Wrestling Strength Training Program Principles

wrestling strength training program post- an image of Troy Nickerson performing an alternate arm dumbbell incline press.

Each wrestling strength training program I design for a wrestler is unique to their needs.

But, no matter how different each program is, I always use certain principles in the design process.

Below are the six principles I follow. If you design your own wrestling strength training program, consider utilizing them.

Wrestling Strength Training Program- 6 Principles

Principle #1- Use Multi-Joint Exercises

There are a number of reasons why utilizing multi-joint exercises in your wrestling strength training program will help to maximize your results.

1. Efficient

Multi-joint exercises are more efficient than single-joint, isolation exercises.  Pretty much every wrestling strength training program I’ve seen includes squats. So, I’ll use that as an example.

When you perform a squat think about all the muscles you’re actively using. Do quads, hamstrings, and glutes come to mind?

Now think of all the muscles that are firing to help stabilize your body. Specifically the calves, core, upper back, and spinal erectors.

It has been shown by research that when you become well trained in the squat you can use upwards to 70% of the total muscle in your body!

Now, think about all the isolation exercises you’d have to perform to work everything listed above.

I listed 7 groups of muscles involved which means you’d have to perform 7 different isolation exercises.

2. Functional

Your body doesn’t work in isolation.  Think about all of the activities you do on the mat.

Do leg attacks, lifting an opponent, and standing up to get off the bottom resemble multi-joint movements?

A properly designed wrestling strength training program will train your body the way it moves on the mat.

3. Even Development

Imbalances that exist within muscles result in instabilities around joints. Ultimately this will lead to injury if not properly addressed.

Performing tons of single-joint movements in your wrestling strength training program is going to put you at a higher risk for developing these types of imbalances. On top of that, you’ll need to monitor a lot more.

With multi-joint exercises in your program, all you need to remember, in general, is that for every push you do you should perform a pull.

Basically you want to make sure you’re working the opposite muscles with a similar number of sets and reps to maintain balance within your body.

On a side note, I usually favor higher volume for the lats/upper back. This helps keep the shoulders in balance. Wrestlers tend to have shoulder imbalances from wrestling and sitting at a desk/computer (from school work). This can lead to tightness in the front of the shoulder and imbalances from it.

To see what I mean, simply compare the rounded shoulders in the image on the left to the properly balanced shoulders in the image on the right. This is why I typically favor higher volumes of upper back work.

A 2 sided image of shirtless men. The first picture shows the man's shoulders rounded forward. The second shows the man with proper shoulder alignment.

To summarize- multi-joint exercises will not only save you time, but they will also carry over to an improved performance on the mat. You will be functionally strong and more evenly developed. On top of that, you will be more resistant to injury. Multi-joint exercises are a must in a wrestling strength training program!

Principle #2- Varied Methods

This is a super important principle. All too often wrestlers fall victim to following one type of methodology.

I’m seeing more and more “kettlebell guys” and “functional training guys.” This is fine, but there’s more to strength training for wrestling than kettlebells and standing on a balance pad.

Don’t limit yourself to one specific system or style of training.

For instance, want to lose some fat to help you make weight easier? Yeah, kettlebell circuits are a great way to get your metabolism cranking. But it’s not the only way to do so.

Fast paced supersets with traditional, full body strength training movements like squats, chin-ups, and deadlifts are a great way to burn fat.

Interval training on a treadmill or Airdyne bike will elevate your metabolism for hours after you workout.

Or the conditioning circuits covered in this post or this post work well too.

Getting your nutrition plan under control always helps too.

On the opposite side of the coin- are you looking to get stronger?

Look to what the strongest and most powerful lifters in the world are doing. Consistencies between all of the programs include heavy squats, benches, and deadlifts (for powerlifters), odd-object lifting (for strongman), heavy cleans and snatches (in the case of Olympic lifters).

Everything, regardless of the exercise, is heavy for lower reps. And lots of these lifters dabble in methods from other strength sports.

Olympic lifters squat heavy.

Powerlifters will perform various strongman lifts and Olympic lifts.

And strongmen do it all- cleans, jerks, push presses, squats, deadlifts, etc.

See the theme here?

No one is limiting their training to one specific system.

The point I’m trying to make is that committing yourself to only one style of training is going to do nothing but lead to boredom and limit your results.

Most everything has its place.

Learning the benefits and principles with each style of training is going to make you a better wrestler.

Principle #3- Changes

Making frequent changes to your wrestling strength training program will offer you a number of benefits.

First, by making changes you are going to be less likely to experience a plateau. A plateau is more likely to occur when you follow the same plan week in and week out.

By using the same exercises, sets, reps, weights, rest times, etc. for a number of weeks, your body will eventually adapt. As a result, you will no longer make consistent improvements.

Second, making frequent changes is going to prevent boredom.

Imagine you did the same thing at practice every day throughout the entire season.

You’d probably lose interest and motivation, right?

