At first glance, one of my programs may look difficult to follow. There are a lot of abbreviations, labels, and other things going on.
However, once you get the hang of how I design programs, you’ll be good to go. This is primarily because I change very little in terms of how I label things. And when I do, I update this post.
Anyway, let’s get started.
First, I use supersets throughout all of my programs. I indicate the supersets by letters before each exercise.
So “a” is supersetted with “a.” Complete the superset by going back and forth between the exercises until the sets are complete.
Supersetting doesn’t necessarily mean you need to perform one exercise after the other in a quick manner. I’ve just found that wrestlers typically don’t want to sit around long enough to get an adequate break in between sets. By supersetting 2 exercises, they can stay busy with an alternate exercise that will allow other parts of their body to recuperate.
Make sure you’re breaks are adequate and your performance isn’t dropping between each set. If you notice this happening, take longer breaks.
Remember your goal(s). If you want to get stronger and more powerful, you need to get the most out of each working set.
Performing A Superset w/ A Percentage
In the case of an exercise with a rep max or percentage based set, simply perform however many sets you need to get to the weight for the day.
The exercise you superset it with is performed for the same number of sets.
Or, in the case above for the squat and Ab Wheel superset:
c. Squat (2×5 @ 80)
c. Ab Wheel (x8)
That means you’ll perform Squats working up to 80% of your 3rm (usually I use a 3rm, but that can change) along with Ab Wheels for sets of 8. Perform warm-up sets as needed along with the 2 working sets of 5 reps at 80% with your squats. Ab Wheels will be performed in between each set of squats.
If you think this will add up to a lot of sets of Ab Wheels, just do 4-5 sets. Make sure you still take adequate breaks between squats, though.
The total number of warm-up sets may change from week to week. This is based on how heavy you’re going (stronger guys may need more warm-up sets). It’s also affected by how warm you feel by the time you get to squats.
In the case above (2×5 @ 80), I would shoot to get to your working weight within 3-4 warm-up sets. Again, make adjustments based on how you feel that day. For example, if you’re worn out or feeling tight, just do a few extra warm-up sets without tiring yourself out.
If it’s in your program to work up to a rep max, read this post to give you a better idea on how to approach it.
Sets and Reps
The sets and reps are in parenthesis after each exercise.
It’s read as- (sets x reps).
If the exercise is performed on each side, like in the case of a lunge, I try to include “ea” (for each side) after the reps. However, sometimes I forget. If I forget, just perform the number of reps I list per side.
One thing I may use, depending on how long I’ve worked with a client and how advanced they are, is implementing working sets at a percentage of your rep max.
I’ll make a note of it in the program like this- 5×5 @ 85.
All that means is to do warm-up sets as needed until you get to 85%. This 85% would be based off of whatever rep max you did at the start of the program (usually 3rm).
Once you get to that weight, perform 5 sets of 5 reps.
Sometimes I’ll include both a rep max and working sets after.
I list it like this- (3rm, 3×5 @ 80).
This has you first working up to a 3 rep max. From there, find 80% of your 3rm and drop down to that weight. Then perform 3 sets of 5 reps at that weight.
Here are some other key points to keep in mind as you implement your program.
For the other exercises (not the explosive and core exercises), those sets and reps are to be performed with a working weight. So, perform warm-up sets as needed until you get to a challenging weight for the listed reps. Then perform your sets.
The sets don’t all need to be at the same weight, but should probably end up within 10-20 pounds of the heaviest weight used. Sets don’t need to be done to failure, however, for a set to count you should have no more than 2 more reps in the tank when you finish.
You’ll get better at gauging this as your experience increases, so don’t worry if you’re unsure what should and should not count initially.
Additionally, you should strive for, what’s called “linear progression.” All that means is that, for the most part, every session and every week you should strive to add at least a little weight to each exercise, or perform it with greater control or at a more difficult progression or range of motion (as in the case of the Ab Wheel).
If you’re not confident with adding weight, or you feel your form/technique will breakdown with the addition of more weight, try to hit more sets at the heaviest weight you did the week before. For instance, say you did 100 pounds in the Squat in week 1, but only did 1 set and the other sets you did were at 90.
