Incorporating weight lifting into a busy wrestling season can be tricky and must be done so with caution. A program designed to produce strength gains often involves lifting heavy and should include at least some single rep maxes as tests. Due to the high demand on the athlete’s nervous system and possibility of injury that comes with heavy lifting, this type of program should be avoided while in the throes of a strenuous competition schedule. Weight training programs during wrestling season should be used more for maintaining muscular size and strength rather than building it. Besides all the heavy lifting, building muscle also requires extra calories; most wrestlers are trying to be as lean as possible during the season to make weight and are not eating to be bigger and stronger. In the off season, wrestlers do not have to worry about being a certain body weight, can eat what they want and have more time to spend recovering from heavier lifting. This is the best time to build muscle. For maintaining muscle and staying in good condition, rep schemes for wrestling season weight lifting programs should be higher; 8-15 with sets of 5 reps being as low as they should go.
For a good, safe system of in-season weight lifting for wrestlers, consider the ’30 Second Program’. This is a program that requires a fully stocked weight room but does not depend on specific pieces of equipment. It is meant for a team of 6-10+ athletes to all train at the same time and should not take longer than 30-35 minutes max. The program consists of a series of exercises each performed at different stations in the gym. The athlete will perform as many repetitions as possible in a 30 second time period and then switch to another station. Choose at least 6-8 stations for athletes to visit with rest times in between stations minimal. The coach should use a stop watch to time the 30 second intervals and tell the athletes when it’s time to move to the next stop. Athletes should be given only enough time in between sets to get properly set for the exercise they’re about to perform. If there are more athletes than stations, add 1-2 rest stations with no activity for recovery time, however no more than this or it will alter the conditioning aspect of the program.
One of the best things about the 30 Second Program for in-season wrestling is the fact that only light weights can be used. This cuts down on the soreness factor (if the athletes are in good shape) and virtually eliminates the potential for injuries. The amount of weight used for each exercise should be something the athlete can do for 20 reps. Each round through, this number should be harder and harder to achieve however the weight should be kept the same throughout the entire cycle. If repetitions are drastically reduced after the first round, the weight is too heavy and should be reduced. This means either the athlete chose the wrong weight to begin with or he’s very out of shape. Exercise selection is also very important to make the program possible. If you want more conditioning, mix upper and lower body exercises together in the same cycle. For building/maintaining size and strength, separate upper and lower body exercises into their own cycle. Ideally, if you have chosen the right exercises, participants should be able to go through a whole cycle 3 times. This is a good volume for athletes who are in-shape during wrestling season.
For upper body day, choose antagonistic exercises so the athlete is pushing on one set, then pulling on the next. For example, do not choose two bench type movements back to back; this will cause a burn-out and the athlete will most likely not be able to get the correct rep scheme on the second exercise from fatigue. Also, do not program isolation arm exercises into the mix. The arms are small muscle groups, fatigue quickly and will cause the athlete to be too tired to complete further cycles of the program. Here is an example of a good upper body 30 Second Program. With each athlete on a station, perform as many reps as possible for 30 seconds, then rotate to the next station…
Chest Supported Rows
Hang Cleans (reps of 12, not 20)
DB Side Laterals
Incline DB Press
Low Cable Row
As a warm up, perform several sets of numerous repetitions of bench, side laterals, lat pulls or pull ups with either very light weights, training bands or both. For lower body day, you can program several types of squat movements however only use the bar for one exercise if possible. Also, do not use any type of bar deadlifts in the program. Here is an example of a good lower body 30 Second Program. With each athlete on a station, perform as many reps as possible for 30 seconds, then rotate to the next station…
Kettle Bell Front Squat (Front Squat holding a kettle bell or DB at chest level)
DB Dead Lifts (reps of 10-12, not 20)
Band Only Seated Leg Curls (seated leg curls using only a training band as resistance)
Kettle Bell Swings
30 Second Program training can also be used for core development. Choose exercises that include abdominals, obliques, lower back and hips. Try to hit the core from numerous different angles for the best resulting carryover of strength and performance. With each athlete on a station, perform as many reps as possible (or for planks, hold the position) for 30 seconds, then rotate to the next station…
Hanging Leg Raises + Side Bends
Kettle Bell Swings
DB Side Bends (30 sec. each side)
TRX Mountain Climbers or Pikes
Again, when choosing exercises to outfit your program, avoid hitting the same muscle group (or very similar motion) back to back. For example, do not do roman chair sit-ups then rotate to another type of sit-up that works the front abdominal wall again. Consider trying the 30 Second Program for a good safe method of lifting during wrestling season. It’s also effective to use as toughness training and to get in shape during a strength conditioning phase in your pre-season work outs.