I recently put together a wrestling workout program for a client that I train via email and wanted to share it with you.
However, this time I had something my wife, Laura, mentioned to me while I was showing her some Jiu-Jitsu techniques the other day.
She said, “You’re a better learner than you are a teacher.”
What she means is that I oftentimes learn how to do things very easily. Unfortunately, as a result I’m unable to effectively communicate exactly what I learned.
Needless to say, it made me stop and think about other places in my life where this may occur.
And of course, the first thing that came to mind was when I design a wrestling workout program.
So today I’m going to take you step-by-step through my wrestling workout program design process. Specifically I’m going to reference a program for a long-time client who just recently moved to college.
For questions on any of the exercises, start by clicking here.
The first thing I do when designing a wrestling workout program is look at the answers to a bunch of questions. The answers will help me to get good idea of how to design the personalized program.
Wrestling Workout Program Questionnaire
1. What does your current wrestling workout program look like (exercises, sets, reps, etc.)?
I ask this so I don’t have the person doing the same type of workouts and exercises they’ve been doing.
2. Do you have any past injuries that may prevent you from doing certain movements?
I ask this so I know what exercises to include and exclude. For instance, I once wrote a wrestling workout program for a college wrestler with fused ankles. This obviously affected what he was able to do from a lower body standpoint.
3. Any likes/dislikes in regards to certain exercises?
I don’t want to put together a program full of exercises they’re not going to want to do.
4. How many days per week do you want to lift (I usually recommend 3)?
Pretty self explanatory here. I just want to be sure I’m working with their schedule.
5. What are the goals/focuses of the wrestling workout program?
This clues me in on types of exercises to use and what total volumes to use.
6. Equipment you have access to?
So I know what exercises are options.
7. Anything else you want to add?
This is a general question for them to add anything that may be helpful in the design process that they may not have mentioned in the other questions.
Anyway, once those questions have been answered I have a good idea of how I want to structure the wrestling workout program.
Once this process starts it’s always individually specific. So, from this point on, I’ll be referring to the experience I had this past weekend designing this particular wrestling workout program.
Designing The Wrestling Workout Program
Because I knew what he had been doing, the only things that really factored in to the program design were the following- equipment, what his other workouts were going to be, days he wanted to lift, and goals.
From email exchanges I learned he had access to pretty standard gym equipment. He didn’t have access to all of the stuff he did at my gym. Fortunately, he still had more than enough to get in an effective lift.
He also told me that the team had running workouts scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The runs were followed by high rep upper body circuits in the weight room.
So we decided on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday wrestling workout program. The program was built around the goal of maintaining strength and increasing power while he got his weight down for certifications.
I decided to make Day 1 a heavy upper day. This would get the strength work for his upper body out of the way before he had to do the high rep conditioning work.
Doing this fresh on a Monday would help him to maintain, and maybe even increase his strength over the next month.
If you’d rather I just design a custom program for you, check out my Personalized Programs page:
Wrestling Workout Program
Superset 1- Pin or Floor Press (5×3) and Weighted Chinup (5×3)
Superset 2- Pause DB Bench (3×6) and Cable Row (3×8)
Triset 1- BB Curl (3×8) and BB Overhead Press (3×8) and DB Shrug (3×10)
Superset 1- Hang Clean (5×2) and Standing Ab Wheel (5×8)
Superset 2- BB Free Squat (5×3) and DB Side Bend (5×10)
Superset 3- Back Extension (3×12) and Decline Situp (3×12)
Superset 1- DB Push Press (5×3) and Hanging Leg Raise (5×8)
Superset 2- Pin Pull (5×3) and Weighted Russian Twist (5×12)
Superset 3- DB Rack Lunge (3×6) and Ball Leg Curl (3×12)
The core bench movement for his program was a choice between a Pin Press or Floor Press working up to heavy triples.
He’s successfully built his bench with the Floor Press before so that’s always a good option. Based on that, I’m going to have him experimenting with low Pin Presses. Both are great to improve low end bench weaknesses (struggle when the bar near the chest). His weak point is very close to his chest, so that’s why these 2 variations are in his wrestling workout program.
The core chinup movement was the standard weighted chinup working up to triples. From what I gathered, he doesn’t currently have access to a lot of the different handles. As a result, he’ll be doing lots of standard weighted chinups, pullups, and alternate grip chinups in the program.
