Finding the right balance with your lifting program is of the utmost importance if you’re looking to maintain your weight.
Rather than stopping lifting altogether (which will lead to significant losses in strength and power), look to implement some of the strategies below.
Before I get started, I’d like to give you a quick background on this post and how it got started.
About a week ago, Tim left me the comment below…
“I’ve been thinking about next season and decided I’m going to try to stay at my weight class. In order to do that, I can’t gain too much weight. I know that performing lower reps will help me not gain much. So how could I arrange a 3 day/week strength and power routine to make gains without gaining more than a few pounds? If it’s not too much to ask for, a template would be really helpful. Thank you for all the help!”
I responded with:
“Hey Tim, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Glad I’ve been able to help you so far via email. Hopefully this will help more.
While I definitely think the right training program is an important key to determining whether or not you put on weight, an equally important thing to consider is your total caloric intake. For instance- over the past couple of summers I’ve worked with a few D1 national qualifiers who have made a strong effort to put on more size so that they were bigger for their weight the next year. While they weren’t looking to move up a weight class, they were looking to put on muscle and weight.
And while I did put them on a high volume program (most days the core lift(s) were followed by 4-6 accessories that were on average 5 sets of 10-15 reps), they did their part by eating tons all of the time. In fact, one of the guys was actually accused of and tested for steroids. He of course passed, but it just goes to show you what’s possible when you combine the right eating plan with the right lifting plan.
So while it’s a different situation than the one you describe above, your caloric intake is going to play a big part.
So to get started, check out my recent post- Wrestling Nutrition. Please leave me a comment with any questions you may have on the nutritional side of things.”
So now that you have the general idea behind this post, let’s get into it.
“Rules” To Follow:
I put rules in quotes because I don’t believe in solid rules when it comes to weight training. Instead, I think you should try different things and adhere to basic principles.
With that said, here are some guidelines I’ve successfully used with lots of wrestlers looking to get stronger and not move up a weight class.
1. Low Volume
High volume (lots of sets, reps, and exercises), especially when coupled with a large eating plan, will promote muscle gain.
For low volume plans I like 4-6 strength-focused exercises with around 25ish (4×6, 5×5, 6×4, etc.) total reps for each compound (squats, benches, upper body pulling, etc.) exercise as a starting place. This does not usually apply to light accessory movements like upper back work face or core work.
Make adjustments based on how you respond during the initial weeks.
Not that you shouldn’t be doing this already, but be sure to select exercises with a lot of bang for your buck.
Look to select compound movements. Basically any exercise that works across 2 or more joints is considered a compound movement.
For example, a squat and deadlift work at the hip and knee. A chinup and bench press work at the elbow and shoulder. Explosive power movements (DB Snatches, Cleans, etc.) work at the hip, knee, and ankle.
The body doesn’t work in isolation on the mat. So don’t train it to do so in the weight room!
3. Disadvantaged Lifting
I just thought of that term. Make note of it if it becomes famous (lol).
Basically what I mean by this is the more an exercise puts you at a biomechanical disadvantage, the less weight you will use.
Take for instance, these two lunge variations…
KB Rack Reverse Lunge
DB Reverse Lunge
Which looks like the exercise you can use more weight with?
There is a much higher demand placed on the core when holding the KBs in the Rack position. Therefore, the weight you’ll be able to handle will be less than the standard Reverse Lunge.
Let’s throw some hypothetical numbers out to give you a better idea on how this impacts total volume.
In the Rack Reverse Lunge I use 50lbs for all 3 sets of 6 each leg. That means 36 total reps X 50lbs. This results in 1800 total pounds lifted.
In the Reverse Lunge (which you can lift more in), let’s say I do 10lbs more, so 60lbs. The same number of sets and reps apply. 36 reps X 60lbs= 2160 total pounds.
In reality (at the time of writing this) I can handle 90-100lb DBs on the Reverse Lunge for 3 explosive reps each leg and only 70lb KBs in the rack position for the Rack Reverse Lunge for 3 reps each leg that are not nearly as explosive.
Anyway, that’s just one example.
But do you see how using “Disadvantaged Lifting” can help keep your total volume in check?
I know what you’re thinking- if I want to get strong, how is lifting lighter weights going to get me there?
