Wrestling Workouts For Youth Wrestlers- Strength Training Will Help Them Reach Their Goals
Obviously wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers must take into account a number of factors. This is especially important when it comes to their safety and continued development.
In this post I’m going to detail the three major principles I like to follow when designing wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers.
Following these principles there are 3 sample wrestling workout programs to use as a guideline to get started. In addition, I detail the typical 3-week progressive program I use with all of the youth wrestlers I train.
I also include a free download to a beginner wrestling program for youth wrestlers.
At the end of the post I detail some of the most common myths surrounding wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers.
Wrestling Workouts For Youth Principles:
Principle 1: Bodyweight First
This principle really applies to anyone starting a strength training program. However, it’s is extra important when it comes to wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers.
If you can’t lift your own bodyweight first, you shouldn’t be worried about lifting weights.
Bodyweight strength is an important precursor to lifting weights. It’s especially important for wrestlers and other athletes in sports with weight classes.
Bodyweight strength (aka relative strength) is a big predictor of success on the mat. This is especially true for youth wrestlers.
Obviously if you’re really weak and/or out of shape, performing exercises like pulldowns instead of assisted chinups may be a safer option.
For the most part, though, your wrestling workout for a youth wrestler should be centered around developing bodyweight strength.
This will build the proper movement patterns before introducing the additional element of element of external loading. However, once your youth wrestler shows a nice level of control and consistency with various bodyweight movements (like chinups, pushups, squats, lunges, etc.) then feel free to add external resistance.
As you add resistance, do so conservatively. Just like anyone else, it’s important to make sure proper technique maintained throughout.
Wrestling Workouts For Youth Wrestlers Principle 2: Strict Technique
For some exercises I’m not a big stickler on technique, especially those which do not pose a direct threat of injury to the lifter. I will often write about and post videos of Iowa wrestlers lifting. If you’ve seen any of these videos, you know that their technique isn’t the greatest.
But their strength coach brings up a great point- wrestling isn’t always about precise technique. A lot of times it’s just about horsing through your opponent. True Iowa wrestling right there!
However, when it concerns wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers it’s important to keep technique super strict. Building a proper foundation in the weight room, just like you would on the mat, is crucial during the early years.
Additionally, using strict technique will help keep the weights in check. This will prevent you from going too heavy and risking injury by handling poundages your body is not properly prepared for.
Instead, put a focus on developing consistent technique. Also, make sure mastery at a certain weight is shown before moving up. This is a big key to staying healthy and is best learned at a young age.
It’s unfortunately too common to see people lifting who move up in weight set after set even though their technique is slowly starting to get worse and worse.
This builds bad training habits. It also increases the risk of injury.
Developing the right attitude on weight selection and technique at a young age can save your youth wrestler from avoidable situations like this:
When I go to local high schools to work with wrestling teams, I see this regularly.
Kids come in, without a plan, and just try to one up each other.
Their technique is terrible and so is their weight selection.
By implementing properly designed wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers a proper physical and mental base is built.
Wrestling Workouts For Youth Wrestlers Principle 3: Full Body
Full body programs are what I recommend in almost all cases. I write more about it in this post.
Full body sessions minimize the potential for overworking a specific muscle. Keep in mind that you are introducing a new stimulus to their body. It probably won’t over-stress their body because they will have a base level of strength and conditioning from wrestling practice. However, some youth wrestlers, and wrestlers at any age for that matter, may not initially respond well (high levels of soreness).
By following a full body plan you will help to keep the wrestler from getting too sore. Getting too sore oftentimes leads to a decrease in motivation.
Additionally, if they practice when they are too sore and their mobility is inhibited as a result of it, it could lead to an injury.
So, stick to the basic movements.
Begin with bodyweight and progress from there.
Prioritize proper technique.
Implement full body sessions.
And, ultimately implementing wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers will help to develop a stronger wrestler who will stay safe and injury-free throughout their career.
Sample Wrestling Workouts For Youth Wrestlers:
Alright, let’s get into the actual wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers. I’ll present a beginner, intermediate and advanced workout for younger wrestlers.
I’ve used these types of workouts to progress a number of young wrestlers over the course of the last few years to pretty impressive feats of strength.
1. A 225-pound bench for 2 reps done by a 7th grader.
2. A 380-pound deadlift done by a 6th grader (who is now in 7th grade and just won a Section 4 title this past weekend).
3. A 100-pound weighted chinup for 2 reps done by an 8th grader.
All three of these young wrestlers have been working with me for a little over a year and they all started with basic workouts (like the one below). Over time, with hard work and consistency, they were able to work up to some heavy weights with solid technique.
