and the coaches controlled them more so b/c they had to return to the practice 3 x a day.

It’s pretty cool to hear of those training days back then, I always loved hearing about them days.

Getting back to Gable, he thirved on his 7 hr a day , 7 days week training - I have this one video where they show him wrestling against Russians I think and he was just dominating them - I heard stories of him making opponents quit b/c he was out to punish.

Insanely enough, some people respond well to all that training. Keep in touch brother, I love tlaking shop regarding training of combat athletes.

If we don’t chat, have an awesome season my friend!