My response- it won’t! …at least compared to traditional movements.
While Disadvanted Lifting will increase your stability and total body involvement, I’m not completely sold that it builds the strength and power as the standard lifts.
So consider alternating exercises and see how that affects your weight.
For example, for 1-2 weeks use Disadvantaged Lifting. Follow this with 1-2 weeks of “traditional lifting.”
Some wrestlers just like to lift regularly and feel strong and powerful when they do. So implementing disadvantaged lifts is one way to allow them to continue to stick to their regular lifting routine with less of an impact on their weight.
Benefits of alternating between traditional and disadvantaged lifts include:
1. Lower volume over the course of a month.
2. A couple built in light weeks.
3. A nice balance of “Disadvantaged” lifts vs. “Traditional” lifts.
Disadvantaged Workout Week:
Ok, let’s get into 2 sample weeks worth of workouts.
Keep in mind these are sample strength focused workouts for the Summer. The primary focus of Summer training should be to maximize strength. That base of strength is then used to increase power during the season.
Superset 1: Anderson Squat 5×5 and Ab Wheel variation 5×8
Superset 2: Paused Unbraced DB Row 4×6 and Band Hip Thrust 4×8
Superset 3: Seated KB Overhead Press 3×8 and Gi/Towel Chinup 3×8
Superset 1: Pin Press 5×5 and BB Good Morning 5×5
Superset 2: Fat Grip Cable Row 4×6 and Ball Leg Curl 4×8
Superset 3: Weighted Spread Eagle Situp 3×10 and Cable Face Pull 3×12
Superset 1: DB Snatch 5×3 and Weighted Fat Grip Chinup 5×5
Superset 2: DB Rack Reverse Lunge 4×6 and Pause DB Bench 4×6
Superset 3: Weighted Parallel Back Extension 3×8 and DB Hammer Curl 3×8
“Heavy” Workout Week:
Not that the Disadvantaged Workout Week shouldn’t be heavy, it’s just that these exercises will allow you to use more weight.
Superset 1: Box Squat 5×5 and Ab Wheel variation 5×8
Superset 2: DB Row 4×6 and Barbell Hip Thrust 4×8
Superset 3: Single Arm DB Overhead Press 3×8 and Chinup 3x Max Reps
Superset 1: Bench Press 5×5 and BB RDL 5×5
Superset 2: Cable Row 4×6 and Weighted Glute Ham Raise 4×8
Superset 3: Weighted Decline Situp 3×10 and Cheat DB Upright Row 3×12
Superset 1: DB Jerk 5×3 and Weighted Chinup 5×5
Superset 2: DB Reverse Lunge 4×6 and DB Bench 4×6
Superset 3: Weighted 45-Degree Back Extension 3×8 and BB Curl 3×8
As you can see, the sets and reps don’t change, it’s only the weight (due to the exercises being used). Generally speaking, in low volume programs I don’t do a whole lot of adjusting the sets and reps. I tend to keep the total volume low throughout.
I’ve found that this makes it easier for the wrestler to adapt. It will also keep fatigue and soreness to a minimum once the person gets acclimated to the program.
Additionally, it allows me to more easily track the total volume. I use that info along with the wrestler’s nutritional plan and compare that to what the scale is showing.
Anyway, here are a few principles I follow when looking to make a “regular” lift a disadvantaged lift:
1. Increase range of motion.
2. Add a grip element for pulling exercises (Gi, towel, thick handle).
3. Add pauses to exercises.
4. Move the weight further from the movement point. Examples include using the rack position versus holding DBs at your sides and putting a barbell on your back for a Good Morning versus in your hands for a RDL.
One thing you DO NOT want to do is add a tempo or controlled pace to any exercise. That will increase your time under tension and actually promote muscle growth.
But other than that, everything should be fair game.
Alright, I’m gonna wrap this post up. In a nutshell, there are a lot of things to consider when trying to maintain your weight when lifting. “Disadvantaged” lifting is one possible way to go about things.
However, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you “can’t outrun a bad diet.” If you’re eating like crap, or you are gaining weight at a rate that makes you concerned, check out some of the posts I’ve written on nutrition.
Finally, feel free to leave me a comment below if there are certain exercises you’d like help with turning into a Disadvantaged Exercise.