Beginner Wrestling Workouts For Youth
Superset- Bodyweight Box Squat and Chinup Progression
Superset- Back Extension Progression and Bar Pushup
Triset- Cable Row w/ Hold and Plate Pinch and Side Plank
Superset- KB Deadlift and Bodyweight Row Progression
Superset- Step Up and Dip Progression
Triset- Single Arm Overhead Press and Towel Hang and Hanging Leg Raise Progression
Intermediate Wrestling Workouts For Youth
Superset- Kettlebell/Dumbbell Box Squat and Chinup Progression
Superset- Back Extension Progression and Med Ball Pushup
Triset- DB Row w/ Hold and Farmers Walk and Cable Lift
Superset- Trap Bar Deadlift and Bodyweight Row Progression
Superset- Split Squat and Dip Progression
Triset- Seated DB Overhead Press and Grip Chinup and Hanging Leg Raise Progression
Advanced Wrestling Workouts For Youth
Superset- Barbell Box Squat and Chinup Progression
Superset- Back Extension Progression and DB Floor Press
Triset- Unbraced DB Row w/ Hold and Farmers Walk and Grappler
Superset- Trap Bar Deadlift and Bodyweight Row Progression
Superset- Reverse Lunge and Dip Progression
Triset- Seated Single Arm DB Overhead Press and Grip Chinup and Hanging Leg Raise Progression
Superset- Free Squat and Chinup Progression
Superset- DB RDL and Bench Press
Triset- Fat Grip Cable Row w/ Hold and Bodyweight JM Press and Ball Rollout
Free Program Download
Here’s an idea of what a program for a youth wrestler who is new to lifting would looking like- Lifting for Youth Wrestlers.
I implement a vary basic, linear volume increase to ensure a proper base is built and the program doesn’t shock the system leading to a decrease in performance.
Have specific equipment and goals? Want a program designed for you? Check out my Personalized Programs page and get started today!
Youth Wrestler Strength Training Myths
One of the most common questions I get deals with youth wrestlers and the various safety/developmental concerns associated with it.
In fact, I recently received some questions from a parent a few days ago.
The first big question dealt with what age was safe to start a youth wrestler on a lifting program.
The second asked what an appropriate program would look like.
Myth 1: Stunting Growth
Myth one is the belief that wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers will stunt their growth. While there isn’t any research, to my knowledge, that suggests it will, there also isn’t any research that suggests it won’t.
Fear that lifting will stunt a youth wrestlers growth is the number one concern of parents.
In response, I always bring to their attention the number of young wrestlers that I’ve worked with and continue to work with that have grown at a normal rate (according to their doctor) while engaging in strength training two to three times a week under my supervision.
In addition, I always bring up the case of my brother, Chris, and I. Both of us started lifting in 8th grade. I grew maybe another 5 inches since then. My brother grew a lot more and is now over 6’3″. This means there’s a difference of 8 inches between us!
Same genetic pool.
In general, same lifting/athletic experience through 8th grade.
Much different results!
The height you grow to is more of a factor of your parents. In my case, I took on more of our mom’s genes. My brother took after our dad. In fact, he even grew a few inches taller than our dad.
Anyway, did you know that when you land from a jump the forces that travel through your body can be 3-4 times your body weight?
Sprinting alone can produce forces on your muscles and joints that over twice your body weight.
How often do you see kids from a very young age running and jumping in practice or just simply playing outside?
And do they continue to grow?
Of course they do.
Just another thing to keep in mind when it comes to wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers…
Additionally, people recovering from broken bones, suffering from Osteoporosis, and other conditions that affect the bones are generally told to load the bones to promote growth and prevent further degeneration.
I think it’s important to keep in mind when it comes to wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers that the term “loading” doesn’t mean putting 500lbs on their back and telling them to squat it.
In all honesty, your kid has probably lifted heavier things around the house performing chores or in practice lifting an opponent to finish a leg attack or mat return.
For some more examples, here’s an old video of a few of some of my original clients back at my old gym:
Greg (the kid in the red shirt) is now in 10th grade and won his first Section 4 Division 1 championship as a 9th grader. After a dominant year as a 10th grader, he suffered a serious concussion at the end of the season and wasn’t able to finish the season.
Christian is now in 9th grade and finished 2nd in the Division 2 NYS Championships this past season. He then went on to finish 4th at FloNationals, earning him the #9 ranking in the country according to FloWrestling.
Both continue lifting 2-3 times a week, and Christian benched 300lbs as an 8th grader!