In week 2 you don’t feel like you’ll be able to move up to 105 and get the listed reps, or if you do get all the reps it’ll be to failure and your form will potentially breakdown. Then, simply try to get 2 or more sets at 100 pounds.
That will still be progress because you did more sets with your peak weight, and therefore, the total amount of weight lifted (total volume) will be more than the previous week.
Is this going to happen every week?
If it did, we’d all be 1,000-pound squatters after a few years of consistent training. But it’s something to strive to do, because that’s what getting stronger is all about.
“Total Reps” Exercises
For bodyweight exercises like chinup variations, dips, and pushups, I’ll sometimes not list a given number of sets and reps.
Instead I’ll list something like “(40 total reps)”.
This simply means perform the exercise in as few sets as you can to get to the listed number of total reps.
The reason I do this is because it provides a way for you to track your relative (bodyweight/pound for pound) strength.
Why is this important?
Because in a weight class sport, being as strong as possible at your weight is the ultimate goal. …At least as far as strength training goes.
A wrestler who is able to perform 20 chinups in a set is going to be quite a bit stronger than a wrestler who weighs the same but can only do 10. Does this make sense?
What does (3x*) or (3×8*) mean?
I most commonly use this with bodyweight exercises like chinups or dips. All it means is that I’m leaving the reps open to you to pick. I do this simply because I know if I were to program, say 3 sets of 8 chinups or dips into a program some wrestlers would find it too easy and some wouldn’t be able to complete the reps.
Here’s how to successfully implement and progress something like “(3x*)”:
1. Perform all reps with a consistent, full range of motion.
2. Perform as many reps as you can and stop just before failure (leave 1-2 reps in the tank).
3. Look to increase your reps from week to week. For instance, say you do 3×5 in week 1. Try to do 3×6 in week 2. Or at least get 1 or 2 sets of 6 reps before dropping back to 5.
(3×8*) means basically the same thing. The only difference is, once you’re able to perform 8 reps comfortably, feel free to start adding resistance. Again, this is all in an effort to help you personalize the plan based on where you’re strength is.
How about rest breaks?
Take as much time as you need to ensure quality efforts on each set. For instance, say you perform a set of 5 good, strict bodyweight chinups on the first set. However on the next you only get 3 or 4 and it’s a struggle. That’s oftentimes an indication that you should rest a little more.
In general, I’m not a big proponent of wrestlers trying to get their conditioning done in the weight room. Strength and power training should be for increasing strength and power. This is especially important to keep in mind during the off-season when having a big gas tank is not super high on the list of qualities wrestlers should be looking to develop.
Exercises “w/ Hold”?
The addition of the hold accomplishes a few things. First, I’ve found that it keeps pulling exercises honest and is a good way to prevent turning it into a full body swing/cheat motion. Second, it’s functional.
Think about the pulling you look to do on the mat…
Now think about how much static holding you do after the initial pull…
See what I mean? As far as the duration, I’m not super picky. If you’re just looking to keep each rep consistent, I think a 1-2 second hold is sufficient. To increase your static strength more, I tend to have wrestlers utilize a 5 or so second hold.
Don’t get too caught up on the little details here. If you’re holding for anywhere between 2ish and 5ish seconds, you’re doing fine.
I use phases at times because I feel it allows you to better personalize your program. After each each phase, I typically type in a suggested number of weeks in parenthesis. For example, “Phase 1 (2-3 weeks).”
I like to provide a range so that it provides you, the user, the ability to get a better understanding on how to monitor your training.
For example, let’s say I give a range of 2-4 weeks for a phase. After 2 weeks you’re crushing the training sessions and you’re not even remotely tight/fatigued/sore/tired after the session and the day(s) after, etc. And/or, you feel as though you’ve begun to plateau as you’re not able to move up in weight (it’s difficult to make this decision after 2 weeks, but for this example let’s say that’s the case).
Anyway, if you encounter the above situation(s), you’d probably want to move on to the next phase. Obviously, the same idea applies on the opposite side of the coin as well.
I use this because I’m not able to be by your side and monitor your progress from session to session. A certain volume for one person may allow them to adapt for longer periods of time than another person.
In a nutshell, if your program has phases, this is the basic thought process behind progressing from phase to phase.