Wrestling Strength Workouts- Say No To HIT

wrestling strength workouts- kyle dake performing a keg carry
Kyle Dake performing a Keg Carry as part of one of his wrestling strength workouts back when he was in high school.

Why High Intensity Training (HIT) may be ruining your wrestling strength workouts…

As far as High Intensity goes, no I don’t mean say no to getting fired up before you attempt a heavy lift.

Getting focused and excited for an opportunity to set a record is what it’s all about.

What I mean by the title of this post is that you should avoid the bodybuilding technique known as H.I.T. (High Intensity Training) in your wrestling strength workouts.

Wrestling Strength Workouts Using H.I.T.

The scientific definition of intensity is simply the percentage of your max. The greater the percentage of your max the lift is, the greater the intensity.

Generally speaking, H.I.T. proponents suggest performing one set of about 10 reps to failure on a machine.

While this has been shown to be effective at putting on significant amounts of muscle, it is not an effective way for athletes, especially wrestlers to exclusively program in their wrestling strength workouts.

Do I throw some hard machine sets in every now and again?

Yes, it’s a great way to change things up. However, you’re greatly limiting your potential if your wrestling strength workouts are limited to H.I.T.

To give you a better idea of what H.I.T. is, here’s a quick video of some bodybuilders.

Does something like this get me fired up and ready to train? Hell yea!

But I’m not here to show some pre-training videos, I’m here to tell you why H.I.T. shouldn’t be the focus of your wrestling strength workouts. The best way for me to do this is to introduce the man himself- Louie Simmons.

Here are some excerpts from a Louie Simmons article entitled HIT…or Miss? (click here to read).

Louie is regarded by many to be the top powerlifting coach in world. He is also one of the top strength coaches in the world.

Anyway, check out what he has to say on H.I.T. Specifically, think of how it applies to your wrestling strength workouts.

H.I.T. proponents use a lot of machines. This is truly a mistake. No stability can be developed.

Most machines work on the peak contraction theory.

Let’s look at the pec machine. If you load a pec machine to the max, starting the movement requires a max effort, which is very difficult and dangerous.

A picture of Louie Simmons in a yellow Westside Barbell shirt presenting at a seminar.
Louie Simmons

More importantly, let’s consider the strength curve. Take the case of two 700-pound deadlifters.

One may blast the weight off the floor to near lockout and then fight the last 3 to 4 inches.

The second may have difficulty starting the bar off the floor, pick up speed, and lockout easily.

What does this illustrate? In the real world of strength these two lifters have quite different strength curves. If these same two lifters were to use a machine, only one would receive any benefit from that machine, because the machine has a predetermined strength curve.

That’s a 50% chance the machine won’t work for you. Also, a machine will not build stability.

The only good thing about a facility full of machines is that the instructor could be a moron and it won’t make any difference.

Side note- One time I had a guy giving me a tour of a gym try to convince me that the plate loaded machines in their gym “trained the stabilizers”…he is one such moron.

H.I.T. proponents also think that if you exercise slowly, you won’t become slow. Have they heard of exercise specificity?

A sprinter must practice sprinting to be successful.

A long-distance runner must learn to conserve himself to run a long distance; if a marathon runner was to start sprinting from the beginning, he or she would run out of gas long before the end of the race.

If you work slowly, you will become slow, and you will be watching the fast kids play while you develop splinters in your butt.

Remember that external force is directly responsible for speed. A boxer may appear very fast with 8-ounce boxing gloves, but hand him a pair of 100-pound dumbbells and he can hardly move his hands at all.

…Obviously, this is a somewhat scientific excerpt, but nonetheless the ideas are very valuable when considering High Intensity Workouts.

Quick Summary:

1. Machines don’t develop stability.

2. Machines don’t take into account the strength curve demonstrated by an individual.

3. Machines aren’t sports-specific for wrestlers, especially when performed with a slow tempo.

I hope I’ve presented some good reasons why you shouldn’t be using a lot of machines and H.I.T. in your wrestling strength workouts.

You know as well as I do- wrestling is not about moving an object in a fixed, predictable range of motion.

Strength and power combined with balance and stability are needed to be successful. This is why prioritizing machines and making them the foundation of your wrestling strength workouts is going to greatly limit your potential.

What The Research Says

“It should be noted that improvements in 1-RM performance on a machine may not reflect performance in other tasks, for example sprint times and leg extension torque. Training consistently with near-maximal relative intensities with a machine modality may produce detrimental results on other physical performance tasks. Proper exercise prescription and testing programs must be implemented to avoid this problem.”


Fry, A., W. Kraemer, J. Lynch, N. Triplett, L. Koziriz. Does short-term near-maximal intensity machine resistance training induce overtraining? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 8(3), 188-191. 1994.

What A Top Researcher Says

“What is a machine? Machines are intended to offer resistance to the musculoskeletal linkage that many consider to be in a non-functional way, or as some commercial advocates argue, in a functional way. Free weights on the other hand are considered more “functional” given the need to stabilize the body linkage and project internal forces through the linkage to the floor.”

“Safety is sometimes claimed to be a feature of machines primarily through various mechanisms to stop a load from falling on the person. This notion may be misguided. Training in a proprioceptively starved environment does not challenge the system needed to ensure that no single tissue experiences damaging overload.”

“While not all machines require a sitting posture, too many of them do. The professional teams with whom I consult are very conscious to train their athletes in “playing position”. Performance simply cannot be trained in a sitting posture- yet count the number of machines that require sitting in your local gym.”

“While this approach is popular with some body builders who are interested in training particular muscles we are interested in training the squat mechanism (notice I did not state the muscles involved). Train the motion, not the muscle.”

“Unfortunately, the principles of bodybuilding have penetrated training for many athletes, leading some to train to look good rather than to focus on regimens directed solely at enhancing performance. A stable spine, maintained with healthy and wise motor patterns and higher muscle endurance, protects against back troubles and generally enhances performance.”

“Machines, no matter how well designed or promoted, can never provide the rich environment to create the training challenges needed.”


McGill, S. (2009) Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance- Fourth Edition. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Backfitpro Inc.

Sample Wrestling Strength Program

Below is a sample of a wrestling strength workout. I designed it for a wrestler who lifts at a standard commercial gym.

Day 1

Superset 1: Plyo Pushup 4×5 + Single Leg Bench Jump 4×5

Superset 2: Hang Clean 5×4 + Spread Eagle Situp 5×10

Triset 1: Weighted Dip 4×5 + Squat 4×5 + DB Row 4×10

Day 2

Superset 1: Box Jump 4×5 + Russian Twist 4×15

Superset 2: DB Jerk 4×5 + DB Windmill 4×10

Triset 1: Weighted Chinup 4×5 + DB RDL 4×8 + Altnernate Arm DB Bench 4×8

Day 3

Superset 1: Consecutive Long Jump 4×5 + Reactive Box Jump 4×5

Superset 2: DB Snatch 5×3 + Weighted Decline Situp 5×10

Triset 1: Pullup 4×8 + Floor Press 4×5 + Back Extension 4×12


If you have any questions regarding wrestling strength workouts, leave me a comment or send me an email at dickie@wrestler-power.com

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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