Transition from Off-Season to In-Season Training

We normally would be moving into August with our kids returning to school knowing wrestling season is a few short months away; however, COVID has given a dramatic wake-up on how to prepare our athletes for the 20/21 season with plenty of unknowns coming in the next few months.  

Traditional off-season programs have been replaced with virtual training sessions, limited access to coaching, social distancing with teammates, temperature checks and mandatory masks, and with the Big10 and PAC12 electing to shut down for the fall, all indications point towards wrestling season starting sometime in January with a shorter season than we might like.  

Normally during this part of the off-season, our wrestlers would be moving into an Explosive / Power phase of training from off-season strength training, and we being ramping up their conditioning. As I tell our athletes, “you can be the strongest one in the weight room, but if you’re slow on the mat, then you’re no good to yourself or your team.”

Just a quick run-down, I have been training athletes since 1995, and being a former wrestler myself (16+ years), I gravitated towards training wrestlers and combat style athletes for the last 15 years of course. Wrestlers are a unique breed of athlete, and unless you understand and feel the sport, it can be difficult to know how to adequately prepare a wrestler both physically and more importantly mentally for their season.

Here is a quick day how we might train a typical high school wrestler with two-months from the start of season:

  • 1a) Squat (6 reps)
  • 1b) Med-Ball Box Jump (3 reps)
  • 1c) Scapular Push-ups (8 reps)

            3 – 4 sets

  • 2a) Pull-ups (8 reps)
  • 2b) Floor Press (6 reps)
  • 2c) Ball or Rope Slam (6 reps or 12 reps)

            3 – 4 sets

            2 – 3 sets

Strength movements are followed by an explosive movement, again keeping the focus on moving quickly and athletically, and you may notice the workout structure contains the athletic movements essential for success:

  • Squat
  • Press
  • Hinge
  • Row
  • Carry
  • Rotational Stability

Keep in mind the nuts and bolts of any workout can be scaled up or scaled down depending on the age and physical maturity of your wrestler (ie an incoming freshman with limited training experience or a senior entering his final season), but focusing on these movements will set up your wrestler to be strong, explosive and powerful coming into the season.

I know many wrestlers lighten the amount of weight used during their season, or cut out weight training all together, and I can’t tell you how much against this I am.

Our athletes are not setting PR’s week after week, but anecdotally I have found this to be counterproductive as they become weaker as the season progresses on.   

The goal is to carryover and maintain the level of strength and power gained during off-season training throughout the season. Physiologically if you reduce intensity, ie drastically reduce the intensity of weight used, the body adapts to the lack of stress both physiologically and neurologically and losing strength.

I contend in my 15+ years of training combat athletes, I’ve found adjusting the volume of how many sets per exercise is more effective to maintaining and even improving performance during their season, rather than lowering intensity used.

In other words, by reducing the total number of sets by up to ½, while maintaining a similar intensity load (aka weight on the bar), will enable a wrestler to maintain their strength and stamina without sacrificing performance on the mat.  

If you are in the Plano / North Dallas area, drop me a message, and apply for a free week-trial on us for your athlete. You have nothing to lose, and all to gain. Now let’s Wrestle!! 

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