The accessory movements after are designed to help build the core lifts and improve his wrestling performance.
The Pause DB Bench will be a good supplement to attack his low end weakness.
The Cable Row, or any row variation, is a must in any wrestling workout program because the majority of the pulling you do in wrestling is horizontal.
The additional 3 exercises will help him strengthen his secondary movers in the core lifts (ie BB Curls will strengthen the biceps which aid in the chinup).
As you can see by Day 1, everything has a purpose and is all tied in to building the 2 upper body core lifts which are used to measure the overall effectiveness of his program.
By the way, you can download the program if you’d like.
The Day 2 workout is to be performed on a Wednesday. It’s designed taking into account that it would be performed between the two running and high rep upper body lifting workouts.
A Couple Quick Focuses
1. Keeping the total volume on his legs low (15 working reps in the Squat). This would account for any fatigue from the running the day before. Considering he was in pretty good shape when he left, I felt he’d be able to handle this.
2. Staying away from upper body exercises for the time being. Between the heavy work on Monday and the high rep work on Tuesday and Thursday I figured that’s more than enough.
For the first Superset of the day I have him performing Hang Cleans and Standing Ab Wheels. I started him working with Hang Cleans a little before he left for school because his team used them and I wanted him to have the basics mastered before he started.
I prioritized the Hang Cleans over the Squats because of the shift in focus from strength to power as the season grows near.
Additionally, this wrestler is the strongest high school wrestler I’ve ever trained. His strength is close to that of Cody Reed, a 3x D1 NCAA qualifier that I trained for years. Based on that, I figured he’d be strong enough for now and we should focus on his power and speed instead of getting stronger.
The Standing Ab Wheels are a great overall core strengthener. With the increase in core strength he’ll be able to support heavier weights when he squats and deadlifts. Ultimately, this will increase the overall strength and power in his lower body/hips.
With stronger legs and hips he’ll be able to apply more force on the mat.
See what I mean when I say it’s important that everything must have a place in your wrestling workout program?!
The next Superset is Barbell Free Squats and DB Side Bends. We traditionally use a Safety Squat Bar for squats at my gym. However I had him working with a straight bar for a month before he left to get used to it.
The Side Bends work to increase core strength for the same reasons as I mentioned with the Standing Ab Wheel.
The workout for Day 2 finishes up with some additional core work. I let him know that he was to determine the difficulty based on how he felt that day. If he was feeling good, he could add weight to the Back Extensions and Decline Situps. If he wasn’t feeling good, or the other exercises took a lot out of him, then he can just do a few bodyweight sets.
I opted for a few extra sets for the core as opposed to Lunges, DB RDLs, or other lower body exercises that may affect his recovery and/or running performance the next day.
So there you have it, Day 2 of the wrestling workout program and the breakdown of how and why I decided to structure things.
The Day 3 workout is to be performed on a Friday and would be after a weeks worth of training sessions.
As a result, I designed this day to be a low volume day.
Day 3 Focuses:
1. Overall low volume. I know there are 5 working sets listed for the first 2 supersets. But, the DB Push Press is an explosive exercise which I’ve found produces a lot less overall wear and tear compared to a heavy squat or deadlift. Additionally, I told him to keep the Pin Pull light and pull for speed using between 60-70%.
2. Keep the poundages lower.
The first superset on the third day of his wrestling workout program has him performing DB Push Presses working to challenging triples and Hanging Leg Raises.
Again, I prioritized the Push Press at the start of the workout so he would be able to perform them with his best effort. This goes back to the big focus of this block of training- increase his power since his strength is already very high.
The Hanging Leg Raise, while challenging, is a little less demanding because I don’t have him adding any additional resistance. Again, it’s in the program to strengthen his core which will ultimately allow him to improve his Squats, Deadlifts, Cleans, and other power exercises.
Next, I have him perform Pin Pulls and Weighted Russian Twists. I decided to put the deadlift movement at the end of the week because over the summer he deadlifted 510lbs.
Needless to say, I think this is pretty good for a freshman wrestling at 184lbs. So I didn’t think he needed to spend a lot of time on that lift.
I picked Pin Pulls for two reasons. First, the last couple weeks he lifted with me at my gym, he performed deadlifts off the floor, so I wanted to change it up.
