Gaining Weight In-Season

A picture of a buffet.

Are regular trips to the buffet your only hope for gaining weight In-Season?

I’ll be the first to admit- gaining weight during the wrestling season is a very challenging thing to do.

However, it’s not impossible. It just takes a lot of discipline.

I’ve recently been asked by a number of coaches for tips on how to gain weight during the wrestling season.

A picture of a red Min Pin wearing stuffed antlers to look like a reindeer for the holidays.

And after many hours of consulting with my once overweight Min-Pin, Butters, I’ve come up with a 4-part plan that will set you up for success.

1. Nutrition

2. Lifting

3. Recovery

4. Mental Toughness

Nutrition Tips When Looking To Gain Weight In-Season

A lot of what I’m going to write about is from the Wrestling Nutrition post, so be sure to give that a look.

The first step to gaining weight In-Season is to get your diet working for you.

In order to gain weight, you must eat a surplus in calories. This is a tall order considering how many calories wrestlers burn on a daily basis during the season.

However, in order to be as systematic as possible, rather than just eating a lot all the time, I suggest this 3-step process.

1. Record all food and drink for 3 days. This can be done for up to a week but if you’re crunched for time, 3 is enough. These days should represent what an average week looks like, so consider recording 2 week days and a weekend day at a tournament or match. Or just be conservative and record it on your 3 most active days- maybe days when you both practice and lift.

2. Calculate the total calories consumed on each day and take the average.

3. Monitor your weight for about a week to see where it goes.

From there start drawing some conclusions and putting together a plan.

One of the first things you should do is to add between 500-750 calories per day to your diet.

This may seem like a lot, but if you break it up and simply add a couple hundred to each meal, you should be fine.

You can either add more of the existing food you eat, like adding 2 more eggs to your morning omelet, or add new foods.

A quick way to add more calories is by adding fat. For example, simply have a big handful of nuts, or 2-3 tablespoons of Peanut Butter. If you do this 3 times a day, you’ll add the extra calories you’re looking for.

The key here is to continue to measure your daily caloric intake to ensure that you’re hitting your goal of an extra 500-750 each day.

After a week of adding the extra calories to your diet, check your weight again. Try to check it on the same day and time as your last weigh-in. This helps to ensure consistency.

If your weight is up- congrats you’re on the right path.

If it’s about the same- shoot to add an additional 250-500 calories a day to your diet. That will put you up to 750-1000 from when you started.

Listen, I’m not going to lie to you- this isn’t going to be easy. At first you’ll think, “Oh man, this is great I get to eat more while all my teammates are cutting weight.”

But gaining weight isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

Just search Google for “how to gain weight” and you’ll see tons of articles and products for sale on how to do it.

If people didn’t have so many issues with it, there wouldn’t be tons of search results.

Some people have their secrets and patent-pending state-of-the-art systems. In my opinion, there really aren’t any big secrets.

You have to know how many calories you’re taking in and adjust them appropriately based on how your weight is responding.

**On a quick side note- make sure the calories you’re adding are ones that you know are not going to have a negative impact on your performance. For example, don’t just start eating a bunch of fast food or snack cakes. You’ll just end up feeling like shit and your match performances will reflect it.

A Side Story On Greg

One of my brother’s former training partners, Greg, is a great example of a man who puts forth maximal effort toward his goal of gaining muscle.

He’s been a competitive bodybuilder for a number of years and he has more muscle on him each time I see him. In fact, the last I knew he was over 280 and I’d guess his bodyfat wasn’t much over 10%!

His secret- exactly what I shared above.

He measures all of his meals and counts calories as well as the macro-nutrient breakdown (protein, carbs, fat). He uses that info and compares it to his weight on a regular basis.

Once, I asked him how he was able to eat as much food as he does on a daily basis and he revealed to me his big secret- exactly what I shared above.

He started adding a few hundred calories each day by introducing just a little more to each meal.

As his body adapted to the increase in calories, he added more. He continued to repeat the process until he found the total calories that worked best for him.

The last I knew he was eating around 6,000 calories per day.

A tall order for anyone , but attainable when you take it in small steps and let your body adapt.

So again, the first step to gaining weight In-Season: establish your average daily caloric intake and start to increase it week by week until you’re consistently gaining weight.