“My son, Greg, has gained over 10lbs since he started training with Dickie. His strength levels are unbelievably high for a 5th grader. These power and strength gains allowed him to compete successfully in older age brackets, but now he’s also taking down varsity wrestlers in the practice room.”
Greg Kleinsmith Sr. on son Greg Kleinsmith Jr., 2009 Dixie National Champion and MOW, 2008 NYS Youth Triple Crown, 2008 Empire Nationals Champion, 5th 2008 Ohio Tournament of Champions, 136-12 record for 2007-2008 pee wee wrestling season
“Dickie’s wrestling training system has taught Christian the fundamentals of proper weight lifting, stressing technique and the use of proper weights for increasing power. His core body strength, including his legs, hips and back are building a foundation for life. Dickie makes it fun and challenges the kids so they don’t realize just how hard they are actually working. Their strenuous workouts are normal for them and they will excel in the future as it is the only way they know how to train. His system is well worth the investment in my son’s future.”
Charlie Dietrich on son Christian Dietrich, 2x Champ at Ohio Tournament of Champions, Rocky Mountain National Champ, MAWA Champ,
NYS Youth Triple Crown, Tulsa National Champ
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Myth 2: Bad Joints
Myth 2 is centered around the idea that wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers can lead to joint pain.
It can cause joint pain in anyone!
This is especially possible if lifting is performed improperly!
Think about all of the positions you or your wrestler gets in when you’re on the mat where they’ve had to lift an opponent. Two common situations are when they finish a take down or return their opponent to the mat.
Oftentimes they are probably in a less than optimal lifting position. Additionally, they’re more than likely lifting an opponent who weighs a considerable amount more than what they would be able to squat or deadlift with proper technique.
Couple that with a controlled and supervised weight room environment and you’ve got a recipe for success, not failure and injury.
Additionally, think of all of the bad positions their shoulders get put in from arm bars or half nelsons.
For whatever reason parents tend to freak out when you put a couple of 15-pound dumbbells in their kid’s hands. Yet they forget the day before when they had them carrying a 50-pound bag of salt or moving a heavy wheel barrow.
Weight is weight.
Sometimes it’s in the form of iron. Sometimes salt. Sometimes books in a backpack. Sometimes groceries. Sometimes a wrestling partner you have to carry around the room for conditioning, etc.
I understand that there are a lot of fears associated with these two myths surrounding wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers. If I had a kid, I’d want nothing but the very best for them. I’d also do my homework to ensure they develop properly.
However, I hope that I’ve been able to address some of your concerns regarding wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers.
What Age Should My Kid Start?
Safety concerns are always the first questions I get asked when it comes to wrestling workouts for youth wrestlers.
The second most common type of question I get asked is what age is appropriate to start.
Unfortunately, I don’t know if I have an exact answer. However, I’ve started working with wrestlers as young as 8. Can you start younger though? Sure, I don’t see why not. Especially when you consider the ideas I discuss above.
Starting a youth wrestler on a lifting program is a lot like starting him/her in the practice room. The focus should be on technique and consistency. As they progress on the mat, difficulty and intensity increase.
The same is true in the weight room.
As they progress the weights will get heavier, the workouts will change, and the overall difficulty will increase.
Proper progression is key in anything in life; especially when it concerns youth wrestlers lifting weights. Make sure that mastery of a technique is shown with their bodyweight before loading them.
Then, load them conservatively (ie add 5 total pounds to the equation) and make sure the technique looks as consistent as it did prior to loading.
That’s a general rule to follow regardless of age- loading should only occur and continue so long as there isn’t a breakdown in technique.
National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Recommendations
Here’s a brief summary of the NSCA’s suggestions when it comes to youth strength training:
0-3 Months Experience
50-70% of 1 rep max
1-2 sets of 10-15 reps
3-12 Months Experience
60-80% of 1 rep max
2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
70-85% of 1 rep max
3+ sets of 6-10 reps
I know it seems a bit odd that a percentage of a one rep max is given, but the rep ranges suggested are much higher. One way you can go about determining a 1 rep max is by using a rep max calculator. Just give “rep max calculator” a search and you’ll get a ton of options.
Or, just do what I do- don’t worry about % and instead stick with the suggested rep ranges (if you want to strictly follow the NSCA suggestions anyway) and make sure there isn’t a breakdown in technique.
If there isn’t feel free to moderately increase the weight; if there is, simply decrease the weight so that their technique is properly developed through a manageable load.
I hope I’ve dispelled some of the common myths associated with wrestling workouts for youth wrestler.
Additionally, I hope the sample plans give you a basic understanding of how to start and progress the training of a youth wrestler.