This chapter is going to give you a thorough understanding of what must be done and how it must be done to be more successful on the mat. Body weight training is a big key to improve your strength with wrestling. Especially in the beginning, I like to use a lot of bodyweight exercises to get the body alive and prepared for heavier free weight exercises in the near future. Before any of my clients touch a weight I want them to master a hand full of body weight exercises. After all, you are using your body in wrestling. Hand to hand combat it is, and so you must be able to master your own body first!
Training with your own body can be adapted in countless ways & they are convenient. Most of the exercises require no equipment. We can change the position of our hands, arms and legs to work different muscles and change the pressure we place on the body. Elevate your legs or balance on one leg and then an exercise gets changed dramatically! If you so choose, you do not have to purchase any of the equipment I recommend and you can simply do the body weight exercises and you will easily be outdistancing yourself from the competition! Make no mistake about it, body weight training can be brutal and exhausting when done properly. Still, it is only one component of a solid strength & conditioning program. I am a firm believer in using a variety of tools to make the most of a program.
Even an advanced lifter / athlete should incorporate body weight strength training in his / her routine. Every athlete I train, including myself, will use more than one bodyweight exercise each workout! The most common used exercises here are pull ups & the many variations, parallel bar dips & the many variations, push ups & the many variations and squats or lunges & their many variations. If I list each variation we can get probably over 25 exercises just by varying the 4 exercises just mentioned!
The next portion of our strength training involves free weights and bodyweight conditioning together. If you have no access to free weights, implements such as sand bags, wheel barrows, sledge hammers and buckets of sand will work very well! No machines, no cables, just good old dumbbells and barbells, & a few toys from Home Depot or the local hardware store can turn you into a modern day gladiator! Back in the 1800's and early 1900's there were no machines. Those men back in the day were called strong men. Not only did they look strong, they WERE STRONG! They had functional strength and were able to use their muscles to lift enormous weights. They could lift hundreds of pounds over their head using one arm! Functional strength will come from using unusual objects such as the Home Depot products I listed above in addition to the free weight & / or body weight strength training.
Free weights force your ligaments and tendons to get stronger as well as the muscles. The problem with machines is you are moving the resistance in a guided & predictable motion, which limits the benefit you can gain. You do not want to waste time when training. Making the most use of your time is obviously a key here. In addition, training with machines can "detrain" you as an athlete. This simply means that you are taking away the body's ability to learn simple physical stress, such as balancing a heavy weight, stabilizing a heavy weight, etc.
As a wrestler, there are injuries that plague many of us. The knees, shoulders and neck are vulnerable to injury if they are weak. Free weights allow you to load your body with heavier weights forcing your muscles, joints, ligaments & bones to get stronger & more powerful. If you want longevity in your wrestling career, avoiding injuries is key. Injuries have sidelined some of the best wrestlers their senior year in high school ending their dream of winning states.
As far as how many reps and sets to do, this is a key portion of your program. As a wrestler, we need strength, strength endurance, muscular endurance and power (there are many more such as speed - strength, strength - speed - but we will not over do it here - we will keep this simple & basic!). Let me explain these terms in English.
• STRENGTH is how much weight you can lift (push, pull, etc) for a low number of reps - anywhere from 1 - 3 reps usually
• STRENGTH ENDURANCE is the ability to stay strong for extended periods of time. This is what gives you the strength to finish your shots in the third period when your opponent is unable to finish shots due to fatigue in their strength levels. This is where you do sets for low reps (2 or 3 reps) but do a larger volume of sets - sometimes up to 10 sets, w/little rest periods, no more than 1 minute (very challenging). This way you are using heavy weights for longer periods of time. Your body becomes better at handling heavy loads for extended periods of time and in turn becomes more efficient in staying strong during the entire match! For the young athlete, I try to go no lower than 5 reps. I never say there is an absolute rule though. So experiment and perhaps try doing sets of 3 reps. See what works best for you!
• POWER is strength in relation to time / spedd. If you can bench press 300 lbs and it takes you 15 seconds to push off your chest, and I can bench the same weight but it goes up in 5 seconds, I have more power in that exercise. Power is necessary in order to explode out of the bottom position in double over time in the region finals! Power is hitting a double and driving your opponent into the air and on his back in the blink of an eye! Power is hitting a stand up and escaping in less than 1 second! Training for power requires moderate weights, lower reps (3 - 5) and fast tempo. Training for power is an advanced method and should not be attempted until you have a solid foundation of strength, which can easily take 1 year and often times longer!
NOTE: many of these principles are being tweaked for young athletes (high school specifically). Young athletes are different than those in college; physically & mentally. Even though I give guidelines here, they are just that, guidelines. Change sets, reps, weights, rest, etc. as you feel necessary.
How can we train for these traits? Let me explain. It is easier than you think! Your work outs will need to change often in order to develop these traits as well. Training for strength requires heavy to moderately heavy weights, doing 3 - 5 sets per exercise for 5 - 10 reps per set, perhaps going as low as 3. Rest should be approximately 60 - 180 seconds between each set. You should be able to have energy left for 1 or 2 reps when finishing your last set. I call this leaving 1 or 2 left in the tank. It is not necessary to train to muscular fatigue (this is when you can no longer lift the weight under your own strength and need assistance from a partner). Training to fatigue slows you down. Notice that as a set gets more difficult, your speed becomes slower and slower. We want to avoid that type of training, which is popular with bodybuilders. In addition, training to fatigue tends to diminish your exercise technique. Doing so will put you at risk for injury. Get my point?
Training for strength endurance requires doing a lot of body weight exercises such as pull ups, hand stand push ups, parallel bar dips or using heavy weights for low reps & a lot of sets. Push ups, pull ups, hand stand push ups, parallel bar dips as I just mentioned are tough to do, and are some of my favorites. Doing 1 pull up might be difficult for you & we can improve strength simply by doing 1 rep at a time, aiming for a grand total of 10, or 15, etc. Do these body weight exercises with shorter rest periods in between each set (30 seconds - 1 minute) and try doing 4 - 6 sets per exercise (maybe more if you are feeling good about it) and reps will vary greatly here according to your strength levels. Pull ups you may only be able to get 5 or 6 at a time, maybe even less. Some athletes can do more. Form is key in all exercises. If you start getting sloppy, stop your set immediately! If you can only do lower reps, rest a bit longer and do a few extra sets. So rather than 5 sets, try doing maybe 8 sets. Dips you might be able to get 12, 20 or even more. Push ups might be 30 or more. These are just examples and we are all different so these exercises are to be done with higher reps. I like having my athletes do low reps on pull ups, sometimes 2 or 3 reps only, but they will do 6 or 7 total sets. This way they are pulling w/all their might on each rep, exerting high force each rep and the tempo of the exercise is fairly fast. When you train to muscular fatigue, your reps start slowing down a lot. I prefer to see speed in each exercise once my athletes master form
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