How To Select A Strength Coach

A picture of Troy Nickerson holding some light plates performing a standing shoulder external rotation exercise.

Is your program helping you win more matches?

Following a lifting program for wrestling is absolutely essential for maximizing your performance on the mat.

In fact, I don’t think it can be argued at this point.

Every college and university has some kind of weight training program in place.

There are top level strength coaches at the Olympic Training Center.

Strength and conditioning coaches are even becoming common in high schools.

Hell, even pee-wee wrestlers are getting into weight training.

There is without a doubt a high demand for strength coaches to write wrestling-specific weight training plans.

However, huge differences can exist with the quality of program…

Does this enthusiastic woman really strike you as someone who knows the physical qualities needed to to be successful in the “neutral and low position?” Ha, she obviously knows the terminology!

Selecting a strength coach who can provide you with the specific program you need as a wrestler is of the utmost importance.

So today I’d like to cover some of the selection criteria you should take into consideration when looking to work with a strength coach.

Wrestling Performance Coach Criteria

1. Can your strength coach get results?

When deciding on a strength coach to design a weight training plan for you, it’s important to consider the wrestlers they’ve worked with in the past and how those wrestler performed.

Obviously, my mentor and former Cornell Strength Coach, Tom Dilliplane, had the pleasure to work with some of the finest to go through Cornell in the 15+ years he was there. Among the greats, he worked with national champions like Travis Lee, Troy Nickerson, and Jordan Leen.

So before hiring a coach to design a program for you, be sure to inquire about the past clients they have worked with. With social media it couldn’t be easier to contact those people to see what they thought of the program.

Positive feedback and testimonials from people are a good indication that the strength coach you’re thinking of hiring knows how to get results.

2. Did this strength coach wrestle?

I used to not think this was very important. I was always taught in college that part of the job of the strength coach was to do an objective analysis of the sport.

However, I was recently reading Joel Jamieson’s book, Ultimate MMA Conditioning, and that changed my perspective on things.

In it Joel writes about when he first started working with MMA fighters. He stated that they were all so weak when he tested their strength. Ultimately, he concluded that all he needed to do was to increase their strength and their performance would improve drastically.

And while he was right in a way, it wasn’t until he trained with some of his MMA fighters that he truly understood the physical requirements of the sport. He said that after about 30-seconds he was completely gassed. Because of that experience, he suddenly had a new appreciation for the type of training needed to excel in MMA.

While this lesson that Joel writes about in his book is MMA specific, it applies to wrestling as well. As wrestlers, we know the demands that practices, making weight, extra runs, etc. can have on our bodies.

Additionally, we are aware of the positions we’re in on the mat and the kinds of strength required to get through them.

When I did my Internship at Cornell University, I had the great pleasure of working closely with Tom. He was a former wrestler and I think the programs he wrote and the results they produced speak for themselves.

So when searching for a strength coach to design a program for you, it’s in your best interest to find someone with a wrestling background.

Kyle Dake as a senior in high school performing a Keg Carry at Ironworks Gym in Binghamton, NY.

*Above is a picture of Kyle Dake doing a Keg Carry shortly after I moved Ironworks Gym to its new location.

3. Does your strength coach lift?

Another thing to consider when looking to hire a strength coach is whether or not they currently or have lifted in the past. It’s not necessary, but it helps if they competed in a strength or power sport.

Like I mentioned above, I feel it’s important to have a competitive background in wrestling to fully understand the demands of the sport. However, I think it’s equally important for a coach to have a background in Olympic Lifting, Power Lifting, or Strongman. Or if they don’t have a competitive background, they should at least have a thorough lifting experience.

With thorough lifting experience, you can be confident this person is going to have first hand experience on what it takes to get through plateaus.

They’re going to know how to instruct a person based on their technique flaws.

They’re going to know how to design programs to optimize performance between their classroom and “in the trenches” lifting experience.

For instance, who would you trust more on how to improve your squat- someone with a max of 200-pounds or someone with a max of 500-pounds?

More than likely the individual who squats 500 will have a lot more first-hand, “under the bar” knowledge on what it takes to reach that level. They’re going to know how to program effectively to attain a big squat. They’re also going to know what accessory exercises need to be performed to lay the proper foundation to support such a lift.

Tom has a thorough background in Olympic lifting. His best Clean and Jerk, if I remember correctly, is 356!

Now, I know this isn’t anywhere near Olympic level, but it’s still way more than any wrestler will need to be successful on the mat.

Unlike Tom, I’m more of a powerlifting guy.

So when considering a coach to design a plan for you, it’s of the utmost importance that the individual has an extensive lifting background.

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

Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.


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


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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