Lifting Tips When Looking To Gain Weight In-Season

When looking to gain weight, following a high-volume lifting plan goes hand in hand with a high-volume eating plan.

The same approach to adding calories to your diet should be taken when adding volume to your program.

Why?

Just imagine how you’ll feel if you take your volume from this:

a. Squat 3×8 (24 total reps)
b. Reverse Lunge 3x6ea leg (18 total reps each leg)
c. Glute Ham Raise 3×10 (30 total reps)

To this:

a. Squat 5×12 (60 total reps, more than a 200% increase)
b. Reverse Lunge 5x10ea leg (50 total reps, more than a 250% increase)
c. Glute Ham Raise 5×15 (75 total reps, a 250% increase)

Your legs will be sore for days; if not a week.

As a result, you won’t be able to practice effectively and you will slow your progress to becoming a better wrestler.

When you’re not becoming a better wrestler and your opponents are, they start beating you.

Now you’re losing to bigger guys who are technically better than you.

Not a way I’d like to spend 6 minutes…

So again, just like increasing your calories, you want to increase your lifting volume over the course of a number of weeks.

Here’s an example of a progression for a Reverse Lunge.

Week 1- 3x6ea
Week 2- 4x6ea
Week 3- 4x8ea
Week 4- 5x8ea
Week 5- 5x10ea

There, in 4 weeks you have more than doubled your volume AND you’ve been able to wrestle, compete, and hell, walk the whole time!

Increasing the volume of your accessory lifts will help provide the stimulus to put on the muscle you’re looking to gain. What I would avoid is making a big adjustment to your core lifts. These should remain focused on strength development/maintenance.

The last thing you want is to be big and muscular, but still weak.

So keep your core lifts like Box Squat and Weighted Chinups to a volume of 25 working reps or less.

A good set/rep scheme for these movements is 5×5.

And keep your Power movements (Clean variations, DB Snatch, etc.) to 15-20 reps total.

A good set/rep scheme for these movements is 5×3.

To conclude, the next step to gaining weight In-Season: increase your lifting volume over the course of a few weeks. Be sure to compare your volume increases with the results on the scale.

By the way…

If you’re looking to get started on a program be sure to check out my Program Packages page:

Recovery Tips When Looking To Gain Weight In-Season

I cover this topic in much greater detail here- Your Ultimate Guide To Recovery.

In a nutshell, the last thing you should do after a hard day of lifting and practice is to go home and plop down on your couch.

Remember- you’re doing a lot more than most, if not all, of your teammates.

With all the additional stress you put on your body it’s very important that you put some time into recovery.

Here are a few quick things you can do:

1. Massage

Use a Foam Roller, Rumble Roller, or other self-massage tool.

Don’t have any of these?

Try a baseball or lacrosse ball.

Use a PVC pipe as a Foam Roller.

Or grab a rolling pin from your kitchen to use like The Stick.

2. Hot/Cold contrast

I’m not an expert on this protocol, but basically you want to go from a hot shower to a cold one. This promotes blood flow which will bring nutrients to the muscles and help them repair.

The faster your muscles repair, the sooner you can work them again.

The sooner you work them, the more your total volume increases.

The more your volume increases (when coupled with a caloric surplus), the more your weight goes up.

In a nutshell, that’s what steroids do- they simply hasten the recovery process in the body. As a result, the user can train more frequently.

Following a good recovery plan will help you do the same.

3. Stretch

This is one of the easiest things you can do, especially when you feel like just laying down and relaxing.

Stretch whatever muscles are sore.

Don’t worry about how many sets or how long to hold each stretch.

Just stretch and focus on decreasing your soreness.

The third piece of the puzzle to gaining weight In-Season: add various methods of recovery to your program.

Mental Tips When Looking To Gain Weight In-Season

Gaining weight during the season can be mentally challenging. Here are a few things you should realize ahead of time.

1. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline.

Don’t get discouraged.

Get your shit together, track your calories, lift hard, work to increase your volume, and do recovery work.

2. You may not consistently gain weight each week.

Again, don’t get discouraged.

Stay the course.

Just add some more calories to your daily intake for the next week and see how it goes.

3. You’ll probably have to wrestle guys who are bigger than you.

First of all keep in mind that they aren’t that big.

Back before my time there were day before weigh-ins and my college coach would regularly cut 20lbs and gain it all back for a match.