Second, he was experiencing lockout issues with the deadlift and the Pin Pulls have helped him in the past.
The same reasoning for the Hanging Leg Raise was applied to the selection of the Weighted Russian Twist.
Finally, this wrestling workout program finishes with 2 lower body exercises. I chose the DB Rack Lunge over a standard Lunge to help cut down on the amount of weight he’d be lifting during each set.
While I think it’s very important for wrestlers to be performing single leg exercises, I wanted him to avoid loading his body too much at the end of a week of intense training sessions.
Carrying the DBs in the rack position will put more of an emphasis on core stability, and will also greatly reduce the weight that he’ll be using to perform each set.
Additionally, the Ball Leg Curl is used for the same reason. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have access to a Glute Ham Raise, which is my first choice for a wrestling workout program.
But I’ve found these to be a decent alternative.
So there you have it- the step-by-step breakdown of how and why I chose to assemble this wrestling workout program the way that I did.
If a Personalized Program isn’t in your current budget, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered…
Just one question really…what is a max triple?
Your 3 rep max for that particular day.
Would that be based off my one rep max?
How would I go about determining my 3 rep max?
You would just work up that day to your best 3 rep max. It’s only based on how you feel that day and what your best effort for a triple is. I’ve found this to be a little more flexible than simply working up to X% of your max. This is especially helpful in-season because I have no say over the practices and depending on the difficulty of the practice, say 85%, may feel a lot different; you know what I mean?
Keep the articles coming! I appreciate your input it makes me think more critically about wrestling. Thanks! Do you have any circuit training programs for wrestlers preparing for state, ncaa’s etc…
Hey Anthony, thanks for the comments, I have the ability to edit comments, so I just changed come to keep; hope that’s ok with you. Here are the 2 most thorough posts on developing a high level of wrestling-specific conditioning:
How To Maximize Your Conditioning
I actually am going to be writing quite a few blog posts over the next week about my thoughts on conditioning. Although there have been only a few, the studies done on wrestling have basically suggested that the time spend in the weight room is better devoted to maintaining strength and power during the season because those are two qualities that drop significantly if they aren’t properly maintained.
In fact, a few of the Binghamton University wrestlers that I work with just recently came back this week after Coach Dernlan said they needed to get back with me to help get some of their summer time strength back before NCAAs. I spoke to both of them and they indicated that they’re doing a lot of circuit style lifting and both said they don’t feel as though it’s done anything as far as making them stronger or even maintaining their strength.
However, I do use specific styles of conditioning with a few of the high school wrestlers I train who feel like they would benefit from it; and they have. One of the wrestlers I train has been super consistent with the conditioning I cover in the How To Maximize Your Conditioning post that his heart rate is dropping more than a beat per second (which is a pretty damn good sign you’re in good shape). It’s insane to watch how quickly his heart rate drops, and because of this he won two very close matches in the 3rd period last weekend to win his first Section 4 title as a 9th grader (Sectionals are the state qualifying tournament here in NY). In his semi-final match he scored a reversal with 4 seconds left to tie the match, and then won on an easy go behind in overtime when his super tired opponent took a bad shot.
Anyway, sorry for the long response, but I hope these two posts and the comment itself is helpful to you. Check them out and leave me comments on them with other questions. Thanks man.
Thanks for the response. I appreciate a thorough response opposed to a one-liner. Interesting analysis regarding circuit training, I witnessed past OTC weightlifting coaches promote circuit training as part of their prep for big events. Do you think a combination of circuit training and strength training is a good idea? For example, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday strength cycle and Wednesday, Thursday circuit training. Maybe just Wednesday and work on cutting weight on Thursday. Thoughts?
Hey Anthony, thanks for getting back to me and thanks for the quality questions. While I personally don’t do a lot of circuit training, I don’t by any means think it’s an invaluable tool. I think you bring up a great point citing the OTC usage of this style, and I know of a few college coaches that promote it as well AND one of the big things I try to preach is that there has to be at least some value in a particular style/method if it’s going on at a number of places, including the OTC. Martin Rooney (performance coach of a lot of fighters including Frankie Edgar up until a fight or two ago) and Joel Jamieson (Mighty Mouse’s performance coach, and in my opinion the most knowledgeable conditioning coach in the country) both write about circuit training in their various publications. So I definitely think there is value in it and while I’ve dabbled with it both with the wrestlers I train as well as myself, it’s not something I exclusively subscribe to as a means of conditioning (I’m super high on the stuff in the How To Maximize Your Conditioning post right now; the improvements made by a few of the wrestlers I train going to states this weekend are by far the best I’ve seen to date).