Changing exercises, the order, and adjusting the volume will keep your training dynamic.

Too often I see the same cycle happen to people in gyms around my area. A person joins and starts doing their “routine.”  They do it for weeks and may experience some improvements. However, things start to slow down and they reach a plateau.

As a result, they either quit their program or they tell everyone that they are “maintaining.”

Don’t let yourself fall victim to the “maintaining” curse and don’t fall into a routine. These are both just excuses as to why you’re not making progress any more.

Instead, make changes every 3-6 weeks. You’ll see better results, more consistent improvement, and ultimately you’ll have a better chance of sticking with your wrestling strength training program.

Finally, making frequent changes will force you to become active in the field.

Whether it’s reading blogs like this one, meeting with a trainer to get a new program, or purchasing programs online.

Whatever it is, by making yourself change your program regularly you’re going to become more knowledgeable about ways to improve your performance.

Principle #4- Track Results

There are a number of benefits from tracking your results.

First, it will help with motivation. Tracking your results enables you to see where you were at different times during your training.

On days when you’re not feeling particularly good, looking back to where you were in the past will help keep you motivated.

I know as a wrestler staying motivated is usually not difficult. However, looking back at how far you’ve come, can be particularly motivating. In addition, this helps during rough times when you feel like you aren’t making improvements.

Second, tracking your results will help you to set better goals.

Knowing the weights you were lifting will give you something to look to improve. Similarly, knowing the progress you’ve made over a certain amount of time will give you a better idea of what to expect during your next training program.

Setting realistic and attainable goals are two big keys to keeping you motivated.

Additionally, keeping track of your lifting results will give you information to set better goals.

Tracking results offers a third benefit as well. It forces you to be more active in your program.

Instead of just haphazardly selecting exercises, you’re forced to think “how will implementing x exercise help me attain my goal(s)?”

For example, how will utilizing a dumbbell bench press for 4×6 reps carryover to your goal of increasing your bench press by 10 pounds in the next 6 weeks?

Instead of just throwing random exercises into your program and hoping for the best, you can look back. Specifically, look to see where you have used dumbbell bench presses before and compare that to whether or not your bench press improved.

If your bench went up, there’s a good chance that the DB bench press would help again.

Being able to look back at your results is going to benefit you in a number of ways.

All it takes is a little notebook, a pen, and a few seconds in between sets.

Principle #5- Prioritize Importance

Prioritizing the importance of certain exercises of your wrestling strength training program is another component of successful program design.

There are two situations where prioritizing the importance of certain exercises should be taken into account.

First, you should always be sure to prioritize exercises that are going to provide the biggest benefit within a session.

For example, let’s say strengthening your legs is a primary focus. You’re on a plan that has you lifting twice a week for two full-body workouts. Make sure you’re squatting, deadlifting, etc. when you are fresh.

Fatiguing yourself before will do nothing but slow your progress.

Second, you should always prioritize the importance of your overall development.

For instance, when planning your weight training for the season be sure to identify the days and workouts that are going to be the most crucial to your development.

For example, say you’re planning on moving up a weight class. Be sure to identify days when you’re going to be at or near 100%. Prioritize weight training on those days.

Haphazardly selecting workouts for your wrestling strength training program is not going to help you to maximize your potential.

Become aware of how everything is working together in your program.

Then prioritize the components that are most crucial to develop.

Principle #6- Be Audible Ready

I stole this from Dave Tate of EliteFTS.com.

This simply means that you need to be ready to make changes on the fly. No matter how much thought and preparation go into your program, the fact is, sometimes things don’t go as planned.

From a strength training perspective, on days that you feel great, you need to be ready to make changes. For example, if your warm-up sets are feeling really good, plan on working up a little heavier that day.

This is one of the reasons I tend to favor percentage ranges. 75% on one day may feel really light. However, on another day when you’re fatigued from a hard practice or tournament, that same 75% may seem a lot heavier.

That’s why I like using ranges within 5 or so percentage points. It allows for adjustments based on how you feel.

On the opposite side of the coin, on days that you may have been planning for a hard training session and you just don’t have the energy for it, back off and get some rest.

Pushing yourself on days like this will lead to further burnout/overtraining and put you at a higher risk for injury.

Listening to your body is crucial. The bottom line is- no matter how much you plan, you cannot for everything. Knowing how to make the right adjustments on the fly is going to lead to an overall increase in your performance.


Alright, that was a lot for one post. You may even feel overwhelmed with info. But, in all honesty, it’s just six principles.

So skim through this post the next time you’re designing a training program and be sure to give these principles some extra consideration.

Please leave me a comment if you have any questions regarding properly designing a wrestling strength training program.

Related Posts:

Special Considerations for Designing Programs

The Most Difficult Program I’ve Ever Designed

Wrestling Workout Routine Design Process

Wrestling Workout Program Design Tips

Designing A Wrestling Workout Plan

Implications For Conditioning Programs

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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