Second, know that there’s more to being a successful wrestler than just being big and strong.

Yes, it certainly helps.

But instead of focusing on where your opponent may have an advantage on you, focus on where you may be better.

Your technique may be better.

You may be quicker.

Your cardio may be better.

Focus on where you’re better and develop a winning strategy around it.

Is your cardio better?

Maybe focus on a scoreless first period, only allowing an escape in the 2nd period, hand fighting and pressuring your opponent throughout, and in the 3rd period looking to score the match winning takedown.

You can’t control how prepared your opponent is.

You can control how prepared you are.

So focus on that and don’t worry about the rest.

The final step to gaining weight In-Season: “get your mind right.”

Conclusion

Alright, there you have it- my Super Easy 4-Step Process To Gaining Weight In-Season!

Fine, so it’s not that easy.

But, it is achievable if you stay focused and disciplined.

So get to work today and if you have any questions leave me a comment below.

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A picture of Kyle Dake and Dickie White.
Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

-Kyle Dake, 4X NCAA Division 1 National Champion
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Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.

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Want to learn more about Dickie? Check out my About page.

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Want to get started on a program today? Read this post and download your free program- 12 Week Training Program For Wrestlers.

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Philip Davanzo III
    December 9, 2012 8:16 pm

    Dickie,

    Thank you for this post! I’m so grateful that I was able to come to you with a question and for you to put together such a thorough response! Over the year’s you have been a tremendous asset to our program, as we look to grow. We greatly appreciate the time you take to helping us develop our wrestlers. Every time we have a question you are there to guide us in the right direction, with well thought out and sincere answers.

    The past three articles have been a tremendous asset to our program because we have several wrestlers that are making solid cuts and two that are undersized and have to gain weight.

    All of this is in addition to your support with our strength training questions we have had!

    Thank you so much for your support, sir!

    Reply
    • Phil,

      Glad my posts have been such a help to your program. I really try to gear this blog to be a helpful resource for as many High School coaches/wrestlers as possible knowing they don’t have access to a full staff of performance coaches like most do at the Collegiate level.

      Keep me posted with how your team does throughout the season and, as always, feel free to shoot me questions as things come up. It gives me motivation to write knowing that I’ll be helping such great kids.

      …and glad to see the “sir” has caught on down south!

      Reply
  • Question.
    How much weight should each weight classes be lifting (College weight)?? my weight is 157 but I plan on bumping to 165 but I feel like I’m not strong enough for that weight class. So like squat wise, bench, power cleans, dumbbell curls, etc.

    Reply
    • Jiovanni, that completely depends on your build. Shorter, stockier guys move the bar a much shorter distance to complete a rep; so that’s the biggest thing to keep in mind. But just to throw some numbers out I think good numbers to shoot for first are a squat somewhere in the mid-300s, bench in the high-200s, and clean in the lowish 200s.

      As you know though, while strength certainly helps in wrestling, it’s not the be all end all. I’d also recommend that you keep some of the mental tips I wrote about at the end of this post in focus throughout the process. That’ll make bumping up an easier process overall.

      Hope this helps man, but definitely get back to me if you still have questions. Talk to you soon.

      Reply
  • Thanks for this great article! I have one question tho : how do you manage to put everything into mix, meaning how much wrestling practice should you allow for let’s say a week? Do you have to practice less and lift more to be able to gain weight during the in-season?

    Reply
    • Hey Kei, thanks for commenting and sorry it’s been a bit before I got back to you. Unfortunately, I don’t think any coaches are going to be alright with a wrestler practicing less during the season in an effort to help them gain weight. In all honesty, I think this is the right decision anyway. For example, you could match up a NFL linebacker sized individual with little to no skill against someone not as big but with decent skills on the mat and the person with more sport-specific skill (ie the better wrestler) is going to be successful a great majority of the time. Obviously, once you’re in the off-season, it becomes a lot easier to manage since, yes, it does come down to total energy out versus total energy in coupled with proper recovery. As you know, regular practices and the grind of a traditional season both hugely impact the total energy part of the equation as well as having a big impact on recovery. So, I guess to answer your question in one sentence, any way that you can cut down on stimulus not geared toward gaining weight (ie practice, extra conditioning, etc) during the season will help in gaining weight. However, I think that there’s a fine line that needs to be considered when trying to find the ideal balance. Does this make sense?

      Reply

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