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Mailbag: Wrestling Program

Hey Adam,
I am a high school wrestling coach. Our season is getting started soon, and I have been scouring the internet trying to find some help on how to get my kids ready. I saw some of the programs you have made for other teams, and I read a lot of the other posts about working with high school athletes.

Our strength training work has always been ineffective and inconsistent, and I want that to change. We are doing mandatory weight training 3 days/week starting the week after Thanksgiving. We have access to a decent sized weight room at the school. There are 4 squat racks, 4 bench presses, and two sets of dumbbells up to 60 pounds. I also have access to an auxiliary gym area where we practice.

This is my third year coaching the team, and I guess the problem is, the coach who was here before me (who also coached me at the same school when I was in high school) never cared much for the strength training. So I haven’t really been around too much quality training, but I know it’s valuable and our team is WEAK. I know I am getting a late start here, but can you point me in the right direction. Help me get my kids stronger this year.

Brian D, Terre Haute. IN.

You need to do your training because Stone Cold said so

Do your training because Stone Cold said so

Brian, great to hear from you. First off, good luck on the upcoming season.

A couple things. I think it’s awesome you want to introduce weight training to your kids. I am glad you realize progressive strength training is a valuable tool, and almost, a necessary part of the physical development of competitive high school athletes. We know that well organized and well executed progressive overload can and will cause the body to get stronger and stay more resilient to injury.

With that being said, a few notes of caution. I get really uncomfortable sometimes when people ask me for programs. The reason I get uncomfortable is because I know that it’s not the program that matters, but instead, how the exercises are coached and performed. There is not a perfect loading scheme or rep chart that is going to maximize progress for your kids. Instead, the recipe is to perform perfect repetitions of basic exercises. And then (here’s the kicker) to do this with consistency and with intensity. That’s it, that really is the recipe in every successful coach’s cookbook.

Please keep that in mind as we go further. If you don’t know how to coach an exercise, coach it well and safely, don’t have your kids do it.

Onward and Upward

A couple thoughts on how I would approach a plan for training your team.

Wrestling has always been one of my favorite sports to work with. There are absolute workhorses in the weight room and on the mat. When it comes to physical development, they need it all. Strength, power, extreme muscular endurance, flexibility, and WORK CAPACITY. We need to address all of those things in our program, and we need to pay particular attention to the fitness work, especially in the pre-season.

Now, you are getting started pretty late into your season, and I would keep that in mind for next year. Treat these next few months as the foundation for a more stable and consistent program going forward. If you do a good job, and get results for your kids, you will have an easier time getting them committed to a year round mentality, which will yield you substantial results on the mat.
Also, a couple things I will stress in the program:

  • Single leg strength and power work
  • Upper back endurance and flexibility
  • GRIP WORK –do some sort of grip challenge every time you’re in the weight room.

Here is a three day template similar to what I would do in your situation.

High School Wrestling Program

Take a look at it, and let me know if you have any questions. Good luck with the team, and remember, coach the hell out of whatever it is you end up doing.

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