Wrestling Workout For Younger Wrestlers
When designing a wrestling workout for a young wrestler (pre-pubescent) one must consider a number of things. This article will first address some of the fears associated with beginning a strength training program at too early of an age, then it will go into some of the exercises and principles to follow when designing a wrestling workout, and finally I’ll provide a few sample wrestling workouts I’ve used with great success with some of my younger wrestlers (5th-7th grade).
Wrestling Workout Myth 1: Stunting Growth
Myth one is the belief that strength training will stunt your young wrestlers’ growth. While there isn’t any research that suggests it will, there also isn’t any research that suggests it won’t. Fear that lifting will stunt a young wrestlers growth is the number one question that arises when parents first bring in their kid to start training with me. I always bring to their attention the number of young wrestlers that I’ve worked with and continue to work with that have grown at a normal rate (according to their doctor) while engaging in strength training two to three times a week under my supervision.
In addition, did you know that when you jump the forces that travel through your body can be upwards to 3-4 times that of your body weight? Sprinting alone can produce forces on your muscles and joints over twice your body weight. How often do you see kids running and jumping both in practice and just simply playing outside? And do they continue to grow? Of course they do.
Wrestling Workout Myth 2: Bad Joints
Wrestling Workout Myth 2 is centered around the idea that strength training can cause joint pain in young wrestlers. Guess what? It can cause joint pain in anyone, especially if done improperly! Think about all of the positions your young wrestler has been in the mat where they’ve had to lift an opponent to finish a take down or return them to the mat. Not only are they often in less than optimal lifting position, but again, they’re oftentimes lifting a considerable amount more than what they would be able to squat or deadlift with proper technique.
So while there are a lot of fears associated with the two wrestling workout myths that I’ve just addressed, once you actually sit down and watch your young wrestler and think about all of the lifting their doing, I think you’ll start to realize that they’re already putting their bodies through a lot to begin with. I always like to remind people- just because it’s not in the form of a dumbbell or barbell doesn’t mean it doesn’t weigh anything.
Now that we’ve got some of the myths out of the way, I’d like to now cover a few benefits of properly designed and supervised strength training workouts for wrestling.
Wrestling Workout Benefit 1: Decrease Risk of Injury
A properly designed wrestling workout that strengthens and evenly develops the body will help decrease your risk for injury. If you’ve ever gone to a Physical Therapist, think about what they do. They will most often identify an imbalance that exists around the area causing you pain and provide you with exercises to strengthen it. Stronger muscles absorb force better and are therefore run a decreased risk of tearing and stronger muscles also provide better stability around joints thereby decreasing your risk of dislocations and sprains.
Wrestling Workout Benefit 2: Better Movement
Training the body to move properly by focusing on sound execution of lifting technique in a wrestling workout will help your wrestler to move more efficiently on the mat. For example, strengthening the abs, low back, and legs with exercises like box squats, split squats, deadlifts, back extensions, and weighted situps will prepare the body to better fight sprawls by enabling your wrestler to keep their back flat and chest and head up on their leg attacks. Additionally, the strength gains through a well designed wrestling workout will lead to a decrease risk of injury due to the simple fact that the wrestler will not end up in as many awkward positions anymore.
Wrestling Workout Benefit 3: Increased Strength and Power
This is kind of a no brainer and is really the reason why wrestlers begin to strength train in the first place. However, there are a number of questions surrounding this benefit including which quality should be the focus of your wrestling workout. The primary focus of the programs that I write is centered around developing strength. Why? Because with strength comes speed. Which wrestler has the ability to finish a shot faster by lifting their opponent- one who box squats 135 or one who box squats 315? In my opinion, the benefits of developing strength far outweigh the benefits of developing speed, especially in young wrestlers.
A few years ago, Tom Dilliplane (competitive Olympic lifter and wrestling strength coach at Cornell for over 15 years) made this point to me- think about some of the fastest and most explosive athletes on the planet. Some of the ones that always came to his mind were sprinters, Olympic lifters, and throwers in track. He then asked me to think about their physiques, especially the ones competing at a high level. He would then say, “They’re all jacked out of their minds right?!” Tom always liked to make the argument that developing your technique will only get you so far and then it’s all about getting as big and strong as possible. Steroids are running rampant throughout the Olympics and professional sports. Why? Because everyone’s starting to realize that in order to improve their game they need to get bigger and stronger.
Alright, I think you get the point with the benefits. Let’s get into a few of the principles to follow when designing a wrestling workout for a younger wrestling.
Wrestling Workout Principle 1: Bodyweight First
This principle really applies to anyone starting a strength training program. If you can’t lift your own bodyweight first, you shouldn’t be worried about lifting weights. Bodyweight strength is an important precursor to weight training and is also very important to develop for wrestling or other weight class sports. Obviously if you’re really weak and/or out of shape, performing exercises like pulldowns instead of assisted chinups may be a safer option, but for the most part you should focus your training around developing bodyweight strength before you start getting under weights.
