Implications For Conditioning Programs

Kyle Dake hitting a super duck under in an International Freestyle match.

What kind of conditioning did it take Mr. Dake to win a near 15 minute match?

Perhaps the journal paper that I cover today will offer you some insights.

First off, let’s start with the summary- With the proper training program in place, it is possible to improve a number of functions. The adaptations that should be the primary focus include improving the body’s buffering capabilities, increasing isometric strength and enhancing total body strength/power.

Excluding the outliers of genetically gifted wrestlers, the authors state that the outcome of most wrestling matches has several elements to it. Additionally, most matches are determined when the wrestlers are in a fatigued state.

Therefore, essential qualities for success in these situations include high levels of both dynamic AND isometric strength, sufficiently developed anaerobic AND aerobic conditioning, speed/quickness/reactive capabilities, flexibility, and rate of force development/power.

Obviously there are many physiological and neural capabilities needed to increase the odds of success. Therefore, a wrestling strength and conditioning plan must be highly individualized.

Lactate Accumulation and Training

Lactate has been shown to directly impact a muscles ability to contract. Specifically, it interferes with the actin-myosin bridge. For a wrestler to remain strong and explosive, especially late in a match, their bodies must be able to effectively buffer these highly acidic conditions.

As you have experienced over the course of a season, this is a trainable phenomenon. Think about it- at the start of the year you’re more likely to gas. However, as you practice more and get in better shape, you’re able to wrestle better late in matches, right?

One of the best ways to improve your body’s ability to deal with lactate in the muscles is through resistance training with short rest breaks. You can also use specific types of interval training.

The adaptations you’re looking for (the ability to wrestle hard throughout a match) typically take about 8 weeks to achieve. If you have important matches early on in the season, this may call for a pre-season conditioning program.

Furthermore, the authors state that it is equally important for the upper body to be trained using these specific methodologies. This ensures these muscles adapt to the demands wrestling places on them.

The authors suggest that a circuit-style resistance training program with rest periods of about a minute between exercises be used. Additionally, they state that finishing the circuit with full body exercises (like Hang Cleans) will improve its effectiveness.

I personally don’t agree with this idea. I feel that performing complex, full-body power movements when you are in your most fatigued state puts you at risk for an injury.

Anyway, a wrestler should plan accordingly and allow 4 to 6 weeks to gradually decrease the rest periods between sets. Once a rest time of 60-seconds is achieved, another 6 to 8 weeks will be needed to optimize buffering capacity.

So, in a nutshell, if you’re going to implement circuit-style training in your performance plan, you should start integrating it at the beginning of your season. This will ensure your body adapts.

Keep in mind the idea of prioritization. At certain times during the year, specific styles of training take precedence over others. Circuit training is implemented to enhance buffering capacity. Therefore, it does not do a good job of increasing muscular power. Muscular power is increased with shorter duration, longer rest periods, using explosive efforts.

Strength and power development/maintenance cannot be neglected during an in-season training program. So, depending on the upcoming matches for the week (and over the course of the season), strength and power work needs to be worked in to your program.

Progressing the total volume should be done once the wrestler shows the ability to tolerate the current workload. So, for example, if you’re able to complete 2 full circuits and remain comfortable, consider adding a third.

You can also add more time or sets to specific lifts. This is especially helpful concerning lifts involving muscles that you feel will improve your performance on the mat.

As you know, most close matches are oftentimes decided during the third period in a scramble situation. Again, the authors suggest that because of this, they believe that full-body power movements should be used at the end of a training session. They feel this will help improve your chances of success in these pivotal situations.

They do go on to state that Olympic lifts and other compound explosive exercises should only be used by individuals who are proficient with the techniques, not by beginners. The authors also suggest that the weight being lifted should be reduced to compensate for fatigue.

The primary reasoning behind the implementation of circuit training is to train the body to tolerate high concentrations of lactic acid. Ultimately this enhances the acid-buffering capabilities of the wrestler.

As far as progressing a program goes, typically rest periods between exercises should begin at 90 seconds. Over the course of a 6 to 8 week training program, the rest should decrease to 60 seconds, or less.

In order to produce the desired response, resistance should be within a 10-15 rep max range.

Here’s an example of a circuit-training protocol proposed by the authors:

1- Squat or leg press.

2- Bench press (incline).

3- Stiff-leg Deadlift.

4- Dumbbell shoulder press.

5- Lunges (various angles).

6- Pull-down.

7- Calf raises.

8- Seated rows.

9- Core development.

10- Arm curls.

11- Hang pulls and hang cleans.

The section on buffering lactic acid concludes with a reminder that this type of training should be stopped at signs of nausea and/or dizziness. These symptoms are a sign that the program is being progressed too fast.

Paper Referenced

Kraemer, W., J. Vescovi, P. Dixon. The physiological basis of wrestling: implications for conditioning programs. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 26(2), 10-15. April 2004.

Related Posts:

Wrestling Workout Program Design Tips

Special Considerations for Designing Programs

The Most Difficult Program I’ve Ever Designed

Wrestling Workout Routine Design Process

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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