With that said, I do think there is a lot of value in belief in a system. It’s the reason why the Binghamton University wrestlers come train at my gym rather than follow his programs. I’ve met the strength coach, worked with him, and shot the shit as far as philosophies go and he’s a decent guy and is well educated. There is a definitely difference in how we approach training athletes, but I think even if I were to secretly pass my programs on to him and have him implement them with the wrestlers, they still wouldn’t buy in because they just don’t have a belief that his style of programming/training can get them where they need to be. So, if you are a big believer in circuit training and have used it successfully to prepare in the past, I highly suggest you continue with it and I think that some of the examples you bring up in your comment above are great.
Performing the circuits on later days with the strength work earlier is probably your best bet (I’m assuming they are less stressful to your system, which would make them a better option closer to a weigh-in). However, it does come down to your personal needs as well. If your strength feels great but you feel like your muscular and cardiovascular conditioning could improve, maybe perform a hard circuit on Sunday, strength work on Monday and/or Tuesday, and hit another hard circuit on Wednesday, or after Tuesdays strength work. It all depends on where you think you’re at and what you think you’ll benefit most from.
Anyway, I’m in the process of cleaning up a lot of old blog posts right now, but once I’m done with that (I’m planning by the end of the week), I’m going to start digging through research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and really start putting together some well supported/substantiated posts. So let me know if you have any more questions/thoughts on circuit training or anything regarding performance enhancement for wrestlers and I’ll be sure to address them (and hopefully provide some solid evidence as well).
Thanks again for the comment man. Sorry it took a couple days to get back; I gotta pick my spots when my brain function is at it’s peak, lol.
Dickie, this was very helpful. I really agree with all excersises need to have something to do with wrestling. I have a few wrestlers that want to try this program. My only question and it may sound stupid. But can I use this for heavy weights as well just use different weight? Or would you suggest some other program for my heavy weights. Thank you again.
Hey Randy, thanks for the positive feedback on the post and for leaving a comment. And remember- there’s no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people…just kidding. But anyway, I think this is a very valid question. I mean Bruce Baumgartner had a heavyweight camp and typically most heavyweights have a different style than their lighter counterparts.
The only real adjustment I’d make for heavyweight wrestlers is simply more of an emphasis on developing absolute strength (through heavy lifting) versus developing relative strength (bodyweight strength), simply because pound for pound strength isn’t as important for heavyweights as it is for lighter wrestlers who are cutting weight in an effort to gain a size/strength advantage.
In addition, one of the D1 heavyweights I worked with this past summer and now this summer was and is really focused on putting on more size; so I also will provide guys like this with a much higher total workload (lots of exercises with 5 sets of 15ish reps tends to do the trick when coupled with lots of calorie consumption).
But in all honesty, other than that I don’t really make many adjustments when working with a heavyweight wrestler because the demands on their bodies, are for the most part, the same as any other wrestler.
Hope this helps man. Let me know if you have other questions and thanks again for leaving a question; it helps the post grow with even more information. Talk to you soon.
We have our club doing two of your workouts over the summer and pre-season. We are having excellent results so far but I have one question for you. What are MR Pushups? I was thinking Max Rep but you have 3X12 on the workout so I’m confused.
Hey Allen, great to hear things are going well so far. MR stands for Manual Resistance. Here’s a video I found demonstrating a MR Hamstring Curl:
And here’s one of my wife and I doing a MR Reverse Hyper on a bench:
…sorry I couldn’t find one of a pushup, but the basic idea is for a partner and exerciser to work together so that there is resistance in both directions. In the case of the pushup, the partner resists the person as they push up and the partner provides force against the person on the way down while he/she tries to avoid being pushed down at a fast rate.
It’s a great way to provide constant tension and promote muscle growth, especially in the absence of weights and other common forms of resistance.
Hope this helps man, keep me posted on how your club is doing, and talk to you soon.