Wrestling Workout Principle 2: Strict Technique
For some exercises I’m not a big stickler on technique, especially those which do not pose a direct threat to the lifters back. I will often write about and post videos of Iowa wrestlers lifting. If you’ve seen any of these videos, you know that their technique isn’t the greatest. But their strength coach brings up a great point- wrestling isn’t always about precise technique, a lot of times it’s just about horsing through your opponent. True Iowa wrestling right there! However, with young lifters it’s important to be super strict in regads to their technique. Building a proper foundation in the weight room, just like you would on the mat, is crucial during the early years. Additionally, using strict technique will help keep the weights in check and prevent you from going too heavy and risking injury.
Wrestling Workout Principle 3: Two Full Body Days a Week
When starting a young wrestler on a wrestling workout I suggest starting with only two days a week and also making those days full body lifting days. This will prevent overtraining from occurring with the introduction of this new stimulus and will also keep the wrestler from getting too sore which will oftentimes lead to a decrease in motivation. Sticking to basic movements, hammering home proper technique, and keeping the lifts within 45 minutes will help to develop a stronger wrestler who will stay motivated for the long haul.
Now it’s time for the workouts. I’ll present a beginner, intermediate and advanced wrestling workout for young wrestlers. I’ve used these types of workouts to progress a number of young wrestlers over the course of the last few years to such feats of strength as a 225lb bench for 2 reps done by a 7th grader, a 355lb deadlift done by a 6th grader, and a 100lb weighted chinup for 2 reps done by an 8th grader! All three of these young wrestlers have been working with me for a little over a year and they all started with basic workouts like the one below and worked their way up to some pretty intense and heavy workouts that have produced some of the results I’ve mentioned above.
Beginner Wrestling Workout
Superset- Bodyweight Box Squat 4×15 and Chinup 4×10
Superset- 45-Degree Back Extension 4×15 and Bar Pushup 4×15
Superset- Decline Situp 3×15 and Side Plank 3x30sec each
Superset- DB Curls 3×10 (even kids love working their biceps!) and Plate Pinch 3x20sec
Superset- Split Squat 4×12 each and Bodyweight Row 4×12
Superset- Bodyweight Reverse Hyper 4×12 and Feet Elevated Pushup 4×12
Superset- Hanging Leg Raise 3×12 and Russian Twist 3×15
Superset- Dips 3×10 and Towel Hang 3x20sec
Intermediate Wrestling Workout
Superset- Barbell Box Squat 4×8 and Weighted Chinup 4×6
Superset- Weighted Back Extension 4×10 and Dumbbell Bench Press 4×10
Superset- Weighted Straight Leg Situp 3×12 and Suitcase Deadlift 3×8 each
Superset- Rope Cable Curl 3×10 and Grippers 3×8
Superset- Deadlift From Pins 4×8 and Bench Press 4×8
Superset- Dumbbell Step-Up 4×8 each and Chest Supported Row 4×10
Superset- Ab Wheel 3×12 and Dumbbell Side Bend 3×12
Superset- Pushup on Med Ball 3×12 and Hex Dumbbell Hold 3x20sec
Advanced Wrestling Workout
Superset- Reverse Band Box Squat 5×5 and Kettlebell Windmill 4×10 each
Superset- Trap Bar Deadlift 4×6 and Weighted Glute Ham Raise Situp 4×8
Superset- Walking Lunge 4×6 each and Glute Ham Raise 4×8
Superset- Decline Situp 3×15 and Reverse Hyper 3×15
Superset- Bench Press with Chains 5×3 and Band Resisted Chinup 5×5
Superset- Alternate Dumbbell Bench 4×6 each and Rope Cable Row 4×8
Superset- Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 3×8 and Band Face Pull 3×12
Superset- Fat Gripz Dumbbell Curls 3×8 and Rope Pressdown 3×10
Superset- Med Ball Slams 5×5 and Band Twist 5×6 each
Superset- Log Clean 5×3 and Decline Ab Wheel 4×10
Superset- Single Arm Dumbbell Snatch 4×4 each and Single Leg Back Extension 4×8 each
Triset- Stone Trainer Lift 4×5 and Rope Pulldown 4×8 and Weighted Dip 4×8
For more wrestling workouts, wrestler-specific strength training exercises, and top weight training training mistakes made by wrestlers visit my blog below and sign up for my free newsletter.
Dickie White is the co-founder of Shamrock Strength and Conditioning, one of the nation’s top systems for training champion wrestlers. Dickie is a 2006 graduate of the Ithaca College Clinical Exercise Science program and holds a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). For more information on how you can improve your performance on the mat through his strength training system please visit his blog and sign up for his free newsletter at http://www.wrestler-power.com
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